El País de las Tentaciones, Friday 13 1998.
by [author unknown]
[Translated and transcribed for 5h by Esther Santos]
As the living reflection of the positivism that impregnates their new album, Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament appears smiling and relaxed in the hotel room in which they'll speak to Tentaciones. Vedder, with short hair, wears black jacket, polo and trousers. There's only an unexpected detail: a little pink triangle pin on his lapel, a gay movement symbol. Ament's look updates the grunge fashion, making it more skate: a tiny woolen hat, wide T-shirt, shorts and leather shoes.
T: Lately, your future did not seem very clear. No Code sold less than expected, and the media talked about internal fights. Today you reappear with a new and more optimistic album, and you give interviews to talk about it, something you did not do for years. Which specific circumstances have changed during this period of time?
JA: At last we could allow exploring roads we feel like going over. We played with Neil Young, Eddie sang with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and I had a side project, Three Fish. We played again in small places and we went to see other bands. You arrive to a point that you need to come back to the simple and basic stuff, and learn to enjoy again. To me, this is about mutual appreciation, coming back to the origin, realizing that those things that really matter are very few, and making music is one of those.
T: Did your personal differences become very serious?
EV: Not really. The point is that you have the great chance of making music, but you don't enjoy it completely because of the things that surrounded your job that are not strictly musical. Throughout these years we have taken conscious decisions and we have learned a few things, and only now we know how to really enjoy and appreciate our job.
T: You have been always complaining about music industry and mass media. Now...do you feel this pressure less?
EV: We do what we do. We don't give a damn about what happens outside or what people say.
JF: I don't think this pressure exists. You can let it drag you down, or affect your life...The only way to avoid it is to make sure that you know where you come from and which are the sources that feed you. You are anyway in the middle of a fight between companies, ticket agencies or whatsoever, that struggle to have more power than the rest, and you know that.
T: Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the two bands that appeared more often in the media. What are the effects of this over press exposure?
EV: We even were overexposed when we didn't give interviews! There were articles about us everywhere and we didn't have anything to do with it. We wanted to control all that, but it was impossible, we couldn't avoid saturating everybody with our press appearances. Personally, at certain time I saw each media person simply as pollution. If I saw a journalist very close, my immediate reaction was to say: take this guy out of here. I couldn't bear myself this media bombing, people on tv screaming, and I didn't want to be part of it.
T: However, you are giving interviews after all these years in silence. Is it because your last album sales weren't as good as everybody expected?
EV: We gave a couple interviews...These years that we lived without talking to the press have been like months for us. We understand them as a spare time short break that we could afford to ourselves.
T: Is it so unpleasant talking to the press?
EV: No, talking to the press is always nice. But we must give interviews moderately, and, obviously, never when touring. We are not going to go from a radio station to another, from a tv to another, that is when it's really unpleasant.
AGAINST ROCK BUSINESS
T: One of your personal signs of identity has been your reaction against music business abuses. You have refused touring a lot, the powerful MTV, and Ticketmaster...But this behavior was counterproductive, wasn't it? At the end your fans lose because they can't see your shows or simply watch you on tv...
JA: No way! We have been criticized for not to do more shows or make videos, but look our albums: we are really prolific and we publish almost an album every year. If I'm any band's fan, I'm dying for a new album, and I love they do it every year.
EV: That's our responsibility. And that's what we do: music. It is our artistic expression, not videos, interviews, tv shows, or anything like that.
JA: We are incapable of going to tv shows and say "hey, man, how you doing?" That's for Christian rock guys. They feel comfortable in front of a camera and showing off.
EV: But we are real people and those kind of things don't work for us.
T: Your new album's music and lyrics show an attitude less angry than in other albums. Is Pearl Jam in 98 less furious and more comfortable?
EV: Maybe. If you want to be honest as an artist, when you get older you cannot keep on expressing the same kind of thing you were saying in your teens, because this would be false. What was rage in the past has become reflection. In the past we got really angry and we cried out against many things in our songs, and I think our message reached to people pretty well this way. But where do you go after that? I think when you become adult you have to express your energy in a different way, more calm. That doesn't mean we forget the bad side of life, because it still appears in our songs. But what it's now exciting, a real challenge, is facing it from a more positive point of view, looking for a way to solve it. In the past we said: what a shit, this stinks, that sucks, everything sucks... Now it's time to say: stop, let's look for a solution, let's be positive.
