Stone Gossard says Pearl Jam’s hard work is all paying off



By Steve Newton

When a rock writer does a lot of “phoners”—media slang for telephone interviews—with bands that are coming to town, once in a while wires get crossed. This scribbler was planning to speak to Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder last week, but guitarist Stone Gossard rang up instead. And he was expecting to talk to a woman named Georgia Straight.

“I think Eddie had to do something with Holland today,” said Gossard of his bandmate’s obligations to the foreign press, “so you got me. But hey, I’m just as vital!”

Not one to argue about Gossard’s vitality, yours truly made the best of the mix-up—but not before getting in one question earmarked for the absent Vedder, which concerned his penchant for climbing rock-venue walls. At Pearl Jam’s Town Pump concert a few months back, the singer swung himself up above Dave Krusen’s drum kit, then risked evisceration by leaping down next to a threatening cymbal stand. I was going to ask Eddie if such feats were common at the band’s shows.

“Oh, he usually gets a lot more physical than that,” claims Gossard. “He’s been climbing up into the rafters of pretty much every coliseum we’ve played in, so it’s been pretty outrageous.”

Rafters, eh? I’m trying to remember if the PNE Forum—where Pearl Jam opens for the red-hot Red Hot Chili Peppers on January 4—has rafters that the crazed frontman can latch onto. But since the last time I was there was to see Nazareth in the ’70s, I can’t quite recall. Still, rafters or not, the coupling of Pearl and Peppers should make for an interesting show.

“It’s an amazing thing,” says Gossard. “They’re pretty much sold out everywhere, so every night’s an event. And the crowd response has been great for us, so far. We feel like we’ve done really well, considering who we’re opening for.”

A youthful veteran of the Seattle rock scene, Gossard spent time in Green River (“a crazy metal-fusion punk band”) before forming the near-legendary Mother Love Bone. That band’s only full-length release, Apple, topped many critics’ 1990 “best-of” lists, and has become an album by which others in the alternative hard-rock genre might be judged.

“It was definitely a critics’ kind of band,” says Gossard. “Obviously some of it had to do with the fact that our singer died of a heroin overdose, but I think we made a really good record, and I think it was a record a lot of people found out about after the fact. So any time you’ve got a situation where a band’s gone and people are getting excited about a record, a certain mystique will be created.”

Mother Love Bone was definitely an inspiration for many of the Seattle bands currently reaping international acclaim, although Gossard believes there’s a more basic reason why that city is such a hotbed of talent these days.

“People have just been working their asses off for a really long time,” he says, “and it’s all paying off right now.”

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