While the world waits for a new Pearl Jam album, guitarist Stone Gossard has assembled a between-meals platter for the famished fans. The debut by Gossard's new side band, Shame, is a Seattle-style busman's holiday, a pleasure cruise undertaken in the same one-off spirit as 1991's surprise hit Temple of the Dog. But while that album Temple of the Dog was a hard-rock tribute to the late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, Shame is pretty much Gossard's baby – a looser, less solemn, let's-get-it-down-on-tape session. Apparently, the "jam'' in Pearl Jam is no joke.
"We spent a total of seventeen days writing and recording with Shame,'' says Gossard with pride, killing time from mixing the record in the dingy lounge at New York's Electric Lady Studios. Pearl Jam fans might not recognize Gossard at the moment; his shoulder-length locks have been shorn and bleached a lighter shade of peroxide.
"Everyone went into a total zombie state,'' Gossard says. "It turned out pretty cool, very diverse. We screwed around with drum loops and lots of keyboards. The group compositions are, like, jams we arranged as we went along. Shame won't play any live dates, though we are shooting a video for a song called '20th Century,' one of the drum-loop things.''
Drum loops or no, Shame is basically a solid guitar-based quartet. Vocalist Shawn Smith belts in a straightforward roar over Gossard's guitar line, while bassist Jeremy Toback and drummer Regan Hagar rarely stray from foursquare hard-rock propulsion. Smith and Hagar are Seattle friends who casually played with Gossard during several breaks in Pearl Jam's epic 1991-92 tour; the Shame concept was hatched sometime during the Lollapalooza stretch of the tour, and bassist Toback was recruited to fill out the lineup just prior to recording.
"The first few days were sort of a struggle because none of us really knew each other,'' Gossard admits. "But if you don't think about it so much, if you just go when you've got the instinct. . . sometimes it works.'' Popping a tape of rough mixes into a nearby deck, Gossard explains that he hasn't heard these versions yet: "So you may see me cringe.''
Gossard doesn't cringe, though, and it doesn't sound like he has any reason to be ashamed. The subdued funk rhythms of "20th Century'' and the album-opening ballad, "Buttercup,'' come across as a little sketchy and tentative sounding at first, but the aptly titled "Maniac'' and "We,'' the album's gorgeous slow-building finale, delivers the expected swirl of post-psychedelic guitar power. On the whole, Shame does feel slightly artier and more experimental than either Temple of the Dog or Pearl Jam's Ten.
"Again, the Temple thing was a real eye-opener for me,'' says Gossard, "in terms of getting together with people you've never played with before or maybe jammed with once or twice. Making pressure records is great for a band like Pearl Jam, because you really have to jump in and work everything out so that everyone's happy, but in this situation, with Shame, we didn't really have time to think.''
And when will Gossard's thoughts turn toward the making of a new Pearl Jam LP? "Well, we're gonna start rehearsing in February,'' he says. "And then after a month, we're going to head down to San Francisco to record. We're gonna use Brendan O'Brien as producer; he worked on the last Black Crowes album.
"Everybody in Pearl Jam has been writing a lot,'' Gossard says with audible enthusiasm. "But when we get back together, we'll probably write three or four completely new songs just out of jams. I have no idea what the other guys are doing. Well, I do know that Eddie [Vedder] has been playing some folkier stuff.''
Other than that, Gossard refuses to be nailed down on song titles or possible release dates. "Every time you make a record,'' he says philosophically, "you learn something. There are things I've learned from the guys in Shame that will play a big part in what I contribute to Pearl Jam. You don't want to fall into this rock & roll trap of being competitive and just too serious. The bottom line is not to worry about it – even if all you're trying to do is make money and sell records.''
This story is from the February 4th, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.