Pearl Jam / Jeff Ament & Eddie Vedder Interview
Int: I'll just go down the list. The first one is ‘Arms Aloft’ the Joe Strummer tune - who brought that to the band?
Jeff Ament: Ed brought 'Arms Aloft’ to the band and it was after a period of time where we were talking about Joe a lot and kind of reminiscing about the missed opportunity of him coming out and playing shows for us which was gonna happen about a month after he died. That song is all about being at a festival (we were playing a lot of festivals last year in Europe) so that song is the perfect song for us to bust out at those festivals.
Int: It's got a great groove. You guys kick some serious ass on it…
JA: Yeah, it's a really unique arrangement too and I think that excites us too whenever you can play a song that has a really odd and different arrangement too it but it's really fun to play. There's a lot of energy in the way that those chords are put together.
Int: Does a song like that remind you of some of you guys own material from an older era?
JA: Y'know I’m speaking purely from my own experience but it reminded me of what we were going for in 'Pilot’ in the studio. We were really trying to make the verses like no drums or minimal drums and it really had this hyper dynamic thing going on.
Int: 'World Wide Suicide’ written by…?
JA: 'World Wide Suicide' was written by Ed and that song was an opener for us and originally on this record was going to be the opener mainly because we came out and we bashed the guitars around a little bit to get some feedback going. It's a pretty great rhythm track on that song and really representative of where we were at 3-4 years ago and it's been ten years since we put out a compilated live record like this so it's a good representation of the Avocado record.
Int: Lyrically on that song, during the time of the Avocado record it was current and forthright and political…
JA: It's still current and political - the post 9/11 world…we're still in it and it's a good song to remind us of that world that we're still living in even though it's not in the headlines.
Int: Exactly that's what I was going for. At the time I was asking myself are they gonna play this eight years from now?
JA: Well, if it was up to me we’d still be playing ‘Bush-leaguer'! We shouldn't forget and George Bush put us in this giant mess which I think it seems like that’s probably the Democrats plan over the next two years building up to the election that they’re gonna try to remind people that… how all this started.
Int: Well the San Francisco Giants are gonna try and take care of him out there. 'Animal'; a track written by all the members of the band…
JA: That was mostly a Stone, that verse riff was a Stone riff that he brought in and that was one of the four or five really super aggressive tracks off and during the 'Versus' record. It's always a super fun song to play live. We're trying to load up the front of this record with some good energy so that fits right in there.
Int: Like your shows, those first five of 'There's No Rest for the Weary'…
JA: That mostly has to do with us trying to get us going…trying to get some energy going, trying to get us in the pocket.
Int: Does an older song like that always remain fresh for you?
JA: Yeah because I think we only play 'Animal' about every five or six shows now. It’s amazing what giving songs that even were borderline hits or more popular type songs because if you give those songs a break like how they can come back, we’ll approach it in a different way or we’ll hear it in a new light and all of a sudden there is space in a place where there wasn't space before so that’s the bonus of being a band, y'know, twenty years on is that we have this huge bucket full of songs that we can pour a couple out of every once in a while and re-learn it or re-arrange it as we did with 'Better Man' last night, it's kinda the same thing like that. It's amazing what that did for me personally…just all of a sudden I was like 'wow, that's the right key for that song actually.'
Int: 'Got Some' and your bass riff was the genesis of that track right?
JA: I brought in a pretty complete demo of that song and it's been a good song live just because it has such a great lyric. It’s a lyric that our audience can sing along with…it's a 'music is medicine' lyric so it’s a fun one. It's over before you know it.
Int: The bass you play on that, kind of a Cheap Trick
Bass and I don’t think I’ve seen that before that song…
JA: That song probably kind of inspired that bass a little bit. Mike Lowe who makes a lot of my basses, I had asked him to make me a Thunderbird bass and when we decided what we were going to paint it we were actually in the studio making our last record and I've always been a big Cheap Trick fan and I'm friends with Tom Peterson the bass player and loved Rick Nelson's guitars and kind of the whole thing and so I just asked if we could paint it chequerboard and Mike actually found the guy that painted Rick’s guitar to paint it for us. That song has a little bit of that sort of eighties kind of new wave power pop thing going in it.