T: Has Pearl Jam become a topic, a stereotype of some people always crying out and angry?
JA: I don't think so. The problem is that if you spend the whole day wasting your energy being angry, at the end of the day you are exhausted, like if you were two steps behind than when you started, and you feel really bad, because you can't express what you really feel. If you can have a break, sit down a while and think, at the end you have your mind clear out and you are relaxed. Of course, my character is not like that [laughs].
T: This album is full of words like hope, believe, wish...Do you feel more and more like hippies?
EV: We cannot behave as punks, saying all day long "fuck off," because it's a very restrictive attitude. We are together for a very long time, and true artists change, do evolutions. But, anyway, our attitude is the same: saying the truth.
T: Your new album title, "Yield," is a word with many meanings in English. What does it really mean in this case?
JA: Paying attention, being sensitive...As Eddie was saying before, our lives have been very extreme: traveling up and down, seeing different things, living intensely. Then you need some perspective, going to the countryside or the ocean. Being on a beach, watching the sand and thinking about where it comes from....This gives you the chance to know how insignificant you are, and how important that tree is compared to that building, even though it's fifteen times higher, but the tree has been there for centuries by itself.
EV: Many people, when they get on the bus, that's the only environment they see [he stares the hotel room tv set]. And that seems to be the future everybody is going to have: people won't visit different places, because they will watch them on tv or through the computer. They won't need to go to the Grand Canyon, but they will never feel how fascinating it really is. I can't stop thinking about the importance that is acquiring virtual reality. This is related to the control over people, which is what I clearly see about the future. If you see reality through a screen, it will be very easy that they control what you are seeing, what you are searching in the Internet...They can even get into your house to control your daily routine. Technology innovations will favor more and more these kind of mechanisms.
T: Is this technological allergy what has made you not use electronic elements in your music, which is the opposite of what many other rock bands are doing?
EV: The point is we don't know how to work with it. After such a long time together, we have reached to a great communication between us. That's what we have to improve now, and not wasting our time trying to communicate with machines. There are certainly interesting aspects in electronic music, and I think you can use many of them without becoming a techno artist; actually, I have walked that road with Hovercraft [his wife's band]. Everyone listens to electronic music, but we still consider more exciting composing Pearl Jam music with a guitar, in a more classical way.
The record company "sergent" warns us that we only have five minutes left. We only have time to talk briefly about Pearl Jam's encounters with music legends: Neil Young -- they made "Mirror Ball" together in 1995, and the recently departed Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- the greatest Pakistani cultural myth, with whom Eddie Vedder sang two songs for the "Dead Man Walking" soundtrack.
T: Eddie, how did you face your encounter with such an important person as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan?
EV: Look, I didn't know anything about what it was going to happen: neither the song we were going to sing, anything at all. Five minutes before start recording, we sat together. I was a bit nervous because I admired him very deeply. It was something very intensely. He didn't speak English. We were communicating with our faces and through music: this face meant this cord, that face meant another, and so forth. If I wanted to go further, I had to talk to the manager. After five days, we were alone in one of the studios, and he came out in perfect English with: "You're a nice guy." I couldn't believe it. "Do you speak English?" And he did, but that was his way of isolating from the movie and record company crew, that they only can tell him nonsense. He had created his own space only in which those he wanted could get into.
T: With Neil Young you share not only rock stardom but also a certain tendency to confront the music business. What did you learn from him?
EV: Above all, we learnt music from him. How to be a good musician...I was putting my personal record collection in order the other day and I have like twenty of his albums. He has done great music, and that is his strength, what gives him the courage to confront whatever. He is an example of how to keep your integrity through the years, of how to keep on without selling yourself.
JA: He has always maintained the creative control on everything he does, what let him maintain him better than any other musician of his generation. He is still able to write songs from his heart.
Yield will be released February 3 by Epic Records.