Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard laughs off the idea that grunge 'killed' hard rock: "I love hard rock, and I always have"

Stone Gossard
(Image credit: Brian Rasic/WireImage)

Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard isn't buying into the often-repeated narrative that Seattle's 'grunge' scene wiped out hard rock and heavy metal in the early '90s, stating his belief that the climate was right for “less musically talented musicians" to show "another way to create chaos and energy."

Having grown up as a teenage metalhead, Gossard is reluctant to accept the idea that he and his peers on the alternative rock scene killed off hard rock and metal in the wake of the release of Nevermind, Ten, Badmotorfinger and Dirt

And in a new interview with VWMusic, the guitarist offers a thoughtful and considered response when asked for his take on the "long-running narrative that grunge killed the career of many hard rock and heavy metal musicians"

"I think there’s always renewal in the world, and with that renewal, comes new perspectives," Gossard begins. "And I think that hard rock was really stagnating at that point in a way that gave an opportunity to what I’ll call 'less musically talented' musicians to say, 'Hey, there’s another way to play rock songs. There’s another way to have songs that are heavy. And there’s another way to create chaos and energy from those songs that would be outside the normal colour palette of a heavy metal song.'

"I mean, coming up, I listened to a lot of heavy metal," Gossard stresses. "I listened to a lot of Motorhead. I listened to a lot of Iron Maiden. I listened to a lot of Mercyful Fate. I listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin. I listened to all those New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, and I was into it.

"This said, as a kid, I didn’t really know how to play like that, so I was just doing what sounded right to me. And I think that in the late 80s, there was a very free attitude about art and music that was brewing in the wake of hard rock, and a lot of people were experimenting with sounds, and the bands formed from there. There was something about it that was fresh, that really captured people’s ears, and that had a huge effect on it all too.

"But you know, a lot of those heavy metal bands you’re talking about are still around, so clearly they all didn’t die. Sure, a lot of them had to regroup, and yes, some did die, but that’s part of the life cycle, right? There are still a lot of fans out there who love hard rock, and I’m one of them. I love hard rock, and I always have, but renewal and rebirth are a part of art, I think."

Asked by interviewer Andrew Daly whether he believes that, as Gene Simmons continues to insist, rock is dead, Gossard replies: "Who knows, and who cares."

"Honestly, Pearl Jam is playing shows and we’re having fun," he says, "so whatever it is that we’re doing, we’re having a good time, and our fans seem to be having a good time too."

Read the interview in full here.

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.