Int: So was that your music and Ed’s lyrics coming together and with that song you run that riff in and he goes to his sheets and there it is?
JA: Yeah a lot of times he will rearrange stuff…we're starting to get better as a band at coming up with arrangements that we think he's gonna mostly dig. Occasionally he will completely deconstruct a song and completely rearrange it to the point where he changes the melody of a part or something but I think we've gotten…especially with this last record we came (with) pretty well arranged pieces of music for him and that was one of them.
Int: Next one, a long time fan favourite 'State 11 Trust' from the Singles album…
JA: That was a Mike Mcready riff that he would pull out every once in a while right around the time that we were making the first record and it just never really got finished and then it came up that we needed to come up with a couple of songs for the Singles thing. I remember Mike came over to my apartment one day and we just sort of came up with a couple of other parts for it and took it back to rehearsal and we were in the studio within a couple of days and Ed wrote incredibly pertinent lyrics in terms of the Singles movie. I remember bringing the tape down to Cameron (Crowe) when he was actually on set and he was stoked.
Int: So when you have a melody like that you and Mike work on and then you bring it in are there ever any lyrics that you think 'what is this and how does it fit into our music?'
JA: Yeah, I think, y'know…I would say early on I think I was so concerned about the music and the rhythm and the melody I don’t think I paid as close attention to the lyrics as maybe I ought - definitely not as much as I do now. I'm a firm believer that now that lyrics have to be as important as the melody and the rhythm and the drums and the bass and the guitar parts and all that but I think at the time I just kind of felt like if Ed was singing a great melody and if there was some memorable words in it then I was stoked but you look back at that song now… I've been spoiled - pretty much all the bands I've had poets for singers and Ed's, y'know, arguably one of the best modern day lyricists out there so we get spoiled by that and we take it probably a little bit for granted…but it’s a good one.
Int: And that's a song that, just from my perspective, I've seen it years and years and I thought I knew what I was saying and then one day went and looked and it's like reading something completely different…it's a very interesting story.
JA: I used to have that habit too where I would never look at a lyric sheet until five or six listens in 'cos I wanted to kinda come up with my own portrayal of what was going on in these songs and get my own visual going.
Int: So on a fan favourite like 'State 11 Trust' where you’re playing wherever, whenever and you bust into that and it gets maybe a greater reaction than some other songs do feel that, do you feed off of that?
JA: Yeah, I think that some of those older songs kind of play themselves. I think once the crowd starts clapping and singing along we’re just kind of along for the ride and that’s one of those songs for sure…that's a song that people really respond to and a lot of it is the lyrics, a lot of it I think is what he's talking about.
Int: That leads into a definite song that everyone has really responded to and I'd say maybe the best one on 'Backspacer' is 'Unthought Unknown' - it has really grown and taken off. I heard the sound check on Friday, we were outside of the gate and I was jumping around and I thought ’every other Bridge you guys have sat down' so I thought 'how are you guys gonna play this sitting down?'
JA: Well, y'know, when we started the song, when we started rehearsing the songs for these shows we realised that we were playing songs that most of them we need to be standing up for so we just decided that we were gonna stand up for the stuff.
Int: Lets talk about that song a little bit; when it came in ?; was it in the form it is now?; did it grow ?; was it right there from the start? It's really taken off in concert…
JA: The part that we knew that was great…the verse / chorus is sort of a classic Ed rhythm - it's a rhythm that we could play along with but the part that we were really excited about at the time was the bridge which is the apex of the song, it happens twice, and becomes the outro or whatever but we knew that part was like 'money'. Initially, (in)the original arrangement of that song it only happened once and we were all sort of psyched about kind of the cleverness of the apex only happening once and as we were working with Brendan and Brendan was like 'you guys don't write parts like that very often’ so he got it back twice! 'Y'know you can't not go back to that part, its too good of a part' and he was right so thank God.
Int: Is there a song that you feel like will remain popular with you the band members for quite a while?
