Rotating Drumstool Policy
September 12, 2008 6:03 PM   Subscribe

Matt Cameron gained a lot of respect early on in the Seattle grunge scene, particularly for his ability to make odd time signatures feel like straight time. Over the years he kept time for Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Temple of the Dog, and his own Wellwater Conspiracy. Since 1998 he's played with the last men standing of the Seattle heavyweights, though it's a little known fact that he recorded drums on the original pre-Vedder demo. In the 8 years between, Pearl Jam had a few other drummers of note sit in.

Dave Krusen was only around long enough to record the debut Ten before opting out for rehab, but it'll be enough to keep him in the history books for quite some time.

Touring drummer Matt Chamerlain left to take a spot in the SNL house band, and went on to record with a who's-who list of musicians including Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp and Kanye West. His work with avant-jazz crew Critters Buggin as well as his experimental 2005 solo record led to a reputation as an innovator in live drumming & electronic looping.

Dave Abbruzzese, arguably the best technical drummer in PJ's history, left after 2 albums supposedly due to the pressure of playing in such a high profile act. The most memorable example of this is the story of Dave cracking under pressure from producer Rick Rubin while recording Rearviewmirror for Vs., stabbing his snare drum and throwing it off a cliff near the studio.

and Jack Irons, legendary Chili Peppers drummer, was around in the early days as well, even introducing Ed Vedder to Stone & Jeff. His oddball home percussion recordings definitely influenced Yield and No Code, but it was clear from the beginning that another trip through the celebrity gauntlet wasn't at the top of his list, so the timing of his sickness on the Yield tour and Soundgarden calling it quits paved the way for the return of ... Matt Cameron!
posted by mannequito (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
is he dead now or what?
posted by shockingbluamp at 6:08 PM on September 12, 2008

not as far as I know. I started out wanting to show what some of the ex-drummers had been up to, but the more I got back into it (haven't been into PJ for the past few years) the more I remembered how much respect he deserves as a musician, so I wound up basing this around him. hope that'ss alright.
posted by mannequito at 6:12 PM on September 12, 2008

I've seen Pearl Jam more than a few times, including once at a Houston show from the stage. Noting like being in front of 15,000 people all singing in harmony. That was also the very first show that I saw Matt play drums for PJ. I left that night with a profound and deep respect for the guy.

Matt is a hard working drummer. Very, very hard working. His technique is a combination of technical accuracy and brute goddamn force. He's also capable of playing the last song as though it was the first: complex, strong, loud, and filled with energy. Fresh with each new beat, the guy simply does not tire. And his rhythm is perfect.

That being said, Dave Abbruzzese was always my favorite, even after I saw Matt play. I think Dave got a raw deal, and I'm glad he and the band are on speaking terms again. He had heart where the others had math. Matt is the exception to that, though, and I really enjoy his work.

If you ever get the chance to see Pearl Jam and you're at all interested in rock music, they always put on a great show. A solid rhythm section, brilliant guitars, and Ed's a nice cat with a much smaller ego these days, a lyricist with a strong voice and clear-eyed conviction. Plus the crowds are there because they really, really want to be there, so the energy is always very good.
posted by blixco at 7:32 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your favorite band... is okay after all these years.

When I saw "odd time signatures feel like straight time", I thought it would link to here but ok.

Cameron rules, and he's also a helluva nice guy. I used to live in a crappy apartment building at 5th and Blanchard in the mid 90s, where I did contract IT work for Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, etc.. In the retail space on the ground floor of my building, there was a halfway decent espresso bar. During a stretch, Kim, Chris, Matt and that Lyle Lovett looking guy that replaced Hiro on bass used to drop by when they were mixing Down on the Upside at Bad Animals, just a few blocks away. Despite my relative awe of those guys, I summoned the courage to say hello, and managed to strike up some pretty good conversations, and I remain in somewhat casual email contact with Kim and Chris to this day.

I didn't always dig what Soundgarden were trying to do (though "Nothing to Say" is nothing short of a modern rock masterpiece), but as big as they got, it always impressed me how unaffected they stayed, and how genuinely nice they were.

Pearl Jam still sucks though. I just never got it.
posted by psmealey at 7:37 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Heh, Soundgarden. And Chris Cornell still has his shirt off.
Some friends and I went to the Soundgarden/Voivod show at St. Andrew's in Detroit in late 1989 and we were about the only ones there. One of the friends that I went there with was a drummer so he ended up spending the Voivod set chatting with Matt Cameron. Apparently Mr. Cameron was/is a super-duper stand up guy but with terrible breath. So now you know.
posted by NoMich at 8:10 PM on September 12, 2008

"that Lyle Lovett looking guy that replaced Hiro on bass..."

That would be Ben "Watch Out, He'll Cut You" Shepard.
posted by camcgee at 8:31 PM on September 12, 2008

Matt Cameron is one of my favorite drummers. I saw him play with Pearl Jam several years ago (on the Yield tour, I think) but didn't realize he was playing with them and I was too far away from the stage to make out faces. As soon as they started playing, though, I thought to myself, "wow, their drummer has really improved ... wait a second, that's Matt Cameron." I recognized him just by the silhouette of him hitting the drums.
posted by camcgee at 8:35 PM on September 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cameron is amazing, I'm still trying to get Pretty Noose down pat. Those end fills are tricksy, I watched tape of him playing it and still could not figure it out. Nice post.
posted by Mach5 at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2008

I thought the prevailing story was that Dave Abbruzzese left Pearl Jam because he couldn't get along with Eddie Vedder. Where Abbruzzese was doing normal rock stuff, like interviews for music magazines and a signature line of drum sticks, Vedder was still reaching his messianic apogee and forgetting he was in, you know, a band. That made music. People wanted to enjoy.

