When Temple of the Dog - the early 1990s grunge supergroup featuring Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready and Matt Cameron - first began contemplating a tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their sole album, they weren't sure how it would be received. "We were a little anxious about what size venues we could play," Ament tells Rolling Stone. "We've never toured and are essentially a baby band."
They decided to hit just five cities, playing a mixture of big theaters and arenas. Much to their shock, nearly every ticket disappeared within minutes, with scalpers charging upwards of $1,399 for primo seats at the Madison Square Garden stop. "We're super excited," says Ament. "We can finally road test these songs and see what they become."
The songs - born out of the extreme grief Cornell felt after Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood died of a heroin overdose in March 1990 - will be re-released on September 30th in four different configurations. The biggest one will contain two CDs, 1 DVD and 1 Blu-ray Audio disc. It contains seven unheard demos, five studio outtakes and live footage of Temple of the Dog shot between 1990 and 2011. Longtime Pearl Jam producer Brendan O'Brien remixed the album.
"The quarter-inch tapes got lost," says Ament. "The only way we could've used the original mixes would have been pulling it off a CD, which would have been inferior. Brendan really didn't mess with the levels, but he just pulled back a bit on the effects and reverb. The new mix is just a bit crisper. The way we listen to music is so different than 25 years ago. People have gotten used to so much clarity on the top end, and I think he really brought a lot of that out."
Pearl Jam have been on the road for the past few months, meaning that Temple of the Dog have yet to begin rehearsals for the tour kicking off November 4th in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania and wrapping up November 21st after a two-night stand at Seattle's Paramount Theater. "We've discussed what other songs we might play in addition to the 10 songs from the album," says Cornell. "But it was mostly left on the table to be discussed as a later date. It's still a mystery to me." Playing the album in sequence is a possibility. "Playing albums in sequence can be awesome or it can be very limiting," says McCready. "I hope we mix it up a little bit."
Pearl Jam have made the Mother Love Bone song "Crown of Thorns" a regular part of their live show, and it seems likely that Temple of the Dog will dip further into Mother Love Bone's catalog. "I think that makes a lot of sense," says Cornell. "There are also some songs that Andy wrote outside of Mother Love Bone that may or may not be something we can do. There's some other songs from that period we discussed, but there's been no decision made about anything other than what's on the album."
Cornell has performed the Pearl Jam songs "Better Man" and "Footsteps" (the latter having many similar musical elements as Temple of the Dog's "Times of Trouble") at his solo shows, but he doubts fans at these Temple of the Dog shows will hear any Pearl Jam or even Soundgarden tunes.
"I feel like that doesn't feel right in my gut," he says. "That's nothing that I talked about with anybody. It's just you asking and me reacting. It doesn't feel like the right thing, but I might change my mind." McCready feels the same way. "I'd love for this to be its own thing," he says. "We can maybe do some [Mother] Love Bone songs and some cool covers. But if Chris wants to do 'Better Man,' please. That's fine with me."
Then there's the issue of Eddie Vedder. He's not billed at any of the shows, even though he sings half of Temple of the Dog's most famous song, "Hunger Strike," and contributed backing vocals to three others. Might he drop by a show or two? "I can't say anything about that," says McCready. "I don't know if he is, and that's kind of up to him. I would love it if he did." Adds Cornell: "I don't think that's even been discussed, but we certainly haven't planned on it."
There are no Temple of the Dog plans beyond this November, but the group doesn't rule out booking more shows. "I hope if these go well, there will be more in the future," says McCready. "That's kind of why we didn't want to do an extensive tour. We just wanted to feel out the landscape. I hope we can go to Europe. It depends on how much fun we have with it, and how much people get out of it."
But the group stresses that a second Temple of the Dog record is less likely. "We'd have to feel really great about the songs," says Cornell. "It's a scary thing. I don't want to say they'd have to live up to the [first] album, but I wouldn't want it to take away from it either. It was the same issue with reforming Soundgarden. I'm super excited about writing new songs as long as we don't detract from what came before, and ultimately we did that. I think the same thing would apply to Temple."