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KROCK Interview with EV 5/10/2000

interview by Will Pendarvis
transcription provided by Jonathan

DJ: I'm very honored to have on the phone with me this afternoon, Eddie Vedder. How are you, man?

EV: I'm OK, Will. Thank you. Thank you for asking.

DJ: This doesn't really happen too often ... an Eddie Vedder interview. I remember I went into my program director about a year ago and I gave him a list of people I'd like to talk to and Eddie Vedder was on the list and everybody got a good laugh out of that.

EV: See, that's good for humor? I got a few laughs out of it myself, too, for sure.

DJ: What makes you not really want to not want to do too many interviews or whatever? I mean, I know it's probably a pain in the ass to get the same questions over and over, but it seems like it would be a good way to communicate with the fans and stuff like that.

EV: Well, to be honest, if you put a piece of duct tape over your mouth and uh kinda let the music be out there and i think there's enough in the lyrics ... it seems to ... i think it's all in the most part. I don't feel like there's anything to be added and anything that i do say might take away so I guess that's the philosophy.

DJ: And I know you've been through this a million times too, but I'm gonna go ahead and ask you anyway. I mean, is this the same reasoning behind not really doing any videos to speak of? That you're afraid it would ...

EV: It really has more to do with quality product to be honest and it does take a certain amount of time and effort and uh ya know sacrifice of personal life to put your all into the records and after that it seems like you might need to just relax or even take a minute before you go on tour to organize your own personal stuff and that stuff, to be honest in a practical sense, is really time consuming. Again, if you want to make a quality product. So rather than put out stuff that's kinda shite, you'd rather than just abstain from it if you can. We've been able to sustain ourselves artistically and as a band without it and that has a lot to do with the listeners and people that still come to the shows where we were still in their face on TV and we've been afforded the opportunity to not do it and hopefully not too much.

DJ: Listening to the new CD "Binaural," there's a couple of songs that kinda relate to that, people putting their careers ahead of their lives, or getting so caught up in the routine of their lives that they don't have time to think about what they're doing here on Earth. It seems like to me you're the kind of person that takes that very seriously.. that life is here to be lived.

EV: It's also an American thing, too. We're about to go to Europe, and I haven't been in a while. It's kind of a wakeup call, because it seems like the theory there is to work to live, you know. They work, and then live in that off time. And somehow, consumerism, capitalism, all these -isms, it becomes like a disease. You don't realize you've got it until something drastic happens to you. People end up living to work, and uh, it's a fast paced world, and America is right at the head of the pack there, with cell

phones and computers. There's a lot to be said for, ah, nowhere! That's one of my lines.

DJ: You mention the Internet, and this my last teen scene magazine question, but do you spend much time on the Internet, but I've gotta ask you the obligatory Napster question. How do you feel about people downloading music for free from all these bands?

EV: So which one are you asking me first?

DJ: I've noticed that everything I see from you is written on a typewriter, so it doesn't seem like to me that you spend much time on the 'net.

EV: I did when I first got a computer. I was interested to see what was going on out there, and what the community was like. And actually, there was some really positive stuff out there, kind of an interesting way of communicating. And since then, I haven't really gone back to it. I kinda know what's going on; I hear a little here and there. It's also something you can't keep up with. It's really moving incredibly fast. So, I figure I'll check in once the dust settles a little. How would the band react to downloading music? I think again, we're doing the same. We want to see where this technology goes and catch up to it when it settles down even just a little bit. If we were able to offer music or live shows.. we've talked about certain things, trying to use the medium in a positive fashion and a responsible way. Right now, it's more of an exercise in frustration, and not like a fulfilling one...

DJ: You're just going to see how it pans out and then make a decision on whether it's going to be good or not, right?

EV: A little bit. Again, to start trying to get on the horse right now while it's still pretty wild, would be time consuming and a little too much to keep up with. We'll see where it all goes. As long as it stays like a community thing, and not a regulated thing, being taxed and conformed, it should be all right, I would hope.

DJ: Believe me, people are like thirsting for any rambling from you at this point. Um, the new CD is absolutely completely different than anything you've heard from Pearl Jam, or seen. The first thing you notice is the cover art. Other Pearl Jam albums tend to have like earthly things on them, there's the Yield sign, the animals, stuff like that. This is the Hourglass Nebula. Did somebody bring this into you, or did you bring it into them and say this is what I want on my album cover? What does this mean to you?

