VIDEO: Pearl Jam Talks Making New Music, Shelving an Old Hit, and a Teenage Run-in With KISS in Stern Show Debut

Eddie Vedder and his bandmates also open up about jamming with the Rolling Stones, recording with Stevie Wonder, and meeting Eddie Van Halen

April 24, 2024

After selling nearly 100 million albums over the course of more than 30 years, dropping a string of generation-defining hits throughout the ‘90s and 2000s, and securing a 2017 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one could argue that Pearl Jam has pretty much done it all. But on Monday, following the release of their acclaimed new album “Dark Matter,” the legendary rockers celebrated yet another first — Pearl Jam’s debut appearance on the Howard Stern Show.

Frontman Eddie Vedder and his bandmates — lead guitarist Mike McCready, rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard, bassist Jeff Ament, and drummer Matt Cameron — joined the show from their Seattle headquarters and sat with Howard for a riveting, wide-ranging, epic conversation before wowing SiriusXM listeners with a live, on-air concert. The boys discussed everything from why “Even Flow” took 100 takes to hanging out with legendary musicians like Stevie Wonder, Eddie Van Halen, Brandi Carlile, and Keith Richards. Then, they delivered a larger-than-life four-song set featuring two all-time classics and two blistering tracks off their newly released 12th studio album, “Dark Matter.”

Pearl Jam had plenty to say about “Dark Matter,” which received rave reviews and has been described by some as the band’s return to their hard-hitting form. Howard was particularly eager to hear about the genesis of one of his favorite tracks off the album, “Waiting for Stevie,” written while Eddie and producer Andrew Watt were in the studio waiting on Stevie Wonder to pop in and lay down a harmonica track.

“If you hear that, it’s Stevie playing incredibly fast,” Vedder explained of his song “Try,” which features Wonder. “That was an incredible experience, just watching him become the music. It was like he wasn’t even there anymore as a person. He was just music, flowing through this … big chromatic [harmonica] he was playing.”

Just how late was the “Higher Ground” crooner?

“We were supposed to play at 4 p.m. and I think maybe he got there at 11 at night,” Eddie said. “But that’s okay.”

“Is it?” Howard wondered.

“Absolutely,” Vedder responded. He went on to explain that while Stevie’s late arrival inspired the music of “Waiting for Stevie,” its lyrics were only tangentially related to the “Superstition” singer. “In a way, it’s a song about being affected by music, and maybe music changing your life, and maybe leading you to your tribe,” Eddie said. “In that way it connects to Stevie because his music has that power.”

Why Eddie Didn’t Want ‘Better Man’ on ‘Vs.’

It’s no secret that when Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana hit it big in the early 1990s, the Seattle sound quickly became a pop culture behemoth. “It became a scene that was kind of picked up globally, and with the magnifying glass came the heat of the sun … and I don’t think anybody was really ready for it,” Eddie recalled of the period. “It was just a tricky time … the spotlight was kind of big and it kind of burned hot.”

When it came time to make their sophomore album —1993’s “Vs.” — that scrutiny impacted the band’s creative decisions. In addition to no longer making music videos for MTV, Eddie tried to put the nix on “Better Man,” which eventually became one of their biggest successes — all because producer Brendan O’Brien predicted it would be a hit. “We had taken away the bright light a little bit … we were trying to control our situation to one we felt was sustainable,” the frontman explained. “I think we were trying to protect the music and our band and so steering away from that stuff and trying to manicure this level of fame —that was the one thing we were conscious of when we were working,”

Perhaps influenced by the reaction of his bandmates, Eddie relented in time for it to appear on their next album, “Vitalogy.” “I remember that day because Brendan said it and I saw everyone’s heads go down in the studio,” he said.

The 100 Takes of ‘Even Flow’

“Even Flow” was the second single released off the multi-platinum album “Ten” and, while the track went to No. 3 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rocks Chart, it did take a while to get it right in the studio — about 100 takes, according to the band. “I’ll take the blame for this one,” Stone, the song’s composer, offered. “I think the main problem is that I wrote a song that the two parts kind of want to run at different tempos, so the chorus is one tempo, and the verse is another.

“It was overthinking,” the rhythm guitarist continued. “You’re working on something that you’re in love with and then you think, ‘Well, it’s not quite there yet,’ and then you look back on it and go, ‘Any one of those first five takes would have been fine.’”

The session was so arduous that when then-drummer Dave Krusen’s girlfriend was in labor at the same time, the band wanted him to keep going. “We’re giving birth now to our first record,” Eddie joked before admitting as a newbie to recording he went perhaps a little too hard on his vocals. “I was just giving it everything I had every take,” he said. “No one told me, ‘You know, you can hold back a little bit … you’ll end up singing this again.’” 

Things have since changed. “We’ve learned our lesson,” Stone told Howard. “I don’t think we’ve played anything more than three takes on the new record — you get older and wiser.”

Talkin’ About Loving Van Halen

Unsurprisingly, Pearl Jam’s two main axe men are devoted Van Halen fans. “Stone and I will talk about Van Halen all the time,” Mike admitted before recounting how excited they were every time the band came through Seattle. “It was like the summer was here.”

Van Halen’s debut came out when McCready was 12 and getting serious about his instrument — he was blown away by guitarist Eddie Van Halen. “It’s music from another planet to me,” he noted before demonstrating the album’s virtuosic “Eruption” on his 1960 Fender Stratocaster. “It didn’t really make any sense to me, but I thought it was the greatest sounding thing I ever heard … It was this high-water mark.”

