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Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer on joining Pearl Jam: "I’m sort of doing a new role"

Pearl Jam
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Don't feel too sorry for Josh Klinghoffer, though he departed from the Red Hot Chili Peppers after a decade to make way for John Frusciante's return he's now in the touring lineup of his other teenage heroes, Pearl Jam. Though guitar is only part of the equation now. 

"It’s enormously gratifying," Klinghoffer tells Consequence of Sound regarding his new role. "My bedroom wall when I was like 11, 12, 13 years old was all these people. I feel like I’ve known these guys for 30 years already, I don’t know if that will make it work better or not."

I try to make my being onstage matter

Klinghoffer is also playing on Eddie Vedder's forthcoming solo album but has already made live appearances with both the Pearl Jam singer and the full band at October's Ohana festival. But he's still feeling his way into the Pearl Jam sound. 

"I mean obviously the role that I’m filling in their band is kind of funny at the moment, just in terms of the music that they’ve recorded in the past and the songs that I know really well," Klinghoffer explains. "I’m sort of doing a new role, playing a lot of percussion or background vocals, predominantly with the new stuff. And then anything that’s an older song that has a harmony, extra little things that they sort of get by without, I have free range to add if it makes sense to.

"I generally don’t go up there for one little teeny part," the former Chili Pepper continues. "I try to make my being onstage matter instead of just popping in and out for one little word. But they’ve been incredibly welcoming and generous to me, and have just sort of let me find my place."

The idea of Pearl Jam with four guitarists is certainly an interesting prospect, but multi-instrumentalist Klinghoffer suggests that will be the exception rather than the rule as he hangs back onstage near Mike McCready's guitar amps

"I play guitar on a few songs, but it’s usually a tiny part," explains Kinghoffer. "There is a song called Seven O’Clock that I play guitar on, and Eddie is playing guitar, but he doesn’t really play ‘til the end. So there are four guitars up there, but it’s sort of like the minute he takes over on guitar, I put mine down."

I have a couple concert toms up there, but predominantly my role is helping with the background vocals

Instead Klinghoffer is playing additional percussion and mainly providing backing vocals when he's not playing guitar.

"I have a couple concert toms up there, but predominantly my role is helping with the background vocals, of which there’s more than in the past perhaps, particularly on the song that was their single, Dance Of The Clairvoyants, there was a bunch of BVs that Eddie added that the rest of the band wasn’t involved in when they recorded. 

"Background singing is kind of particular in that band where the guys who do it, they do it when they come up with a part, but it’s not really something that they focus on."

The Pearl Jam / Chili Peppers connection continues with Pluralone, his solo project that features Jack Irons on drums as his cloest collaborator, who has played in both bands just like Klinghoffer. 

"I was seeing him a lot that week," Klinghoffer says of the time he was asked to tour with Pearl Jam, "and he was saying, 'You couldn’t have fallen in with a greater group of people.” I particularly love the records that Jack made with Pearl Jam — those two were so important to me.'"

Read the full interview at Consequence of Sound

Rob Laing

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before that I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar.