Stone Gossard Talks Brad with TFT, Part 2

by Jessica Letkemann , Kathy Davis , John Reynolds on September 29, 2010

tft_stone_int_part2In this continuation of our interview with Pearl Jam and Brad guitarist Stone Gossard (you can check out part 1 here), we talk about the upcoming Brad tour and the setlists that are in store for you. Since we first talked, the first two warm-up shows in Seattle have unfortunately been canceled after Shawn fell ill, but Stone is predicting a great tour, and hopes not to “screw up” opening for Band of Horses.

And could we have an interview with Stone and not ask any Pearl Jam questions? Nuh-uh! Read up on that and Stone even teases a possible B-side live breakout, and the mystery of the bootleg vault.

Stone, Pt. 2

Kathy Davis: I’m really curious about the Melbourne recording session in 2003 that yielded part of the new Brad album, “Best Friends.”

Stone Gossard: We were on tour. We went down to play some shows down there and one of the things we wanted to do was have a little warm-up. So we just booked a studio to play and we ended up recording with Barrett Jones. I think he engineered it. If not, he mixed it for sure. I think that the Melbourne stuff that’s on there is just the guitar intro to “Without Regret” if I’m not mistaken. Almost all of it was done in Seattle in [my studio] Litho. I think just the intro guitar-epic slow solo was recorded in Melbourne and mixed by Barrett when the rest of it was mixed.

Regan Recalls Meeting Shawn

Kathy asked Brad drummer Regan Hagar for the particulars on how he joined forces with frontman Shawn Smith back in the day.

Regan Hagar: “Shawn and I met at the University district Tower in 1988 I believe. We worked together for awhile without talking to one another until a co-worker said to me, “You have to talk to Shawn, he is as big a Prince fan as you are.” Shawn did not look like a typical Prince fan — not sure what a Prince fan looks like — but he looked like a rocker to me.
We got along well and fast. I played him some Malfunkshun music and the following day he brought in his music. It was a four-track cassette with some great funk on it. I asked him to play with me at the Malfunkshun practice space. We tried for a few months to put together Molasses, a band I eventually got going. An ’8 piece funk band. with horns and all.’ We had a few iterations as we tried, one had Pete Droge on guitar [Ed. Note: A friend and coworker of Mike McCready!]. Shawn went on to start Pigeonhed with Steve Fisk. Shawn and I remained close and helped each other in our musical endeavors. We eventually did Satchel together and then Brad.”

Jessica Letkemann: Talk about family, Barrett has been part of the story for years as well. He recorded Satchel, your solo album, Shawn Smith solo and lots more like Nirvana and Foo Fighters. That reminds me that I actually don’t know how long you’ve known [Brad drummer] Regan and [frontman] Shawn. How did you initially meet? And how did you come to the decision to do a band together, to do Brad?

Stone: Regan Hagar I met in probably like 1984 or 1985 going to shows through Andy Wood, through a guy named Pete Jamison, just guys hanging out. And at a coffee shop – I think the Nordstrom’s coffee shop – he used to hang out there. So we just started drinking coffee and hanging out and talking about music. He turned me on to all kinds of music, and fashion – he had his own style. He was great and he was friends with Andy. So we knew each other for a fews years and hung out and listened to a lot of heavy metal together and Queen, Kiss and Prince.

Then it was two or three years later that Regan started working at Tower Records and Shawn Smith got a job at Tower Records after moving up here from Bakersfield [California]. He had demos songs that he brought up to Seattle with him because he wanted to play music and he didn’t like Bakersfield. But his stuff sounded like Prince with drum machines and sort of high falsetto vocals so Regan was just immediately like, “This is amazing, this guy is great.” And of course, nobody else in Seattle would have said that at that time [laughs]. It took Regan’s perspective of being open to so much different stuff that got Shawn to think that this is something that can happen.

Very irreverently, we jumped into the studio. Pearl Jam went on to sell a bunch of records and I came home and had three months off [Editor's Note: Approx. December 1992] and I was just loving music and just excited about telling everybody about how much fun music is and just kinda being able to do something with your old friends that you hadn’t seen in awhile.

