Wellwater Conspiracy Unfurls 'Scroll'

Even after a grueling 75-date tour of Europe and North America, Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron wasted no time getting back into the studio.

Even after a grueling 75-date tour of Europe and North America, Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron wasted no time getting back into the studio.

He and cohort John McBain (ex-member of Monster Magnet) quickly wrapped "The Scroll & Its Combinations," their third full-length set under the moniker Wellwater Conspiracy, and are already working on another new album. "Scroll," the band's first set for TVT, drops May 22.

Wellwater Conspiracy has its basis in the 1993 eponymous A&M album by Hater, which featured McBain, Seattle musicians Brian Wood and John Waterman, and Cameron and his then Soundgarden bandmate, Ben Shepherd. After two limited-edition singles in 1993 and 1994, WWC's debut, "Declaration of Conformity," was released on tiny indie label Third Rail in 1997. "Brotherhood of Electric: Operational Directive(s)" came out in 1998 on Time Bomb.

"It started out as a side project of a side project," Cameron says with a laugh. "Now it's a loose collective." McBain "likes the word 'entity,' " he says. "That's what we are."

Although WWC's sound is not entirely free of comparisons to its members' past projects, Scroll finds Cameron and McBain switching instruments liberally and reveling in everything from gritty garage rock ("Tidepool Telegraph") to oddball instrumentals ("Keppy's Lament"). The album, recorded at Cameron's Space Studio in Seattle, also includes covers of tracks by two obscure '60s acts: Dutch band the Q65's "I Got Nightmares" and Morgen's "Of Dreams."

"I like picking these kinds of bands, because you normally wouldn't hear these songs," McBain says. "They're just great songs that got lost."

Despite the varying ages of the 11 songs on "Scroll" ("There are a couple of moments where I'm using riffs that I've had for eight to 10 years," McBain admits), the set never sounds like a haphazard collection of ideas.

"What's good about this situation is that it's pretty much just John and myself that do the writing and the arranging," Cameron explains. "As far as ideas, we run the gamut of bringing in complete songs or just parts of songs or riff ideas. I think that's a key to the way we work. It keeps it pretty loose and fun."

"Scroll" is loaded with familiar faces, including Cameron's other ex-Soundgarden mate, Kim Thayil, who, along with Shepherd, plays guitar and bass on several tracks. Cameron jokes that "this weird singer dude we just kind of found around town" sings lead on the '60s-tinged "Felicity's Surprise." Actually, it's Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, masquerading behind the pseudonym Wes C. Addle.

"I had no idea what he was going to do when he came in, but it fit perfectly," Cameron says of Vedder's performance on the melodically inventive, McBain-penned track. "It was also the first time he's ever double-tracked his vocals. I was happy that he chose our band to do that with."

"Scroll" manages to retain its cohesiveness despite a flurry of vocalists, among them Derek Burns and Paul Burbak of Pacific Northwest-based band Cat From Doug Mountain.

"We'll record songs, and then we'll think about who would be good on them," McBain says. "It's exciting, because we don't know, until that guy finishes it, what our song sounds like."

Cameron and McBain have never embarked on a proper tour as Wellwater Conspiracy and have admittedly played a low-profile role in the promotion process for their albums. No tour is planned this time around, but the group (augmented by Shepherd on bass and the Walkabouts' Glenn Slater on keyboards) will open for TVT labelmates Guided by Voices May 4 in New York. "We're going to try to promote it a little more this time, just from our end," Cameron says. "But I don't think getting on the radio and MTV is a big goal for us. We're just happy to make records."

TVT hopes to "first reach consumers who recognize Matt and John's extensive history of making records and then expand beyond that," says senior director of marketing Jeff Kreinik. Anticipation for the album is especially high within the Pearl Jam fan community, where tapes of WWC's infrequent live appearances are freely traded.

The album will be shipped to triple-A, college, and modern and mainstream rock stations May 1, the same day a 7-inch vinyl single for "In Dreams," backed with live track "Hal McBlain," hits stores. TVT is encouraging programmers to spin tracks they feel would work best in their given market. "We feel there are a lot of great songs on this album," Kreinik says. "It's back to how records were worked in the early album rock days. We want the stations to play what they feel."

While the focus is on Cameron and McBain, TVT will capitalize on the album's star-studded roster. The group filmed the sessions for "Scroll" with a digital camera, and videoclips of the album's special guests in the studio will be posted on the new official site wwcmusic.com, set to launch in late April/early May. Exclusive audio downloads from WWC's opening gig for Pearl Jam in Seattle last November will also be posted there.

Shortly after street date, TVT will kick off a two-week online promotion with Napster and Burly Bear, featuring a not-yet-determined live track. Download promotions are also confirmed with Musicmatch, Oldglory.com, and Digital Club Network, including enter-to-win contests for autographed guitars and drumheads.

With Pearl Jam not planning to release its next studio set until 2002, Cameron and McBain are making the most of their free time. "We have six rhythm tracks [finished for another album]," Cameron says. "One is kind of complete, a John tune that's totally '60s psychedelic. I've got some old-school grunge. It's all over the place."


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.