From Three Fish to Tres Mts.: Interview with Richard Stuverud

Hi Richard, thank you for taking your time to answer these questions, that’s very kind of you. Tell us something about this new Tres Mts. project. How did it start and how did it get to see the light of day?

Hello and thank you for your interest in the tres mts project. It’s great to have a chat with you. The pleasure is mine. Tres mts evolved out of a long friendship that Jeff had with Dug Pinnick from King’s X. I met Dug through Jeff quite a few years back as well. Something is bound to happen on the creative level when you have long friendships. I think it was only a matter of time that the three of us would get together to see what could happen. It really wasn’t until after the second Three Fish record that Jeff had expressed this desire to make a record with Dug. i presume they had discussed this idea off and on over the years, but it finally took form with our first session in Montana in 2002.

I like to think of Jeff as the ultimate alchemist, bringing people together. I didn’t quite know what to expect in the studio, but it really was a total freedom of expression to say the least! I was familiar with Dug’s musicality and had nothing but immeasurable respect for both he and Jeff, so you could say i really had to be on top of my game behind the kit. I was up for the challenge, the climb and the journey. I felt right at home with these guy’s! Everything had an amazing flow to it. The sessions had an element to what the Three Fish sessions were about, but there were other characteristics to it as well. This really felt like a different animal.

Jeff and i had discussed the idea that we didn’t want to make another Three Fish type record, nor did we want to make a King’s X record. So with this in mind, things sort of fell into a sense of vernacular to a certain degree… digging a bit further back, we somehow began to unearth a kind of blues in the process. A lot of this was also inspired over conversations in between tracking. Dug would tell stories of his mother singing gospel way back in the day. He said this stayed with him his whole life. It was in his dna. It seemed as though we had naturally stumbled onto something that each of us could find expression in. And with the combination of some powerhouse rock, a bit of the funk and a little dynamics with the mellow tunes…..we have Tres Mts!

You guys have just released your first album. Introduce it to our readers in your own words.

The Tres Mts. record, i think represents a pretty solid collaboration and experimentation that each of us had a chance to take some chances with, which gives the overall record a nice dynamic. It’s interesting to reflect on how the concept aspect of it evolved, as the recording sessions took place with quite a bit of space and time in between. There were a lot of loose ends on the music end, but Dug worked rather quickly with lyrics and vocals which is quite extraordinary to watch ( i had the privilege of recording with Eddie and Jeff for a demo of “Nothing man” and was astonished at how quickly Eddie had written the lyrics and come up with the melody for the song!). Dug works in a similar way. A lot of the lyrics seemed to come naturally and there was a pervasive element that questioned organized religion and the politics of the time (these were the unfortunate bush years… a very difficult time for America). It was such a fine line between the separation of church and state during these years (still is i suppose).

But not all of the songs go to this place and there are certainly other lighthearted moments on the record, lyrically, but there is a bit of a theme that ties things together. I think after 3/4 of the material was recorded, we really felt that we had a interesting landscape of music happening. Pretty intense rockers, some funk, certainly the blues rock vibe along with the mellow tunes presented something we could rally around.

We’ve read that this album was recorded over the past seven years and that Mike McCready was also involved. Tell us more about the sessions for this record.

Mike McCready’s magic came in around the third session for the record which really brought things out into the light! The first track, “My Baby” was a riff that Mike was cooking up. The rest of us literally came running out from the kitchen to kick start this thing! Mike also brought in the music for “In the Middle” which is in the middle of the record. It’s very stripped down and has an ethereal quality to it. It was such a blast recording with Mike and his presence was the catalyst that brought everything together. It even inspired me to get behind the piano for a few songs!

Any chance to see Tres Mts. on tour anytime soon?

A very short tour has been set up for the month of march in the U.S. A few highlights will be performing at South by Southwest in Austin, TX and a TV appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show. So a little Texas b.b.q. and some late night television should put a few smiles on! Of course it would be fantastic to get over to Europe for a few festivals, but i think for now, it will be a select few cities in the States.

Any bands that inspired you guys while working on this record?

During the recording, there wasn’t a particular band that was inspiring, however Mike did show up with a rare Alice Cooper record. we had some good laughs for sure. Believe it or not, i was listening to Funkadelic and Sigur Rós during the earlier sessions (2004). You couldn’t get a wider parameter with those two bands. I think we were grooving to some Mogwai along the way as well. And i do recall the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” in the headphones, late night.
Over the years, you’ve played in many different bands with Jeff Ament, from Luv Co to Three Fish. Now you guys debuted Tres Mts. Tell us a little more about your lifelong friendship with Jeff.

Back in 1999, in the back of Three Fish’ tour bus, Jeff gave me a copy of “Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend,” an amazing biography of Keith Moon. On the first blank page Jeff wrote: “To my favorite drummer, a book of the most bad ass drummer ever… how to and how not to”. It was clearly the best compliment i had ever got from a friend and musical companion… (the other half of the rhythm section). It was beyond cool!

