Jack Steven Irons (born July 18, 1962 in Los Angeles, California) is an American musician who is best known as the original drummer of the American rock band The Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as the former drummer for Eleven and Pearl Jam. He has also worked with Joe Strummer and The Latino Rockabilly War, Redd Kross, Raging Slab, Spinnerette and The Les Claypool Frog Brigade. In 2004, Irons released his first solo album, Attention Dimension. On August 24, 2010 Jack Irons released his second solo album, No Heads Are Better Than One.
Hello Jack, thank you very much for accepting this interview, it is very kind of you and we’re so honored. You were Red Hot Chili Peppers’ original drummer, you made an album and toured with the late great Joe Strummer and you played drums with Pearl Jam from 1994 to 1998. This is just a short list of all the things you’ve done in your career so far. Tell us a little about your beginnings in the world of music and how things have changed over all these years.
My first interest was seeing a drum set in a window of a music store and thinking I want to have that. I met Hillel [Slovak, 1962-1988, first Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist] when I was 13 and we started taking music lessons together and then some months later we started playing with Alain Johannes and that really was the core of my musical beginnings. A few years later we started playing with Flea.
Legend has it that you were the person who introduced Gossard and Ament to Vedder in 1990 by handing the famous Stone Gossard demos to a young Eddie. There are many versions of this story. Tell us what really happened.
My recollection is of meeting Stone and Jeff at a hotel in Los Angeles. They were starting a new band and asked if I was interested in playing with them. I wasn’t ready to move to Seattle and start a new life there and also had some touring obligations with other bands. They gave me the demo of their music that had Matt Cameron on drums and asked me to check it out and maybe pass it on to any singers I might know. So I gave it to Eddie. I left on a 3 month tour with Redd Kross and about a month later I heard that Eddie went up to Seattle to play with them.
Before joining Pearl Jam, Eddie played in San Diego with Bad Radio, a band that mixed the sound of Red Hot Chili Peppers with punk and new wave. Have you ever seen them live? If so, what do you remember about them?
I did see Eddie play with a band at that time, I don’t know if it was Bad Radio. I remember thinking he had a great voice. I don’t remember a lot more but it was only one time that I saw them play.
In 1994 you received a phone call from Pearl Jam asking you to join the band. Did you accept immediately or were you reluctant at first?
Actually in 1994 I heard they were looking for a drummer again so I phoned Eddie and asked if I could play with them. They tried a few different drummers at that point but I was fortunate to get the gig.
When you joined them, Ed Vedder reportedly said: “This should have been the band from the beginning.” Do you agree or do you think that joining the band later was the best thing to do?
Looking back I think for me a bit later in their career was better. Their beginnings were so explosive and busy that it could have been hard for me at that point of my life.
You played on two of the most fan-celebrated Pearl Jam records, “No Code” and “Yield”. Looking back at those years, how was the atmosphere in Pearl Jam?
That was a fun period. I think for the most part we had a lot of good times playing together. I am very happy I had those years with them.
Pearl Jam fans are always looking for rarities and unreleased songs. In 2012 “No Code” and “Yield” will likely be reissued. Do you remember any particular song that was recorded between 1994 and 1998 and might still be locked in one of Pearl Jam’s “secret archives”?
I don’t remember maybe they will surprise me too.
In 1995 you guys recorded “Mirror Ball” and went on tour with Neil Young. Neil reportedly said that you were “unbelievable.” He stated that you played “[your] ass off on every take at every session,” and also added, “I can’t say enough good things about him.” What do you remember of this great experience?
It was an amazing experience to play with him and be part of that. He was a huge favorite of mine, so I was honered to play with him and play drums on his music.
We at pearljamonline.it believe that you are the drummer who has understood Pearl Jam best. This is only our opinion. The guys have always referred to you as the band’s savior in a period when they did not seem able to communicate. Stone once said: “Jack’s personality, maturity, and generosity have really helped us communicate with each other.” How do you feel about this?
I think every drummer Pearl Jam had has served an important role. I think at the time I joined the band my personality was right for their situation and I am grateful for that.
In 2004 and 2010 you released two solo albums (both available in physical format on www.pearljam.com). Your first album, “Attention Dimension” featured Ament, Gossard and Vedder. What are your memories of those sessions?
Those years were filled with a lot of personal transition for me. Attention Dimension was a process for me to create in the midst of a lot of life changes and the pursuit of personal growth. It was really nice to have all my old friends support my process and contribute to that record.
In 2007 you played a live set at the Hullabaloo Festival in Los Angeles togehter with Vedder and Flea. Is there any chance that this collaboration might evolve into something more in the future? Have you ever talked about that?
That was a great show and we had a lot of fun doing it. We did at the time consider doing some more but we haven’t done so yet.
2011 marks Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary. Have you been involved in the filming of “Pearl Jam Twenty,” Cameron Crowe’s upcoming movie about Pearl Jam? Any chance that you might be part of the celebrations (ie. concerts etc.)?
I have not currently been involved with the filming for the movie. I did do an interview for the book.
Jack, you’re the man. You were and you will always be our favorite Pearl Jam drummer (no offense to the others!). We truly wish you all the best. Goodbye and take care!