NEW YORK (Billboard) - As Pearl Jam’s blockbuster 1991 debut, “Ten,” gets a re-release on March 24 so deluxe that it would be fairer to call it a complete reimagining, the veteran Seattle band’s bassist and co-founder Jeff Ament sat down with Billboard to talk about what went into the four extras-laden editions of the 12-times platinum album.
He also took a trip down memory lane to the days when the quintet’s “Alive,” “Even Flow” and “Jeremy” dominated radio and singer Eddie Vedder swung Tarzan-like from the rafters of clubs and amphitheaters from Los Angeles to London.
“I don’t think any of us had thought much about what happened 18 years ago since,” Ament said.
“This is one of the first times I’ve really looked back on the band, because typically we’ve been so busy moving forward. It felt like a good time. It felt like there was enough separation between what had happened then. We all have a sense of humor about it, which 10 years ago I don’t think we would have had as much of.”
Each of the four versions of the “Ten” reissue includes a digitally remastered version of the original album as well as a completely new remix of the set by longtime producer Brendan O’Brien. The version that has sent hardcore fans into a tizzy is the two-CD, one DVD, four LP “Super Deluxe Edition.” The linen-covered, slip-cased clamshell box includes a replica of “Momma-Son,” the audition demo tape Vedder sent to Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard in 1990 to land the job in Pearl Jam, the previously unreleased September 20, 1992, concert at Seattle’s Magnuson Park on two vinyl LPs, a replica of Vedder’s composition notebook packed with notes and photos and assorted stickers and other memorabilia from the “Ten” era.
LET’S TALK ABOUT BRENDAN’S REMIX. HE HAD A CRACK AT A FEW
SONGS ON THE “GREATEST HITS” ALBUM THAT CAME OUT IN 2004. WHAT
IS IT ABOUT THE SOUND OF “TEN” THAT HAS BUGGED YOU?
It goes back to making our first record with Brendan, which was (the 1993 sophomore effort) “Vs.” When we heard how powerful that sounded in the way that he treated it, which was basically not treating it very much, other than making things punchier and doing some EQ and compression ... There’s really not a lot of reverb on things.
“Ten,” you can hear when you listen that there is so much going on. You can hear the tool of the time, the Lexicon Reverb, on almost everything. Somewhere in the late ‘90s, I found a rough mix tape of “Ten.” I played it on cassette and that’s when I started saying, “We have to remix ‘Ten’.” It would usually happen after we’d been in a club or something and we’d hear a song from it. It was like, “Ugh! This is killing me!”
At one point I told Brendan that I’d pay him to just do a version for me, just so if I had to listen to a song to re-learn it or whatever, I’d hear the proper version. He was always like, “It’s a classic and I don’t want to touch it.” He was very respectful. That’s the reason the original is still part of this package, because it’s the version that 10 million or however many people bought.
When you hear his version though, it’s just twice as powerful to me. It’s so much more distinctive. You can really hear the texture of Ed’s voice and of the instruments. It also reminded me what a great drummer Dave Krusen was. The other mixes, there’s so much room and reverb that you don’t hear the attack on the drums, but on this version you really hear him playing hard.
AND THIS BRINGS THE REPRESENTATION OF THOSE SONGS MORE IN
LINE WITH WHAT THEY SOUND LIKE LIVE.
Yeah. I think those songs changed so much the first couple months we were out touring. That’s what was hardest about listening to the record. Not only were the songs slower on “Ten,” they had a really soft sound to them. We felt like it didn’t represent us, so here it is, represented.
THERE WAS THAT TOTALLY DIFFERENT “JEREMY” THAT WAS PLAYED
LIVE IN 1995, BUT IT’S NOWHERE TO BE FOUND HERE.
I don’t know that we ever got it to a place where it would have been a really proper alternate version. I think we only played it five or six times.
WERE THERE THINGS YOU JUST COULDN’T DO FOR THE MOST DELUXE
The things that ended up in the journal, that’s probably a tenth of what we had laying out on the table. We put the stuff that we thought best told the story. It gives you an inside glimpse into what we were going through and doing with our pens in the downtime. There’s a page from something I did about how we wanted to do this very idealistic approach to merchandising. It’s kind of funny, but it’s pretty right on. It’s kind of what we’ve done, and it was funny to see that. I didn’t remember us even thinking that way back then, but we were. It’s interesting to think we were a very idealistic band at that time, and we actually pulled a lot of it off.
DO YOU STILL FIND YOURSELF EXPERIENCING THE MATERIAL IN
DIFFERENT WAYS AS TIME GOES ON?
I don’t think I’ve really sat down and listened to anything off of “Ten” unless we were deciding to play “Deep” one night for the first time in three years. The combination of listening to the remix and digging through those boxes brought a bunch of things to the surface that I think I’d buried. I think I felt from my side that I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be, so I was looking forward and trying to be a better bandmate and bass player. I always kind of cringed when people would talkke about it, but because it was so huge, it added this weirdness to it.
BUT BY THE SAME TOKEN, ALMOST ALL OF THOSE SONGS ARE STILL
IN LIVE ROTATION. THEY STILL HAVE A LIFE.
Yeah. Especially the fact that we’ve had three drummers since we made “Ten” -- each one has been able to play different songs better or differently, in ways that got us excited.