Pearl Jam Find Stability On The Road

Guitarist Stone Gossard said burdens of fame are lifting as the Seattle quintet focuses on its music.

Life in Pearl Jam hasn't been this sweet in a long time.

That's the road report from a relaxed-sounding Stone Gossard, one of the Seattle band's

guitarists, reached during a break in the group's summer-long U.S. tour.

"It's just really been a lot of fun this time," Gossard said of the tour, which kicked off June

20 in Missoula, Mont.

While his band takes a three-week breather from their U.S. tour, Gossard said that the

group is getting along better than ever and playing some of the best shows in recent

memory. "Everything just feels better in terms of the old stress," Gossard, 32, said, not

wanting to elaborate on the specific stresses the group has worked out. "We've managed

to figure out different ways to have a good time on the road, and the band is getting

along great."

Prior to the release of the band's latest album, Yield, several of the group's

members -- who include singer Eddie Vedder, guitarist Mike McCready, bassist Jeff

Ament and drummer Jack Irons, in addition to Gossard -- had acknowledged that the

burdens of fame had come crashing in over the past few years, including recurring

problems with stalkers and a lack of privacy.

Adding to the improved atmosphere is the band's tour drummer Matt Cameron,

according to Gossard. The guitarist had high praise for Cameron, formerly of

Soundgarden, who stepped in several months ago to replace PJ drummer Jack Irons,

who was unable to tour due to unspecified health reasons.

"Matt's been playing great; it's been a real treat having him out with us," Gossard said.

In the May 1998 issue of Modern Drummer, Irons -- who toured with the band on

dates in Hawaii and Australia earlier this year before dropping out of the live lineup --

discussed in length his ongoing battle with the psychiatric disease manic depression.

Gossard said that the group has not yet thought about whether Cameron will officially

join the band or whether they will continue recording with Irons. "It's a long ways off,"

Gossard said, "and I don't feel like talking about it yet. We'll just do this tour, and who

knows?"

Regardless of who ends up permanently occupying the Pearl Jam drum seat, which has

been vacated twice before, fans such as Caryn Rose agree with Gossard that the group

has never appeared happier. Rose, co-webmaster of the "Five Horizons" PJ fan site, said

she's caught 10 of the band's shows on the current tour and the positive vibe has been

practically giddy. "God, yes, they seem happy," Rose said.

As an example of what she saw as a turnaround in the band's attitude, Rose noted that,

unlike on previous tours, where fans sitting on Gossard's side of the stage would stare at

his back all night, at the shows she's attended this year, the guitarist has been at the

edge of the stage, talking to and facing the crowd.

"In some of my summaries of shows I've written stuff like 'God, this band is happy!' " Rose

said. "You just watch the interplay between them and how they're smiling at each other

and joking around and talking a lot, which they used to do more, but now they're doing it

more than ever. It's so obvious that they're loving what they're doing."

Asked to hazard a guess as to what's changed, however, Rose said she had no idea. "I

just think they're happy to be on the road, trying to be a rock band and not trying to save

the world as much as they used to."

One thing that hasn't changed is PJ's reluctance to do music videos, something they've

avoided completely since prior to the release of their second album, 1993's Vs..

Gossard would not elaborate on word that the band has been meeting with Todd

McFarlane, creator of the "Spawn" comic book, about creating an animated clip for the

punked-up Yield song "Do the Evolution."

"Well, you just never know about that kind of stuff," Gossard laughed. "Nothing has

changed as far as how we feel about making videos. They can be cool mediums for

showing things visually, but you just never know."

Pearl Jam released their first-ever home video on Aug. 4, a 45-minute

behind-the-scenes look at the private band, entitled "Single Video Theory."

While Gossard said the members of the group are constantly demoing new material

while on the road, the focus this summer is on playing live. "We just want to play good

shows," Gossard said.

Pearl Jam will pick up their touring schedule on Aug. 17 with a show at Deer Creek

Music Center in Indianapolis. Punk icon Iggy Pop is the opening act.