However, according to a new interview with Rolling Stone, it hasn’t been easy for the Seattle rockers, and several factors have kept their much-delayed follow-up to 2013’s Lightning Bolt in flux, including the untimely passing of Chris Cornell.
“It’s just been slow going. It’d be fun to record or even just write a song together,” bassist Jeff Ament told the publication. “I think when Chris [Cornell] passed, that’s really been a tough one to wrap our heads around, and then there’s just life stuff.”
It’s clear the late Soundgarden frontman’s passing has had a major impact on the members of PJ. Ament, guitarist Stone Gossard, and drummer Matt Cameron were a major part of last week’s all-star tribute to the late singer-songwriter that took place at Los Angeles’ The Forum. Both frontman Eddie Vedder and guitarist Mike McCready were not present, though Vedder did perform a tribute to Cornell this past December, and McCready has been incredibly vocal about the loss.
In addition to performing at the tribute, Ament served as creative director for the recent Chris Cornell box set. For the project, he worked alongside his brother, Barry, screen-printing watercolor portraits of Cornell as part of the artwork.
“That was hard,” he recounted. “[Chris’ widow] Vicky [Cornell] had asked me to get involved with it, and over the course of the years, Chris would often reach out. I remember with the Audioslave record and a couple of his solo records, he would send me the artwork.”
“Even the last solo record, I mocked up some ideas,” he continued. “I think he appreciated my sensibilities when it came to that stuff. So it was pretty hard to go down that path, creating that stuff and listening to the music. It’s just another reminder that he’s not here, and that just sucks. It really sucks.”
However, even with all this focus on Cornell, Gossard is ready to hit the studio and look towards the future. “We’re going to make a record,” he insisted, “and we’re in the middle of it. We’re just going to keep plugging away until we get one done.”
Plugging away is one way to put it. As Ament revealed, the band has “gone in, probably, four or five times in the last couple of years,” which has resulted in “whole ton of unfinished stuff.” However, one song, last year’s “Can’t Deny Me”, managed to surface.
“We’re just sort of in a little bit of limbo,” Ament added. ” I’m sure everybody’s got a bunch more riffs, and I’m sure Ed’s got a handful of journal lyrics. It’s just going to take us all getting into a room together for six weeks and just knocking something out.”
Ament said he’s been writing plenty of material lately, which could either be used for Pearl Jam or one of his forthcoming solo releases. “When I do those, it’s mostly to clean off the shelves and finish stuff,” he explained of his own albums, “it’s stuff that has been on the Pearl Jam shelf for a few years and nobody is really responding to it.”
He added, “I think all of us have gotten into the habit of finishing stuff up and putting it out. This is a broken record, but I think I’ve said that I would record a lot more with Pearl Jam if that was what could happen. It just hasn’t happened for some reason.”
It’s certainly not for a lack of effort. Pearl Jam were unstoppable last year, from saving Seattle’s homeless to pissing off Trumpers to performing multiple residencies across North America. That’s not even counting their own respective solo endeavors.
So, clearly they need a gasp. Until then, fans will have to remain, ahem, faithful.