Pearl Jam’s Musician and Activist Eddie Vedder : ‘Black’ + Interview



Eddie Vedder Talks Music, Activism

Pearl Jam exploded onto the Seattle music scene in 1991 and has been fending off celebrity ever since. The group’s debut album, “Ten,” reached No. 2 on the pop charts and has sold some 12 million copies, but the band shunned endorsements and shied away from almost all self-promotion, even refusing to make videos for a time. Close to two decades later, it’s clear they didn’t need the hype. In a 2005 USA Today readers’ poll, Pearl Jam was voted the greatest American rock band of all time. They’ve managed to take up causes from health care to antitrust, even testifying before Congress in a Justice Department probe into Ticketmaster. Currently at work on their ninth studio album, Pearl Jam is re-releasing “Ten” in four new and expanded editions that include six bonus tracks. Lead singer Eddie Vedder, 44, spoke about the reissue, balancing music with activism, and life as a father of two. Excerpts:

How has Pearl Jam changed in the years since “Ten” was first released?
Eddie Vedder: I think in so many ways we’ve grown up, but I think in music you’re also able to hang on to a part of youth that in a normal job you’d have to surrender. In a way, it was a blessing that we didn’t have families at the time, because we could give everything to the music. But I never thought we’d have to actually look back and answer questions about 20 years ago.

How much of this has become about activism for you, and how much is still about music?
I think it’s always been a balance. I think music is the greatest art form that exists, and I think people listen to music for different reasons, and it serves different purposes. Some of it is background music, and some of it is things that might affect a person’s day, if not their life, or change an attitude. The best songs are the ones that make you feel something. But it’s really a balance, because part of it is just, well, you’re a rock-and-roll band. But what happens is you learn that a rock-and-roll band can be a whole lot of things.

Has the way you pursue activism changed?
Back [in our early days] it was very knee-jerk: You’d want to kick out a stained-glass window to get your point across. Now you try to deliver better business plans to corporate entities so they can still make a profit, but do it without destroying land or culture.

Has having a family changed your views about celebrity?
I don’t really have too many views on it, to be honest. [Laughs] Seattle’s very close-knit, and I don’t feel any different, even though I have a different job than some of the other parents at school. How else do I answer that?

Well, what’s it like to be a rock star?
You know, rock stardom … I have a hard time discussing that because I don’t really accept it. It’s not really that tangible. What’s really bizarre is how it’s used as a thing—you know, “He’s the rock star of politics,” “He’s the rock star of quarterbacks”—like it’s the greatest thing in the world. And it’s not bad, but it’s just different. I don’t understand it. Cause I’m going, “Well—am I that?” I want to be the plumber of rock stars.

How do you keep your music relevant?
I think by pushing the boundaries, by not doing something you’ve already done, and pushing each other as bandmates to create in a new way.

Do you miss that Seattle heyday of the early ’90s at all?
I think what we miss is the bands all showing up at each other’s shows, and five people being up onstage, and then the next night the same people that were up onstage being in the audience and vice versa. Everyone was very supportive of each other. And, you know, there were some great f–king living-room parties as well. And it still happens, it’s just a little less.

Does that community you talk about still exist?
You know, it’s amazing how few bands are able to keep it together. But I’d like to think there’s still a number of us who, for lack of a better word, are slaves to rock and roll. It’s in us and we need it. And I think it’s trickier now because a lot of us have to be a little bit more grown up. We’re parents and we’re figuring out how to do both. Because as much as I would dedicate my life solely to music, I wouldn’t sacrifice the kids’ upbringing to do it.

You recently had a second daughter.
Yep, she’s 4 months old. She was born on Bruce Springsteen’s birthday. So my one kid’s 4, my other kid’s 4 months, I’m 44 —it’s all lining up nicely here.

Do you still wear a lot of flannel?
I’m not wearing one today, but I sure was wearing one yesterday.


Top Posts for 30 days ending 2014-02-28 (Feb 2014)

Michael Hutchence - The charismatic frontman of INXS

Michael Hutchence – The charismatic frontman of INXS

2014-01-29 to Today

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A Rock Star Remembered: Michael Hutchence

The Australian rock star Michael Hutchence

The Australian rock star Michael Hutchence

I’m struck by how good a rock singer Michael Hutchence was. He could either belt it out or croon effortlessly where other singers would strain, and the timbre of his voice was perfectly suited to the songs. He was also one of the best rock performers. Here are some videos.