JA: Yeah, I think there's five or six songs on this record that we'll play for a long long time and that's certainly one of 'em. That’s one that Ed really likes to play and again that song is his rhythm, that’s his natural go-to rhythm. We've opened up a few shows with that song and it’s a great show opener too.
Int: From the 'Versus' album 'Rear View Mirror'
JA: Maybe Ed can talk about the breakdown of 'Rear View Mirror'.
Eddie Vedder: Yeah, actually that was something I sat around with for years (hums melody) it was just like a meditative, weird thing and then I guess that was the second record so then I was trying to get a guitar song on the record so I tried to turn it into something and then the next part was this (hums melody) which is kind of a rip off of some song I just can't remember what it is. I actually looked for the song to put on the songs (we had) for the wedding so I was going through all these songs and I tried to find it and the band I thought it was by, it wasn't by them so now I have no idea. It’s probably like a modern English b-side or something weird. It's like an art piece song.
Int: I wanna talk about when it comes back in after the space zone with that build up, how did that come about?
JA: Well that breakdown…there's a handful of songs that we have where the breakdowns are always a bit of a journey and sometimes we kinda nail it and it evolves into something really good and sometimes we're just beating our head against the wall until it does evolve into something that we latch onto and that breakdown has evolved a lot over the years. The newest evolution of it, though I know we've been playing it the last couple of years, there's kind of a descending thing that comes out of the noise part that sort of evolves and it's like a little bit of a song within a song which I think they always said a breakdown should be the song within the song so that’s sort of what we were going for with that part.
Int: In concert at the end when the strobe light comes on people will feel that strobe light in the song
JA: Yeah, well, the people that aren't having seizures will feel the song! I didn't even know there was a strobe light playing in that song. Maybe I'm having a seizure and I don't know it!
Int: OK, so big hit single number 99 ‘The Fixer’. A quick one so basically a Matt Cameron composition, are you on it?
JA: Mostly there were a couple of little parts that (were) Stone and Mike and we all sort of had a little bit of a hand in how that song ended up which is the way most of our songs are…everybody has a little bit of a say or a little bit of a piece in it. That’s a good one because it’s a little bit odd, it kinda goes back between a little bit of an odd time signature into the straightforward time signature in the chorus and it’s a great lyric - it’s a really great simple lyric. That and 'Got Some'…there’s a couple of things in this record that Ed went with the initial, simple idea that he had and wasn't really afraid to repeat it a couple of times.
Int: A very uncharacteristic Pearl Jam song…
JA: Totally. There’s a real pop element in there. Historically, when something hooky or poppy we usually throw a monkey wrench into it, we usually screw it up somehow and make it a little less poppy. It was good to go with that initial burst and I think Matt really comes from a real poppy standpoint often times too - he has a real prog-y side to him too but he likes his pop.
Int: 'Nothing As It Seems' a real fan favourite that has vanished from the scene and there's a definite movement to hear that more often and that’s one of yours.
JA: I think the story's out there. That was a sort of a little depressing folk song based on a really horrible thing that I witnessed and I kind of kept hearing it as a Pink Floyd kind of a song so when we went in the studio with it and we were putting drums on it I told Mike 'how would you feel about we just give you a minute off the top of it and you just come up with something really dark and wicked?' and he did. That song, everybody plays great on it but Mike really has an ability to take a song over the top and that's one of the shining moments I think. I think that solo, that kinda changes a lot, but the meat of that solo is really expressively his own - it's really Mike McCready that you’re hearing, not too much of his influences.
Int: So when a song like that disappears for a while is it because someone doesn't want to sing it or…
JA: I think it has more to do with that song has such a sombre rhythm to it and it doesn’t really sound great when we speed it up too much. I think, musically, if it was a little bit more upbeat it would probably fit into the set easier and I think it’s a little bit secular just in terms of the mood ‘cos it is a heavy, kind of loping rhythm and sometimes it just takes the wind out of the sails of the set so I think that has a lot to do with the reason why and that’s just from our perspective I got and I think we’ve noticed it with the audience too a little bit but it’s a fun song to play when we do play it and it’s mostly fun to sit back and see what Mike comes up with.