EV: Well, it's still nature. You know, instead of a picture of a mountain, it's a picture of, I guess it's kinda like a mountain. It's out there. It's bigger than a mountain. They're photos taken from the Hubble, and they're extremely extremely far away and extremely huge, these things they've been finding. And uh, I just thought it might be kind of interesting. I think we've always approached the packaging as like the back of a cereal box..

DJ: Yeah..

EV: ..something to kinda look at, maybe while you're listening, if you're so inclined. It kinda lends a certain perspective to your life. And maybe it makes you feel miniscule. To me it does, anyways, and I really like that feeling [laughs]...

DJ: Yeah, I absolutely know what you're saying.

EV: I think it's really grounding to feel like you're absolutely worthless, just a speck of dust. You would think that would make you feel like giving up and that it doesn't matter. But for some reason, to me it does the opposite and it makes you...

DJ: It makes you free. It really does.

EV: Uh, yeah.. it could, yeah. It also just kinda makes you want to do good on a small level. Like the Army. Be all that you can be.

DJ: You've got a new producer for the album, Tchad Blake instead of Brendan O'Brien. You're just ready to try something different?

EV: Well, Brendan ended up mixing some songs, and we were listening to Tchad's records, and they had such good atmosphere to them. I think we're always trying to add or capture atmosphere with our recordings. I've said this before, he has an interesting way of capturing not just the sound of the instrument, he actually kinda captures the air around it. He records the sound of the air around it. I think that there's a number of songs on there that you can really feel that, and maybe even feel like.. it's a little more like you're in the room.

DJ: Well, let's.. you know, I know it's like trying to pick out a favorite child, but you know, even if it's at random, pick a song from the album. Let's play it.

EV: Uh, well I don't know if we're in a dour mood yet, but maybe at the end of the interview we'll play "Parting Ways" or something.

DJ: You want to start out with something rocking and then get into like a mood?

EV: Sure. OK. We're doing a setlist here..

DJ: How about "Breakerfall," the first track from the album?

EV: Sounds great.


DJ: We're listening to some tracks from the "Binaural" CD and that's "Breakerfall." On that song in the liner notes, there are doodles on the lyric page and all through it. Did you do those, or did various people in the band do those doodles?

EV: [Sighing] Doodles? It's art, Will. It's highbrow art.

DJ: They look like doodles to me. But at the same time, I was going to say, are you going to put out a book of art or anything? I think it would be cool to have a book of art and poetry. And actually, you know, Jeff Ament's photographs are pretty good in there too. I don't know, it's just something to consider.

EV: You know, I don't think we're good enough musicians yet to start dabbling in other areas. I think music should take all of our focus. I think a lot of those little drawings.. we would do a take of the vocals or something, and then they'd rewind the tape. And in order to kinda stay in the space of the song or something, I think I would just stand there at the mic stand or whatever and just kinda draw things. I was going to re-type them out, and that seemed like a big, you know, kind of a pain in the ass.

DJ: [Laughs riotously] Another waste of time!

EV: Yeah, you can tell I'm pretty streamlined as far as my time.

DJ: Absolutely. Let's pick another song from the album. I'll let you do it, or I'll tell you what my favorite song on the album is.

EV: Uh, tell me.

DJ: My favorite song on the album absolutely is "Thin Air."

EV: Alright! It's Stone's song, but that's OK.

DJ: No, no.. there are songs of yours I love on there too, Eddie. I have no idea what the song means. It has some obscure reference to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages in there or something, but just the feeling of the song is really cool. I guess that's what it's all about. If you're not sitting around trying to decipher the lyrics, it's really the feeling of the song, right?

EV: Actually, that was one of my favorite ones during the beginning of the recording process, which made me want to write 2 or 3 ones that were better. Yeah! It's a good song.

["Thin Air"]

DJ: Absolutely my favorite song on the album, I hope that's not offensive to you.

EV: Not at all.

DJ: What else do you like? You name a song. By the way, "Light Years" lyrically is one of the most amazing songs I've heard.

EV: What are you getting from it there?

DJ: Obviously it's about something deeply personal and obviously the song is written about an amazing person who really affected your life. I mean, do you want to talk about that at all or what?

EV: No, you just said it all. That's great.

DJ: You pick a song from the album. It would be interesting which one you picked out.

EV: Well, I think "Light Years" is a great one, but let's play, since we played "Thin Air," let's do an up one, like "Grievance" or "Insignificance," something like that. Or "Evacuation."

DJ: "Evacuation" is a cool song. Matt Cameron wrote that song, right?

EV: Yep.

DJ: That doesn't happen too often in most bands, right, the drummer writing music, right?

EV: He's not like most drummers. The fact that he's playing with us at this point makes every link in the chain pretty strong, so.. I think at this point the band is just kinda a vehicle for everybody in it to contribute songs to..

