Skip to main content

Did grunge kill '80s metal? Ask Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard

'I listened to a lot of Motörhead. I listened to a lot of Iron Maiden,' he says

It’s a question as old as “the Beatles or Rolling Stones?”: Did the grunge explosion in the early ‘90s kill off ‘80s metal? In a new interview with Andrew Daly of VWMusic, guitarist Stone Gossard – whose band, Pearl Jam, have long been viewed as one of the grunge bands at the center of that allegation – chimed in with his opinion.

"I think there's always renewal in the world, and with that renewal, comes new perspectives," Gossard said. "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.’ ”

He continued, "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."