Gone but not forgotten

Michael Kelland John Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997) was an Australian musician and actor. He was a founding member and the lead singer and lyricist of rock band INXS from 1977 until his death in 1997.

Hutchence was a member of short-lived pop rock group Max Q and recorded solo material which was released posthumously. He acted in feature films, including Dogs in Space (1986), Frankenstein Unbound (1990) and Limp (1997). According to rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, “Hutchence was the archetypal rock showman. He exuded an overtly sexual, macho cool with his flowing locks, and lithe and exuberant stage movements”. Hutchence won the ‘Best International Artist’ at the 1991 BRIT Awards with INXS winning the related group award.

His private life was often reported in the Australian and international press, with a string of love affairs with prominent actresses, models and singers. Hutchence’s relationship with UK television presenter Paula Yates began while she was divorcing musician and Live Aid organiser, Bob Geldof. Hutchence and Yates had a daughter in 1996.

On the morning of 22 November 1997, Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room in Sydney. His death was reported by the New South Wales Coroner to be the result of suicide. In 2000, Yates died of a heroin overdose. The couple’s daughter was placed in Geldof’s custody with her half-sisters.

Of all the possible causes of Hutchence’s final depression, the one that the coroner highlighted was his relationship with Paula Yates and the pressures of the dispute with Geldof. The coroner concluded that the depression was also caused by a cocktail of drugs found in Hutchence’s blood: alcohol, cocaine, Prozac and what Hand described only as “other prescription drugs”. What were these? And how harmful were they when combined with a drug like Prozac? The coroner’s report raised more questions than it answered.

Hutchence’s affairs in death are as tangled as they were in life. In the last few weeks, it has emerged that his estate, worth about pounds 8 million, has been hidden in a complex web of discretionary trusts and holding companies stretching through Hong Kong, Australia, the British Virgin Islands and Europe. His will gave half his estate to Tiger Lily with the other half divided equally between Paula Yates, his father, brother, sister and his mother, even though he remained estranged from her. But, when he died, Hutchence was technically bankrupt.

The web of companies controlling Hutchence’s assets was reputedly designed to minimise the tax liabilities on his income. Many of the companies have as a director Colin Diamond, Hutchence’s New Zealand-based financial adviser and a co-executor of his will. But the impact of the financial arrangements that Hutchence left in Diamond’s hands means that the beneficiaries may face a long battle in securing assets that they believe are rightfully theirs. Hutchence owned houses in Smith Terrace, London SW3, and Antibes in the south of France. These and other properties in Australia are not listed as part of his estate. The London house, for example, is owned by a company in the British Virgin Islands.

After his cremation, Hutchence’s ashes were divided between his family and Paula and Tiger Lily. Sacrilege to some, but an unavoidable outcome, it seemed, of his stormy, unreconciled life.

A few weeks later, the surviving members of INXS, together with Michele Bennett and a handful of Hutchence’s old friends, joined his father and brother on a yacht in Sydney Harbour. It was 21 January 1998, the day Michael would have turned 38. They swapped stories about him; then, as a Maori singer sang “Amazing Grace”, Kell and Rhett Hutchence moved to the bow of the boat. They held each other as they tipped their son and brother’s ashes overboard. As the boat moved slowly away, the evening sky turned bright red and the waters of Sydney Harbour went perfectly still.

The following article was published in 1998 in THE EXPRESS, UK. We don’t copy articles of Tabloids, but I think this one expresses what many of Michael’s fans were feeling.

Pathetic Paula makes mockery of love and loss

She broke our hearts as the woman mourning a soul mate. No she insults those who truly grieve, says Amanda Platell

Out of step: Paula Yates claimed INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence was the only man for her. Yet 10 months after his death she is romancing heroin addict Kingsley O’Keke while her daughter Tiger Lily is being cared for by friends in Australia.

When pictures of Paula Yates first appeared late last year at the funeral of her lover Michael Hutchence, I was able for the first time to see beyond the cleavage, in fact to see only the pain etched on her face. The dark glasses could not hide the anguish. She clutched their child Tiger Lily, who she describes as “a little, tiny Michael”, as if that small baby was all that stood between her and the abyss.

For the first time, my heart went out to her, simply because she was a young woman and mother who had lost the one great love of her life. We were all able to forget the publicity-seeking, self-centred rock chick who seemed incapable of existing out of the spotlight. We gave her the benefit of the doubt.

