My mad season with Mad Season
Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready admits he found it difficult listening to his work with Mad Season – because of the bad memories it brought back.
But he’s also proud of the work the supergroup did in a “quick flash” of time.
They released their only album Above in 1995, then had to abandon the follow-up after the death of bassist John Baker Saunders in 1999 and frontman Layne Staley in 2002.
McCready and drummer Barrett Martin regrouped with vocalist Mark Lanegan to complete three songs that had been started at the end of 1990s, and they were released as part of a Mad Season box set earlier this year. It also featured a remastered version of Above – which was a “bittersweet” experience for the guitarist.
“I’d listened to it all the way through probably two times since it came out,” McCready tells MusicRadar. “It’s very sad. Baker and Layne both died, so there’s a sadness that hangs over the entire record. I wasn’t willing to live that again. Those couple of times I did listen to it, it was tough.
“When I went back and heard it again it was freeing and said. I cried and laughed, and felt proud. I felt a real mixture of emotions that I’d never had with any other music I’d done, because two of the guys passed away, and I miss them.
“I wish that they could be here talking about it. I’d like to see what they’d be like now, when they weren’t as young as they were whenever we made the record.”
Looking back, it seems Mad Season was a perfect fit for the band’s name – and McCready feels the box set underlines that. “There was a feeling of closure because we put out everything we did,” he says. “To be able to do two DVDs from two shows was pretty cool. It was good to say: ‘This is what we did in a short period of time. We were a quick flash – then we were gone.’”
The guitarist believes Saunders has never been recognised for his contribution to the band. “Everybody sort of gravitated towards Baker,” he recalls. “He was a real honest, really cool bluesman. I think Layne felt that – the honesty and the realness – and so did Barrett.”
And he’ll always be grateful for the lessons he learned with Mad Season: “It was a free-form, fun thing; there wasn’t any pressure, like, ‘This isn’t my band, Pearl Jam.’ I didn’t have all of the insecurities that went along with that. Running back to that time, I definitely needed something to help me gain confidence in my songwriting. Mad Season was kind of the vehicle for that.”