Int: It's a great song. It has maybe that sombre lull in it but by the end of it it’s on fire. Now 'In Hiding', my personal favourite and suggestion that I’m glad to see has made the record because it has just become one of the greatest songs to get involved in and over the years that song has started to really involve the crowd now - the back and forth, the riffs are great, the lyrics are great…
JA: I would say that is my favourite Ed and Stone collaboration. To me, that song musically is so Stone, it's such a Stone riff…just the way that song is composed it's so totally him and lyrically it’s such a classic Ed character in that song. I love playing it just because it's…people argue with me that say 'Alive' or 'Flow' are better songs or whatever but from a guy playing in the band (laughs) that to me is like just real perfection in terms of their collaboration and how they write together.
Int: And where it stands now it's not every night, it's not once a tour, it's just right, it's special every time and are there any of the nights or versions that you can actually remember or look back at like that night at the Vic where it was like bouncing off the walls. Can you actually recall that?
JA: I don't remember playing 'In Hiding' that night but I remember songs from that night and then there are specific things like when something hits you just right or you see someone in the crowd who's kind reacting to a song (and) that seemingly there in the exact same space that I'm in with the song in terms of like what I'm visualizing or what I’m feeling and usually those are the real particular memories that I have for a specific moments or parts of songs or entire songs. The Vic, that was a great night.
Int: Not to talk specifically about where each one is from but I believe they borrowed my suggestion from the San Francisco gig in '06 which had the loudest back and forth and it was just so powerful.
JA: That was a good series of shows. I think we were all battling a little bit of flu at that time. I know that Ed got sick kind of early in that and I know that by the last show I had something but I remember them being kind of special shows mainly because it was the first smaller shows that we'd done in San Francisco and so it was fun. It would be nice if we could engage in a little bit more of that but it's tough. You just gotta find the right venues.
Int: After the summer man those people over there are pretty tough.
JA: I don't know if we’re gonna do that again. Hyde Park was brutal..
Int:…and Venice was pretty brutal. Both of those for me, I was like I'm outta here!
JA: Hyde Park it was…the ten year anniversary of Roskilde was a couple of days after that so we were all thinking about that so that was going on. We were actually pretty upset after that show.
Int: 'Spin the Black Circle' another great little Ed 1-2-3, bang it out of the park.
JA: I don't know if that story's been out there, I don't know if I should be the one to break it. Stone had a riff and gave Ed a cassette of these two parts and Ed took his cassette and actually pushed the pitch up so it doubled the speed of it and that's how that song came about. Ed was like 'I was thinking we could play it this speed' which basically was twice as fast as what the original thing was so there you have it.
Int: So there’s a slow loop and there's a slow 'Spin…' ?
JA: Well there's a slow version of Stone playing guitar on a cassette somewhere.
Int; Wow, there's a nuggett we don't have on the backing tapes! 'I Am Mine'; another Ed composition from 'The Riot Act' album…
JA: 'I Am Mine' is such a beautiful lyric and 'Love Boat Captain - both are important songs for us to play from that time and that just seemed like the most representative song from that record.
Int: Here's something I always wanted to tell someone in Pearl Jam about that song and it pertains to what you said about Brendan telling you about what you were feeling is that with the solo in 'I Am Mine' it’s a tease and it's over and it's like ‘they should be playing for another five minutes'.
JA: It's on, yeah possibly. Maybe that’s a way to…
Int: I just got my head right…I can move on (laughs).
JA: That’s our Guided By Voices influence. I don't know if you’re a Guided By Voices fan but those early records used to frustrate me because they write this incredible Who-like riff and they'd only play it once and you were like 'what! I can’t believe you wrote that riff and you only played that riff once.'
Int: 'Just Breathe'. When Ed brought that into you guys it was very much the 'Into The Wild' feel and really once you guys started playing it live your definite Carol Kaye influenced bass riff on that is a huge element to the song live.