But beyond that, Jack Irons was the worst thing that happened to the band. Ugh. That's where I checked out.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:53 PM on September 12, 2008

Cameron makes Pearl Jam's loose, rough songs sound like robots doing calculus. Friends and I refer to him simply as "Drums", cause that alone is what he brings to the table: soulless, lifeless, time keeping. Abbruzzese and Irons were the way to go, for me.

I used to love Soundgarden; after Cameron got into PJ, I dug those albums out again, and to my (older) ears, they sounded as lifeless as the new Pearl Jam.

It's a pity because a few of these new Pearl Jam songs are really well-intentioned; it's just that they're bludgeoned to death by this walking metronome who has no idea what "in the pocket" means.
posted by littlerobothead at 10:20 PM on September 12, 2008

I met these guys in 1992 while on Lollapalooza. Instead of taking the obligatory "here I am with the rock star" photos, I decided to give each of them a prop, in this case a Leatherman tool, and ask them to pose with it. Here is Dave Abbruzzese, and here is Matt Cameron. As far as photos go, I like this one of Eddie the best.

I made a wallet out of gaffer's tape and gave it to Cameron. He seemed to like it, and evidently showed it to Cornell. I can't prove it, but I've written a boastful essay that suggests I invented the duct tape wallet.

Kim once told me, quite seriously, that he thought Cameron was a better drummer than John Bonham...
posted by Tube at 12:10 AM on September 13, 2008

So the point of this post is to say... Matt is the drummer that's lasted the longest in Pearl Jam's history? Hmmmm. Strange topic for a post, but then who am I to judge. right? And besides, I'll take any chance to speak about my favorite band.

Having been a fan of Pearl Jam since the days of Vitalogy, I watched with some humor and wonder at the revolving door of Pearl Jam drummers. When this new kid, Matt Cameron, came onto the scene in 1998 I liked his work but wondered how long he would last. And now we're here in 2008, steadily approaching 2009 and he shows no signs of leaving the band.

Which is no bad thing at all. Anyone who gets a chance to watch the Pearl Jam DVD, Touring Band 2000 should check out the Matt-cam feature in the special features section to watch how mad Matt's drumming skills are. Simply awesome. And he gets the respect for it too, from both the crowd and Eddie himself. As many would know, it's a bit of a joke in the industry that the drummer is the one member of the band who gets no attention and misses out on the groupies but Eddie almost seems to go out of his way to give Matt his dues. He tells the crowd during all their live shows exacty who their drummer is (something that often does not happen at live shows for other bands). Which I think is great and is telling of the love and respect he has earned in the band.

One final thing I have to say about Matt. Something that neither Pearl Jam's albums nor the Matt-cam on the DVD could prepare me for; hearing him live. Pearl Jam toured Australia here almost two years ago and my partner and I went along to listen to them play. They launched into playing Even Flow, one of their earlier songs and one which anyone who is a fan of live Pearl Jam knows has become one of the songs in their catalouge in which the individual members often break free and have a bit of a chance to shine. And after lead guitarist Mike McCready had his turn with an amazing guitar solo, I think most everyone expected the song to start winding down. No chance... Matt suddenly launched into a drum solo that was, in my opinion, one of the best guitar solos I have ever heard. And judging by the audience reaction, it was one of the best drum solos that they had ever heard too. They let out a massive cheer, and it was well deserved.

Pearl Jam is a great band, made even better with Matt on board. I think he's destined to become recognised as one of rocks greatest drummers. Can't wait for the next album and the next tour. I'll be there front row center!
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:57 AM on September 13, 2008

Effigy2000: "Anyone who gets a chance to watch the Pearl Jam DVD, Touring Band 2000 should check out the Matt-cam feature in the special features section to watch how mad Matt's drumming skills are. Simply awesome. "

Oh, here it is, on good ol' reliable YouTube. Enjoy!
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:02 AM on September 13, 2008

I'm still amazed listening to the original Gossman project recordings that the songs were so nearly done before Vedder added words to them, yet so completely lacking without his particular vocals. Some songs you just can't hear any other way.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:40 AM on September 13, 2008

Wow, I had of those demos but I hadn't actually heard them, great link Civil_Disobedient.
posted by micayetoca at 9:11 AM on September 13, 2008

@Effigy2000 - the point initially was to show what the ex-drummers had been doing, I kind of inverted it, oops

@Blixco - Abbruzzese was my favorite as well in regards to the PJ sound, he filled it out the best, but I think Cameron, Irons and Chamberlain are all more interesting/original drummers in their own right

@psmealey- I forgot about that song/video. I couldn't think of any videos of theirs showing his time sig ability ... and now it occurs that DayITriedToLive or My Wave would work...
posted by mannequito at 3:12 PM on September 13, 2008

Search YouTube for a live version of 'Jesus Christ Pose' to see what a brutal machine Cameron is. (If iPhone had copy/paste I'd post the link here, sorry)
posted by afx114 at 1:15 PM on September 14, 2008

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