Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard on 'Dark Matter' album, upcoming tour

Michael Rietmulder, The Seattle Times on

Published in Entertainment News

SEATTLE — In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s been six years since Pearl Jam last played Seattle, when their ballyhooed Home Shows drummed up more than $11 million for local homelessness organizations. Between a barrage of side projects and lead singer Eddie Vedder’s and guitarist Mike McCready’s penchants for onstage pop-ins when their rock star buddies come to town, it’s not like the guys have been laying low in their hometown.

But a full-fledged, sweaty-browed, arena-rocking Pearl Jam show (or two) in their backyard is a different animal.

The PJ machine is officially fired up, as the Seattle juggernauts release their 12th studio album, “Dark Matter,” on Friday, with a pair of local dates — their first at Climate Pledge Arena — coming May 28 and 30.

“Dark Matter” differed, at least in process, from its predecessor, 2020’s striking “Gigaton” LP. As opposed to individual members of the band — rounded out by bassist Jeff Ament, drummer Matt Cameron and guitarist Stone Gossard — coming in with near-complete demos over long gestation periods, many of the new songs were hashed out during quick-paced sessions with everyone in the same room.

“We’re all musical adventurers,” Gossard said earlier this month. “Everyone in the band wants to get into that moment of creativity and to be part of something that has that sort of magic and that feeling that transcends reality in some way.”

That all-hands, keep-it-moving approach hearkened back to the band’s early days and was largely spurred by hotshot producer (and low-key guitar hero ) Andrew Watt. Despite the 33-year-old’s pop pedigree, Watt is a not-so-secret Pearl Jam superfan who had been clamoring behind the scenes to work with the band for a while. After first making his name producing for pop A-listers like Justin Bieber and Post Malone, Watt’s become something of a whisperer to rock’s elder statesmen, working on recent albums with Ozzy Osbourne and Iggy Pop, the Rolling Stones and Vedder’s rewarding solo album, “Earthling.”


“He understands our songs from an outsider’s perspective,” Gossard said. “He knew that our early records were thrown together pretty quickly in terms of our process. There wasn’t a lot of time to think about things and I think that was part of what he fell in love with. He encouraged us to be in that same state of mind.”

Even if the guys brought in what they thought were solidified song skeletons, “everything that came in just got immediately thrown in the blender.” Parts were rearranged, keys shifted, new parts added. Nothing was too sacred. “That is a daunting process if you’re in a band because you’ve gotta be able to let your baby go,” Gossard said. “But that’s where some really magical things happen for us.”

“Dark Matter” was recorded during two stretches, the first taking place in 2021 at Watt’s studio.

“We walk into a room, here’s a guy that Ed has made a record with, but we’ve never met before, and he’s bouncing off the walls, super excited,” Gossard said. “He’s got a great little studio that the board is in the room, it’s all one room so we’re all in it together. We didn’t have any of our instruments, he just had guitars laying all over the place, and amps, and he’s like ‘Try this, try that, anything you wanna try!’ It’s a little bit 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' [laughs], he has a little bit of Willy Wonka [in him].”


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