Barrett Martin teams up with R.E.M.

It looks like all those trippy side projects have paid off for guitarist Peter Buck and his partners in R.E.M. After Buck spent much of the past year jamming with Barrett Martin in outfits like Tuatara and the Magnificent Seven, R.E.M. has tapped Martin, the ex-skinsman from Screaming Trees, to be the band’s new drummer. Martin will inherit the sticks when the Georgia group slips into a San Francisco studio in two weeks to cut its first album without founding member Bill Berry, who quit last October. “I don’t think they wanted to bring in a bunch of people they didn’t know,” offers Martin, 30, recently seen rubbing elbows with filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival. Even so, Martin knows expectations are high when you’re the first guest in 17 years to share the snare with Buck, Michael Stipe, and Mike Mills. “I feel confident about what I can do with them, but I’m also in awe of them as people,” Martin says. “No mistake — those three are the band, they write the songs, they have the vision. I’m not joining R.E.M. I’m not ‘replacing’ Bill Berry. I’m just playing a lot of instruments on their record.” The band’s lawyer, Bertis Downs, agrees, stressing that R.E.M.’s three originals remain the only official members, while Martin and touring R.E.M. sidekick Scott McCaughey will serve as enablers of the reconstruction. “Everybody’s champing at the bit to get back at it,” Downs says. ”It’s going to be fun to get back in the studio and start thinking about some positive, creative things.”