Q&A: Stone Gossard

Pearl Jam's guitarist cuts a new record with his other old band.

Stone Gossard insists that BRAD isn't a side project. But that's exactly what United We Stand—the band's fifth record in 20 years—sounds like. It's hard to hear BRAD, featuring vocalist Shawn Smith (Pigeonhed, Satchel), as anything other than a self-indulgent trip that mashes up Smith's soul and Gossard's dreary crunch-rock. If BRAD were the musicians' primary focus, material concerns would muddy these waters. Instead, it's refreshing, shoot-from-the-hip rock and roll.

In an e-mail, Gossard talks about serving two masters, Willie Nelson, and a song he wrote just the other day.

SW: When you're in the studio with Pearl Jam, do you feel more limited to make it sound like a Pearl Jam record?

Gossard: The only pressure or restrictions I feel are self-imposed. Both BRAD and Pearl Jam are, first and foremost, expressions of a shared design. In other words, it's not in any one person's hands. It's like a Ouija board: Sure, someone is cheating a bit, but it still can be spooky! So I can't compare the two situations, because they keep changing and surprising me.

As I see it, every group has its own style and method to discover, and the trick seems to me to "wait for it" and don't break up.

Have you written any songs today?

I wrote a little number last week. It is just an arrangement shifting between F-sharp major and C major. It's cool.

Bucky Pizzarelli told me that he plays a few songs every morning—often before breakfast—no matter where he is. Do you have any similar habits, musical or otherwise?

Jump on my drums and play every time I have 20 minutes free during the day.

Willie Nelson recently released a cover of Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe." Do you want to be on the road and making records when you're his age, 78?

I very much want to play music with friends 'til the end. Even if it is just rehearsal.


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