Liquid Assets: Wellwater Conspiracy

by Charles R. Cross
Guitar World

On the new Pearl Jam DVD, Touring Band 2000, viewers are treated to a camera angle the band calls the “Matt-cam” since it shows the view from Drummer Matt Cameron’s stool.  But if there is ever a DVD for Wellwater Conspiracy – Cameron’s other band, with guitarist John McBain – it would have to include multiple camera shots:  in Wellwater, Cameron plays drums and guitar, and sings.

Through Wellwater Conspiracy at times resemble Pearl Jam – particularly on “Felicity’s Surprise,” a track from their new album, The Scroll and Its Combinations (TVT), that includes a guest vocal by Eddie Vedder – their overall sound is so multi-influenced that it’s not easily pigeonholed.  McBain’s guitar playing drives most of the songs, and he seems as influenced by the avant-garde sounds of Frank Zappa as he is by the heavy metal of his old band, Monster Magnet.  “I want to make albums,” McBain says, “and I want them to be multidimensional.”

Cameron and McBain formed Wellwater in 1992, when Cameron was still drumming with Soundgarden, and through a handful of albums they have remained steadfast to their own eclecticism.  Each song on their three albums sounds like it could come from a different band, if not a different universe.  In some cases that’s because the lineup of the band is fluid, and with others it’s because the players have switched instruments.  “We are into the method of unlearning,” says Cameron.  “Sometimes it’s more liberating to have John play drums.”

Critics have called the resulting experiments everything from retro-psychedelic to garage-pop, though McBain says there is no master plan:  “We don’t have a particular sound.  Our goal is to make albums, not to come up with a marketing plan.”  All of Wellwater’s records have been recorded in Soundgarden’s old rehearsal space, part of the band’s “no-budget recording” technique.  Yet, in this case, the less-is-more theory holds, and Cameron is dead-on when he describes the band as “sloppy, but in a nice way.”

Axology: (sidebar to article)

Guitars: (McBain) Guild S-100; (Cameron) Seventies Fender Telecaster

Amps: (both) Fender, Marshall, Vox, Mesa/Boogie

Strings: (both) Ernie Ball

Currently Listening To:

(McBain) Hog Molly, Void, Bad Brains, the Who

(Cameron) PJ Harvey, Meat Puppets, Radiohead, Nina Simone

All Time Favorite Albums:

(McBain) George Harrison-All Things Must Pass, the Who-Live at Leeds

(Cameron) Stevie Wonder-Innervisions, David Bowie-Low