The TFT Interview with Tim Bierman, Part 2

by Jessica Letkemann , Kathy Davis on August 18, 2006

Picking up where we left off last week, here is the second half of Two Feet Thick’s conversation with Ten Club’s manager, Tim Bierman. We sat down with him in San Fransico this July during Pearl Jam’s three-show run.

PART TWO: Tim talks seniority, 10 Mail, Vault, PJ socks, Deep magazine,
PearlJam.com, and more.

Kathy align=”left”> You worked in a record store. Did you go to a lot of
concerts?
Tim align=”left”> Oh yeah! I grew up in St Louis and my older sister was a
big music fan so she taught me the ways of all kinds of things including
going to concerts. In my youth, I saw the Who and Jethro Tull and
Led Zeppelin. I saw the Who when I was eleven. I didn’t know what I
was seeing. At the end of high school and college, I kinda got into a little bit of a Grateful
Dead thing. I went to a lot of shows.
Kathy align=”left”> A lot of Deadheads came over to Pearl Jam, let me tell
ya.
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, absolutely.
Jessica align=”left”>At the Pearl Jam show in ’95 at Soldier Field, the Dead had played there the night before so all those
Deadheads were still there and they were just amazed at the Pearl Jam
fans, like we were somehow related to them.
Tim align=”left”> Passing the torch.
Kathy align=”left”> It was funny to read, was it your interview in
Entertainment Weekly, or maybe it was Kelly Curtis, talking about studying
the Grateful Dead business model.
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, we actually came down here and went to their place.
It was good.
Jessica align=”left”> Did that influence digging out stuff from the vaults and
starting to offer that?
Tim align=”left”> Yes and no. We had always had that in mind, otherwise we
wouldn’t have a vault, you know? But, for sure, it was
inspiring. I think that the Grateful Dead comparisons are so inevitable. And a lot of people talk about how, “there’s absolutely no comparison in the music.” It’s true,
there’s not really genre specific-comparisons, but I think there are very similar approaches to the
way the music is played; listening to
the other players and playing off of each other.
Jessica align=”left”> Jam is in the name for a reason probably. We understand
that.
Tim align=”left”>I
don’t think any of the guys [in PJ] really ever listened to the Dead, to be
honest with you. But they come from the same ideals and the same places
that inspire that approach to music.
Kathy align=”left”> Do you play any instruments yourself? Guitar?
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, I have. I’m a guitar player. I’ve been in
bands.
Jessica align=”left”> I want to hear names. I gotta have the exact data.
Tim align=”left”> [laughs] I was in a band that started in Missoula and we
came back here to San Francisco, with a couple of guys who were in American Music Club.
Jessica align=”left”>Oh wait, is
this Clodhopper?
Tim align=”left”> Yes.
Jessica align=”left”>Jeff plays on one song on the record.
Tim align=”left”>Then I was also in this other band after that called Tarkio, and that band was in Missoula. And it was kind of a kind of party band. Really I just kinda got in that band to meet girls. But the singer-songwriter for that band left Missoula and moved to Portland and played in the coffee shops and then all of the sudden kinda got popular when he started a band called the Decemberists. The Decemberists got big, so now the Tarkio record is out there on Kill Rock Stars and I’m on it. I actually got a royalty check.
Jessica align=”left”> Was it substantial?
Tim align=”left”> No. It was like $300, but it was more than I think any of
the American Music Club guys ever got for royalties.
Kathy align=”left”> Well, they opened for Pearl Jam. At the Greek.
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, they’re one of my favorite bands.
Jessica align=”left”> You’ve said you weren’t involved in assigning numbers to fan
club members. At some point [in the late 90s] we got member
numbers.
Tim align=”left”> Right.
Jessica align=”left”> But did you have something to do with deciding to move
over the seniority model for tickets? Was that your call?
Tim align=”left”> Everyone got together and tried to figure out how we were
going to do it. It was just one of those brainstorming ideas.
Obviously, I can’t remember the specifics of how that happened, but
what I’m assuming is we got to a point of, “how are we going to do
this? What can we do to make this ticketing thing work? How can we
reward the people that have been with us the longest?” And obviously, we’ve had to tweak it a little bit a couple of
times to make it work right.
Kathy align=”left”> Do you mean the decision to move from seniority in blocks
to number specific?
Tim align=”left”> Yeah. It’s much easier than the block system. The block
system was horrifying and it put an extreme amount of pressure on the
[10C ticket] person on the day of the show because they had to come to
the show, get the tickets, make sure they were all there, count them
out.
Jessica align=”left”> I think we found out at the Garden in 2003 when you guys
did exact for the first time, that was great.
Kathy align=”left”> How do you decide who gets seated where? I know
Ticketmaster ranks their tickets by x numbers so you know what the
better tickets are.
Tim align=”left”> We don’t use that rating system.
Jessica align=”left”> Thank you!
Tim align=”left”> [Laughs]
Jessica align=”left”> Because Ticketmaster gives shitty numbers to the seats
right in the wings that are obviously amazing seats.
Kathy align=”left”> Yeah, fan club members would like to be on the side, and
you’re doing that now, which is great.
Tim align=”left”> It’s all just us looking at the venue and going, “ok
how is this going to work?” It’s just kind of common
sense.
Kathy align=”left”> I was curious about Deep magazine as well. Was it your idea?
Tim align=”left”>It was Ed’s idea. The idea is to try to make it more consistent
and easier on the designers so they don’t have to come up with a crazy
design idea every issue. We just put
too much pressure on ourselves because every one was different. Well, we
can’t go back to that because we’ve already done that. There’s
enough pressure on our creativity as it is coming up with all these
