On a sunny Friday afternoon (Aug. 20) in a quiet corner of Manhattan's downtown-cool Tribeca neighborhood, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard sat down to chat about the tour and years-in-the-making new album, "Best Friends?," by his long-running other band, the soulful, funky quartet Brad; about Pearl Jam's upcoming plans, 20th anniversary and ritual-like live show; and about the early stages of PJ making a follow up to last year's No. 1 album "Backspacer." As topics ranged from Soundgarden's reunion to Brad's openness to commercial partnerships, the easy-going, ever-ready to play Gossard kept coming back to one theme that seems to be the key to to his musical longevity: it's all about the long-term relationships.
Brad did some shows last week to celebrate the release of "Best Friends?". How did they go?
We did [Seattle radio station] KEXP and it's always a thrill anytime they asks you do do something because KEXP is the coolest in my mind. They really have done a fantastic job of showing how radio can be amazing. So I'm always encouraged when they have been optimistic about stuff Pearl Jam has done or stuff that Brad's done. It always makes me say, "Yes! We're doing something right."
Well, the Seattle press particularly has been pretty strong champions of Pearl Jam in the 2000's. They have really supported all of your projects.
I think we've just stayed on course in a way that's maybe encouraged people and surprised people. And I think there's more that we can do. We could be more challenging and more interesting. We'll continue to try. We're always trying to steer towards [a place] where it combines into something greater than its individual parts. It's the same thing with Brad.
You mention process. With Brad, the obvious question is why did you take so long to release this album? It was recorded in 2003.
For whatever reason, it just fell by the wayside after we recorded it. I think [drummer] Regan [Hagar] and I started picking it back up maybe a couple of years later. I started going back in and editing and adding some guitars, falling in love with it again. But still the process rolled on and [singer] Shawn [Smith] was really focused on some stuff that he was doing and Regan was focused on stuff that he was doing. I was totally focused on Pearl Jam, and recording my own music. And then it comes around again and all of the sudden you realize it's been seven years and you still do have this record. You listen to it and go, "wow, this is pretty good."
It was released on Pearl Jam's own label, Monkeywrench Records, which sounds like an easy decision.
[We thought] maybe we can do it through Monkeywrench because they just did Ed [Vedder]'s solo record and that seemed to work pretty well. It's an opportunity that we can kind of put this record out without having a huge amount of pressure. Those are the steps that kind of got us re-energized. And then you're like, 'wow we've got four records.' We have a little sound that's kind of original, we have a thing. So there's some real pride that comes back and so the next thing you know we're going to go out and do shows.
I'm really looking forward to interpreting this new [Brad] material and going back and relearning old songs that we've maybe never even played before, really showcasing what Brad's sound is. It started pretty naturally, I mean it was in '91, '92, so when everyone was going heavy we were going super mellow.
Any band that can exist for 17, 18 years is probably doing something right. And on the Brad record you've got the extended musical family doing cameos: Kevin Wood, brother of pre-Pearl Jam band Mother Love Bone's late frontman Andy Wood, appears, as does Lonnie Marshall, who was signed to your Loosegroove Records in the mid-90s.
I am fascinated by that aspect of being in bands and how time can strengthen your bonds; how that exaggerates the emotion of the music. It's powerful because people are witnessing not just songs, but the relationships of how those songs and people came together. It's a lot of old, old relationships at the end of the day. I have a fetish for them, I think [laughs].
You and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament have been playing together for 25, 26 years. It's always the same family.
It's the same old motherf*ckin' group of guys. [laughs]
Back in April, you played the closest thing possible to a Mother Love Bone reunion, and it started out as a Brad show. What was that like? It happened right around the 20th anniversary of Andy Wood's passing.
A big part of it was thinking about Andy Wood and that how much his history has sort of touched on all of us. [Brad's] Shawn and Regan made an incredible record called "From The North." It's a really special record of Andy's lyrics with Kevin's songs and recombined with Shawn singing. Andy's influence is definitely something I think about all the time.
That show coming together grew out of the feeling of trying to bring together, just for one event, what everyone's been working on. It was a little bit of Hank Khoir, which is folks I've been playing with. It was a chance for Jeff Ament and I and [Mother Love Bone's] Bruce [Fairweather] and Greg [Gilmore] to play together with Shawn singing Andy's words, which was just beautiful. It was also a chance for Brad to get together and play, a chance for Satchel to express themselves. I've learned a lot from Satchel records, being challenged by those and thinking, 'man I'm uptight I need to get into Satchel a little bit more.' They are not afraid to have chaos ensue. And the same thing with Pearl Jam, when it gets to pure chaos sometimes its just a relief. You can completely let of of any sort of preconceived notion of what it's supposed to be; it clears your mind.
In terms of Brad, you're about to tour opening for Band of Horses. Did that arise from Band Of Horses opening for Pearl Jam this spring?
They could have taken a number of bands out so the fact that they said they want to go out with [Brad] I'm hoping is because they're into it. I think they were appreciative of the tour they did with [Pearl Jam]. I'm hoping that Brad can kind of do for their show what they did for Pearl Jam. Shawn hasn't played in arenas really, and his voice through a big PA is going to really fill it up in a way that's going to surprise people. I think we're going to raise our game a little bit from where we were.