Enlarge Gossard by Jonathan Beyer, Eddie courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Pearl Jam Guitarist Stone Gossard on If Grunge Killed Heavy Metal: ‘Hard Rock was Really Stagnating at that Point’


In a recent interview with VWMusic, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard was asked his thoughts on the frequent claim that grunge killed off heavy metal and hard rock in the mainstream. Gossard’s answer, transcribed by Blabbermouth, acknowledges the commercial success grunge had and offers his reasoning on why.

“I think there’s always renewal in the world, and with that renewal, comes new perspectives. And I think that hard rock was really stagnating at that point in a way that gave an opportunity to what I’ll call ‘less musically talented’ musicians to say, ‘Hey, there’s another way to play rock songs. There’s another way to have songs that are heavy. And there’s another way to create chaos and energy from those songs that would be outside the normal color palette of a heavy metal song.’”

Gossard’s response makes sense. Plenty of grunge bands, like Alice in Chains, have plenty of heaviness in their music, even if they present it in a totally different way. The Pearl Jam guitarist continues his thoughts, acknowledging his love for metal.

“I mean, coming up, I listened to a lot of heavy metal. I listened to a lot of Motörhead. I listened to a lot of Iron Maiden. I listened to a lot of Mercyful Fate. I listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin. I listened to all those New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, and I was into it. This said, as a kid, I didn’t really know how to play like that, so I was just doing what sounded right to me. And I think that in the late ’80s, there was a very free attitude about art and music that was brewing in the wake of hard rock, and a lot of people were experimenting with sounds, and the bands formed from there. There was something about it that was fresh, that really captured people’s ears, and that had a huge effect on it all too. But you know, a lot of those heavy metal bands you’re talking about are still around, so clearly they all didn’t die. Sure, a lot of them had to regroup, and yes, some did die, but that’s part of the life cycle, right? There are still a lot of fans out there who love hard rock, and I’m one of them. I love hard rock, and I always have, but renewal and rebirth are a part of art, I think.”

Always nice to hear a nuanced and considerate answer from someone who was there. Plenty of glam and heavy metal musicians have weighed in on this topic over the years, including Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, who says hair metal did it to itself.

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