TFT Exclusive – Archival Interview With Mike McCready

by Kathy Davis on October 10, 2010

A Conversation With Mike McCreadyMike McCready San Diego 2006 - photo by LeAnn Mercer

Mike McCready San Diego 2006 – photo by LeAnn Mercer

At TwoFeetThick.com, we strive to provide unique, intense coverage of all things Pearl Jam.  Two Feet Thick proudly presents an exclusive, previously unpublished interview with Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready from July 2006. During the nearly 90-minute interview, McCready discusses a wide variety of PJ- and non-PJ related topics, including:  how the band relearns old songs it plans to add to its concert setlists;  the estimated 30-40 unreleased songs still in Pearl Jam’s vault; inner-band tension surrounding the start of the 2006 world tour; McCready’s decision to publicize his long struggle with Crohn’s disease; running into a high school friend while wearing a dress; and the fate of the once-beloved Mr. Pickles.  It’s rare to have such raw and direct insight into our favorite musicians; we’re fortunate to have access to this wonderful conversation with writer and passionate PJ fan Brian Smith.  Here’s Brian to set the stage:

Reflecting back, years after this interview, I’m still amazed at how cool, genuine and open McCready was. I had never met him before, but he did not hesitate to spend nearly 90 minutes openly answering every question that was thrown his way. He was honest, passionate, thoughtful — and often downright hilarious. A wonderful human being in a truly amazing band.

Interview conducted by Brian T. Smith with Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready on July 15, 2006 in San Francisco, Calif. The discussion with McCready took place prior to the first show of Pearl Jam’s three-night, sold-out run at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in downtown San Francisco.

Excerpts from this interview were used in an article that originally ran in The Oregonian on July 19, 2006. Smith is a writer who currently covers the Utah Jazz for the Salt Lake City Tribune. Special thanks to McCready, Pearl Jam, Vandenberg Communications, Curtis Management and Two Feet Thick.

Part one — 2006 tour and renewed expectations The interview begins on a stairwell located outside the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and takes place about three hours before Pearl Jam takes the stage. Below the stairwell is a four-block long line of PJ fans, many of whom have been waiting overnight to get into the general-admission concert, which winds around the building. Discussion about Swatch watches — McCready is wearing one …McCready: I copied Stone (Gossard) because he wears them all the time. They’re cheap and they’re functional. Totally punk. (Laughs) McCready briefly leaves to change from shorts into pants, returnsMcCready: OK. Sorry. It’s really cold. … If (I’m) cold, I think about being cold the whole time. … I get that before shows, because I have really bad circulation.

On PJ not playing many songs from Riot Act and Binaural at this point in the band’s 2006 world tour, despite the band stating numerous times that it was proud of each record: McCready: The reason why we don’t play those songs now? It may be oversight. It may be we’re really just focusing on and excited about playing these new songs; trying to get them as good as possible. Because we did rehearse harder than we ever have rehearsed for any tour, ever.

On rehearsing for a reported 5-6 weeks: McCready: Yeah. And we’ve never done that. We usually do a week, and we’re out there and we’re kind of playing for a little bit and then we get better. But this time we really sat down and went over the vocal parts  (Interviewer points out that drummer Matt Cameron is doubling Ed Vedder’s vocals) McCready: Yeah. Matt’s got a hell of a voice. And how Ed sang on this record required a lot of backup (vocals) that were good... That were crazy to duplicate, because (Ed’s) such a great singer. And Matt is, too.

On Matt playing drums on “Severed Hand” and singing at the same time McCready: Yeah. That’s crazy. I’ve seen Matt — the first time I really saw him sing, I saw Wellwater (Conspiracy) at the (Roxy) in (Los Angeles , Calif.) It was insane. He was just singing and playing drums at the same time. … It is crazy.

On slowly breaking out Binaural and Riot Act tracks as the tour unfolded -McCready: I think we’ll see more of them as — well, this leg’s almost over. But as we get to Europe, maybe we might do a little bit more. We had a list of songs that we had been practicing, and it had, like, “God’s Dice” on it. But we haven’t put them into any sets. The only reason that I can think of is, that we’ve tried to do as much new stuff as possible. [But] that doesn’t explain not doing stuff off those records.