JA: Well, it was one of those things that when I came up with that bass line there's a little bit of a juxtaposition…that bass line sort of takes that song a little bit out of the sombre element of the song and I was a little bit worried about it but Brendan was really super positive about it. That song's been a journey for us live…it's a really hard song for us to play live because it's so delicate. So much of it is based around what Ed's right hand is doing and again it's Ed’s rhythm and how he pushes and pulls with the way that he fingerpicks and it's just been a journey. It's been fun to play every night because it’s something that we really have to focus on. That's not a song that plays itself, it's that we really have to own it to have it turn out the way we want it to. That's one of the handful of versions that we were happy with so hopefully it's a really good live representative of that song.
Int: Now another one of the awesome covers from this past European tour this summer; The Public Image from Johnny Lydon…
JA: Well when we were on tour in the U.S. right before we went to Europe Ed and I and Ian McKay and his brother went to see Public Image when we were in D.C. and it was phenomenal! I'd seen Public Image probably three times before that and Stone and my old band Green River opened up for them in '87 or something and this was so much better than any of the shows that I'd seen and we were just so pumped up mainly because they were playing primarily songs from the first two records and second edition, the metal box record, is like one of my favourite punk or post punk records. Ed kinda brought it up like 'what do you think about trying to do Public Image?' and I was like 'man, I'm in! That's all bass line, count me in!' and it was a really fun song to play live. Usually by about halfway through the song people would start to pick up on what was going on with it and they’d be in. It's got such great momentum and such a great lyric, that would have been a great song for us to play like second or third record - it would've just fit right in with where we were at that point.
Int: When it starts off you've got some effect going on your bass - what is it? It's so rich and deep and thick…
JA: I don't think there's any effect, I think it's just my amp, my Marshall coming through..
Int: …and just your playing 'cos when you start that song I'm going 'is that a pedal or is it a mic?' It's very different than any other sound I'm ever hearing during any of the other songs.
JA: It's probably a little bit more up too, you're probably hearing it a little bit up in the mix but (in) the original of that song the bass is really loud - I was a huge, huge fan of Jah Wobble. The Second Edition record which was the record after this Public Image song was on, it's all fretless bass and that had pretty profound effect on me at the time that you could play fretless in a rock setting.
Int: The next song - a Jeff Ament / Eddie Vedder composition; 'Jeremy'.
JA: Well, we looked at the 'Live On Two Legs' record and we were trying not to repeat any songs from that original set list from 'Live On Two Legs'. I think 'Even Flow' and maybe 'Once' are on there (I can’t remember) and I think that was at an era where we were sort of in denial about the ten records so we weren’t actually playing that stuff as much as we are now so we pulled a few things from that. We found a pretty solid version of 'Jeremy' and Matt plays that song really well and he’s singing really incredible backgrounds in that song which we never had done live before so there’s a few elements in that song live that haven’t always been there.
Int: Your 12 string bass is a huge component of the song, the lead component of the song basically; when did you start playing with the 12 string bass?
JA: There are actually two songs on the Mother Love Bone record that I really kept hearing 12 string on and I ran into one so 'Star Dog Champion' and it might be the break in 'Heartshine' I think has 12 string bass on it and that just goes back to my love for Cheap Trick - in particular the song 'Gonna Raise Hell'… you can really hear the 12 string in that song. When I wrote that song I actually wrote it on an acoustic guitar and I had already ordered a 12 string guitar so I knew…as I was playing this riff I was like 'ok, I'm playing this as though it’s a 12 string bass'. As soon as I got the bass that was the day we started working on that song and that was the day we started working on 'Why Go' because I had these riffs but I didn’t want to play them until I had the actual bass in hand so they're really specifically written for that bass.
Int: So when those lyrics were applied to your riff and when you wrote those riffs could you ever had imagined…
JA: No, not at all. It was such a heavy, such a poignant lyric, such a specific lyric about a specific event and that was one of those things that kinda happened like that. If I had brought that song in a week later it would have been totally different because Ed was reading the newspaper and was reading about this event in Texas (interrupted) but like so many things timing is everything.
Int: When you were in Europe and people were having a great time but they said you didn't play 'Jeremy'. As the composer of that song was a comment like that…
JA: I would prefer to play that and 'Even Flow' and 'Alive' every third show, that's my mode. I think 'Alive', especially when we’re playing to bigger audiences, is such a great sing-along, such a great community song. As the composer of that song and being proud of that song I still prefer to play it every third or fourth show, it just brings more life to it for me.
