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

Michael Rietmulder, The Seattle Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Things started clicking immediately in Watt’s guitar-strewn Wonka factory, as the crew knocked out “Scared of Fear” and the swinging “React, Respond” — twin kickers that open the album — that first day. With Watt whipping up quality rough mixes on the fly, it was easy for the band to feel good about the takes and move on to the next song.

“He won our trust by having it together the first day and knowing how to get a song out of us,” Gossard said. “That set the hook for us, because we knew those songs were great. After that, we recorded another handful, but as we started to get more into the process, I think we got a little more cerebral again and [took] a little bit more time.”

After letting the first batch of songs breathe for about a year, largely due to scheduling constraints, Pearl Jam and Watt reconvened in Malibu’s Shangri-La studio last year to finish the second half of the album. On the whole, one of the strengths of “Dark Matter” lies in how the band’s individual talents and impulses — whether it’s Ament’s anxious post-punk (“React, Respond”), McCready’s fire-raining solos or Vedder’s Who-like crescendos (“Got to Give”) — shine through in a more cohesive setting.

The result is a loose, no-bull collection of songs that often fall squarely into the band’s wheelhouse — like watching ‘em crank slow-pitched baseballs over the center field wall in a home run derby. Songs like the crushable “Waiting for Stevie” — its origins tracing to when Vedder and Watt were literally waiting for Stevie Wonder to show up and record a part for Vedder’s “Earthling” album — are destined to go down live as well as a $6 value beer in the T-Mobile Park bleachers.

Here’s what else Gossard had to say about working with Watt, the Home Shows and Pearl Jam’s upcoming tour. These excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

On Watt’s writing contributions …

“It’s funny, but Andrew has a guitar on all the time. That’s how he works. So while we were recording, he was in there playing along and he helped write parts to songs. He helped us with sections and had great, great intuition about getting from point A to point B and [how] to build suspense — things that you learn in pop music that can help you that are basically arrangement moves of tension and release, making something pop. Those things can all be part of a rock song. But it’s [the] sounds and the attitude and the tempo that you can play with that make them sound different.”

Reflecting on 2018’s Home Shows …


“I’m still unpacking that, honestly. I think it highlights how difficult things are to change without the right blend of partners and our intentions were to help create an opportunity to kind of build that. … But I think that we’re also human and definitely fallible. I’m not sure what we achieved, but I think at the very least we sent a signal that said it’s possible to do things on a large scale and it’s possible to be catalysts for change.

On playing Climate Pledge Arena for the first time …

“I saw the Cure there and it sounded great. I’m barely going to concerts, but I really enjoyed that. It was a very stripped-down affair and it felt like a club show in terms of the mood and how they just jammed. So, I’m excited, it’s good. I’m excited about this record [and] the way the band is thinking about this tour and I think we’re going to be ready to come out and have a good show.”

On recent tourmates Deep Sea Diver, the Seattle indie rock favorites opening the Climate Pledge Arena shows, and supporting Seattle bands …

“Jeff Ament is the one that fell in love with them early. They’re an amazing band live and did great opening last year. When you’re moved by music, you’re motivated to want to be around it, so I don’t know that it’s anything more than that. It’s cool to be where you’re from and to participate in your own city’s talent.”

On what keeps Pearl Jam exciting after 34 years …

“It’s still making art with your friends. That always excites me. In that collaboration and the mix of being part of something that you’re not really in control of but you know that you’re playing a role in it, that’s a fun place to play. And it’s still fun to play, like a kid.”

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