Pearl Jam Guitarist on Nirvana Relationship: 'There Was This Weird Wall Between Us, Us Versus Them'

"I just felt like I had to reach out," says Mike McCready.

Pearl Jam Guitarist on Nirvana Relationship: 'There Was This Weird Wall Between Us, Us Versus Them'
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Mike McCready of Pearl Jam recently remembered the early days of grunge, particularly the strange tension between his band and Seattle scene icons Nirvana. After explaining Esquire that he's working on a documentary about a Seattle DJ Marco Collins, the guitarist touched on late Kurt Cobainm. "There's some footage of Kurt, of him talking about 'In Utero,' and it made me think, 'Wow, he's so young,'" Mike said. "He was in his mid-20s, when they interviewed him, and it brought me back to that time when there was this supposed tension between all of us, this press-created thing. There probably was some of that, but toward the end of it, there wasn't." McCready continued, "I think he and Ed had talked. I remember we were at the MTV VMAs, and I just jumped over the seats, and I said [to Cobain], 'Hey, I heard you and Ed might be doing a record some day. I'd love to play a lead on it.' And he goes, 'Oh, we'll talk about it some other time.' I just felt like I had to reach out, because there was this weird wall between us, us versus them or them versus us, and it wasn't." Mike then stressed that all Seattle bands shared a strong bond, saying that they "all came from the same scene, in my mind. We came out of a very provincial city that was not very supportive of music, and we had to do our own thing, and flyer everywhere. There was never support from the city to do music there, not as there is now. We had to do that, Nirvana had to do that, the Soundgarden guys did that, but we'd all go to each other's shows, too. We'd go to the same parties.

"So we all kind of came up together. When it got huge and we all went on the road, we were happy for everyone else, and I wish Kurt was happy, too. In this documentary, it made me kind of sad, obviously, to see him as such a young man, and wish he could be around to see where they'd be now, you know what I mean?"
Pearl Jam released their new record "Lightning Bolt" on October 15 through Monkeywrench Records. With 166,000 units shipped in the US within the first week, it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, earning the band their fifth chart topper.

