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Downtown Edition (weekly Milwaukee, WI paper) 8/22/92

by Jeff Castelaz

Q: When we last talked in September (1991, when PJ opened for Smashing Pumpkins & Red Hot Chili Peppers) you were, compared to now, naively optimistic about the road ahead of you. How has a year changed that?

EV: Well, now I'm just an egotistical asshole who really doesn't care anything about the world. I just really care about myself and...(pauses). See? I just can't even make that shit up 'cause I'm just not that way. I never will be!

Q: Is the band's success smothering you?

EV: We're still on the eve of it. I mean I'm still like, if there's anything happening it doesn't seem really real to me. So nothing's changed.

Q: Pearl Jam have sold over a million records at last count. Do all the numbers and glossy interview/photo spreads distract you?

EV: (The music is) art. That's what I'm married to. I'm not married to the thought of any kind of stardom or mass popularity...that almost is something that makes me uneasy. It's not as much losing control over your art, 'cause even if you have control like we do, it's all a matter of how people interpret it. Now all of a sudden they interpret it as something that's supposed to be popular. So I worry about that. I'm more apprehensive about any of the success than happy about it. So you get excited for about 5 minutes and then you get back to your own thing, and go on to the next deal. If you get so excited and that was the end of your tunnel, that's pretty ridiculous. You should never think, "Ah, I made it." Ultimately, you should be able to create for your whole life.

Q: Pearl Jam ave been bashed by a lot of pseudo-rock purists, most notably fellow Seattleite Kurt Cobain. What do you have to say about that?

EV: So can you be famous and alternative at the same time? That's the question. If they say that after they've seen the show, then I might be a little bummed out. The fact is our music comes from a totally honest place. I think Kurt is concerned, as I am, that the image of Seattle --whatever the fuck that is-- will be more rock than punk. I personally don't want to be involved in the rock side if that's what he thinks. (pauses) We got along really well when we played with them, but I never really saw him at all.

Q: What about everyday people who throw negative comments at the band -- that you're the lame leg, the shiny sell-outs of Seattle? You know, the rockologist types who are just sick of seeing your videos on MTV...

EV: So everybody hates us is what you're saying? The MTV thing is nothing we can control. We made a live video because somebody told us they wouldn't play it. So great, do it live. We were concerned that that would happen, but it's something that you can't control. If you give a video to MTV, you can't tell them, "Don't play it this many times." They just do it. I'd really like to be in a position like Fugazi and not do one at all. But the fact is that we did and we don't have control over radio & MTV. So what do you do? At that point you say, "Well, fuck it."

If people are gonna pay some attention I just better make sure that what I'm saying has text and means something -- and is true to myself & true to music. I'm not a fucking poser, and I'll fight for that. That's something I take seriously. i'm not up there playing to get women. I'm not up there playing to get money. I'm not interested in that. So what am I doing? I'm playing for music.

Q: What's the best thing about being famous?

EV: I have some friends that call me up and say they heard a song on the radio, and the one good thing I think about is like, "cool." Because I think of them at certain times when I travel around and I see something that reminds me of them. If the song's on the radio and they hear my voice and it makes them think of me, then it's cool, we're thinking about each other. That's a total personal thing. It's nothing about, "Yeah, they're playing me on the radio. I'm gonna be a big star."

If anything, that sucks. Maybe I should have this conversation with some of those people you're talking about that don't like us. Maybe I don't give a fuck 'cause they probably don't give a fuck. You know, that's probably my problem -- I do give a fuck, and when someone says that it does distress me.

Pearl Jam play Lollapalooza 2 this Saturday, August 29, at Alpine Valley.