And it is for that very reason that the images this week of a pale and almost girlish Paula walking arm in arm with her new partner were so shocking. Not at all shocking that she was with a man 10 years her junior, nor shocking that he bore an uncanny resemblance to her dead lover, but that she was with another man at all.

Paula said after Michael’s death that she would never have another love, never have another partner. “I waited a long, long time to be with Michael and now I’ll wait a long time to be with him again.” And part of us believed her, or at least wanted to believe her. Her grief was almost tangible

As for thousands of people throughout the country, Paula’s very public grieving after the death of Michael Hutchence touched a nerve. For anyone who has lost someone they love, the sight of a funeral procession is an eternally painful one. We empathise, we suffer again our own loss.

The grieving Paula reminded me of another Michael, also Australian, who died too young and of the young woman left heartbroken. And the sight of Tiger Lily brought back images, still too vivid to be recalled without tears, of tow small children holding their mother’s hand, one on each side, as they walked down the aisle of the church towards their Daddy’s coffin. The same church would mark the end of their married life as it had marked its beginning.

I had been a bridesmaid at that wedding, for Michael was my brother.

Last February, four months after Michael Hutchence’s death, Paula said the only thing that gave her the will to live was their child. Without Tiger Lily, she would have killed herself. Several months later, she tried to do just that.

Last year, I was talking to the other woman who lost her Michael and she, too, said her life was empty without him. There was nothing for Hellene but her children. No one could, or would, ever replace him.

“Everyone tells you it gets easier with time,” she said a year after his death, “but I can tell you it just gets worse. Every five minutes is worse than the last. It will never get better for me. All I have is our children. Without them, I would kill myself.” And she meant it.

She returned to work, because she had to. The children miss their father desperately, but are safe in the knowledge that their mother is there for them, all the time. They make a tragic sight at family gatherings, the only ones without a dad.

But one thing is clear to all who love and watch over them. When Hellene gathers them in her arms after they have won a poetry prize or come last in a running race and tells them Dad would be proud, there could be no simpler truth.

We all hope that she will find another partner, that the children will know the love of a stepfather, but in our hearts we doubt it. And somehow the love of this woman seems to suffice.

Last week, I thought of both women again. My mother phoned to say Hellene had finally marked her husband’s grave with its tombstone. It is two-and-a-half years since Michael died. It has taken so long to complete this last act because, as she says, if finally and unbearably marks the end. It reads: “From heartbroken Hellene and your two children. Your love is scattered over our lives.”

Just 10 months after her Michael’s death, Paula was pictured with her new lover Kingsley O’Keke, a 28-year-old heroin addict and convicted thief she met in a rehabilitation clinic. Tiger Lily is being “cared for” by friends in Australia while Paula recovers from her most recent bout of alcohol and drug abuse.

Another cry for help, friends said sympathetically. But who is there to answer Tiger Lily’s cries?

Observers at the clinic, which they both left before completing rehabilitation, said they were caught having sex “like rabbits” in the grounds, and in their rooms.

At a time when her daughter desperately needs her mother’s love (and let’s not forget Paula’s other three children now being cared for by their father Bob Geldof), Paula is wandering the streets parading her surgically-enhanced breasts, snogging her boyfriend and looking for a place for them to set up home.

In the course of a week, all sympathy for Paula Yates has disappeared. She makes a mockery of love and of loss. Her actions devalue the notion of true love. Perhaps her love for Michael was self-delusion after all. Or is the love for her new man a self-indulgence? Only one thing can be certain about Paula’s life. It is all about self.

It has been indescribably hard for Hellene (and for the thousands of other women who lose the man they love), but the only rabbits in her children’s lives are the ones in story books and on the bedroom walls. Her children are paramount. I wish we could say the same of Paula.

The only real rehabilitation, Paula, is the hard option of facing the facts of life and death and remembering that, whatever your own pain and your own need for happiness, there is still a little girl who is depending on you, her mother.

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Rock Star vs Actor

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix

Looking like the ghost of Jerry Garcia, Joaquin Phoenix announced, via backwards knuckle scrawl, that he’ll be leaving acting to pursue a music career. Hopefully that idea will last as long as the ink on his hands, or he might wind up in MySpace band obscurity like Russell Crowe! Although, Joaquin certainly is talented, has a handsome voice, and we could watch him swagger all day. However, we’re worried the “Walk The Line” Oscar nom went to his head. It’s easy to feel like a successful musician when you’re pretending you’re Johnny Cash, but will the Phoenix be able to rise as a rock star? It remains to be seen. But is he really picking a better life for himself? Let’s help him see the light with a face off: rock star vs. actor!


