McCready onstage with Pearl Jam. Photo by Karen Loria
Just to touch on Pearl Jam for a bit, I’m sure you’ve heard that Ten has just become only the 22nd album ever to sell more than 10 million copies. What does that mean to you?
Wow! It’s almost unreal. I think back when we were doing that record and how it was such a long journey for me to get there. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 11 years old and that’s all I ever did. So when I finally got the chance to do a major label record and to play with some guys who were all really good, I knew something was good there. I didn’t know how good it was, but I knew everyone was firing on all cylinders and I just felt like, ‘Yeah, we can go kick some ass.’ Cut to a year later when that thing was selling a million records, I had no idea that that was ever going to come. I was just amazed to get a record deal and to quit the day job and not work as a prep cook anymore. So when I hear that we’ve sold 10 million records and it’s only the 22nd time that that’s ever happened, that’s all cake. The fact that it’s still selling and that people are buying it—I am just honored.
I know Pearl Jam is currently working on the new album. What you can say about it right now?
Well, we’re gearing up to finish the second part of the record that we started about two years ago. We all decided to pull back a little bit after we had done about seven songs, which I think are going to be on the next record. I’m not really sure. It all depends upon how this next session goes. I have a feeling that we’ll have something out this year. We are all very prolific in bringing in ideas and we’re all in conversation and are starting to rehearse in about a month. I feel like we’ll have something by this year. I don’t know that everyone in the band feels that way, but I’m going to do my damndest to move it along if I can have any kind of say in it. I would really like to get it out this year because we would really like to do some touring and things like that.
I’m curious to know, when you guys are recording and are all bringing in new material, do you personally write fully fleshed out songs in your off time, or do you bring in ideas and all kind of all collaborate together?
It’s all of those things. Specifically for myself, I will demo ideas in my studio and try to make them as good as possible and if Matt [Cameron] isn’t around I will use a local drummer friend of mine to help me get an idea down. So I’ll bring fully realized demos to the equation and then it all kind of changes from there because everybody kind of goes, ‘Well why don’t you take out this part or put this in here or move this over here or do half of that?’ Stone [Gossard] and Jeff [Ament] are great editors so once you have your demo you bring it in and people scrutinize it and they either like it or they don’t. If they do then I just go, ‘Dude, if you have any ideas, just go for it.’ I also want to be able to add to people’s songs in the way that I do and I think I’m kind of the coloring on top of a lot of ideas and melodies at times. I feel like if Ed [Vedder] brings in a song, I want to be able to do a solo that’s cool for it. He may not have any ideas for what that is yet until I do it right there on the spot. Sometimes Jeff will bring in a couple of riffs and we’ll just jam on that. Matt will bring in parts of stuff. That being said, everyone brings in fully realized demos, too. It’s like everything; we have a lot of stuff. We don’t have any outside songwriters. [Laughs.]
With the new Mad Season reissue and the recent Pearl Jam Twenty documentary directed by Cameron Crowe as well as the reissue of Ten a few years back, it seems like you’ve been spending a lot of time looking back on your career and I’m wondering if that is something you especially care to do?
For myself, I like to look at things in a historical sense just to have some sort of feeling from it. It’s twofold really, there’s part of me that likes it and there’s another part that goes, ‘Well, we have to continue, let’s keep moving forward.’ The most exciting thing is to create new things, but to revisit the Mad Season record has been sad and exciting and important to me to kind of put this thing out in a coherent sense for people to get a feeling about it. There’s an art in that itself. Out of that though came a bunch of new stuff that Barrett Martin and [Guns ‘N’ Roses bassist] Duff McKagan and myself did from that second unreleased Mad Season record. We pulled from those ideas and kind of tightened them up a little bit. We’re now currently looking for singers for that project, which probably won’t be called Mad Season—it will be called something else. We’ve just gotten some initial vocals from Jaz Coleman from Killing Joke, which sound really amazing. So we’re hoping we can find some singers out there that would like to sing over this. There is a new element to the Mad Season thing is what I guess I am trying to say.
How did you get involved with Duff McKagan?