We said, “Let’s get a recording session and a bass player and we’ll just make a record.” See what happens. That was completely, “Oh my God, jump off a cliff!” But that’s how I was feeling. “C’mon, you can do it. Anyone can. You just do it.” We talked to my friend Alex Rosenast who runs Garage here in Seattle and at that time ran RCKNDY. I said, “Know any bass players?” And he said, “Well, my friend Jeremy Toback plays bass.” So we invited Jeremy up and we met him and we started rehearsing the same day. That was that first record [Shame]. We recorded it in two weeks. So the template of what ended up being a lot of what Brad has been so far is right there on that initial ten days of just throwing stuff at each other without any fear; just going for it because you have no choice. We decided we were gonna make a record so we were actually going to try.

Jessica: Well you did it, and it got released too. That’s no small feat either, although I guess it was 1992 or 1993 when you were recording it, and Ten was huge. Did Brad’s record deal come easily?

Stone: Yeah! The deal came right out of Sony. It was just an opportunity where [Pearl Jam/Mother Love Bone A&R rep] Michael Goldstone liked Shawn. I don’t think it was difficult for Sony to put that record out. I think it made sense.

Kathy: You were talking about all the different things you and Regan listened to together and that perfectly illustrates the marriage between the funky sounds and the crunchy, chunky metal-esque riffs in Brad. What defines the Brad sound to you?

Stone: The way I’ve been thinking about it with both Brad and Pearl Jam is that there’s just something vulnerable about the music. The music allows for… it’s not perfect!… but it allows for its vulnerabilities and for its amateur, childlike quality that might make it seem unprofessional or kind of out of place. Yet the more you listen to it, the more you appreciate misfires and things that don’t quite line up in the way that you hear music a lot these days, where everything is just so precise in its presentation. It doesn’t have any “humanity” for lack of a better word.

Jessican: Well Brad isn’t overproduced, I think that is the word.

Stone: Yeah. And the same thing with Pearl Jam, where it’s like we’re semi-professional.

Jessica: Oh come on! [all laugh]

Stone: Aw, well let me speak for myself. I’m semi-professional!

Jessica: I don’t know if I’m buying that one, Stone.

Stone: But I’ve come to embrace the semi-professionalness of it. I’ve come to learn that there’s something about that. Like Jack White and Meg…

Jessica: Oh, the White Stripes?

Stone: Yeah. Because she’s so overly simplistic in how she’s relating to his music that it makes the most out of him in a way. He’s getting something out of it. As much as he could be playing with Jimmy Page [Ed. Note: He does in the movie "It Might Get Loud"] and some massive rhythm section, something about the White Stripes, the uniqueness of their thing is the fact that it’s so broken down. So it’s kinda making sure you stay in touch with what it is that’s helping you, even though it might seem like it’s not. There might be times where she sounds out of place with him or sounds like she’s struggling a little bit, but at the same time, what she gave him in terms of foundation – that total Zeppelin backbeat – is what exposed his huge talent. He’s so talented it’s ridiculous. He could do anything but he chooses this.

Jessica: We did also want to talk about the Brad tour. When you and I talked before Stone, you talked about how you’re really looking forward to hearing Shawn’s voice in bigger venues. All three of us were wondering how that’ll affect what songs you chose to play.

Stone: I’ve been dreaming about the setlists a little bit. I get a little bit of say in helping to put that together, which is really fun. I think we’re going to hopefully play a Satchel song or two and pay tribute to their albums, along with other covers, and a few other ones from [Brad's] new record. Happy Chichester is going to be playing keyboards with us because Mike Berg needs to stay in Seattle and work. It’s totally all in the family once again. Of course we’ll miss Mike Berg, he’s still part of our big group. We’ll learn some stuff, maybe some new stuff with him. I think we’re going to do something cool.

Jessica: Any unusual covers in our future?

Stone: Maybe so! I did a version of “Learning To Fly,” the Tom Petty song, with Shawn. It was really super simple and he just sang it so great. It made me really excited in a way that Tom Petty covers wouldn’t necessarily make me excited. But for some reason, that song makes me happy these days.