The Rolling Stone magazine cover photo – Commentary #2

We have received many e-mails criticizing us for our support to the Rolling Stone magazine and to independent journalism. So let’s get to the point bold-and-clear:

I understand pain and not wanting to see. But with all due respect, it’s the role of independent journalism to seek truth and insight, not to comfort or protect from unpleasantness.

I also fail to see how this reflects RS’ “haste to make a few extra dollars on lost lives.” Surely, marketing on the part of news organizations is a reality of our times, but I cannot agree that RS is driven by this in this instance. There has been an onslaught of outrage about their decision to use this photo, much of it accompanied by decisions or threats to cancel subscriptions or boycott, and several retailers have even pulled the magazine from their shelves (censorship lives on!). This actually represents a financial LOSS for them. They had to know this would be a possibility before they published the article and the photo, but they made the decision to do it anyway, and therefore risk some financial loss.

As for tastelessness, that is in the eye of the beholder, as the cliché goes. I do not feel that the photo was tasteless, but rather that it was the absolutely appropriate picture, among those available to them, to complement the article. As I wrote before, The Rolling Stone journalistic story is a different story — a story examining how and why an otherwise normal and likeable young man could do such horrible things – if he, indeed, is found guilty – and if there were any clues or warning signs that perhaps might help us prevent similar tragedies in the future.

As Ian Crouch (New Yorker magazine) has aptly pointed out, the fact is, he DOES kind of look like a rock star. That fact alone gives food for thought. In any event, it is not the role of independent, serious journalism (or their attendant photos) to try to anticipate what readers think is tasteless. If that were the case, no good reporting would ever get done. I am dismayed by what appears to be an alarming lack of ability on the part of the American public to understand the function of journalism in a democratic society.

Having said this, I tell all of you who sent us those nasty e-mails and threatened with not visiting our music website anymore that we wish instead of all your vitroil against the RS cover story and picture, you should have invested your time protesting the decision to acquit George Zimmerman, a white man, over the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a young black male unarmed, and a recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down key sections of a law that protects black voters (civil rights live on!). Perhaps the murder of a young black American unarmed and the acquittal of his assassin who took the law and the gun in his own hands instead of notifying the police, doesn’t deserve your attention and uproar. And what really bothers you about the RS cover picture is not that the 19-year-old Tsarnaev is handsome, talented and looks like a rock-star, but that he is not a “real” American but an ethnic Chechen who came to the U.S. as a child and was later granted the American citizenship.

~ AA

The Rock Star and the Mullahs – The Film [PBS Wide-Angle]

Salman Ahmad & Wife with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Picture taken at a celebrity Boston Charity fundraiser.

PBS Wide-Angle
The Rock Star and the Mullahs

About the Film


Salman Ahmad

Salman Ahmad is the charismatic lead guitarist for the popular Pakistani rock group, Junoon. Inspired by the ancient Sufi tradition, the band’s music and lyrics reflect the moderate, liberal side of Islam.

He has also become a Special Representative for UNAIDS, and he and the group have publicly advocated the cause of peace with India. But a coalition of fundamentalist Islamic parties has made recent gains in Pakistani elections, and Junoon’s high profile places them in conflict with the hardliners.

WIDE ANGLE follows Salman Ahmed as he journeys to the tolerant, ancient city of Lahore and the fundamentalist stronghold of Peshawar to reveal the internal religious and political conflicts of nuclear-armed Pakistan. The mullahs want to ban the music but Junoon’s fans, among them Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, have made Salman a rock idol.

The Rock Star and the Mullahs documentary is no longer available through PBS Wide-Angle. Given that this post is among the most read, we were able to get the six videos of the documentary through Junoon, Salman Ahmed’s band.

Watch The Rock Star and the Mullahs Full Episode in six videos:

1. The Rock Star and the Mullahs Part 1 – A Journey Through Pakistan With Salman Ahmad


2. The Rock Star and the Mullahs Part 2 – A Journey Through Pakistan With Salman Ahmad


3. The Rock Star and the Mullahs Part 3 – A Journey Through Pakistan With Salman Ahmad


4. The Rock Star and the Mullahs Part 4 – A Journey Through Pakistan With Salman Ahmad


5. The Rock Star and the Mullahs Part 5 – A Journey Through Pakistan With Salman Ahmad


6. The Rock Star and the Mullahs Part 6 – A Journey Through Pakistan With Salman Ahmad