How Pearl Jam + Red Hot Chili Peppers Were Connected From the Beginning
Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers undoubtedly share history. But how closely do the bands' tales converge?
For rock fans unfamiliar with the details, it might be surprising to learn that the two groups have been uncommonly reliant on each other over the years — even though Pearl Jam hail from rainy Seattle, at one time seen as the world's grunge capital, and the Chili Peppers come from sunny Los Angeles. RHCP also formed almost a whole decade earlier than Pearl Jam.
So how are they connected?
Let’s go back to Pearl Jam's 1990 inception. Early Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons played a pivotal role in bringing then-SoCal dweller Eddie Vedder to the attention of Seattle rockers Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. The musicians' demos paired with Vedder's vocals formed the basis of Pearl Jam and their debut album, Ten. After Irons left Chili Peppers, he became Pearl Jam's drummer for a period in the late '90s.
Now, 30 years after the Seattle group was established, onetime Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is a touring member of Pearl Jam. And he recently discussed the link between the two big rock bands.
"The Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam have a long, intertwined history," Klinghoffer explains to Guitar World. "The Chili Peppers took Pearl Jam out on one of their first tours back in 1991. Jack Irons — the original drummer of the Chili Peppers — connected Eddie with Stone and Jeff in Seattle. And then Jack Irons went on to become the drummer in Pearl Jam for a little bit."
He adds, "Basically, the Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam have just been close."
In a 2011 interview, Irons summarized Pearl Jam's foundation: "My recollection is of meeting Stone and Jeff at a hotel in Los Angeles," he said. "They were starting a new band and asked if I was interested in playing with them. I wasn't ready to move to Seattle and start a new life there and also had some touring obligations with other bands. They gave me the demo of their music that had [current Pearl Jam drummer and Soundgarden member] Matt Cameron on [it] and asked me to check it out and maybe pass it on to any singers I might know. So I gave it to Eddie. I left on a three-month tour with Redd Kross and about a month later I heard that Eddie went up to Seattle to play with them."
As for Pearl Jam and RCHP's later associations, Klinghoffer continues, "At some point, [Pearl Jam and I] connected. It was [in] 2016 that I really saw them more — we did the same festival in New Orleans. We became a little closer over time, did some gigs with [Pearl Jam guitarist] Mike McCready for various charities, and Eddie came down and played the benefit fundraiser for [RHCP bassist] Flea's music school."
Red Hot Chili Peppers and Klinghoffer officially split with each other in 2019. This fall, Klinghoffer performed with Pearl Jam at the Vedder-curated Ohana Festival 2021, which also included solo sets from the Pearl Jam singer. Vedder will soon release new solo album Earthling, prefaced by the single "Long Way."
Klinghoffer currently records solo as Pluralone. And the former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist, who contributed to the RHCP albums I'm With You (2011) and The Getaway (2016), still keeps in touch with the Chili Peppers' members. He frequently performs with Peppers drummer Chad Smith in various capacities.
"I hadn't seen [RHCP singer] Anthony [Kiedis] until the other day," Klinghoffer says. "I ran into him at Chad Smith's birthday. But we text. I play fantasy basketball with Flea — he and I are in contact often. And then I've had the good fortune of just continuing to work with Chad a lot in the last two years doing some records."
The Chili Peppers are currently working on a new album with returning guitarist John Frusciante and will tour in 2022. Pearl Jam's latest, Gigaton, came out last year.
Want to learn more about early grunge and alternative? Watch the latest installment of Loudwire's ‘30 Years of Grunge,’ "How Grunge Changed Rock 'n' Roll," below.