Pearl Jam co-founder and bassist Jeff Ament chatted with Hanuman Welch on the latest episode of Apple Music’s ALT CTRL Tuesday (July 7) about how the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the grunge rockers from hitting the road but presented no roadblocks for his solo career path.
Ament released his surprise solo EP American Death Squad on June 26, a five-song quarantine compilation that came three months after Pearl Jam’s 11th studio album Gigaton. The Seattle-based rock band prepared to promote Gigaton during its spring tour, and according to Ament, that preparation took a lot of work that he didn’t want to waste once the gig was officially up.
“Well, I mean, as I’ve gotten older, you have to do a bit of training leading up and do like a tour season, and so there’s a lot of energy going into rehearsals and working out and just getting mentally ready to leave your household, and so I felt like when we pulled the plug on it, I felt like I had all this energy,” he told Welch over FaceTime. “And that first week, just all the anxiety of watching the news and stuff, my wife and I were just saying, ‘We got to pivot this into something positive. We only have so much life left, so let’s just figure out a way to do some things that we’ve always wanted to do.'”
On top of hiking with his wife Pandora Andre-Beatty, the 57-year-old musician trekked to the studio and set out to write lyrics and lay down melodies every day. And the inspiration, as much as he spent time getting away from it, came from what he saw on the TV — the destruction of human life in the wake of coronavirus and what he described in a press release earlier as “the ineptitude of our leadership or as named here, the American Death Squad.”
“I just started waking up early in the morning and going in the studio, and then it turned into, ‘Okay, I’m going to try to write a song every day. I’m going to try to finish it. I’m going to lay drums down. I’m going to get the instrumentation, figure out the arrangement, write lyrics, and do a rough mix,'” he recalled of his quaran(rou)tine. “After about a week, it sort of felt like I got into this really great groove with it, and then it lasted like two months. I just kept writing, kept writing, kept writing. These were some of the first songs that came out of that bunch, and they were probably some most anxious of the songs, so.”
Listen to Ament’s Apple Music interview below.