PJ20 Premiere in Toronto

by Kathy Davis , Jessica Letkemann on September 12, 2011

September 2011 gifts us all with glorious avalanche of Pearl Jam – how lucky are we? This month brings us the PJ20 Book (September 13th -though some people have it already), soundtrack (out September 20th) , movie (Sept. 20th in select theatres) and Canadian shows (on now). Between shows, the band and director Cameron Crowe attended the premiere of “Pearl Jam Twenty” at the Toronto International Film Festival. We offer you first a transcript of the post-premiere 30 minute press conference, thanks to our roving reporter, Jessica Letkemann.  If you would like, you can listen to the full press conference here.

Pearl Jam Twenty, Press Conference Transcription

To the band: Had you seen the movie in the theatre before today?

Eddie Vedder: The very first time it was at a place called the EMP – which wasn’t the cut that we saw today, we saw it with a lot of family and friends and locals and Cameron came up –that was the first time we were watching it. And so that was in a theater. After that we saw the different edits as we worked together. Today was much different to see it with a real audience and people that weren’t friends and family. I think that was actually what gave it a sense of thinking it was pretty damn good.

Moderator: So Cameron I’ll start with you- You’re taking this emotional journey over 20 years with the band and the fans. That seems like a huge thing to try and tackle in two hours. How do you grapple with that?

Cameron Crowe: I was really inspired by No Direction Home, the Scorsese documentary on Bob Dylan. That’s a huge subject that spans a long time and I just love the way Scorsese – as a fan and a musicologist and a as director- chose the chunk that he chose examined the roots and shows how the music was born. I felt so satisfied and inspired. I wanted to listen to more Bob Dylan and it felt like a Bob Dylan experience. So that was my guiding light in making the movie with the guys. If we can make a movie that lets you feel the way a Pearl Jam concert or record lets you feel then we’re in good shape.

Moderator: A Pearl Jam concert certainly has a different set list every night. You’ve got one movie and one group of songs that are telling this story. How do you guys feel about that?

Mike McCready: I feel like the songs were diverse enough to show what our set lists are like every night. The movie, first of all, it sounded great. I felt like I’d kinda been through a concert. Without sweating (laughs). Emotionally I sort of feel like that – it was a ride that was fantastic.

Moderator: You’re a band that basically lets the music do all the talking and it makes it clear in the movie it’s for protective reasons. To Stone and Jeff, who were there at the beginning, what did it take to get you to say ok come on in Cameron, we’ll open up to do a movie?

Stone Gossard: I just think Cameron’s interest in doing it was the biggest inspiration. I don’t think we would have taken this thing on had it not been all the pieces that fit together and Cameron being open to the task of looking through the footage and seeing if there’s a story to be told, or what’s the right story to be told -how does it make a great movie and how does it represent the feeling he has for the band? Once we knew that he was involved we trusted that it was going be ok. Without Kelly and Cameron having a vision for it, we probably wouldn’t have made it for another 20 years. It would have been a while probably.

Jeff Ament: We don’t get to hang out with Cameron that often so it was sort of an excuse to hang out with Cameron a little bit. He’s one of the great people to be in a corner of a room talking music and movies and art with. That was a bonus – an added bonus to this whole process

Moderator: So when he showed up on the Seattle Scene in the mid-80s, did you guys let him in right away?

(Jeff Ament: makes a face; all laughs).

Cameron Crowe: I met Stone and Jeff first; I was researching the idea of doing a movie based in Seattle about people, some of whom are musicians. And I met Stone and Jeff and I loved so much that (they) were guys that had jobs who also played in bands. It wasn’t like the LA experience which is like “yeah, I live with my girlfriend she pays for everything. [Laughs] I play at night, sleep all day…” These guys were like “we pull espresso, we do this, we this we do that, and then we earn the experience to pay for our love which playing music and buying instruments and doing it. I met these guys and thought they were a great example of people who love music and chose to make music their purpose in life really responsibly and passionately. Loving their music came from knowing and loving them as guys first.

Moderator: Were there things in the movie that you guys had forgotten about? It’s amazing the footage that you dug up. There must have been some moments for some of you where you thought “Oh, I don’t remember that.”

