The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg got a chance to speak with director Cameron Crowe at the TCA PBS Summer Press Tour this past weekend about his new documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. The doc marks the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam’s tenure as juggernauts in the music industry. “PJ20” spans the band’s history from their inception in the Seattle grunge scene of the early 90’s to their position today as a monument to the musical idealism that is too often sacrificed for money or individual praise. Read on for the brief interview with Pearl Jam Twenty director Cameron Crowe.
TIM WASSBERG: As a community of musicians that both make up Pearl Jam and surround them as well, how has that social interaction affected how their sound and music has evolved over the years from your perspective?
CAMERON CROWE: The band has changed and they talk about that pretty openly in the film. The band started out as Stone Gossard’s group and really evolved into Eddie’s band. And one of the things that Jeff Ament, the bass player of the group, told me early on is “I hope this movie is like group therapy. I want to learn about us”. So we really tried with the interviews to discuss all that as well as the dynamic and how the songs have changed. I know Eddie [Vedder] in particular says “I don’t work so hard at trying to get every song to be three dimensional and mean so much…I just want to breathe right now with the music” which is all part of it. The song “Just Breathe” is a fantastic journey because, I think, it is about being true to your roots while still moving on.
TW: Could you also talk about achieving a visual style for the doc. After a short while following “Ten”, Pearl Jam stopped making music videos. Because of the lack of that visual representation, could you talk about capturing who they are now? For example, within the footage in “PJ20” of them performing “Release Me” in Verona, you really get to see who they are now which is not possible to a mass audience now that often.
CC: I love that “Release” performance that you mentioned. It’s so much about Eddie and his own relationship with his father…still. That’s one of the things we tried to capture in the film is that, with all these songs, Eddie still means them when he sings them. The band still feels it. And some of these songs are pretty aching content-wise. They [Pearl Jam] don’t just go through the motions. The live footage [thereby] is generally riveting in that way.
Pearl Jam Twenty will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is part of PBS’ “American Masters” series.