"Eddie Vedder was hard on me, he was not easy to get next to." Super-producer Brendan O'Brien reveals the lengths he went to in order to work with Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images | Rick Beato YouTube)

Brendan O'Brien is one of the world's most respected and in-demand producers, having worked with the likes of AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Rage Against The Machine, Mastodon and more. The Atlanta, Georgia-born is arguably best known though for his work with Pearl Jam, who he first worked with on 1993's Vs. album, and in a new interview with music industry expert Rick Beato, he reveals how his relationship with the band began.

O'Brien had mixed Temple Of The Dog's self-titled 1991 album, for which Stone Gossard wrote two songs (Times of Trouble, Four Walled World) and co-wrote the single Pushin' Forward Back with bandmate Jeff Ament, so he was already aware of the Seattle band even before they released their debut album, Ten. But he admits that while he'd had discussions about working with the group on their second record, after remixing Jeremy for its release as a single, he "absolutely" thought that he might have missed his shot when Ten 'blew up' commercially.  

"I think the A&R guy, Michael Goldstone, wanted me to do it," O'Brien tells Beato, "and they'd been recommended to me by the Chili Peppers guys [O'Brien worked as an engineer on Blood Sugar Sex Magick] and they'd heard some mixes from The Black Crowes' second album [The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion] and Stone and Jeff liked that a lot, they loved it, thought it was great. So I got a call from Kelly Curtis, who's their manager, and I think he wanted me to do it, and he said, 'I think these guys are going to decide pretty soon what to do, so it might be good to meet with them one more time.'

"I said, You got it, I'm down. Where are they going to be? 'They're going to be in Nuremberg in about four days, can you be there?' What? Like, Germany, Nuremberg? He was like, 'If you can't make it, I understand.'  I was in the middle of making a record [in Los Angeles], but the proper answer is, Yes, I'll be there."

O'Brien flew to Germany via Atlanta, and showed up at the gig, presumably the band's June 15, 1992 show at the city's Serenadenhof venue, and introduced himself properly to the band.

"I didn't know Eddie [Vedder] at all at that point," he recalls. "The first few records I worked on with them, he was hard on me, he was not easy to get next to, and I understood that. But Stone said, 'Man, you must really want this gig!' He just started laughing at me. And I go, I do. He was both amazed, and laughing at me at the same time... I knew that it was an important job, and I knew that of I didn't go, I was leaving it in the hands of fate, and I didn't want that. I really felt like, if I go all the way over there, they're going to have a hard time not at least letting me start. And it worked out, so..."

Watch the interview in full below:

Brendan O'Brien Interview: The Unsung Hero Of Rock Music - YouTube Brendan O'Brien Interview: The Unsung Hero Of Rock Music - YouTube
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Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.