I’ve known him forever. He went to Roosevelt, the same high school that I went to, and he’s a dear friend of mine. I always looked up to him as the cool punk rock kid that was around in Seattle, Washington. I was like a metal kid. He was definitely ahead of his time when he was around here in Seattle. He came down to my band Shadows’ practice place the night before he moved down to L.A. and we were like, ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ I think he had a Gibson SG slung to his back, and he was like, ‘I’m moving to L.A. to become a rock star.’ We were just like, ‘What?’ Then the next year or maybe six months later they had that [Guns ‘N’ Roses] Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide album out and I was like ‘He did it!’ So Duff and I have now formed a little musical partnership and friendship with Barrett and we’re doing a new project right now.
I saw that you also hit the stage with Soundgarden at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. What was that like?
Soundgarden was amazing. I’m a total Soundgarden fan so I hovered around
them a lot. I think I became either very annoying or they were happy to
see me, I don’t know. I brought them pizzas one time at their practice
right before that tour and Matt [Cameron] called me up and said, ‘Hey,
do you wanna come out and jam on the song ‘Tighter and Tighter”?’ Which
is a song Stone and I had been talking to Matt about and saying, ‘God,
you gotta do that song. It’s so killer.’ So Matt said, ‘Do you wanna
come out and play on it?’ I was like, ‘Yes!’ It was fun. I got to see
Matt Cameron play with Soundgarden and he is a monster with them. He
plays differently then he does with us so it was cool to see him from
another point of view and kind of go, ‘Oh my God! Jesus Christ that is
some of the best drumming I’ve seen in my life.’ It kind of felt like a
coming home I guess. Like, oh yeah, we're all still doing stuff. It kind
of reminded me of 20 years ago when we were just starting with Temple
of the Dog. I love seeing those guys, even just around town.
Mad Season came about in such a dynamic moment in time from
Seattle—1994 was almost like the crest of a wave in that scene. What is
the legacy of Mad Season?
I hope the legacy of Mad Season is one of Layne Staley and Baker’s
memory. Showing where they were at all those years ago musically and
lyrically from Layne’s perspective. To know that we existed for a brief
moment in time and there was a lot of triumph and a lot of tragedy as
there is in life. I just hope people can listen to those and get a
feeling from that.
Mike McCready's Gear
1959 Honeyburst Gibson Les Paul, 2008 Washed-Cherry Gibson 1960 VOS Les Paul, 2009 Sunburst Gibson 1960 VOS Les Paul, 1959 TV Yellow Gibson Les Paul Junior, 1957 Yellow Gibson Les Paul Special, 1959 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster, 1958 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster, 1956 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster (hardtail), 2012 black Fender David Gilmour NOS Stratocaster, 1953 refinished blonde Fender Telecaster, 2009 Gretsch 6129 Billy Zoom Tribute Silver Jet, 1958 orange Gretsch Tennessean 6119 Hollowbody with Bigsby, 2003 Pthalo-Blue Gibson Firebird with P-90s, 2012 transluscent-orange Mike Lull Custom Guitars FX with P-90s, 1997 Cherry Gibson EDS-1275 Double 12 6-string/12-string doubleneck)
Mike’s primary dirty tone (each can be switched on independently or together): 65Amps Empire 22-watt head through a 65Amps 2x12 open-back speaker cab with Celestion G12H30 & Alnico Blue speakers, Satellite Atom 36-watt head through a Marshall 260-watt closed-back 4x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s.
Mike’s primary clean tone (can be switched on independently or together with either of his two dirty amps): 1963 blonde Fender Bassman (AB165) through a Savage Audio open-back 2x12 cab
Amp switching done with a Radial JX44 Air Control in an off-stage rack.
Keeley-modded Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer distortion, MXR/CAE MC-404 wah, Electro-Harmonix POG2 harmonizer, Line 6 DL4 delay, Line 6 MM4 modulation, MXR Phase 90, MXR/CAE MC-401 boost, Diamond Opto-Compressor, Way Huge Green Rhino Distortion, Xotic Effects AC Boost, 196x Ludwig 9000 Phase 2 synth, Billy Zoom Little Kahuna Reverb/Vibrato
All pedals (except Ludwig and Billy Zoom) are powered on his pedalboard by an MXR/CAE MC-403 Power Distributor.