Jeff Ament: Backstage at the Cult show for sure. That’s one of the shots that open the film. First time I saw that I was like, “where was I?” Josh obviously was shooting that footage but I didn’t remember Josh being there. To have a memory of something in your head that’s probably drifted away from really what happened. As time goes on and as you tell the stories, (because) during that time we took guys from the Cult down to the Vogue, we remember Lars showed up. So I told that story a lot. And then to all the sudden be pulled back to really what it was like was shocking. I didn’t know I wore hats like that. [laugh]

Moderator: Were there moments for any of you that made you cringe?

Matt Cameron: Stone and I were commenting. I wore PJ pants for one show.

Moderator: Like Pearl Jam pants?

Stone Gossard: No, actual pajamas. [all laugh]

Matt Cameron: So that was a surprise. I normally wear shorts.

Eddie Vedder: See when you’re Matt Cameron that’s about as bad as it can get [all laugh]

Moderator: Were there finds when you were coming through that were particularly great, like was there a holy grail that you couldn’t find?

Cameron Crowe: No. The Holy Grail really was the piece of footage of Kurt Cobain and Eddie slow dancing at the (MTV Movie Awards). That had been talked about. Some people didn’t quite remember it even happening. Some people swore somebody had been there with a camera. So with the help of the people that had the footage and people that really wanted to help us get everything, we did find that footage. And it’s so powerful. I was watching it again tonight -and it is just such a human moment and it is what happens outside the glare of the spotlight. They were really in a blender of media explosiveness at that time and here was this moment below the stage while Eric Clapton is playing Tears In Heaven where Kurt and Eddie got to be alone and kind of express themselves as people. The fact that it’s on film is amazing. It’s so poignant. We also had a million concerts that had been filmed and the guys hadn’t put a lot of it out. Then they were great enough at a certain point…Jeff says the movie kinda snuck up on them because we were working on it for so long. At a certain point we called up and said we’d like to do some interviews and do them in your house so they’re personal and they feel like a conversation. So we started doing those interviews. And the guys really opened the door for us to look in all the nooks and crannies and see whatever we could find. And I think that’s why we were lucky to have so many different things from so many areas of their lives, very little of which had been seen.

Moderator: Eddie what did you remember of that Kurt Cobain moment?

Eddie Vedder: Not that I remembered it, but I saw today for the first time that the segment was a little longer in the cut than what I had seen before. For a second the camera gets blurry or someone walks in front of it, and you see Kurt got like this [puts his fingers to lips in a shh gesture]. And it wasn’t saying don’t tell anybody or keep a lid on this little private moment, actually, it was because on the stage above us Eric Clapton was playing Tears in Heaven which is pretty quiet song and we were jumping up and down and clapping and all that. The first time I saw that footage it was incredibly emotional. I think just because he’s smiling. You just think that if he just could have pulled through… that’s the thing about today, maybe it’s good that this movie happened now. We’ve been in grateful mode, appreciation mode of each other for quite some time, the last few years has been a grateful period for us. But…it’s a galvanizing kind of moment for us to look at each other and it doesn’t happen that often. You look at each other and all the crowd reaction or the family that is the people that come to see the shows and it really, it’s just music. It’s just guitars and drums and bass. And it’s something that to have it turn into this other thing, this monument in a way, I don’t mean to self-aggrandize, but it’s really something to see it and witness and in this case be reminded of it , have it right there in front of us so we can appreciate it even more. And know that we have a really strong base to go the next 20.

Moderator: I would think your goal always was to get beyond, “it’s just music” and push it to somewhere else.

Eddie Vedder: It’s like catching a butterfly. You can’t grab it too hard. It’s really a delicate thing. These are five men, five men who used to be teenagers, who met in their 20s. And if you’ve ever tried to order a pizza with five people, it’s difficult. [laughs] So to have gone to this other level of being able to create records and songs that are different than the last songs that you had written and put on shows and have each one be different. One thing we’re all very fortunate is without having known each other, just having come together at this quick moment, to have all these people that are into long relationships. It’s a very lucky thing. Because then you get to higher planes of communication. Every time you accomplish another thing, you’re elevated again. It keeps going up. It doesn’t stay the same or start going down, it keeps going up, and that’s a long relationship thing.

Moderator: There’s a question that Cameron asks in the movie that never gets answered in so many words. It’s how did the last ten years happen and how did you survive?