On reworking older songs, such as “Garden” McCready: Oh, you like it? OK. That one was really hard. Stone came in, and we’re all kind of tired, and he’s like, ‘I’ve got this idea. I want to re-work ‘Garden.’ ‘ And we’re like, ‘Mmm.’ (Laughs.) ‘Aw, man. Let’s just go home, you know? We already have ‘Garden.’ ‘ And it was a tough thing, because I think Ed was kind of at the end of his rope, and we were getting ready to go on tour. But after we did it about 10 or 20 times it came out OK. (Stone arranged a new intro) Yeah. He arranged that whole idea. I think he just woke up one morning and started messing around.  I was skeptical at first. But it’s fun to bring that thing back.

About running into former drummer Jack Irons before the July 16, 2006 show in Santa Barbara, Calif. McCready: Yeah. Jack … and his whole family were there. Ed gave them a shoutout from the stage. And I actually played a little bit of “Smile” for him when he did that. It’s great to see Jack. We always see him. We saw him the last time we were there (At an October 28, 2003 show) My wife and I were out with him and his wife the last time we were there; on the beach and hung out. But I only had five minutes to talk to him; I didn’t have a lot of time to talk to him.

On the main reasons Irons left PJ in 1998 being that he wanted to spend more time with his family and deal with health issues – McCready: Ah, there were many reasons. He didn’t want to tour anymore. He was over it. And he kind of — he quit. And we had to find somebody, three and a half weeks before we went on the – I can’t remember – the ’98 tour. And thank God that Matt Cameron was around. (Laughs) Ed called him up and said, ‘Look, can you come in and learn 100-plus songs in three weeks?’ And we knew he could, because he’s got that brain and that kind of talent. And he came in and did. And made us a better band by doing that.

How the band learns to play an old song or a new cover for a show, not sitting around the house and playing “God’s Dice” everyday - McCready: No, I’m not. (Laughs) We have a big — we have a computer backstage that has an iPod on it that has all the songs on it. So, how we do that now is, we just go to that and go (hums sound). Or we make a CD — (PJ crew member) Kevin Shuss makes us CDs of songs that maybe Ed would like to do, and maybe my ideas or whoever else’s. And we’ll take those CDs back to the hotel and learn them there.

On each member primarily relearning songs on their own- McCready: On our own, and then at soundcheck. So, do a little homework at home and then bring it for soundcheck. And usually we don’t do homework at home; we just do it at soundcheck. We kick it. And they come back. They’re all in there, somewhere. They’re all in my brain. They’re all in Stone’s. … They’re in a file in there. They really are. It’s a crazy thing. Because I’m not ever — if I’m not on tour, I’m not really accessing those files in my brain. I don’t listen to our stuff that much. I’ll kind of listen – well, not really.

On not listening to PJ bootlegs or anything else PJ-related when the band is not on tour – McCready: Yeah. I’ll check out some bootlegs for a memory or something. But no, I don’t. I listen to other stuff. Some blues, some Rolling Stones, or stuff that I try to take from. … When I’m not on tour, those files are pretty much closed. But when I’m back, they’re: bam. OK? Where did that come from? ‘God’s Dice.’ The bridge there. ‘Oh, wow. I remember it.’ OK?

The odd timing during the bridge McCready: (Hums bridge) Right. (Hums drum roll) Yeah. A total weird Jeff Ament…(laughs) This weird guitar playing — which I really enjoy. But only he plays like that. I know it. He does a lot of things in threes and fours.

On “Lowlight” being in 3/4 time- McCready: Yeah. That always fucks with me. (Laughs) It’s just … Jeff and Stone were really the first guys that threw in another timing in my world of rock when we first started playing. I was pretty much always 4/4. And I remember the first time, ‘Pushing Forward Back,” when we were playing Temple of the Dog — (hums main guitar riff). It’s, like, ‘Wait a second.’ It was killing me!

On pushing for any old songs or covers to be added to the set - McCready: Um. What do I want to play? You know what? I haven’t been. I don’t know why I haven’t been. We sort of did (the Rolling Stones’) ‘Waiting on a Friend,’ and I wanted to do that. … I’ve been wanting to do a Stones song for 15 years. Finally, we end up doing one.