Int: 'Porch'; Is that the complete Ed composition?
JA: That's one complete song he wrote on the first record and it's always been a great live song mainly because it can go in a hundred different directions and it's sort of evolved; the intro's evolved (and) there's a lot of different ways we could play the intro, there's a lot of different ways we can play the breakdown on any given night. Y'know, it's a great simple rock song and it has a real Who element to it too, especially the outro.
Int: The song has evolved incredibly especially as a set closer point now and where Stone is taking breaks now and that are just off the hook.
JA: That was a song that was around for probably a good year before Pearl Jam started and we played it a little bit in Mother Love Bone - it was a song called 'Dollar Short' and never got recorded. (It’s an) incredible lyric and a great groovy rock song that's very much Stone Gossard…
Int: I think the term anthem status is appropriate…
JA: …It's got a big, giant bombastic outro and gives Mike a place to rip it up so it's a fun one.
Int: Here's something I didn't get; 'Yellow Ledbetter'- you have a song writing piece in that.
JA: I think that's another one where Mike had a part and I’m not sure what. I think I probably have a pretty small percentage of that song 'cos the bulk of that song is Mike but there’s a couple of little changes at the end that I came up with just trying to give it somewhere to go, y'know. That's all Mike man, that's where his guitar playing was at the time and it’s really representative of why we wanted him in the band 'cos he could play like that.
Int: I assume we're looking at sequences 'cos you've got a production element and you're heavily happily involved in it. Are you happy with it? Are we looking at the sequence?
JA: Yep, that's it.
Int: That's good ’cos that's what I do when I’m programming the station everyday creating my own hour shows and set list…
JA: Well, it was tricky for this because it's not a whole show but you gotta throw part of that element out, you know what I mean? you're including songs that are typically encore songs but mostly trying to get it to flow and trying not to let it drag anywhere. Most of it's pretty up, there’s only a handful of midtempo songs.
Int: Do you have involvement in sequencing the shows or is that all Ed?
JA: It's 95% Ed. He comes in and he's feeling a certain way and if anybody's feeling particularly really strong about playing a certain song or not playing a certain song then those things will get thrown out there, considered and we’ll all have a conversation about it.
Int: So maybe there's some nights and someone wants to do something and you're like 'oh please!'
JA: Like somebody will come in and say let's play 'No Way' or whatever it is and usually it's sort of the way we make records. It usually takes somebody...like you can’t come in and champion your own songs - somebody else has to come in and say lets play this song or that song, we haven't played that in a long time so that does lots of good or you'll get into the same headspace as Ed. He looks at all the set lists that we've done in that city before and then he’ll take into consideration what songs we've never played there and also what songs are really pertinent to that particular city that we’re playing in. It can be a personal connection to a song or it can be somebody that you run into in the street that says 'will you please play 'Faithful', I've never seen that song' or whatever and those all contribute to what the set list ends up being and in this case we had a lot of different people listening to these versions of songs and we'd listen to four…I think I listened to at least a handful of these songs like four or five different versions of the songs and said can't use that one, can't use this one. I think we found a different version of 'Rear View Mirror'…
Int: Would that be a tuning issue or did you have a plan or…
JA: Some of these songs like 'Porch' or 'Rear View Mirror' that have like big breakdowns in them (we were) kinda looking for something that is representative of what we think is a better version of those breakdowns and also just trying to find something that sounds good and something where we’re firing on all cylinders…something that sounds good to us.
Int: Last time we talked you told me that you were writing the greatest song you've ever written…
JA: (laughs) It's been written! It's done, it's in the can! Who knows? It’s probably not as good as…Stone likes it so that's usually a good sign or it could be a bad sign. It could be the ultimate curse that somebody else likes it. There's a handful of things we've gone in and demo'd up some stuff and arranged some things so there's about ten or fifteen pretty solid ideas laying around so we’ll probably go in a couple more times and hopefully at some point in the Spring we'll go back in the studio hopefully. That's what we’re hoping. I think everybody's ready for a little break right now - we've had the last two months off but there's been all kinds of crap on the table so everyday there’s stuff…
Int: It's the big 20! People are demanding celebrations!