Mike McCready: Wow. Well, with a lot of careful effort and talking to each other. And hopefully having as clear lines of communication and open lines of communication as possible. That’s still an effort but I think we take the time to want to find solutions if there’s issues and problems and things. Because I think we love each other. I know we love each other. And I love playing music with these guys. There’s love and there’s understanding and there’s commitment, and those are things that have helped us. And a lot of luck too probably. Some timing.

Moderator: I was talking to someone last night who asked me, where does this movie fit in Cameron’s career?

Eddie Vedder: Right at The top. [all laugh]

Cameron Crowe: Thank you Eddie, I agree. I”ve always just wanted to be lucky enough to tell a good story. I always felt the story of Pearl Jam is a great story. It’s beyond just a rock story. In fact it takes the usual rock story and turns it on its head. The usual rock story is incredible promise, brilliance maybe, tragedy cuts it short, and aren’t we sad we’ve lost this wonderful opportunity. Pearl Jam is exactly the opposite. It’s a tragedy that was surmounted and these guys found joy through survival and from studying what had happened before in rock from some of their heroes. In some ways it was a hard story to tell because it’s a happy ending, and it’s not even an ending. But what it is is unique. All these guys, you can tell, approach their interviews open heartedly and wanted to just put everything out on the table and even Jeff said early on I hope there’s a little bit of group therapy that happens here so I can learn a little [more] about my band. Every one of these guys, Mike poured his heart out. All of us wanted to tell the story of how the music came to mean so much today and tomorrow. So I’m just lucky enough to have had the opportunity to help tell the story.

Moderator: So Jeff was there group therapy there?

Jeff Ament: I was listening to what Mike said about how as band we get through stuff by talking. Really that first five or six years there wasn’t a lot of talking. We would just put our heads down and get to the next place. We were just holding on. I don’t remember a whole lot of conversations about what we were going through at the time. We didn’t know what we were going through. I think that’s the beauty of this movie and trying to make sense of that first 5 to 10 years. But I hadn’t seen all the interview stuff. That was the thing I got excited about when Cameron said I want to interview you guys. I was just curious, good and bad. Like to hear Stone say he didn’t want to be in a band with me any more [re 1990]. That stuff is all good because when that was all going down we weren’t talking with one another. We’d take a bike ride every day after Andy died and wed hang out for a 2 or 3 hours but we really wouldn’t talk about anything. I would prod, (to Stone) I”d say “I hear you were playing some music,” and you would be like “Yep.” (laughs) It’s been great to see a little bit of what just how we feel about one another, I think we occasionally tell one another but you know – we’re guys.

Cameron Crowe: See, they had to pry this movie out of my hands This could have easily been “Pearl Jam Twenty-Two” or Twenty-Three. Watching the movie tonight I thought, “Damn I had a great opportunity to ask Eddie a question and I blew it”.

Moderator: Ask him now.

Cameron Crowe: Okay. (to Eddie) When you’re on the plane…

Jeff Ament: Director’s cut.

Cameron Crowe: Right. Director’s cut. Thank you. When you’re on the plane to Seattle for the first time what are you thinking? Are you thinking-(that) it could go either way or are you thinking “I know in my heart this is going to work” ?

Eddie Vedder: I thinking oh my god, I’m on a plane and I offered to drive. [All laugh]. Who are these guys that can a afford plane ticket? That’s what I was thinking.

Cameron Crowe: Ok, director’s cut.

Eddie Vedder: And then I was thinking well, no I wouldn’t say that, I was going to say don’t fuck this up. Well no, I took a razor blade, and that’s when you could take razor blades on planes, and I would do collages and I did some crazy collage. And I was just excited to play music. I had been in a few different groups with some people that, you know the nature of being in bands you try to write stuff or you play some covers, or do whatever, and stylistically you try to do whatever, but it never felt like anything real. It never felt anything that wasn’t highly derivative of something else. When I had heard the music I got through Jack Irons, which is the demo stuff, the instrumental stuff that Matt Cameron had played on, I just heard something that I had never heard before. And to be able to be a part of that, and really not knowing what would happen. I thought I would have a week in Seattle and it was like an art project just like the razor blade collage.

Moderator: We can open it up to some questions.

Mexican Reporter: How do you see (the band) ten years from now?