44 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Nirvana_Arthy
    It's quite sad... So many brilliant folks meeting tragic ends early. One could wonder how the music scene would have looked like if they were alive. RiP to them all.. Back to the article, it's somewhat satisfying to read that this so called "hatred" between the bands was nothing but blown-up.
    BjarnedeGraaf
    I never thought Kurt was brilliant though. The fact that he died catapulted him to that status. but he was just a regular guitarist en an OK singer in my opinion
    HitmanJenkins
    That's why Kurt is so good in my opinion, he and a lot of other Alt Rock musicians were the antithesis of Hair Metal bands and gave a voice for a lot of young people. I do agree that a lot of kids nowadays do blow him way out of proportion as far as his skills are concerned, to me he was always a songwriter.
    UncleBluck
    Dude I was no Nirvana fan either but give they guy his due....he was a giant before he died.....and part of the grunge thing was to do away with the amazing guitar acts/music of the 80's and they did it.....unfortunately.....
    aureliusgtr
    no need for the unfortunately...it fit the attitude of the music perfecty...and many grunge bands still did have melodic lead riffs and a bit of technicality to it...the point was to not overdue it like the flashy glam metal bands were doing
    HitmanJenkins
    Personally I think Grunge brought music back down to earth, Glam's death was long overdue by the time bands like Nirvana became big.
    Nirvana_Arthy
    Well I meant generally speaking, there are lots of other folks than kurt that died too early. I understand where you are coming from about Kurt. Now I am a really fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, they mean really much too me, so it's obvious I don't really share you're view on Cobain's capacity. Yeah I do agree that his death did put him on a bisarrely high pedestal.. He's no amazingly superduper artist a la *insert godlike title here*. That is just bisarre and ridiculous, we and even Kurt would agree on that. But from all the material n stuff I've gone through, there have been many times I've felt "Woaw, if Kurt would've focused on harnessing his musical skills (guitar playing and singing technique) he would truely be something extraordinary" because he had really had something, like a uncut diamond or something. But he wasn't really bothered with that lol I feel that the brilliance of Kurt Cobain was that he used the little that he had and truely made the most of it and that resulted in some really amazing tunes. Just my two cents though.
    SFosterS
    I disagree. Focused on his guitar playing to what end? To be able to run through arpeggios and tap out crazy scales? That was everything he stood against. There wasn't all that much focus on playing leads in Nirvana, there were some, but certainly not like PJ. For McCready to ask that, to me, would have put Kurt off. Like he was going to reply, "Awesome, lets cover Freebird or Eruption." Kurt's claim to fame was his songwriting and just his personality that came through in his concepts, writing and riffs IMHO.
    scorpio2billion
    An "OK" singer? Try singing "Drain You". Not as easy as you think it is. He had a wonderful, expressive voice.
    Ibeanez
    Just went and listened to "Drain You". I think calling him an okay singer is being generous.
    ToXyN
    I'm sorry but i must disagree to this point. I'm 36 and grew through my teens / early 20's during the 90's, Kurt and nirvana were already "on a pedestal" or held the status of "brilliant", whatever you'd like to refer to well before he died. His death did not catapult him nor nirvana anywhere.
    sklaiss24
    Exactly. If anything it may have stopped him from being bigger. When Nirvana was around there was no one more famous than Kurt Cobain. If you know much about Nirvana's history you'd know that one of the reasons he did or didn't kill himself was because he couldn't stand being a figurehead of a movement and he didn't like all the attention he was getting. Kurt Cobain was HUGE!
    Onehitsrock
    People that rip Nirvana/Cobain as overrated on this site are either stuck on cheesy 80's metal, or were not alive when Nirvana exploded. Fact is they were they most influential band of the 90's by far. You can't argue that. Saying Cobain sucks is like saying Hendrix, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Phil Lynot, Eddie Van Halen, Billy Joel, etc. suck...It's just obtuse and ignorant.
    Ibeanez
    Your reasoning is obtuse and ignorant. There are literally thousands upon thousands of people who were young when Nirvana exploded who couldn't care less about hair metal or Nirvana. You act like people who are primarily into jazz, classical, country, etc., somehow just don't exist. The truth is that one overblown fad died and another began.
    third(-)eye
    Hmmm, you're forgetting the actual reason he's renowned: his songwriting skills. In my mind, you can be both a shitty guitarist AND a shitty singer, but if you write amazing songs, that's all you need sometimes.
    l0ld4v3
    Nirvana was enormous by the time Nevermind dropped. LOL
    Ibeanez
    Nirvana was almost non-existant in the public's eye before before Nevermind dropped. You were kidding, I hope.
    Patriot1zzy
    " it's somewhat satisfying to read that this so called "hatred" between the bands was nothing but blown-up." What, you never thought the media likes to create drama out of nothing? The media likes to sensationalize everything, and if you were unaware of that, then I feel bad for you.
    Nero Galon
    I remember hearing an interview with Kurt where he said he wasn't much of a fan of PJ but that he spoke to Eddie over the phone and he said he was a very nice guy. I also seen a short video clip of Kurt and Eddie dancing together. Also look at Courtney and Dave jumping and hugging together haha!
    DaFjory
    "Us Versus Them"... Ahh, perfect time to dust off my Vs. disc.
    Vicryl 2.0
    after reading your post. Went and played my VS disc too.. Now playing W.M.A. .. great record!
    manualex
    One,two,three,four,five against one, five five against one!
    ToXyN
    I bought that cassette on release day and it was named "5 against 1". I held on to that forever but it was eventually stolen lol.
    Brandon1993
    It would have been interesting hearing Eddie and Kurt collabing on something. To bad it never happened. It's crazy thinking that he's been gone for almost 20 years too. I can't even imagine how much music history would have change if he hadn't died when he did. Hell if he, Krist, and Dave all worked things out (because there was tension in the band towards the end) they'd probably have about the same amount of albums and music out as Pearl Jam. If not more! And maybe Kurt would be out and about collabing with a ton of people like Dave is doing now. Krist would still be really active in music. And all the Foo Fighters stuff would have more than likely been worked into Nirvana's music. I mean, can you imagine how it would have sounded if Kurt and Dave sang on stuff like The Pretender or Long Road To Ruin (first songs that came to mind, sorry)? We lost someone really special and there'll never be another person like him.
    beachdude42
    Those saying that Kurt wasn't a brilliant guitarist or singer are missing the point entirely... his entire mantra was to bring it all back to the songwriting, and that's what he did. He wrote some of the most influential songs of the alt-rock movement, and those who say otherwise are kidding themselves.
    TheTrainToMars
    I never really thought either band had great skill at their instruments but both were definitely amazing songwriters. So it could have been a good collab but two good talents don't necessarily combine to make a better one. I personally like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden better alone than Temple of the Dog. But who knows...Pearlvana could have been interesting as a one time thing.
    MikeBTE
    It's a shame that both Nirvana and Pearl Jam ended in the early 90's. Who knew where they could be at today.
    N7Crazy
    So... How's that rock you have you been living under since 1994?
    MikeBTE
    So after Ten and Vs, Pearl Jam died... Everything else is garbage. The top 10 Pearl Jam songs pool had only songs off these 2 albums for a reason.