If Pearl Jam (opens in new tab)'s third album Vitalogy marked a turning point for the band's creative process and punk rock instincts, its 1996 follow-up No Code was the full plunge. Initially jarring for some, it's nevertheless an album that's aged very well for the band's loyal fans and demonstrates the Seattle legends' belief in carving their own path. But No Code's no-compromise approach, down to its ambitious album packaging came at a literal cost, as bassist Jeff Ament revealed to Kyle Meredith in the interview above.
"Going all the way back to the second record [1993's Vs.], we were sort of pushing the boundaries," Ament reflected. "I think on Vs. we were like, 'We don't want a jewel case, we don't want plastic.'
"[The label] were like, 'Well, we don't really do that.' And then they came up with these two options, and those second, third, and fourth records, those packages ate heavily into our profits. For No Code, I don't know if we made any money on that record."
Musically, the process of making No Code proved a challenge too as Pearl Jam embraced a more instinctive approach to songwriting from scratch in the studio.
"There are a couple songs on that record that Ed [Vedder, vocals] came with, but for the most part, that record was kind of written in the studio," explained Ament. "For me, when I think of that record, I just think about what a force [drummer] Jack Irons was in that record, and how seriously he took his drum parts.
"And it's super obvious on In My Tree, Who You Are, and Present Tense. Certainly, at that point, it let us know that we could even go more different directions sonically and songwriting-wise, and I think we lean on that pretty hard, still. I think every record we sort of hope that there's going to be a few songs that stretch to some other place in the musical landscape.
"It was a hard record to make because we were horrible communicators at that point. And at the same time, it was kind of the awesome part of making music because we just sat in a room and started playing, and we didn't tell each other what to play, we were just doing it. But on the other end of it, there was a lot going on that we weren't talking about, so we're lucky we got through it."
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Pearl Jam haven't yet even had the chance to tour behind their latest album Gigaton due to the pandemic. But Ament also revealed to Meredith that Pearl Jam recently reassembled in a rehearsal room – but they weren't playing anything from their huge back catalogue.
"We actually had a little bit of a play three, or four weeks ago in Seattle. We got in a room but we weren't playing any songs. We just jammed and it was so beautiful, I just missed that so much.
"We talked a little bit about how everyone was feeling and I think we have a few things pencilled in for next year," Ament explained regarding possible touring plans. Hopefully this [Covid] variant or whatever is going on vaccinations, hopefully we've turned a corner. It still feels like we're teetering on the edge of this thing. If we turn a corner hopefully we hit late winter, early spring with a tour or leg at least. We're jonesing to do it.
"Most of the shows we have to make up for, the two legs; the European leg and the US leg, most of those shows are indoors so I just don't know if I want to do 30 shows where you're checking vaccination cards. Hopefully we can be smart enough where we can turn the corner and hopefully by March we're rocking and everyone can feel good about travelling, and getting 20 thousand people into a space."
Jeff Ament's new solo album I Should Be Outside is released on 10 August via Monkeywrench. For more Kyle Meredith artist interviews visit his YouTube channel.