Eddie Vedder: I think the same thing just better. I think we’ll just keep getting better. Maybe try to push boundaries musically. I don’t see stopping. I don’t think any of us see stopping. And I think everyone’s doing stuff outside of the group too, which I think is really healthy. So by the time we get back we’re excited to be back. Some groups will have a record and tour for 2 1/2 years and then they’ll need to take 2 years off because they don’t want to see each other. Or they’re just so wrecked and exhausted. Whatever way we’re doing it, it’s still reaching out in the dark, but it seems to be working. It’s not like you have a formula. We just want to stay healthy, we have families, we want to be dependable to not only each other and the audience.

Next reporter: Do you still study rock? Do you see yourselves getting to the point where you’re Neil young, you’re the adult to some young up and coming band?

Eddie Vedder: I’m up to the “L”s. The La’s.

Reporter: Are you like the adults now?

Eddie Vedder: If you’re taking about a young, young, young group…. (laughter) But really that was a huge thing was when we didn’t know how to get through, Jeff was saying we didn’t know how to talk to each other, some of the people that broke open those conversations are people who gave us advice on things you can’t teach or take a class on. It was really them talking outside the interviews, outside of the things that were available people. Tom Petty for Mike. Or Neil or Kim and Thurston from Sonic Youth. Or Pete and Roger or John for me. We’re grateful that they saw something in us that they recognized and thought “these guys might need a little help and that they’re worth helping”. We’ve always been grateful.

Jessica Letkemann: I’m Jessica from Billboard. In the midst of all this deep diving into the past, with the book and the film, (at the festival last week) you’ve said it made you feel like a rebirth and new beginning and have played/ released two new songs this week. Has the project been inspiring PJ to look forward as well as back?

Jeff Ament: Yeah. Being in the middle of this a few months ago, we only had a little bit of time off, a few weeks, but we carved out half that time to go into the studio and record some new songs. That kinda got us through all of this looking back part. It reminded us of the job at hand, where we’re headed. That’s the funnest thing at this point, being in a room with these guys and making music. It’s just the greatest. I’m so curious about what everyone’s going to come in with, and where it’s going to go.

Reporter David from Classic Rock: Can I ask Cameron Did you have any Almost Famous moments where being friends with the band got in the way of making a dramatic movie about them? Did you have to sensor yourself on personal questions?

Cameron Crowe: What I wanted to do is use the fact that I did know them. And have known them for a while. To do interviews felt like actual conversations as opposed to (makes air quote gesture) “interviews”. I think knowing them and having lived in the community with them for long periods of time I think I was able to hold a mirror up and show them how they look to me, as somebody that had been able to watch them over a long period of time. I appreciate them trusting me enough to go through all the footage and hold this mirror up. But it’s different in this case because I wanted to get across a feeling of what it was like to be inside the band as opposed to outside the band looking in. So I think it was a plus

Reporter: A follow up. Is there any similarities to the band in Almost Famous and PJ, a (not) midlevel band dealing with the harsh realities of stardom. Can you talk about that? Are these two movies cousins?

Cameron Crowe: I think they are, actually. “Almost Famous” is about loving music and being a fan. And Pearl Jam Twenty is what it’s like to be a fan IN the band. And from their point of view looking out at the William Millers [Cameron Crowe's reporter character in "Almost Famous"] of the world. “Almost Famous” is the other side of that.

Mike McCready: And I played leads on both of them. [all laugh] [EV laughs uncontrollably.] (FYI, Mike played the guitar solo leads for the fictional band Stillwater in Crowe’s movie Almost Famous-KD)

Cameron Crowe: That’s true. That is true. The uniting force: Mike McCready.

Kerri Roberts/ Filmography on Movie Central: Cameron, you used the band in the movie “Singles” and we see in the movie the (MTV Singles movie) promotional party and what happened there, and of course the soundtrack had Pearl Jam songs. Did that change the relationship between you and the band when that happened?

Cameron Crowe: Mercifully no. I was always so embarrassed about the Singles party. The fact that I had to ask, beg, and say please “come and play this show because they won’t put out this movie if they don’t play this show”. I actually came to Lollapalooza to ask them.