On the Stones’ Goats Head Soup and “100 Years Ago”McCready: One of my top-five Stones songs of all-time. … And the reason why, in my brain, is Mick (Taylor) doing his own backup [vocals] in the beginning of it. (Sings) ‘Call me lazy bones … ‘ (Hums intro into final section) (Laughs) That era of Stones is Mick Taylor. And it’s … Sticky Fingers. … My friend and my wife and I were listening to Sticky Fingers when we were in Santa Barbara, just driving around. That is the greatest record, in my mind.

On “Sway” – McCready: Charlie (Watts’) drumming on that is just phenomenal. That had been (a personal favorite) of mine for many years. I go back. I go ‘Moonlight Mile’ now. It’s hard, though. Because everything on Sticky Fingers is great. … But back to — Goats Head is a very underrated record. ‘Angie’ is on there, of course. What else is on there? Is ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ on there? No.

On “(Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo) Heartbreaker” -McCready: Yeah. ‘Heartbreaker.’ Have you heard — there’s a version, a 1973 version of them in Australia on a bootleg. What’s it called? (Heading For An Overload?) No. … What is it? It’s 1973. And they do a version of ‘Heartbreaker’ on there that will blow your fucking mind.

On similarities between Pearl Jam’s “Come Back,” Stax-era soul and the Stones’ “I Got the Blues”McCready: That’s interesting, because I never put those two together. I’m going to have to (listen to it). I love “I Got the Blues.” The “I Got the Blues” keyboard solo is my favorite keyboard solo of all time.

Interviewer mentions the best parts about the solo being that it is high in the mix- McCready: It’s up there. Is it Billy Preston or Nicky Hopkins? That smoked. That’s funny that you put those two together, because that wasn’t in my brain. But it’s the same vibe. That’s interesting. I’ve never put those two together before, and I love “I Got the Blues.” That keyboard solo is just great. And it is way up in the mix, too. It’s cranked, but not overbearing. That’s how it has to be. It’s got to rip your soul. It does.

On the status of McCready’s former longtime guitar technician, Jeff Ousley, who stopped working with the band prior to the 2006 tour - McCready: Jeff Ousley … he was kind of wanting to not be in this anymore. And I had a relationship with him for about 13 years. I hate to (use a cliche), but I was going in one direction and he was going in the other direction. It just felt like it was time to move on. And it was certainly a very, very hard thing. I love him dearly. But he moved back to Florida to be back with his parents. … Everybody noticed. I mean, band-wise, I’m not sure. But crew-wise.

On how things are working out with his new tech - McCready: Yeah, he’s great. I’m enjoying him. We’re working out. He did Tom Dumont’s guitar for No Doubt. And he’s got a Long Beach (Calif.) vibe to him. I got him through (Pearl Jam tour manager Mark) Smitty (Smith). And I knew Smitty, and I’d moved down to Long Beach. He had that vibe to him, and I loved that. And he’s good at everything.

On it being an evolving process when you pick up a new tech - McCready: Well, Ousley is the first one I’ve ever had, you know? Originally, (Pearl Jam bass tech) George Webb was doing Jeff and I in the beginning, way back. And when we started getting more successful, he was like, ‘You know, I’ve got to go with Jeff. I can’t handle both.’ And so he went with Jeff, and that’s when I got Ousley. And that’s the only guy I’ve ever had. It’s a process. It’s a relationship. He’s learning my system. I’m pretty straight forward, but I change a lot of guitars. He’ll bring one up and I’ll go (waves hands), ‘No, this one.’ (Laughs) So, my cues aren’t that — that’s a good question. I haven’t thought about it. I just do them. Like, ‘Oh, this pedal’s out.’ (Waves hands) (Laughs) And that could be anything.