Jessica: Well with his voice, it will be totally different than the original.

Stone: It wouldn’t sound anything like Tom Petty [laughs]. But the lyric is incredible because he has all these old Biblical references that are poetry from ancient times. You’re definitely going to look at the lyrics, but they strike me as these post-apocalyptic.

Jessica: I don’t know if I’ve ever looked at the lyrics. Everybody knows the chorus.

Stone: Actually, I think it’s just about him getting baked, now that I think about it. [all laugh]

Brad At the High Dive Seattle, 2010 L to R: Mike Berg, Keith Lowe, Regan Hagar, Shawn Smith, Stone Gossard  photo courtesy Brad

Brad At the High Dive Seattle, 2010 L to R: Mike Berg, Keith Lowe, Regan Hagar, Shawn Smith, Stone Gossard photo courtesy Brad

John Reynolds: Pearl Jam are notorious in a good way for being really good to the bands that support them. And now Brad is going to be opening for Band of Horses, who just opened for Pearl Jam. How will that dynamic work?

Stone: We’re just super thankful that they want to take us out and we’re going to try to not piss them off. [Laughs] That’s our general plan. They’re putting us in a great spot. They’ve got lots of people coming out to see them play. We’re really fortunate to be going out with them. So we’re hoping to not bum them out.

Jessica: I actually ended up meeting a lot of Band of Horses fans at Pearl Jam shows this spring and every single one of them was really cool. I think Brad is going to get a really good reception.

Stone Gossard: Great. I like it.

Some Pearl Jam Quickies

Jessica: Live, you’ve been pulling out a lot of rarities and even new things like “Of The Earth.” What unreleased or never played song would you most like to see the light of day?

Stone: There are probably three or four from the new record ["Backspacer"]that we recorded that haven’t sort of reached that they’re-gonna-be-songs stage yet, so there’s that. And then there’s “Hitchhiker,” which I think we’ve never played. There’s maybe another one or two, but it’s getting thin. We played a lot of them [laughs].

Jessica: What are those four new ones called?

Stone: They all have titles but I couldn’t name them right now.

Jessica: Is there any plan to release any of the older Pearl Jam shows from before you guys started doing bootlegs? To open up the vaults?

Stone: I don’t know. I don’t know what we have. We started recording our own stuff but people probably have tapes of those shows. I’m not sure how far back we were recording. There be some, but it’s probably going to be more about some of the visuals from this potential [Cameron Crowe] movie that’s coming out. There’s going to be some opportunities to [use] some old stuff that I haven’t seen, but I haven’t seen anything yet. We didn’t really record ourselves until we got our own ADATs. When did we start releasing bootlegs?

Jessica and JR: The 2000 tour.

Stone: Yeah, maybe it does go back much farther than that. But I think all of those tapes are in the hands of the fans already.

JR: We had always wondered if Sony had put a high pricetag on releasing the vintage live stuff.

Stone: I don’t think so.

JR: I once talked with Bret Eliason about recording Pearl Jam in 32-channel in 1993. But then again, are you recording the whole show diligently with the intent of putting it out In 1993? Probably not. Bands just didn’t do that.

Stone: Well if he says we recorded in 1993, I’m sure we did. I really don’t know. We’ve been pretty consistent about skimming through stuff every once in awhile so I’m assuming that if we’ve got it, we’ll make it available if there’s something good.

What’s next?

Well, Stone may have been coy in not revealing titles of those unreleased Pearl Jam songs, but they certainly are something to look forward to! And we’re also hoping that they keep skimming through the live catalog and find “something good.”

In October, we’ll continue our coverage of Pearl Jam’s 20th Anniversary, and with a lot of new information about the birth of Pearl Jam directly from Stone himself – the busiest man in Seattle during the Summer and Fall of 1990.

tft_stone_int_part1 tft_stone_int_part2
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.
John Reynolds ( Twitter: @jjjrrr )
A New Jersey based programmer, John handles TFT’s programming and technical aspects. He also conceives and writes his share of TFT’s articles and sections. John’s first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 12, 1992.

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