Chad Smith first crossed paths with Stone Gossard in 1991. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were enjoying their first flush of real fame following the release of their breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and needed a band for the first slot of a three-act bill that also included The Smashing Pumpkins, who had just their debut album, Gish.
"Former Pepper drummer Jack Irons gave Flea a tape of his friend Eddie Vedder's new band, Pearl Jam," Smith recalls. "So, as a favor to Jack, we put the tape on in the car at rehearsal and listened for about 30 seconds and thought, 'This sounds OK. Let's take 'em.'"
Thirty seconds that, according to Gossard, "changed our lives. The Chili Peppers changed our lives." The two bands – one based in Los Angeles, the other firmly entrenched in the about-to-explode Seattle scene – grew friendly on the tour, often playing basketball on the courts of colleges they played. "They were all nice guys, and we hung out quite a bit," Smith says. "I remember thinking Stone was a cool guy who liked to hang with our crew guys, so much so that our old guitarist, John Frusciante, came out to watch their set one night and said to me, 'What's the Pearl Jam roadie playing guitar for?'" He laughs and says, "That was rad Stone he was talking about!"
In the following video edition of In Conversation with Chad Smith, taped last October at the Greenwich Hotel in New York City, Smith and Gossard relive those life-changing days and a whole lot more: The hour-long interview is jam-packed, with the two old friends discussing their attempted "jazz odyssey" band Cease And Desist (and another group that would specialize in Van Halen covers), working with producers Rick Rubin and Brendan O' Brien, Gossard's band Brad and solo project Moonlander, heavy metal (Gossard's embrace of punk was predated by his love of British heavy metal) and environmental issues (including Pearl Jam's efforts to curb their touring carbon footprints), among other topics.
Following the taping, Smith reflected on his friendship with Gossard and his admiration of the Pearl Jam guitarist's musicianship: "I always liked the way Stone was such a strong rhythm player with his bug chunky chords and how he was happy to let Mike [McCready] do the lead work. He's a true team player and the glue in the band. I related to that.
"We had a lot of late nights and lots of laughter on tour. Later on, we would play golf together on the Lollapalooza tour that following summer. By that time, Pearl Jam had become hugely popular, and I was happy to see my buddy was still grounded. If that happened to me on a first record, I might have flipped out. We've remained friends and have played music together through the years. And here we are today, one a more grizzled veteran of rock – me – than the other."
MusicRadar would like to thank Laura Glass, Nicole Vandenberg and Virginia Piper.