Eddie Vedder: You didn’t even know how embarrassing it was gonna get. [all laugh]

Cameron Crowe: Oh my god! In a world where I feel like I can talk about anything, that thing we never talked about for twenty years. When we interviewed the guys I brought it up, with cameras, and there’s a moment where Eddie looks at me like “oh great, NOW we talk about the Singles party with a camera here.” I think it was cathartic for me.

Stone Gossard: I think we owe you an apology [all laugh].

Cameron Crowe: Oh no no no…

Stone Gossard: The fact that this was your moment and we just…lesser people would have just said “you guys are assholes! This was my chance; couldn’t you guys lay off the tequila for another hour? Just say a couple nice things and play a show? God damn it!”

Cameron Crowe: The original idea -I love that we’re now actually really talking about it- (laughter), that you guys were gonna play an acoustic set. You guys are like “we’re gonna do an acoustic set. Kinda like “Unplugged”. I remember Stone came up to me at a certain point…Stone already saw the avalanche that was starting to happen, and Stone was like “I think we’re gonna do a punk rock set tonight.” And then it went from there. I gotta say – nobody died, and…

Eddie Vedder: It goes great in the film! It really does.

Cameron Crowe: It works in the movie. I leaned forward to Kelly (Curtis) when we were watching the movie tonight and it was like “Twenty years later, Yes! It all worked out.” But at the time it was a quandry because I didn”t want to be one of the guys after the band had started to explode coming to ask for something. I love the way Stone talks about it in the movie, like “this hideous event actually was the birth of “no”. We gave it a context.

Final Reporter: To Ed (she first contrasts just seeing Paul McCartney film w/him walking streets of NY after 9/11 talking to people, saying he felt like the mayor, jumping out of a cab going for a walk, then to Ed) You on the other hand are a reluctant rock star, having to build a wall (Ed speaks of this in the movie-wall around his house to keep a stalker out) How do you feel about fame now?

Eddie Vedder: You gotta understand it was different then. It was really…I don’t know how people do it these days. I don’t know how young people or the people that have all that media thing, and then the media is way more intense, social bullshit-whatever it is, I don’t know how they deal with it. Paparazzi, that kind of thing something I can’t even fucking imagine for a second. And what we had at the time was too much for me as a human even as a writer, to not be able to walk into a situation and observe because you were being observed, I mean 20 years later I’m not still moaning about it, it’s just that you asked. But you know we just had to figure out ways to where if you’re on the music channel, and you’re in people’s living rooms and all that many times a day back then, we had to take responsibility for that, it was more just kind of manicuring it (to) a level that you could deal with. It’s all pretty positive. It was interesting. The crowd laughed tonight, I don”t know if they understood, there are photos of that truck crash (into the wall of Ed’s house) with the woman inside it, bloody…it was an incredibly serious deal. That was the day of the Grammy Awards. That’s where your life was at that time, then you’re thinking what the fuck is going on here and how are we gonna survive this? Where’s it gonna go next?” So by paying attention to it, and now I”m really proud that we all have lives that we can live and be who we want to be. Be who we want to be as parents, be who we want to be as community members…it’s all just a very maintainable level. We’re very grateful to the people that have listened to us over the years, that they seem to have certain respect for that, and allow us that as well. It’s a relationship. We couldn”t do it without them, and we’re very appreciative.

And Yet More Coverage

During the already busy weekend, Eddie found the time to perform at a fundraising luncheon for Artists for Peace and Justice. Established in early 2009, by (Director) Paul Haggis and friends to encourages peace and social justice and addresses issues of poverty and enfranchisement in communities around the world. The organization’s immediate goal is to build schools to serve the poorest areas of Haiti, providing an education, hot meals, clean drinking water and regular medical treatments to the children living in the slums. Here are the details, according to this article:

On Saturday afternoon, real estate exec Michael Cooper opens up his grand Annex home (best known in diplomatic circles as the former German consulate; , for a $1250-a-ticket backyard lunch and private concert by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. APJ has raised over $300,000 at TIFF and Haggis is keen to keep upping the party ante. “We just got our charitable status in Canada,” said Haggis. “So we’ll be in Toronto even more.”

A couple of pictures from the lunch are in the below gallery.

Here is video of Cameron Crowe introducing the band at the premiere, courtesy MyETVMedia on YouTube:

Gallery from the event, including arrival, premiere and press conference: (photos by Kevin Mazur, WireImage; Ed at Benefit photos by Pimentel)

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.
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.

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