Pearl Jam's Bass Heroes: Under the Influence

A homage to players ranging from late Stax legend Duck Dunn to hardcore punk pioneer Mike Watt, Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament tells the story of his bass neck

Feature by Jeff Ament | 08 Mar 2013

One of my main basses is a big Frankenstein with different parts; I've painted the names of some of my all time inspirations on the back of the neck...

1. Duck Dunn
I was lucky enough to watch Duck and Jim Keltner play together for about ten shows in the early 90s when they were Neil Young's rhythm section. It was a workshop of how to play songs the right way every night. I was fascinated by the way they pushed and pulled as players. They could do it all. Just a beautiful guy also. I really miss him.

2. Dee Dee Ramone
I learned how to play bass in my dorm room in college in 1981, playing along with The Ramones' It's Alive. Four sides of Ramones classics, and within four months I had my downpicking style down. Dee Dee also wrote many of the Ramones' classics, which also inspired me early to write my own compositions. Dee Dee, Paul Simonon, Sting and JJ Burnel all had such strong styles that made me want to play along and try to recreate their tones.

3. John Paul Jones
I don't know if there's a player who has so consistently inspired over the years.  He did so much with Zep that filled out their sound. A true virtuoso who wasn't afraid to colour outside the lines. I never saw Led Zeppelin, but have gotten to see him up close in his solo band and with Diamanda Galas and Them Crooked Vultures.

4. Mike Watt
Watt represents a whole group of bassists from my generation that wrote and played in hardcore bands as I was learning the instrument.  He is one of the most driven and creative humans I have ever met, a high octane motor with a ton of originality. Chuck Dukowski, Klaus Flouride, Rainy from Discharge, Tony Lombardo from the Descendents, Darryl Jenifer, Brian Baker, and Jamie from SSD all were unique players that made me pay attention. Oh, and when Iggy reformed the Stooges, who did he ask to play bass? Mike Watt.

5. Andy Fraser
I can listen to Free's I'll Be Creepin all day. The bass line is just so inspired and lyrical. Like Jimmy Page, it's a shame that Andy hasn't been in big band in the past thirty years. One of the great songwriting bassists and a style that is so unique. 

RNDM's Acts is out now on One Little Indian. Pearl Jam's as-yet untitled tenth album is expected later this year.