Welcome Back: RNDM – Pearl Jam bassist finds his "weirder Bowie" side

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Few musicians occupy such a central role in the development of rock music in Seattle as Jeff Ament.

A founding member of Green River, Mother Love Bone and Pearl Jam, the 53 year-old bassist has been at the heart of the Pacific Northwest music community for over 30 years. Ahead of a spring arena tour with Pearl Jam, this month Ament releases Ghost Riding, the second album from his side-band RNDM, which features singer/songwriter Joseph Arthur and former Fastbacks drummer Richard Stuverud. Taking cues from 80s electro-pop, indie-rock and funk, it’s unlike anything Ament has recorded previously, which, he says, is entirely the point. “From the beginning we felt this band should be what everything we’d done before wasn’t,” says Ament. “RNDM is all about embracing the taboo.”

RNDM released their first album, Acts, in 2012, but interviews from the time suggested a second album was already on tape. Why is it coming out now?

Actually, this is a whole different album. After touring Acts we had about eight new songs plus four songs leftover from the previous sessions, but when we started talking about doing a new record we decided we wanted to start fresh. We identified certain ‘spirit’ records that we wanted to draw upon – albums by Talk Talk and David Sylvian and some of the weirder Bowie stuff – and went from there.

How quickly did the new songs come together?

It took a while! We made the first record in a few days, but this time we deliberately came together with only a few riffs sketched out. On the first day, rather than me strapping on a bass and Joe lifting his guitar, he started playing beats from his iPad and I was playing Mellotron. That set a unique template that we’d never worked from before. It was as much work as I’ve ever put into any record, but we’re super happy that we got it to a new creative place.

You’ve been playing music with Richard Stuverud for more than twenty-five years. Is he your musical soul mate?

Well, at the end of Mother Love Bone, after Andy [Wood, frontman] died, I was doing some soul-searching, and contemplating going back to school to get my graphic design degree. Then Richard’s band War Babies needed a bassist for a studio session. I went in and helped them out, and he and I would get together every day and jam. I fell in love with playing music all over again because of Richard’s enthusiasm. Without him I might be driving a mail truck in Montana now.

Will you get to tour this record?

We have some dates booked, but Pearl Jam is pretty busy this spring and summer so it gets tricky. Touring with RNDM isn’t as easy as touring with Pearl Jam where we have the money and resources to do whatever we want: with this it’s a bit bare-bones and we have to make sure we’re playing places where people might actually show up.

Do you still get the same buzz from holding the new RNDM vinyl as you did when you first held a copy of the debut Green River EP?

Absolutely. Obviously, holding your very first record is the biggest deal. But when you get a new record and it sounds and looks exactly as you intended that’s pretty much as good as it gets for any musician.