Our history goes way back into the underbelly of Seattle. In 1983-84, I was in the Fastbacks and we rehearsed below an art gallery in the historic part of town. Green River also rehearsed in a side room to where the Fastbacks were. I remember bashing out the pop punk, stopping to work out arrangements and could hear Green River. We did shows together at a punk club called the Metropolis and this was my first meeting with Jeff. As a few years rolled on, as they certainly do, i found myself entering the hard rock world. It was a pretty strange transition, but none the less it lead to some experiences that i can certainly have a good laugh about in retrospect. When playing drums for the War Babies, we were about to sign our record deal and we needed a new bass player. Jeff filled in for awhile as this was when tragedy struck Mother Love Bone with Andy’s passing. It was an intense time in Seattle as early grunge had started to really turns things upside down with the fusion hard rock/metal and punk. This was the time with Luv Co. and subsequently the early formation of Pearl Jam. During this time Jeff and i lived 2 blocks away from each other, so we would hang out and listen to music quite often. He had the most eclectic taste in music, which translates to the powerhouse musician that he is. The rest is history at this point in the story, but the most gracious and the coolest thing was that he kept our friendship and mutual respect on a musical level alive, even as Pearl Jam achieved such a huge level of success. Even as his world had exploded, and as cliche as it sounds, as it was all happening, he remained very grounded. Getting a call from him to work on some recording ideas he had going around 93-94, 10 years after we initially met, was an incredible show of character, loyalty and just displaying a down to earth sensibility that i really respected and still respect to this day.

The Three Fish experience is an amazing testament on his behalf to push some boundaries around and to truely open up to take some chances. He was an inspiration and was able to bring more out of Robbi and i as musicians, in the studio on tour and in all our travels. He has this ability to share not only in his own approach to his instrument, but getting the musicians and friends that he’s working with, to not be afraid to try something totally different. This makes for an incredible and almost sacred connection, a very rare thing between musicians. To bring the best out of people is something second nature to Jeff. I feel very lucky to be able to have the experiences i’ve had. He is a great friend….and to use the spirit of one of his quotes, he is “my favorite bass player”! And now, the latest chapter, Tres Mts!… with a pretty sweet view!

One of Jeff’s side projects that Pearl Jam fans love the most is Three Fish. You released two AMAZING, amazing records, “Three Fish” (Epic, 1996) and “The Quiet Table” (Epic, 1999). Is there any chance that the band could reunite for a new album, and perhaps for a tour in the future?

Thank you for the fine compliments on the Three Fish records. I am very proud of those records and it was an incredible experience to say the least!In all honesty, i think the chances of more Three Fish recordings and touring are extremely slim, however, you never know with space and time. Those records i think really defined a moment in time and it was an experiment on Jeff’s part as it was an adventure for all of us. Musicians like artists will experiment with ideas and sort of move on in one way or another. As in perhaps there is something else to say, some other colors to add to the pallet so to speak. Not to put three fish in a box, but it had it’s limitations, whether it was a lake, the sea or the infinite ocean. I think it came down to some differences and now its about making new art. But it’s nice to look back and appreciate some great moments and i think those records recorded those moments well.

You also played drums on the first solo album released by Jeff three years ago, ‘Tone’. What do you remember about those sessions? Have you also been involved in the recordings of his upcoming second solo album?

Wow, has it already been three years since Jeff’s solo record? I have a four and a half year old boy named Xander whom i played a finished track off Jeff’s solo record hot off the presses. I remember him getting into the guitar stance and jumping around while listening! Talk about a smiling dad!
I’m really happy that Jeff made that record and put it out. I think it was a long process, but it’s something he was evolving towards and it was a real statement of courage. I’ve always had a deep regard of his songs, which includes the songs he’s written for Pearl Jam, Three Fish and his solo material. With the solo material, it had a sense of vulnerability to it that had a powerful punch. I loved the direction he was going for with the more rocking numbers as well! He gave me a lot of freedom (as he always does), when it came to the drum parts. It’s great to see the other half of the rhythm section step out, experiment with more instruments and of coarse going for it with the vocals. The latest tracks Jeff’s been cooking up that i’ve also been involved with are really great and it’s been awesome to be a part of it! It will be interesting to see what he does with it.

This year, Pearl Jam celebrate their 20th anniversary. You’re a true Seattle music veteran – let’s just remember that you played in The Fastbacks (a real Seattle legend) and War Babies (another local cult band), among many others. How do you feel about one of the most famous Seattle acts achieving such a milestone?

20 years!!!.. now i’m feeling old!!! I’m really proud of Pearl Jam for so many reasons that sort of transcends the milestone, but you cannot deny a 20 year anniversary! They’ve been through so much adversity, trials and tribulations throughout their success. And to keep it together for all the right reasons… this is a great thing and that sentiment seeps through their music, through their songs. Watching them from the get go live, they’re like fine wine, (pardon the cliche)… it just gets better and better. And i’ve seen some of the earliest shows and some of the most recent ones, it’s just been great to be close and to be friends with these guys. It’s been interesting for me living away from Aeattle for quite awhile now, which puts a distant perspective on it. There’s something that will always shine for me that represents my home town. It’s the history of the music scene that warms me up every time and to be a small part of that with some of the bands i’ve been in, it’s a nice bit of nostalgia that i can reflect on and feel pretty good about.

We wish you the best of luck with Tres Mts. and hope to see you perform in Europe sooner or later. Thank you very much and see you soon!

Thank you for the encouragement! I’m looking forward to the Tres Mts release and it’s going to be great performing these songs live!I would love nothing more to perform in Italy! ( i was once on tour with a n.y. band and it was cancelled right before all the italian dates!.. i was heartbroken!) I hope someday to return.
Grazie! Peace, love and understanding!

TRES MTS “Three Mountains” (2011)

1. My Baby 
2. Oh Lord!
3. God Told Me
4. Makes Me Feel (listen)
5. Holes in the Road
6. In the Middle
7. Life
8. Afrosheena
9. She’s My New Song
10. Utah
11. Break
12. Mystery
13. She’s My New Song (Reprise)

© 2011 & Richard Stuverud