Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder Is Still Lamenting the Apollo Show — and Howard Stern Interview — That Never Was

Eddie Vedder discussed working on new music during COVID-19 quarantine, memories from Pearl Jam shows with Robert Plant and Neil Young and why he finally joined Instagram during a wide-ranging call-in Q&A with listeners on the band’s SiriusXM channel yesterday (Sept. 2).

Vedder said the members of Pearl Jam have not been in the same room since the pandemic and are “taking quarantine very seriously.” But he confirmed that, in tandem with longtime collaborator Glen Hansard and Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, he “contributed all the songs” to the new Sean Penn film “Flag Day,” which will be out next year.

“That was a great, powerful project to have laid at our feet during all of this,” he said. “All three of us had to do most of the recording by ourselves — I mean, literally by ourselves. Most of us either have kids or elders we look after, so it was no joke. But with Sean at the helm, and some great performances in the film, and a great story, that was a powerful thing to have the opportunity to work on.”

Based on the Jennifer Vogel’s book “Flim-Flam Man: The True Story Of My Father’s Counterfeit Life,” the film stars Penn alongside his children Dylan and Hopper. Vedder previously wrote an entire album of original music for the soundtrack to Penn’s 2007 film adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild,” winning the Best Original Song honor at the Golden Globes for the song “Guaranteed.”

Vedder had made his first Instagram posts earlier in the day, showing off his Washington State mail-in ballot and encouraging his followers to get out the vote. He admitted he still has concerns over how social media can impact young people, including his two adolescent daughters, but said he created his own account in hopes of “disseminating some positive information. I will try to keep it interesting and maybe artistic. [But] I realized there was something I agreed wholeheartedly with Donald Trump in regards to [this being] no doubt the most important election in our country’s history. Finally, we agreed on something. Let’s make sure we can vote by mail in places where we can.”

Other highlights from the 90-minute conversation:

On the activism he is seeing from young people leading up to the election:

“They’re getting involved in the voting process even before they’re 18. They’re using their voices even prior to being able to register — just being active citizens. We’re talking 16 year olds, and maybe even younger. The next generation is going to be way more informed. And I think on a lot of the big issues, whether it’s race issues or gender issues, they’re going to be so much more adept at navigating the future. I just don’t even think those are gonna be issues, because they’ve just grown up in a different time of acceptance and understanding.”

On having to postpone a planned invite-only March concert at New York’s legendary Apollo Theatre as part of the tour in support of the new Pearl Jam album, “Gigaton”:

“It was definitely a formidable show, just because of the history of the place, and our reverence for that history. The opportunity to play that stage, we did not take it lightly. For me, I think the band feels like we got tickets to that show. We were trying to schedule a Howard Stern interview, and I was excited about that as well. You know, play the Apollo, have a few drinks, sleep it off the next day, and then talk to Howard the next day. I was ready. He’s a great interviewer.”

On his 30-year relationship with Pearl Jam co-founders Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, who themselves have been playing together in other bands for even longer:

“I think at some point we functioned without a leader. If I ended up in that situation, I think it was reluctantly. It was by no means a hostile takeover. It was their world that started all this. It was Green River. And it was Mother Love Bone. To be friends with all the great humans in Green River to this day [and] to be carrying on still with this .. this is a great relationship of Stone and Jeff. I’ve never stopped admiring it and I’m just so glad to be part of it. I might be some kind of de-facto leader in that I do set lists, or they trust me to present an idea on how the record might be sequenced or something like that. But there’s so much that we work on that’s on complete equal footing, and that’s probably why we’re as proud of this record as any, because the music was made using a completely democratic process.”

On the “Gigaton” song “Buckle Up,” which features both words and music from Gossard:

“It’s a Stone Gossard song through and through. Everybody kind of came in and laid some pieces over it. I’m singing his vocal exactly like he sang it [on the demo]. I really just wanted to do what he did justice. Usually i’ll go to the raucous, make the windows shake-kind of song to get me through any kind of pain and frustration, but i feel like this was one of those ones [where] there’s a meditation to it, and a mantra. For these days, it seems so applicable.”

On the infamous June 1995 free concert at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, when Vedder, debilitated by food poisoning, had to leave the stage after seven songs and was replaced by Neil Young:

“One of the worst days of my life. It was so brutal. I stayed in [the night before] and had hotel room service. I lost like eight pounds that night and then went into the hospital in the morning to get an IV. They jammed another IV in me as Bad Religion was playing and I was in the trailer. Neil had white gym shoes on, and I’m laying on the floor. I can barely open my eyes, and I open my eyes, and there’s Neil’s white tennis shoes. And he just said, ‘Put me in, coach!’ I would have rather taken mushrooms than eaten that goddamned fish sandwich. That would have been a crazy thing — ‘Sorry, Neil. I can’t go on. I’m tripping balls right now.’”

On his tragicomic efforts to finally see a concert by one his favorite musicians, Nick Cave:

“He came through town, and the night he was playing, we had our first child. And then the next time he came through town, a couple years later, we were mixing ‘Into the Wild.’ I thought I was going to leave, see the show, and come back, [but] I realized the workload was too much. Here he is, right down the street [but] I can’t go see him. [We were] in the studio until 5 in the morning. The third time he comes into town, we are in the hospital having our second child.”

On having Robert Plant open for Pearl Jam at a 2005 Hurricane Katrina benefit in Chicago:

“We all knew him from a few past meetings, even going back to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Neil Young. But to really talk music and to play music together, old songs and new songs, and even at the end, you know, he played guitar. He actually used my guitar, which i was really happy about. Robert Plant playing my guitar — it was really one of those little things. What a great, great human. We played ‘Fool in the Rain,’ which I believe was a Zeppelin song that they never played live before.”

On President Obama:

“He has great penmanship.”

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