Pearl Jam Drummer Reportedly Battling Manic Depression

Jack Irons recently dropped out of the band's upcoming tour for unspecified health reasons.

Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons, who has opted out of touring with the band

this summer for unspecified health reasons, spoke in depth about his

ongoing battle with depression in a recent magazine article and described

how the condition has affected his role as one of the foremost drummers in

rock.

In an article in the current issue of Modern Drummer, the one-time

Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer catalogs his daily struggle with the

psychiatric disorder bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, describing how he had to

leave both the Chili Peppers and the band Eleven due to the disease. Among

other things, he said that his involvement in music helped to trigger his

bouts with the illness.

Irons, 35, who said that he's been taking medication and living with the

disorder for 10 years, described experiencing "intense periods of anxiety"

that forced him to change the way he lived and worked. "I would try to

avoid any situation that might trigger this condition," Irons said, "the

music business seemed to be one of those situations."

Manic depression is a major mental illness thought to be caused by

a disturbance in brain chemistry, according to Dr. Mark Leary, deputy chief

of psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital. The disease results in

serious disturbances in mood that can either cause the sufferer to fly into

a manic state or a depressive one, Leary said, adding that it is a

life-long illness that commonly surfaces in the late teens or early 20s.

The disease is often linked to creativity, although science has not been

able to explain the connection, he added.

Leary also said that the rigors of a major tour, which typically involve

the interruption of sleep patterns, could be difficult on someone suffering

from manic depression. "It could be very stressful to be up late every

night and have the normal sleep cycle altered," he explained.

Irons, who will be replaced by former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron for

PJ's highly anticipated tour, performed with the group on a recent

Australian tour but dropped out soon after, citing an unspecified illness.

The group's publicist, Annie Ohayon, said Tuesday that she had not been in

contact with Irons and would only say of his absence, "it's his private

life and you have to respect that."

The drummer said in the interview with the magazine that he

gradually figured out strategies to help get him through his episodes and

that he stopped taking his medications last May after exploring such

alternative therapies as acupuncture and holistic medicine. Additionally,

Irons explained that while the band was touring with Neil Young in 1996,

the drummer

blew out his elbow and developed a condition in his right wrist akin to

tendinitis that created problems with playing live.

"So I started compensating by using my arm differently," Irons said of the

injury, which he partially attributed to his having to alter his usual

approach to playing the drums to fit in with Pearl Jam's sound. "I can't

even tell you exactly what I did, but I guess it's just like limping. You

don't intentionally do it, you just do because that's how your body

compensates. Nothing was too threatening in a permanent sense, but it just

was a nagging problem that happened over time."

The call from Pearl Jam in 1994 for Irons to replace then-drummer Dave

Abbruzzese couldn't have come at a better time, he added. "I was just

starting to put my life back together at that point," Irons said, "and I

wasn't ready for anything big. I certainly couldn't have gone on and lived

with what Pearl Jam had to endure early on. When I joined they wanted to

still be out there, but they wanted to get off that super-fast pace, which

really suited me then -- and now."

Although Irons said in the article that his first tour with Pearl Jam -- an

Australian and Far East tour in support of their previous album, No

Code -- was like a rush of adrenaline at first, his problems

persisted. "We did fine musically and I think I played well," Irons said,

"but the internal problems I'd experienced before, this inner life, still

existed. It didn't go away; it doesn't go away with success. And when we

came back from the tour, I was at my old point again, just mentally

collapsed and exhausted."

Irons credits the members of Pearl Jam with having the patience to give

him time to deal with his disorder and time off to spend with his children

and family.

As for his decision to go off his medication last May, Irons said the

switch occurred thanks to his spiritual teacher. "A friend of mine in

Seattle was a devotee of this guru," Irons said, "and he asked me one day

if I'd like to see him. And this teacher made such a difference. My

relationship with him has been life-transforming and his teachings have

made it possible to live life without medication. For me, it's a miracle."

Ironically, at the end of the article, Irons expresses excitement about

Pearl Jam's summer tour. "We're doing over 40 shows," Irons said. "I

definitely have great, new feelings about music and being a part of that

musical family."