“You can just see the decline”: The time that Creed bassist Brian Marshall went to war with Pearl Jam

Creed and Pearl Jam
(Image credit: Sam Levi/WireImage/Niels van Iperen/Getty Images)

You could well imagine that Creed did a lot of nodding during the recent Nickelback documentary. The Florida hard rock quartet were undeniably huge at one point – they have sold an astonishing 53 million records – but they were met with a little more resistance when it came to reviews, with many pointing out that they were pretty rubbish. Total bastards, music journalists, honestly – avoid!

It was understandable, then, that they got their backs up a bit and went on the defensive after two big-selling albums and many bad reviews. After all, Pearl Jam got good reviews and it appeared Creed had based their entire sound on Pearl Jam, albeit a version of Pearl Jam that would make the members of Pearl Jam rather down a pint of wet cement than commit to. It all came to a head in 2000, when Creed bassist Brian Marshall was giving an interview to Seattle radio station KNDD in Pearl Jam’s hometown and he saw an opportunity to make a declaration of war.

Marshall began by comparing frontmen. “Eddie Vedder wishes he could write songs like Scott Stapp,” he said, getting off to an electric start and throwing down the gauntlet in this thrilling battle of the baritones, before backtracking ever-so-slightly. “I love Pearl Jam but I just don’t understand the route they took, and I don’t think it all had to do with Eddie Vedder.”

With interview Andy Savage pressing him for more on the subject, Marshall continues, saying that he couldn’t understand why Pearl Jam had chosen to “write songs without hooks”. At that point, Pearl Jam were touring their sixth album Binaural and deep into their era of taking the long way round rather than trying to replicate the sound and success of Ten and Vs.. “Looking at their album sales and their fans,” reasoned Marshall, “you can just see the decline.”

But here is where a Pearl Jam diehard (me) might step in. With the obvious benefit of knowing that Pearl Jam went on to remain one of the world’s biggest bands, made some music to match their finest and just released one of the best records of their career, you could say Marshall was being a little short-sighted in his appreciation of how Pearl Jam were gearing up to be in it for the long haul. Certainly, the bassist might have a different outlook on it now, given his band have just reunited for the second time after a decade of inactivity. Pearl Jam knew what they were doing, Bri. This might be a time to quote Omar from The Wire and say “you come for the king, you best not miss”, but that might be a bit over the top: instead we’ll just say that in an interview shortly after Marshall’s comments, Scott Stapp says his bassist’s quotes were rooted in “arrogance and stupidity”. But still, Brian, you came for the kings. You missed.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.