On whether there has been any recent discussion about allowing the band’s crew to write a setlist, as they did April 12, 1994 in Boston, Mass. -McCready: We’ve talked about that for a long time. I think Ed has pretty tight reins on it right now. He wants to be able to control where that set goes. And I think if we were doing a longer tour and if — not that the other tours weren’t as important …

On the 2006 tour having more weight and expectations- McCready: Yeah. So, that being said, it probably won’t happen. But what we want them to do, though, is to play a fucking song. Because they always play soundcheck. But they only play a couple. … A Devo tune. … We’ve been trying to get them to (open) for a long time. We might try to make them do that. Like, ‘You guys have got to learn two songs by the end of the tour.’ But they panic when we say that. They’re like, ‘Oh!’

On Bumrush, McCready’s short-lived side project from 1995-96 - McCready: (Laughs) Yeah, that was great. Me and (longtime PJ photographer) Lance (Mercer) and Nicky Bigby and I’m forgetting the singer’s name. Oh, man. Yeah, yeah, Bumrush. We threw that together really quick. It was three shows, I think? And I wore dress for all of them. And one of the guys I went to high school with came to the show, and I hadn’t seen him since high school. And I was in my dress and I talked to him the whole night after. (Laughs) That’s my memory of Bumrush. But it was fun, too.

On there being more of a promotional push for Pearl Jam, as well as increased industry and band-related expectations for the 2006 tour- McCready: We did a fair amount (of press) for (Binaural and Riot Act), but not as much as this time. We were (selling out shows before), but we weren’t in the media spotlight or whatever.

On McCready’s comment during the release of Pearl Jam that the band was ready to ‘play the game again.’ On relating that comment to how the tour has gone thus far, and the fact that the band is about to play three highly anticipated, sold-out shows in San Francisco with Sonic Youth once again as an opener – McCready: Woo! It feels like — ‘owning the city’ is a funny term — it feels great. It feels like — I’m trying to think — it feels like maybe we’re at a position in our career now where 15 years on we can still play these kinds of things, and people will come out, and we can (say), ‘Wow, we sold out three shows.’ And that’s amazing. That’s great. It’s incredible. I mean, we’ve always done well. That’s not the thing. It’s just that, this time around, it feels like there’s a conversation going on around us again. It hasn’t been this way since, well, maybe 1995.

Thoughts on U2 being the only other legitimate, relevant big band who could do the same. - McCready: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know who’s out there right now. U2 — I love that comparison. That’s fine with me; I’ll take that any day. They’re on another level than us for sure, I think. But maybe we’re creeping up on them, though. I don’t know.

On U2 and PJ being the only remaining big bands who are still culturally and socially relevant McCready: That’s what it feels like. Like maybe we have some sort of relevance again — in the press. And in — for instance, we have people who have kids that are in high school. And they’re going, ‘Pearl Jam!’ Which is crazy because, three or four years ago they were going, ‘Who the hell are you? You’re not Linkin Park.’ Or: ‘Are you still around?’ People used to say that to me. … I’ve had people say that to my face tons of times. God, over the last four years. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, we just played (a sold-out Madison Square Garden for two nights in a row).’ There just hasn’t been any press on it or anything. So, yeah. That doesn’t happen. The difference now is that I’m hearing people go, ‘Oh, I heard your song on the radio.’ Instead of me going, ‘We have song called ‘I Am Mine,’ and it’s on the radio,’ which is what I had to do before. And a lot of that has to do with the new record company. I mean J (Records) has really, really, really gotten the record played in the right markets. Or whatever they have to do, they made — they kept their promise. And we kept ours to them.

On PJ having to change its mindset and operation a little to play the game again - McCready: That’s good, if that’s what it looks like. We probably have done a bit, honestly. But we try to maintain that if we’re going to — there’s a thought process (to) it. And I am a big fan of Fugazi, as Ed is for sure — we saw Ian (MacKaye) when were playing (Washington DC). And that’s always cool; he comes out. We always try to make our ethics or our morals or ideology (a factor).