In addition to seeing the band live four times over the years, Mike briefly met Eddie during the recording of Pearl Jam’s 2013 album, “Lightning Bolt.” “I said, ‘Man, I was just listening to the first record — it’s so incredible,’” the guitarist told Howard. “‘He’s like, ‘Ah, I never really liked the sound of that record.’”

Did KISS Really Threaten Pearl Jam’s Drummer With Legal Action?

Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron loved KISS as a teenager, but from what he told Howard on Monday the feeling may not have been reciprocated. “I was in a neighborhood KISS cover band when I was 13 or 14. We played local some local high schools [and] keggers,” Matt said, explaining that in 1975 he and his bandmates even got the chance to meet their idols at a soundcheck before their show in San Diego. “I brought the two guys that were in the KISS band with me … and we brought our photo album from our stupid KISS cover band,” he said, explaining he and his bandmates were even in costume as KISS at the time. “My mom made my costume … We built these rickety plywood platforms in [a] garage,” Cameron continued. “It was janky, low-rent, horrible.”

Even so, everything went fine until they posed for a picture with the Starchild, Paul Stanley. “We were sort of like, ‘Hey man, We’re in a KISS cover band! Here’s our [photo] album!’ Cut to [several] months later, we get a cease-and-desist letter from [their] management [company],” Matt recalled. “I think [it was because] we just called our band KISS. We didn’t really think ahead there. So, after that we added [‘imitation’] in parenthesis.”

Stage Fright With the Rolling Stones

Since making it big, Eddie has shared the stage with everyone from the Doors, Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones to R.E.M., Neil Young, and even Beyoncé. Howard was especially eager to hear about his Rolling Stones collaborations.

“It was an interesting experience,” Vedder said of the time he joined the Stones in concert to perform their song “Waiting on a Friend.” “I’d been hanging out with [Stones guitarist] Ronnie [Wood] all night the night before,” he explained, though he admitted even that could hardly prepare him for the experience of joining Wood, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards on stage in Oakland in front of thousands of screaming fans.

“We had practiced [‘Waiting on a Friend’] real quick before they went out,” Eddie recalled, “[But] then the song started and there was no introduction or anything. I looked at the crew guys, and I was like, ‘Should I go out?’ And they all kind of turned their head like, ‘We want nothing to do with this.’”

But Eddie needed to get out there before Mick got to the second verse, so he wrapped himself in his leather jacket like it was a suit of armor and just took the stage without ever being invited. Thankfully, his presence and performance were both well received.

After the show, Vedder chatted with Keith while the icon was winding down with celebrity friends like Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp. “I said, ‘Hey, sorry, your man left me hanging a bit there,” Eddie recalled. “[Richards] said, ‘Don’t you worry about it, me boy — he’s been doing that to me for 35 years.’”

‘Scared of Fear’

When it came time to rock out the Pearl Jam headquarters, Eddie gave Howard the awesome responsibility of coming up with the band’s set list. “You’re the boss, Howard,” he laughed.

Howard is already a big “Dark Matter” fan, so he invited the band to play one of their new tracks.

Eddie opted for “Scared of Fear.” “It’s the first song off the record,” he told listeners, adding, “We haven’t played it that much, but we’ll play. Are you ready?”

Howard was indeed ready, and Pearl Jam’s high-voltage rendition did not disappoint. “Oh my God, that is just fucking great,” Howard gushed.

“Wow!” co-host Robin Quivers agreed.


The band’s second song of the morning was “Running,” a punk-adjacent ditty doubling as the second single off their new album. Pearl Jam blasted into the blistery, two-minute long track without warning, but Howard and Robin loved the energetic performance.

“Whoa, boys, this is un-fucking real!” Howard marveled. “Let’s do the whole album right now. Let’s play through the whole thing,” he laughed.


At Howard’s request, the guys then played “Daughter,” the second single off of “Vs.” As Eddie recalled, the song was originally titled “Brother,” but it reminded him of a lyric from “W.M.A.” off the same album. “As soon as I switched it to ‘Daughter’ it became a whole other story,” the singer told Howard. “It became about something I kind of saw on the street — a young girl trying to get her mom’s attention — and then it just went from there.”

Vedder then elaborated that the song was birthed in a rather interesting locale. “It started in a bathroom,” he admitted, explaining it happened when he and Gossard were sharing a Denver motel room while on tour. “We were sitting on the bathtub because it had the good acoustics.”

‘Yellow Ledbetter’

The band closed the morning out the way they often do in concert – with “Yellow Ledbetter.” A showcase for McCready’s soloing, the lead guitarist credited Stevie Ray Vaughan’s influence before explaining how he chooses which pedals to use. “It’s kind of visceral and I’m just feeling whatever’s going on in the moment,” he explained. “If I’m going to do a lead, I want to have a little bit more power … but sometimes I want a washier, weird sound and I’ll hit a flanger.”

And sometimes, his bandmates will select the pedals for him, as they demonstrated for Howard. “I’m seeing what he’s capable of,” Eddie joked.

Though the song was recorded during the “Ten” sessions, it was initially only released as a B-side to 1992’s “Jeremy.” This time, Eddie took responsibility — sort of. “It was my fault because I never finished the lyrics,” the frontman said. “I don’t think I was even given a chance to. In fact, in my memory, I was saying, ‘You know, we really need this song on the record,’ and they said, ‘No, we’ve already got the 11 and I think we’re done.’”

Pearl Jam’s new album “Dark Matter” is available now.

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