Jeff Ament Gets RNDM
JPG: Well, congratulations on Tester being re-elected and whatever role you played in it. [Pearl Jam played a fundraising concert for U.S. Senator Jon Tester on Sept. 30 in Missoula, Montana.]
JA: From growing up in a town of 700 people, mostly, I just feel pride that I’m friends with him. I know how hard he works and I know that he’s the real deal. He’s like a breath of fresh air in Washington. I’m proud of him and also just proud of the band that they supported me and wanted to help him out. The band guys were just troopers the whole step of the way.
*JPG: In regards to the mix of musicians and politics, what do you have to say to the “Shut Up and Sing” crowd?
JA: I think it’s crazy. Lobbyists, corporations, the Koch Brothers, if they can have a voice, a massive voice with millions of dollars, private funds, being poured into politics, why don’t people find more offense in that? It’s crazy how the right wing can spin and say, “Oh, Hollywood…” I’m like, “Look man. First of all, I’m not Hollywood, I’m a Montana kid. I’m like a rural Montana kid. I’m so absolutely far from Hollywood.
And I’ve had people say to me, “You’re going to hurt Tester more than help him.” I’m like, “I’m helping him as a kid that grew up in the same town as him.” I believe in him that much, so I feel like it’s important. I’m a testament for him because I know him. I want people to know how much I believe in him and I don’t find anything wrong with that. If somebody’s running for office, that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for testaments. You’re looking for people that know these people and you want to hear their side of what they know about this person, good and bad.
I’ve always had a problem with that “Shut Up and Sing” thing. It’s like, “If you know anything about our band, you know that we’re not like Van Halen. We are paying attention to the planet and our country and our community and if we see injustice, we’re going to speak out against it.” That’s just how it is.
We’ve worked really hard to have this pulpit that we can use every once in awhile. Ultimately, we’re not telling people that they have to do these things, that they have to vote a certain way, it’s like, “This is our view. Go research it and make your own decision. Be involved in it. Be involved in the conversation and the process.” I’ve always done that. I’ve always said, “Look man. I’m not telling you to vote for Jon Tester. I’m telling you to be involved with this conversation and do your own research and make your own choice, but be involved.”
JPG: Just because you’re a musician or you stand in front of a camera, it doesn’t mean you give up your citizenship. So, you still should be allowed to have a voice.
JA: It’s crazy. The people that are yelling the loudest are the Rush Limbaughs and guys like that who are… They’re doing that in the worst way. Rush Limbaugh’s a weather man. He has one of the biggest pulpits in the land.
JPG: On the artistic side of it, I remember watching the Pearl Jam Twenty documentary and it showed the reaction to a performance of “Bushleaguer.” Afterwards, some of the band members were against playing it again because they didn’t want to go through that uncomfortable situation where a portion of the crowd turned on you. But, you were defiant and wanted to play it again because you felt that art should be confrontational and you shouldn’t cower, even if everyone isn’t cheering. I just thought that was such a great statement at the time.
JA: I’ve always felt like music can be good in that confrontational way. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about it starting a conversation. I feel like I’ve always been in bands that have been a little bit controversial at different times. And some of the early punk bands, in particular, when I was in Green River and we opened up for the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, those crowds hated us. They would throw shit at us and I kind of ate it up. I was into it. I was like, “Good. There’s something we’re doing up here that is causing a reaction.” Reaction is great. If it makes you feel anything and that to me is better than just numbing people out and being a pure entertainer where you just try to make people happy.
Ultimately, I never really cared what people thought. It’s always been about, “Do the guys in the band, the people I’m playing with, are we getting off? Are we creating something that we love? That we totally believe in?” We’ve been lucky in that people have reacted to that and bought our records and they come to our shows. That’s an awesome fringe benefit of being in a creative unit. For me it’s always been more about making great art than it has been about being entertainers.
JPG: Is that what after all this time keeps it exciting for you, that you fall into these situations of creating art such as RNDM?
JA: Yeah, that’s the awesome part. I get to make a record with Joseph Arthur. The pure fan side of me; I’m so stoked right now. I mean Joe’s one of my favorite artists out there. I’m rolling around the country in a bus with him right now playing songs that we wrote together. So, it doesn’t get any better than that especially after playing music for 30 years. It’s awesome to be reinvigorated at this point.
JPG: So what’s up for 2013? Pearl Jam? A second RNDM record, which could be called “Of Kindness?”
JA: Yeah, there you go. RNDM “Acts of Kindess.” Originally, there was talk of it being like a two or there… was going to be three acts and there was going to be a record of violence and a record of kindness and whatever… We’ve actually written a bunch of stuff since we’ve been out here. As we were rehearsing for the tour, we recorded five or six songs. There’s five or six pretty good songs left over from the last batch, so if we went in the studio for a couple more days we’d probably have another record ready to go. So, If Pearl Jam isn’t super busy next year, then I’ll certainly go out and play a few more shows with these guys.
JPG: In terms of Pearl Jam, since you are such a tightly-run organization with a record label, management and publicity, if you enter the studio and if the songs are going well in April, do you think you could put together a world tour in a snap for summer and fall? You see some bands where they have their next two years planned out with the album completed many months before its release and first tourdates.
JA: it’s not like I’m not talking to these guys. I’ve talked to everybody multiple times, even in the last three weeks since I’ve been out touring. So, it’s not like we’re on a sabbatical from one another or anything. It’s more like once the wheels start turning with that then it’s on. We relish not being in that mode. Until everybody’s like 100 per cent ready to give themselves to the process of making and finishing a record, which is just getting it to the point of the record being out. From the start of the recording, it’s usually like a four or five month period and it’s because some of us in the band are so hands-on in that process. That’s kind of like our day job, where you make sure the art’s right, songs being mastered and you’re talking sequence and you’re talking about tourdates and you’re talking about merchandise. And all that stuff is time consuming. You want to have a chunk of time scooped out for it.
I told everybody, I’m ready to go whenever. If they’re not, if Soundgarden wants to do some more touring, which I’m behind 100 per cent because I love the record, I love all those guys so much that… Like I said, we have another RNDM record ready to go. I’m easy. It’s all creative. It’s all music. Pearl Jam’s gonna be there whenever we want it to be.