DJ: It really is, if you go through here and see who wrote all the songs. It's really a group effort, which is really cool.


EV: Will Pendarvis. There's a singer out there named Janice Pendarvis. Do you know who that is?

DJ: Absolutely.

EV: Wow.

DJ: Because there's so few of us Pendarvises around, gotta keep track of them all. I think there's a Pendarvis in the Saturday Night Live Band or something.

EV: Oh.

DJ: Leon Pendarvis is another one. There's also, if you look up anything about Sun Studios, there used to be quite a few Pendarvises that made there way through there in the 50s and stuff.

EV: That's incredible.

DJ: I've got just a few questions here that fans really really want to know about the band, and then I'll set you free.

EV: I'm going to practice, so I'm really not that free.

DJ: Number one, we just played a song that Matt Cameron wrote, and everyone wants to know if he's officially in the band. Do you think you'll ever work with Jack Irons again, stuff like that?

EV: Uh, I think it's an open relationship between all of us, so there doesn't seem like there's any real reason to say is it official or not...

DJ: You don't ever christen anybody into the band or anything?

EV: Well, we might have done that before, and that didn't work, so let's just try it this way.

DJ: Do you think Jack Irons will ever enter the picture again?

EV: Uh, I would.. he's still a close friend, so you know, I imagine, you know, in some way, shape, or form we'll play music. We haven't in awhile, but I'm sure we will. Um, uh, like I said, it's pretty open. Maybe you take the name of the band and slap it on some music, and who knows who will be playing on it. It could be..

DJ: [Laughing] No, there's not going to be one of those Pearl Jam reunion tours going on in Las Vegas with like one guy who used to be in the band?

EV: I don't think I said that.

DJ: The second question every true fan of the band wants to know is.. you guys have done a couple of live via satellite radio shows in the past. Is there going to be another one of those anytime soon?

EV: The ability to do that kind of thing is kinda based on the interest in the band and that stations would think that it's a worthwhile thing to set aside the programming, and let us have the airwaves, or let us step in and, uh, use the medium to play other music and play live and even do some spoken word. It's such a great opportunity. So, we'd really like to do it again, if that still exists, if that opportunity is there. And we've been thinking about it. It would be great. I've already got some great bands that we could put on there. There's a band called Dead Moon that certainly never gets any airplay, and they have been playing forever, and Sleater-Kinney would be great. Not to give it away, but we've obviously been thinking about it..

DJ: No, that's cool. I've got one last question for you Eddie. I've talked to a billion true Pearl Jam fans, and this is what everybody wants to know. Are you scared?

EV: Yeah, a little.

DJ: Now, the song on the "Singles" soundtrack that everybody refers to as "Breathe" is actually called "Breath," right?

EV: Okay.

DJ: Everybody wants to know.. there was this big campaign in 1998, where they.. everybody held up the signs for you guys to please play "Breath."

EV: In Jersey, yeah.

DJ: Yeah, in New Jersey. If you wouldn't mind telling us a little bit of that story from your point of view, and why you guys didn't really play "Breath" before all that, and how you generally felt about it. That would be such a great bonus to all the true Pearl Jam fans out there.

EV: Oh, it's a question deserving of an answer, I just don't know if I have one. I don't know why we didn't play it, and don't know.. I don't know if we didn't play it in New Jersey, if I remember, because I don't think...

DJ: You did eventually play it at Madison Square Garden.

EV: Yeah! So we had to.. you know, once we saw the response, we had to at least practice it once or twice. Um, so let that be a.. you know, if someone wants to hear a song, just make sure that, you know, to give us some notice there.

DJ: Yeah, we'll contact you in advance next time. Well..

EV: It was really humbling. It was great to see that kind of interest. It's appreciated, that kind of energy. It's really nice.

DJ: Excellent, because some people were worried that you might be offended that this little movement was going on, or something.

EV: Well, I reserve the right to be offended.

DJ: Okay. Well, Eddie, I appreciate you talking to us today. Let's play one more song from the album and I'll let you go off to do your show or whatever you have to do.

EV: Okay, well, "Parting Ways" I think would be, uh..

DJ: [making up a word which mangles the correct pronunciation of "apropos"]

EV: Yeah.

DJ: That's cool. That's one that all the fans have been hearing about but haven't been able to hear. Another song, actually, about losing. A little common theme there with some of the songs. Eddie Vedder man, please, anytime you want, drop by. We'd love to see you. We'll see you at Jones Beach.

EV: Okay.

["Parting Ways"]