Discussion about Major League Baseball, the San Francisco Giants, Barry Bonds, steroids - McCready: I have some weird feelings about that, though. When they were doing steroids, there wasn’t anything against it. No rule against it. And baseball is all about rules! Have you read Ball Four? They were doing speed and they were drinking and all that back then. (Barry Bonds) He’s not fan friendly … And there’s still bias: cultural and racism. I wish Mark McGwire would have just admitted it. When I saw that, I was like, ‘Man, just fucking say it: ‘Man, we did it. There was no rule against it, first of all.’ ‘

Remainder of interview takes place inside a large ballroom inside the auditorium. McCready spots PJ manager Kelly Curtis, who is talking on a cellphone...McCready: There’s Kelly Curtis. (Laughs) He paces like that all the time.

McCready: We’re trying to maintain that Fugazi-like feel to our band and our camp and everything. On this tour, we’re giving a dollar per ticket to a local charity in town. And we’ve raised a lot of money. … And another dollar goes back to our Vitalogy Foundation, which gives out money.

Part two — Hidden disease

On PJ likely raising more money for charity than any other band – McCready: We do a lot, yeah. … We make sure it goes under the radar, that’s the thing. We try to make it not preachy. Although the radar that I see more is the Chron’s stuff, because that’s stuff that needs to be brought out. Because when people have this disease, like I do, it’s a very shameful and very much an inside thing. You don’t want to talk about it. Basically, you shit yourself, and it hurts like the worst gut ache you’ve ever had. Oh my God. Doubling-over pain. Ever day. But you don’t know when it’s going to happen. It’s this horrible, nonstop pain. You’re not ready for it when it starts. You don’t know when it’s going to end. It’s the worst feeling you can ever imagine. And it’s gross. It’s just a disgusting, gross disease. It can really mess up your life — I know. When it’s in remission, you’re going to bleed internally. And mucus and snot and blood come out, and you have to go to the bathroom 20 times a day. And it really hurts. And you’re just like, ‘Ah!’ (Waves hand upward) I’ve had it where I can’t sleep all night; heating pads on my stomach. And I have a mild case of it. There are kids who have had four feet of their colon taken out. And all of that makes it something that nobody wants to talk about, really. But it needs to be talked about. A light needs to be shined upon it.

On being a very talented guitarist from an early age, but not feeling fully confident in PJ until just a few years ago; On dealing with substance abuse for the first decade of PJ - McCready: That had a lot to do with that period. Sure. Self-medication, alcohol, all that, was a way. I would have done that had I not been in the band anyway. But to deal with the level of fame, the craziness that had hit this band at that time, I’m like, ‘Man, I’m going for it!’ But along with that came misery and sickness and my Crohn’s got worse. I felt very shy. I felt very insecure about my guitar playing. I felt insecure about writing new songs, because these guys write such good songs. And all of this had to do with how fucked up I was. I don’t feel like that anymore. I can talk about it, it’s fine.

On publicizing his battle with Crohn’s in recent years to help raise awareness about the disease - McCready: (I’ve had Crohn’s) for 20 years. I was ashamed of it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I felt that it was personal thing of my own. I was in denial. I thought it would go away if I didn’t think about it. And, of course, it didn’t. It just got worse. And I’d go through different medications and go back forth and stop doing stuff. I was on this spiral of sickness and negativity and miserable behavior. When I finally came out and started talking about it, that changed. (McCready’s wife) Ashley (O’Connor) was a big part of it. … We met about five years ago. We’re married now. We dated about three years. She was sick of me complaining about it. There’s a relief in that. Had Ashley not pushed me into doing this, I’d still be withdrawn. I might not have been having problems with alcohol or drugs or whatever, but I still would have been cautious and not willing to talk about it, because it was very shameful in my mind. Now, I don’t care. I want to talk about it. I see kids who have it, and I want to talk to them. I met so many new people through having this disease. I went to the (Crohn’s) camp and I got to spend three days with 90 kids. We do a benefit show ever year, my Flight to Mars band, and we get to send kids (to the camp) with the money from that. It’s a very positive environment for these kids, because they get to go. (But) it’s heartwrenching, because these kids have it so tough. With colostomy bags, and seeing bloody toilets in the lunchroom. And I’d think, ‘Oh, my God, that’s what it’s about.’ And I’ve had that myself. But to see them doing rope courses and discussing and talking about their dreams and their hopes and their aspirations, there’s nothing cooler than that.

