Deranged Jeff Interview

by Kathy Davis on May 12, 2009

Here’s a nice little article about the Deranged Diction reunion from Montana blog Nickell’s Bag:

Jeff Ament has never been one to look backward. The bassist with internationally popular band Pearl Jam (and a longtime Missoula resident), Ament admits to an archivist’s bent in his preservation of old memorabilia, home recordings, photos, and other documentation of his musical past. But until recently, he has resisted the temptation to dive into that history.

“I’ve avoided dwelling on the past, because I think there’s a danger in losing your creative edge if you’re too focused on what worked for you in the past,” said Ament in a conversation earlier this week.

Even so, he was painfully aware of the holes in his archives. One gap that long nagged him: the last few songs he wrote with his early-80s punk band, Deranged Diction.

Formed in Missoula in 1981, Deranged Diction was arguably Montana’s first hardcore punk band. Playing songs by the likes of Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, the Ramones and the Clash – as well as its own material – Deranged Diction frequented underground shows around Missoula for a couple of years, and even recorded a cassette, “No Art No Cowboys No Rules,” that was sold through music zines.

In May of 1983, Ament and bandmates Bruce Fairweather and Sergio Avenia moved to Seattle, where they hooked up with vocalist/guitarist Rod Moody. The band wrote ten new songs, and managed to play shows with now-legendary icons of the punk underground, including the Butthole Surfers, Husker Du, Ill Repute, and Stalag 13.

In early 1984, Ament joined the band Green River, a band now regarded as an influential precursor to the early 90s Seattle grunge scene. As that band began to gain traction, Deranged Diction drifted into the background.

“We never formally broke up,” said Ament. “We all just got involved in other things.”

Flash forward to last spring. While in Seattle working with Pearl Jam prior to their summer tour, Ament ran into Moody at a local record shop. They got to talking, and Moody mentioned that he still had an old copy of a live rehearsal tape from one of Deranged Diction’s late sessions.

“I listened and we thought it was a shame that we never recorded those songs,” said Ament. “You always imagine that the stuff you did way back when was OK; but some of the songs were pretty good.”

Still, the recordings were pretty raw. So Ament and Moody resolved to track down Fairweather and Avenia, and re-record the songs in a proper studio setting. Last summer, the band spent four days at Avast Studio, where they laid down the ten songs in eight-track live recordings.

“We really tried to approach it like we would have if we were recording the songs back then,” said Ament. “It was a blast playing with my old friends again, and it sounds pretty damn good, if I say so myself.”

Indeed it does, as evidenced at the band’s Myspace page. The band has no intention of seeking label representation for the new record, which it will self-release as a double-CD with the ten newly recorded songs, plus a remix of “No Art No Cowboys No Rules.” And after a pair of reunion gigs (one, tonight, in Seattle; another on Saturday, May 16, at the Palace Lounge in Missoula), the band has no firm plans to play together again.

But who knows? After all, Ament admits he wouldn’t have expected to get the band together a quarter-century after its last gig.

“Never say never,” he said.

old school Montana punks, 2009 style

old school Montana punks, 2009 style

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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