Pearl Jam's Mike McCready on composing music for 'Fringe', taking singing lessons, upcoming PJ reissues: A Music Mix Q&A!
Image Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty Images; Justin Stephens/FoxI do not know if you are watching Fringe over on the Fox network, but if you are not, may I ask why? Are you afraid to let yourself be happy? Do you like Glee? Well, Fringe did a musical episode last week that was sort of like if Glee and Raymond Chandler went on a date to a Tim Burton movie. No? Still not into it?
What if I told you that Pearl Jam guitar wizard Mike McCready wrote some music for last night’s episode? Is that something you might be interested in? Yes? Oh good. Then here is a Q&A with McCready where we talk about that, as well as his new hobby (singing lessons!) and some ideas being tossed around for the upcoming reissue of PJ’s second album, Vs. And if you missed last night’s Fringe, you can watch it after the jump. Because now you want to!
Entertainment Weekly: Dude, the episode was really good last night.
Mike McCready: I just watched it this morning, cause we were playing last night. They used some of my cues, and I was excited about that. I was kind of just grateful to get my name on it. I’m getting way obsessed with that show. I’ve gotta find the Watcher in every episode now.
I didn’t see him last night. Is he supposed to be in every episode?
People say he’s in every episode, but I haven’t seen him.
I take it you were an X-Files fan?
Huge. I have every episode on DVD.
Fringe really hits that same sweet spot.
It does, with some humor and otherworldy-ness. And some Twin Peaks-ness, especially in that last episode. But I’m still trying to catch up on the first season right now.
Now I know you weren’t secretly holding out for an episode that had to do with the Pacific Northwest, but that was a nice coincidence.
Yeah, it was a good coincidence. How that happened was, we had tried to option the song “Just Breathe” to them. I think they were asking for that, and it didn’t work in the episode, so we contacted them and said, Well, maybe I can do some music for it. So it kind of snowballed from there. So I started talking to Chris Tilton, who’s the guy who writes the music, and throwing ideas back and forth. And I think they just wanted a northwest guy to do it, because they were shooting it in the northwest.
And you know what those trees sound like.
I do. I know them well. They’re in my bones. All the darkness and weirdness. It’s all in me. [laughs]
So they used some of your cues — which part are you most proud of?
The part where you can most hear my guitar is towards the end, where [guest star] Martha Plimpton is talking to Peter [Joshua Jackson] about how he’s gonna find what he’s looking for someday. She’s found her place, and he’s gonna find his place someday. So there’s a little guitar thing I wrote for that, and [Tilton] put some keyboards over that. I liked that a lot.
My role was smaller than someone who wrote all the music for it, but I think I was none the less integral in there. I mean, it was fun. Chris sent me his cues, and I just kind of rearranged them into guitar ideas.
This is something you’d like to do more of in the future?
Yeah, I’d love to. If opportunities come my way, I’m down for that.
What’s the fundamental difference between writing a score and writing a song?
I think the difference is you’re looking at a visual cue for a score. A song kind of comes out of anywhere. A song will come out of the sky, or an idea, or walking around, or playing with other guys. The visual for the score idea — from what I’m learning, I also did this thing called Westsiders, which is a little surf documentary and my first example of it – is you look at an actual scene and try to have a musical emotional response to it. And try to make it time perfectly with how the film is running, but you also try to emotionally make it fit. And also, you try to not make it too notey, because generally they keep the music way in the background, cause the dialogue is more important. I have to get out of that thing of, Oh, I’m writing something that’s very expressive and has a lot of parts! They’re not going to want that. They want something that’s kind of simple, that you can barely hear.
Anything else going on in your world that’s exciting that I should know about?
I got to sing a couple songs last night! My band let me go out and sing before Band of Horses went on — I got to do two songs. I did a song about my son called “That’s All Right,” and then I did a slow version of “Dead Flowers.” And I think it went over okay. I’ve been taking singing lessons for about a year, and I just wanted to jump up there and give it a shot. That was big and exciting.
Why did you start taking singing lessons?
I wanted to start doing more music, doing more things than just playing guitar. I started taking singing lessons and piano lessons. I need to learn more things, to be an artist or whatever, and then transfer that back into writing songs. I have the time to do it. And the piano stuff has actually been helping me play guitar better. It’s interesting how that happens.
Is that in anticipation of a side project? Your emotional acoustic album? Mike McCready’s Inner Pain?
[laughs] Could be! Yeah! I do want to do something someday, but a) I want it to be good and b) I want it to be when we’re not doing any Pearl Jam stuff, because I’m focused on that. We’re playing a huge show tonight in Indiana for like 22,000 or something. And then we may do another record, but we may not. When we’re not doing any Pearl Jam stuff, that’s when I’ll probably think of doing something else. Whether that be scoring — hopefully more opportunities will come — or doing a solo thing.
So speaking of Pearl Jam, when’s the next anniversary reissue coming out?
Vs.? I wish I knew. [NOTE: PJ Central says they’re not sure yet, maybe fall, nothing definite yet.]
Were you please with how the Ten one came out?
I was very pleased. I think there were four varieties of it? I thought the biggest one was certainly the coolest. Jeff and Eddie, who are really very much our archivists, they still have so much stuff lying around. And Ed took a lot of his own time to be meticulous and go over his notebooks and pictures and memories and ideas, as did Jeff, and I think they spent a lot of love and time doing that, honestly. On Vs., we were just talking about it yesterday backstage — apparently there are some outtakes that were pretty cool. One called, I think, “Indian Beetles” or something like that. Just old tunes from around that time that never made it onto Vs., that Ed had listened to and thought maybe we could throw some lyrics on a few things, and add that to it.
And now you guys have a web-based radio station all of a sudden?
I love that you know that, and I don’t know that. We were talking about that yesterday. I don’t know! I know we have something, I couldn’t tell you anything about it. We were talking about it last night. Is it on the pay spectrum? The pay radio?
I think it’s just in the internet. It lives in the internet. Kenny Chesney has one of these as well.
Awesome. Okay. We’re in good company with the hugest country star in the world.
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