I didn’t know anybody for many years that had it. I didn’t — I didn’t know anybody. I’ve been dealing with it for 20 years now. There’s no cure. And there isn’t a specific cause. For some people it relates to their diet. For others, it’s something different. But I could have it so much worse. I just want all of the other people out there who have it to know that it’s OK. I moved down to Los Angeles in 1986 with my band Shadow, trying to make it down there. I had been down there about a month and a half. And I just started having incredible abdominal pains, and having to go to the bathroom like that (snaps fingers). I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’s something I ate.’ It didn’t go away. So, I went to this doctor. At the time, they said, ‘You probably have ulcerative colitis.’ I was like, ‘What the hell is that? Am I going to die?’ I had no idea. They just put me on … I had to take big orange pills; I was always covered with orange dust. Those weren’t steroids; I’ve been on steroids. … Anabolic are the ones where you get big. These were different. These were corticoststeroids. And they’re different than anabolic. You don’t have any muscle mass. You feel crazy. (Laughs) There’s some crazy shit that happened. There’s a video of me and I’m kind of puffy, and that’s when I’m on steroids.

On looking puffy in footage from the Yield-eraMcCready: Yeah. That’s from steroids. That’s the prednisone bloat. That’s what happens. Prednisone is a nasty, nasty drug. … But doctors often use it because it’s the only thing that stops the symptoms immediately. It’s like a band-aid on your colon. It will stop it. But it takes forever to get off of it. If you get off of it quickly … your Crohn’s will come back (immediately). But if you wean — which is a long, nightmarish process; I’ve done it a bunch of times …

The thing about Crohn’s and Colitis is, different medications work for different people. There’s not one thing that’s all across the board. So, as in the food that we eat, another Crohn’s patient can have tomatoes, and I can’t. Right now (my diet) is not (restricted), because I’m on a new drug. … And the interesting thing about some of these drugs is they’re originally made for arthritis patients — they find that a lot of arthritis drugs work for Crohn’s and Colitis patients. I don’t know why. They think it’s because your immune system is working too well, and it’s attacking the colon like it shouldn’t be there. It’s genetically saying to do that. That’s one thought. But they also think — in Britain now, they think the reverse of that; your immune system is not strong enough to fight off bacteria and things that are in your colon. But I know diet has something to do with it. Because breads and starches and sugars can turn into something that will give you inflammation in your system. … No starches and no sugars, that works for a lot of Crohn’s patients. And that’s a hell of a hard thing to do. I did it for four months, and it was tough. Right now, I’m eating what I want.

McCready has been chewing on toothpicks the entire interview - McCready: Toothpicks. I’m addicted to these things. (Laughs) I try to stay away from starches and sugars when I can, because I feel better anyway when I do that. That’s one thing I learned. But I’m not perfect. I have friends that have Crohn’s and they do do that, and it’s worked for them.

On how long it has been since he has had severe problems with Crohn’s -McCready: I’m in remission right now. It was right after I got married, I got really sick. And that could have been stress related; it could’ve been a hundred different things. Going to the camp last year got me in touch with a doctor there. And that made me check out a (Crohn’s-related) drug. … And, bam, in like two and a half weeks, I was good.

It’s an insurance thing. It’s an availability thing. … The thing I’m taking now, it’s … in an experimental phase. So, that’s what it takes. … There are about seven or eight different drugs that are coming out. A lot of it is financial, for sure. Some of it is misdiagnosed. Some of it is, the doctors don’t know exactly what it is. A lot of it is diet. And sometimes doctors will say, ‘No, it’s not diet. It has nothing to do with it.’ But I tend to believe that it is. That being said, it’s different for every patient. It’s cultural. It can be financial. All of those reasons. Maybe some people won’t talk about it.

On where he would be without having wife Ashley’s supportMcCready: Oh, I’d be miserable. I’d be a complete mess without Ashley. I’d just complain, let the disease eat away at me and be depressed all the time. She saved me. I’d maybe be in remission. But I wouldn’t be as serious as I am, talking about it. I wouldn’t be as hopeful as about life. I’d be fucked. I wouldn’t have ever brought it up.

