Spiking The Alternative Punch Bowl With Wellwater Conspiracy

by Kathleen Richards, Music Research Editor, Gavin

Two members of the Seattle music scene have come together in the form of a sonically skewing dynamic duo called Wellwater Conspiracy.

The Seattle music scene of the ‘90s opened up a whole new world of music for rock fans, and two members of that community have come together in the form of a rule-breaking, sonically skewing dynamic duo called Wellwater Conspiracy.

Comprised of Matt Cameron, most known for his skin-beating duties for Soundgarden and now Pearl Jam, and ex-Monster Magnet co-founder John McBain, Wellwater Conspiracy is more of an “entity,” as McBain calls it, rather than an official “band.”

With a rotating cast of guest musicians (including Camron’s bandmate Eddie Vedder) as well as a selection of obscure covers, WWC’s third album (and the first on TVT Records) The Scroll And It’s Combinations and its first single “Of Dreams” (a Steve Morgan cover) hints of the psychedelic and minimally produced era of the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

From Cameron’s studio in Seattle, I spoke with both Cameron and McBain (who are at work on their next album) about the newest Wellwater release.

Gavin: You’ve described Wellwater Conspiracy as an entity rather than a real band. Do you still feel that way now that you’re signed to TVT and have a bit more push behind the record?

MC: I don’t think our goals are too far-fetched. I hate to say it, but we really don’t have any world domination plans. It’s strictly just for the music.

JM: Which kinda goes against the thinking of the record industry.

MC: Yeah, so it’s kind of at-odds with how bands are normally promoted or whatnot. But we really enjoy talking to people who like our record and we’ve got a bit of a fan base out there.

One thing that strikes me is the sense of music community that the band seems to embody. Can you talk a bit about that?

MC: I guess we have a core group of people that we work with but it’s always expanding. People come in on each record, like on this most recent record we’ve got this guy named Derek Burns and another guy named Paul Burbeck from a group called Cat From Dog Mountain. It just seemed like it’d be really fun to get some new blood on some of the vocal tracks, so on the new stuff that we’re recording we’re already thinking about different singers and musicians. It’s just a little more wide open, and I think John and I are comfortable doing that.

How was working with Eddie (Vedder)?

MC: Oh it was great. He came in and sang wonderfully and his lyrics are great and we really enjoyed working with him. We’ve been lucky that we’ve worked with great musicians and singers for our records and he just fit perfectly. He liked our first record a lot and he really wanted to do it, so that was great for us.

Tell me about the songwriting relationship between you guys?

JM: Sometimes I’ll bring in a nearly complete song or Matt will bring in a nearly complete song and we’ll add little bits here and there. Or we’ll bring in demos and work on them together. But it’s really collaborative and it just naturally worked that way. It’s really, really easy.

How does this new album differ from your past ones?

MC: Sonically it’s better, but it’s still not good. It doesn’t sound professional at all.

Is that something you wanted?

MC: No, I just think it’s the fact that everything is in-house. We engineered it ourselves…I mean, if you listen to old Motown records or something like that, sonically it sounds kinda small, tinny, and there’s distortion. But man, it just can’t be beat. I think that’s the type of recordings that we like…But I would say this album probably comes off maybe a little more focused that our last ones.

JM: We had a little bit more time to sit and work on the tracks, whereas with the first two, it was whenever Matt was available because he had the Soundgarden thing going. We’d get a couple weeks here and there to mix, and couple weeks here and there to record…

How do you feel about rock radio right now?

MC: I think there’s still some really good energy out there as far as rock bands go. Limp Bizkit and Korn and Kid Rock—they’ve got great energy. And I think that’s really important. No matter what the music is, for me, it’s always just been about that.

JM: Well it seems really constricted. I think all the big rock stations are playing the same 30 songs and it’s kinda gotten back to how it was in the mid-‘70s. I don’t see how we fit in, I really don’t. I’d love to have us on the radio, for sure, but I don’t know how we’d match up.

Are you trying to create a new sound at all?

MC: Absolutely not. It never entered into our minds. I just try to do what I feel is strong and what is putting my best foot forward.

JM: If the song sounds right, we’re happy. And we’ll leave the rest up to people out there who are gonna buy the record…When we were making this record we weren’t thinking, “OK this is gonna be the single.” We make albums, you know. We’re still stuck in that time frame of the golden days, late ‘60s, mid ‘70s, where bands were putting out albums.

MC: Toys In The Attic, baby.

JM: Toys In The Attic, yeah, stuff like that. And I think that’s helped us because we haven’t lost focus. There’s a lotta bands out there. It goes through that cycle where there’s a couple singles and then they pad it. And it’s just not us.

MC: We’re 100 percent padding.

JM: We want the fifth song on side 2 to be just as much fluff as the first song on side 1.

MC: Absolutely.