things.
Jessica align=”left”> Is there any desire to put some of the onus on fans to
send in stuff to print other than just letters? Stone kinda touched on
that in his column, but I don’t know how serious he was about
that.
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, it would be really cool to have some content that
was fan delivered. It’s an idea.
Kathy align=”left”>So your plan is to continue?
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, our plan is to continue. The biggest problem is
this content situation. We lean on the band for content and it’s just
so hard. It’s really hard for the band to focus on the newsletter when they’re
concentrating on performing. And then when they’re not performing, they’re
trying to distance themselves a little from being in a band.
Jessica align=”left”> Pictures! Jeff takes pictures.
Tim align=”left”> Well with the pictures, Jeff is always like, “Yeah, I got
a bunch in Missoula, I got a bunch in Seattle. One of these days I’m
going to get to it.” And I say, “yeah, right. How long have I
been hearing that?” “Maybe I could grab somebody from your
office?” I’m like, “no problem. Anytime.”
Kathy align=”left”> Let’s talk about the redesign of PearlJam.com.
Tim align=”left”> That’s a thing I really like to talk about. It’s
something that I want to promote more because I don’t think people
are
fully aware of all of the functionality.
Kathy align=”left”> What do you want it to do for the fans?
Tim align=”left”> I want people to rely on it as the definitive source for
mostly the setlist stuff. You guys’ Concert Chronology is so much more
in depth, and we would be that detail-oriented, but we’ve decided to
make ours database driven, so you have to have this consistency. So,
like last night when Ed sang “Georgie Girl,” we don’t want to
enter that into our song database. I don’t think, and the band
doesn’t think, that that song is worthy to have a listing.
Jessica align=”left”> It’s kind of misleading.
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, it’s, “Oh, they did ‘Georgie Girl.’ They do
Georgie Girl.’” They don’t do ‘Georgie Girl.”
Jessica align=”left”> Right, like when Ed sang a bit of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
at Slim’s in 1993. [Click here to read about that show in the Concert Chronology] And people saw that and were like, “Oh, they do
Cyndi Lauper.”
Tim align=”left”> Yeah!
Jessica align=”left”> So, if you bought that bootleg for that reason, then
you wasted your money.
Tim align=”left”> Like this morning I got up and updated our site with the
setlist from last night.
Kathy align=”left”> Ask and answered. I was just going to ask if you do the
updating yourself.
Tim align=”left”> I do it. [laughs]
align=”left”>Kathy Mr. Non Computer
Guy.
Tim align=”left”> Well now I kinda know how to do stuff. So, “Gods’ Dice,” I don’t know the last time it was played, and so today,
someone could go on there and see that the last time “Gods’ Dice”
was played was whenever it was and then it was played last night. That was the impetus behind the
redesign. We’re going to create this information-filled site instead
of such a pretty eye-candy thing.
Jessica align=”left”> Although it’s well designed.
Tim align=”left”> Yeah. Brad [Klausen] did a great job with the art and it
looks cool. I’m really proud of it.
Jessica align=”left”>Do you watch the
statistics of how many hits a month you get?
Tim align=”left”> Yeah. And those are misleading. A lot of it spikes hard
when there’s an onsale. When we had the Leg One onsale, we were in the
top 400 websites.
Jessica align=”left”> Refesh. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. [laughs]
Tim align=”left”> Yeah, there was a lot of refreshing.
Jessica align=”left”>A friend of mine wanted to know about the
mail. Do you still get crazy, crazy mail [for the band]? What do you do
with it? What is the craziest stuff you get? And do you deal with
that?
Tim align=”left”>There are people in the world who
write manuscript after manuscript of what’s going on inside their head
and they mail it to whoever they think is inspiring. We have a few of
those.
Jessica align=”left”> No one is sending, like, like, Stone
statues made out of butter or their wax replica of a Pearl Jam stage?
Quirky stuff?
Tim align=”left”> That sounds cool. There’s definitely weird stuff. The
web has kind of made it go down a little bit I think. People can fire
off their rants and stuff and get it out of their head if they
want.
Jessica align=”left”>Has there been anything that was so remarkable or funny that you kept it
around?
Tim align=”left”>Sure, yeah! Absolutely. People send little trinkets and
sometimes they look really cool. A lot of times its so personal that you
have to put it away. And sometimes things are completely useful. Like
someone will send an incense burner with some really nice incense. But that’s not an open invitation for people to send incense. [laughs]
Jessica align=”left”> No, don’t smoke out the Ten Club. No incense. Don’t
send incense. [all laugh]
Tim align=”left”> Sometimes people send cool things and obviously a lot of
times, almost always, they’re meant for the band.
Jessica align=”left”> Well, how many more pairs of Pearl Jam socks does Stone
need?
Tim align=”left”> Stone loves his Pearl Jam socks. But I gotta tell you,
Jeff is the man behind the Pearl Jam socks.
Kathy align=”left”> They’re all college athletic socks, I’ve noticed.
Tim align=”left”> NBA. It’s the same company that makes the NBA socks.
These socks right here [slaps the Pearl Jam socks he's wearing],
these.
Tim Tunes
The fan club manager is also a musician. Are you surprised? Nah, neither were we.

Tim plays on Tarkio’s Omnibus.

Clodhopper’s Red’s Recovery Room. Tim was a member and Jeff Ament also appears on this album.

Tim in the studio recording the Clodhopper record.
This photo and the photo of Jeff, right, is courtesy of Dannypearson.net

Jeff Ament in 1997 recording his 1965 GTO for part of his contribution to the track, “Moonshiner,” on Tim’s band, Clodhopper’s album.

Go to Part 1 of Kathy Davis’s and Jessica Letkemann’s sit down with Ten Club head honcho Tim Bierman. Click Here

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.
Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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