That’s just icing — that’s the wrong word. It makes me realize that I’m pretty blessed and my life is pretty great. My ‘job’ is awesome. And it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m lucky that I’m able to do it. I’m lucky that I have a band that supports me in that, and want to do (the July 20, 2006 Crohn’s benefit) show (in Portland). I’m lucky that Ashley made me look at myself in a way that I need to talk about this. I need to do something positive — that’s what it is.

Part three — Five for one On PJ’s members supporting each other’s individual projects and personal causes:

McCready: We try. Everyone in the band has been so supportive of me. And this life that I’m living right now, even with having Crohn’s, is a very fortunate one. I think it’s a really unique experience. I don’t know if a lot of other bands do that. I don’t know if anyone does that. It’s part of our makeup. I don’t know what it is. It’s part of our DNA, the DNA of the group; of how our philosophy is in life, and wanting to give back. So, we want to give back to each other, and that makes us relate to each other better, too. It’s also a good thing to do, to maintain a unit as a band to support each other. We support each other beyond just being in a band. I mean, we have our arguments. We don’t always get along. We get into it.

On the last time the band had a serious disagreementMcCready: It’s been a while. I mean, me and Ed got into it before we (started) this tour.

On a PJ show May 28, 2006 in Camden, N.J., in which there was reportedly a disagreement on stage and Ed was upset with photographers McCready: That was because (the photographers) stayed (in the photo area) too long. But something happened and Ed got upset; that’s what I heard. But we got into it pretty hard right when this record came out. I was sick at the beginning of this record and (post-recording) I was like, ‘Look, we need to sit down and talk, because there’s some problems right now, and I want to know what’s going on.’ … Just stuff that needed to be talked out. I’ve seen that with him and Stone before. I’ve seen that happen with Jeff and Stone before. I’ve seen that happen with me and Stone before. And you have to be able to trust and take criticism and let your ego go. And it’s tough sometimes. Being an artist, you want to be able to create, but there’s tension that comes out of that. Different views.

Other musical interests, and the love of comedian David Cross:

Discussion about Mark KnopflerMcCready: A good friend of mine from Seattle, that’s his guy. As of recently, I’d always respected (Knopfler) and would love to work with him. But I knew him in a way from his fingerpicking technique, and that he picked very clean. All the clean notes; that’s hard to do.

Discussion about Gram Parsons- McCready: I love Gram Parsons. This was years ago. My friend and another guy from the label … drove up to Joshua Tree (National Park), and went looking for where they burned his body. This was in ’93. And it was super fun. We were cruising around Joshua Tree looking for signs of Gram Parsons — like we’re ever going to find it. (Laughs) What we found was … where they were filming The Flintstones. (Laughs).

On David Cross, who opened PJ’s July 20, 2006 show in Portland - McCready: He’s my favorite guy ever. His timing and his delivery. Ah! (Cross) invented the Mr. Pickles character. (Note: Mr. Pickles was an on-stage ventriloquist’s dummy puppet who lived a bright life during PJ’s 1998 Yield tour, but died at the end of a long, hilarious run.) When ‘Mr. Show’ was on, (HBO) kept moving it — it couldn’t possibly have had a worse time (slot). But it was the funniest, most-groundbreaking comedy I’ve seen in a long time. I’d sit around and watch it and fall off the couch. … I went down and visited (Cross) and the other host, Bod Odenkirk, at the set — I still have pictures of that. But I was nervous, because comedians make me nervous. I love comedians. So, the Mr. Pickles skit was the puppet. Was it a battle of ventriloquists? (Laughs) I had my own Mr. Pickles, and I used to sit him on the amp. Oh! We pulled him down. On the last show, we had a hanging. I remember. I didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Pickles getting hung. I was kind of bummed. (Laughs) I have him somewhere.

On Sleater-Kinney, who also opened PJ’s 2006 Portland show and toured extensively with the band in 2003 and 2005 before going on hiatus -McCready: I was bummed. I was shocked. They had a really good momentum with their last record, and I liked that record. They were starting to get to that level. I loved Carrie (Brownstein) — I love them all. They became part of our little (world). There’s something that happened. We probably had the most fun with them of any group that’s ever played with us on the road, easily. Because they’re really cool and they’re funny and they’re real.