JA: Well, if you weren't in San Francisco you missed it so this is our celebration. I can't think of a better way…it happened naturally and we weren't even thinking about it when we agreed to do it this year and the line-up and just being around Neil and being around all these great musicians it reminds us of what an honour it is to be a part of that musical community and to be here twenty years later and to be here with artists who have been here twice that long. It's just a good reminder of how lucky we all are and, like I said, it's an honour.
Int: Can we talk for a few seconds about your set last night? It was one of the most moving, incredible things. I don't know what gets me higher, y'know, and last night seeing you guys opening up with 'Last Kiss' and getting a big hit of that and it set a great vibe and then when you're doing 'Walk With Me' which has this total 'of the earth' feel to it…those songs are so rhythmically similar…
JA: That whole Neil record, you can tell how free he feels playing those songs without a band, he's sort of free to play whatever arrangement he wants at the time. You can tell that those songs are very loosely arranged and so that song we worked on last week before we came down here and Neil came up to me yesterday and was like 'hey, I hear you guys are playing 'Walk With Me' and I was like 'yeh, yeh with your blessing we'd love to play it’ and he said ‘how you gonna play it?'. I said the order of the parts are all the same but we’ve just sorta tightened it up a little bit mainly because we're playing acoustic instruments up here so we don’t have tape loops and echo and feedback and he reminded me "oh you can get feedback off an acoustic instrument!" And so we took a little bit of that into consideration when we played it last night and it's just a treat to have your act together and then Neil walks in and says he wants to play something with you and it was all very last minute. He came in and played it with us, like, ten minutes before he went on stage and that was what you got.
Int: Pretty moving and pretty special and so from the heart and obviously him reflecting on the two huge losses in his world recently and singing through his harmonica mic. At that point too he was singing to the kids and I was wondering is that a loop or something 'cos he's there and I turned around and he’s singing through the harmonica mic.
JA: And that's how he did part of it in the studio too on the live version - he was getting a totally different sound out of his harmonica mic, he kinda explained it to us…pretty cool.
Int: The rework of 'Better Man' last night was mind-blowing…
JA: I think Ed had done a couple of versions on solo tours he said he’d been messing around with it. I don't know if he played it live but he at least sound checked him. He said he was kinda digging them and as soon as he started singing along to the it we were like 'well that's the right key for the song.' It actually makes it more melancholy to me, there’s a real obvious sadness to the way it’s gets played with the high string that he's playing and playing it in an acoustic manner. It's cool to have these revelations fifteen years after a song, twenty years after a song was written because that was written before we were a band.
Int: And particularly with the slow (inaudible)
JA: All of a sudden you hear the lyrics in a different way and your like 'whoa, wham!' It's good, it's great.
Int: And of course 'Dancing Barefoot' - are you all as familiar with Patti (Smith) as Ed is?
JA: Yeah, I think we've all been fans and we've done a handful of shows and festivals with her over the years. She's one of the great poets of our time and has such a powerhouse voice and her voice and Ed's voice are really complimentary and they have a similar thing going on so Ed owns that song…he can really sing the hell out of it.
Int: You guys really did bring your own special touch to that song as well 'cos several people have covered that song so that was really special.
JA: Originally, we played it a few times and then we went back and listened to the original song and it has cool production but it's very aged. Todd Rundgren produced it who does really great things for me and then he does things that really haven't stood the test of time. There's some keyboard noodling that happens in that song and the way that some of the drums sound - some of the drums sound really good and some of the drums don't sound so good but Ed kinda added his rhythm to it a little bit so it pushes it along a little bit more than the original. Great song.
Int: Ok. Let’s go see the Bridge.
N.B. On October 23rd Pearl Jam played the Bridge School Benefit, Mountain View, CA, USA covering 'Dancing Barefoot' (Patti Smith), 'Last Kiss' (Wayne Cochran) and appearing with Neil Young on his own composition 'Walk With Me'.