Stone Gossard on ‘Rock Is Dead’: ‘Who Knows and Who Cares?’

Pearl Jam Guitarist Stone Gossard dismissed the controversial “rock is dead” debate and looked back at the grunge movement’s damaging effect on metal.

In a recent interview with Vinyl author musiche was asked what he thought of the conversation that has been circulating for years since Kiss member Gene Simmons claimed the rock genre was over. “I mean, who knows and who cares?” Gossard laughed. “Honestly, Pearl Jam is playing shows and we’re having fun, so whatever it is we’re doing, we’re having a good time and our fans seem to be having a good time too. … I love the open-endedness of rock music , because there’s no defining quality to rock music. It’s about multiple people playing music together, with whatever instruments they choose to play.”

Gossard noted that he loved the process of making music and artists working collaboratively, adding, “To me, the frame of ‘rock music’ can hold a lot of different images, and there are a lot of images that haven’t been done up yet in terms of how a band can sound together. With that we don’t know what the instrumentation might be and why it would be heavy…it could still be rock but it could be different instruments still evoking the same heaviness , which rock evokes, which is something that is primal.”

In the early 90s, Pearl Jam was one of those bands labeled as grunge, achieving success at the expense of acts that had made their mark in previous decades. “I think there’s always renewal in the world, and with that renewal comes new perspectives,” Gossard said.

“I think hard rock was really stagnating at the time, in a way that allowed what I would call ‘less musically talented’ musicians to say, ‘Hey, there’s another way to play rock songs . There’s another way to have songs that are heavy. And there’s another way to create chaos and energy from those songs that would be outside the normal color palette of a heavy metal song.’

He said he was a fan of Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden and Engine head among others, adding that “I didn’t really know how to play like that, so I just did what sounded right to me. … There was a very free attitude to art and music that was emerging in the wake of hard rock and a lot of people were experimenting with sounds and bands formed from there. There was something about it that was fresh that really caught people’s ears and had a huge effect on the whole thing as well.”

Gossard noted that “a lot of the heavy metal bands you’re talking about are still around, so obviously they didn’t all die. Of course, a lot of them had to regroup, and yes, some died, but that’s part of the life cycle, right? There are still a lot of fans out there who love hard rock, and I’m one of them. I love hard rock, and I always have, but renewal and rebirth is part of the art, I think .”

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