On PJ’s catalog of unreleased songs, specifically ones shown in a Lost Dogs photograph of tape reels featuring tracks that have neither been played live nor officially releasedMcCready: You know what? A little less than what was on Lost Dogs. Lost Dogs there were maybe 25 — I don’t know how many. There’s probably — well, there could be 30 or 40. Because I don’t know, you know?

On recording a reported 30-40 songs for “Pearl Jam” (avocado)McCready: Yeah. There’s a song called “Rise and Fall” that Ed wrote that didn’t make it. Yeah, there’s a couple others. From this session, there’s another 10. And from all the past sessions, there’s got to be 30-40. And some are complete, and some are just kind of crap, and some are works in progress and some never really made it. Like, ‘Well, we’ve got a verse and a chorus and a verse and a chorus.’ But then we just put it on the backburner, because it never sparked any kind of (fire). “Black, Red, Yellow” was that way early on, and that came out and actually sounded OK. There’s more stuff. There’s a lot more stuff. And we just take all of those tapes and put them in this hermetically sealed (Laughs) — but that’s when we were at Kelly’s old house, in the basement. It’s a long story. But we have a new vault; we moved it out of there. … But there’s a lot of stuff. There’s a ton of different stuff. Plus, we record every single show, so there’s jams from that.  I think you’re going to see some interesting, creative stuff come out. Not to toot our own horn, but some really creative ideas, via the fan club, via Kelly and us.

On opening the vault - McCready: Yeah. Something of that nature. When we get off the road we’ll have time to focus on that. You may see new things come out. New artwork that you haven’t seen before. Jeff has thousands of pictures. And I don’t know if he’ll ever do anything with that, but he should — they’re all great. He was taking them today at soundcheck. I’m telling you: He takes them all the time. He’s documented everything since day one. Probably when we were playing with Matt Cameron and recording the (first) demo.

On PJ documenting its history since the band started, and band members playing a key role in the process- McCready: It’s a control thing. (Laughs) You want to have as a band, privacy and control over the image, as much as you can. And that’s been a big thing with Jeff and Stone, even back to the Green River days. Like, when they were in Mother Love Bone and they did Apple record, Lance took the shot and Jeff designed the Apple.

This is funny: When Soundgarden was playing “Big Bottom,” Spinal Tap left their (stuff) in Seattle the last time they played there. (Laughs) So, that thing was in West Seattle in the warehouse. This was like when we first started; maybe even before the record, when we were jamming. Yeah, because Jeff wasn’t — I don’t know if he had played with me and Stone yet. But anyway, Soundgarden were playing at Key Arena, I think it was for Bumbershoot. In “Big Bottom,” one of the horns had broken off from the skull. So, Jeff took some time, and he had re-made it. And when Soundgarden played “Big Bottom,” they used it. … I don’t know why I got into that story. (Laughs)

On how much feedback that band provides in terms of mixing for its official bootlegs - McCready: We listen to the bootlegs and say, ‘Well, maybe we want to hear a little bit more crowd sound from the Argentina show,’ and preliminary stuff. But then we just let them run with it. … I think we listen to it more for the crowd. The things that get kicked around, oddly enough, are like what Kiss’ Alive sounds like. That’s what we want. That’s what we grew up listening to. The 70s-era live sound; that’s what we kind of want to capture.

On the lyrics and music for “Inside Job” - McCready: … We had the music and it was like, ‘This thing could be a monster.” That’s a song I’ve always wanted to write in the back of my head, and when I heard Ed finally sing the lyrics, I was choked up; I was really excited. And I probably expanded on the lyrics (from a 10 Club newsletter). We were in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and I didn’t go out that day. I was like, ‘I’ve got to write something for this.’ So I got my acoustic and I just had this idea: I need to be spiritually open inside to solutions in my life. … It also has to do with being a positive solution to anything in my life … to a spiritual malady or a physical malady. It has to come from inside first. And some of it also comes from a movie, What the Bleep Do We Know!? It’s about intention. What it the intent of my thought process? Am I thinking something solution-oriented, and therefore it will be? Or am I thinking negative?

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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