Eddie Vedder recalls rivalry with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain: ‘I probably could have agreed with some things he said’

Eddie Vedder
(Image credit: SiriusXM’s The Howard Stern Show.)

In a three-hour interview on SiriusXM The Howard Stern Show on November 2, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder spoke in-depth about his childhood, his career, his song-writing and his friendships in music.

Part of the discussion saw Stern ask Vedder about the perceived rivalry between Pearl Jam and Nirvana in the early ’90s, suggesting that some of Kurt Cobain’s comments about Pearl Jam, namely that Vedder’s band were ‘careerist’, were born out of resentment.

Vedder shrugged off the radio host’s suggestion – “I probably could have agreed with some of the things he said,” he laughed - but did point out that the phenomenal success which both bands enjoyed following the release of Ten and Nevermind was “a little hard to handle”, noting,  “we had a little bit of a difficult relationship with that reality… and that made us a little vulnerable.”

“It [success] affected a few people in our town,” he told Stern. “We had a good scene here and it changed a little bit… Some of my crowd back in the day kinda held our band in great disdain: some people in the world liked you, but some people resented it or just hated your music or whatever… and I agreed with them on all points!”

Vedder pointed out that some of the rivalry between Seattle bands was due to the fact there was “a history with some of the local bands” – with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament and Stone having previously played alongside Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner in Green River.

“One of my favourite Seattle bands was Mudhoney, and there was a little bit of a faction, with one side of Seattle music here, and ours didn’t fit as well into that… which was fine,” he notes. “But also Mudhoney… I was so grateful to have those guys as friends.”

“The only thing that bothered me about that [alleged rivalry] was because it was public, and people were reacting to it: it wasn’t like between us. There was a certain writer who pulled a quote of Jeff Ament’s out, and pulled a quote of Kurt’s out, and that made for interesting press. But really, I always felt like it us against the world, our town against the world, not our band against another band.”

“I still think back and I’ve always been grateful that there was a real scene, there was music everywhere, and people were hanging out every night. After a show at the Crocodile [Café] when three or four bands would play, Girl Trouble or Melvins… there’d be an after party in someone’s basement in this cool, old house in Seattle that was kinda ramshackle and then all of a sudden [Nirvana’s] Krist Novoselic would be playing bass, and I’d be playing drums, and we’re playing Beatles songs, with this guy from Fastbacks, Kurt Bloch playing… it was a time.”

“We never had a fight ever. I just have always hated their band,” Kurt Cobain told MTV in 1993, speaking about Vedder. “We've had a few conversations on the phone, I really like him. I think he's a really nice person.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Vedder spoke about his friendship with the late Chris Cornell, and told Stern that he’s still “somewhat in denial” about the Soundgarden frontman’s death in 2017.

“I’ve had to be somewhat in denial,” he told Stern. “I don’t even feel like I had a choice. I was just terrified where I’d go if I allowed myself to feel what I needed to feel.”

“We were neighbours. I would hang out with him outside the band more than even the other band guys, and I didn’t know that many people in Seattle,” he recalled. “We would go on crazy hiking adventures, or we would go mountain biking, or we would chase the dog in the rain while drinking shitty beer—and it was cool.”

Vedder told Stern that he was already dealing with grief when Cornell passed away on May 18, 2017, as his his younger brother, also named Chris, had just recently died after a climbing accident.

“That one took me down so hard,” he admitted. “I seriously didn’t know if I was going to get out of that one and it really hurt me to think about what my daughters were witnessing. There was no hiding it. It was a dark place.”

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.