Basic Background Info
“Matt Cameron writes songs and we run to find step stools in order to reach his level. What comes naturally to him leaves us with our heads cocked like the confused dogs that we are...eventually getting it. Did we mention he's the greatest drummer on the planet?” –Eddie Vedder
Matt Cameron’s first gig was in a cover band called Kiss (Imitation). Though he actually did get to meet Paul Stanley, Kiss’s management threatened Matt’s little outfit with legal action if they didn’t cease and desist immediately. At only thirteen, this was Matt’s introduction to the music industry.
Though he would eventually become inextricably linked with the Seattle grunge music scene of the late-80s/early-90s, Matt Cameron actually grew up in sunny San Diego, California. Under the moniker of “Foo Cameron,” Matt first gained a small amount of notoriety for performing “Puberty Love.” The song was eventually featured in the movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. He was only sixteen and already had a song on a movie soundtrack.
Matt Cameron moved to Seattle in the early 1980s and played for a short time with a band called Feedback. In 1985, he joined Daniel House (future C/Z Records owner) and Jack Endino to form a band named Skin Yard—a moniker that Matt himself came up with. Later on that year, vocalist Ben McMillan joined up, and the lineup was complete. They played their first show in June, opening for the U-Men. Though Cameron laid down drum tracks for Skin Yard’s self-titled debut, he had already moved on to Soundgarden by the album’s release in January 1987.
Soundgarden (named for a sculpture in Seattle’s Sandpoint) was on the lookout for a new drummer after Scott Sundquist left to be with his family in the spring of 1986. Chris Cornell, Hiro Yamamoto, and Kim Thayil lured Matt Cameron away from Skin Yard and convinced him to join that June.
It wasn’t long before the band began to record the Screaming Life EP, which was later released on Subpop records in 1987. They followed up the next year with Fopp. Both EPs did reasonably well, and the group decided it was time to record a full length album. Soundgarden released Ultramega OK on SST in 1998. Soundgarden’s blend of multi-layered, earthy metal and aggressive punk overtones earned Ultramega OK a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance (Metallica’s One won that year).
The band signed on to A&M Records and released Louder Than Love in 1989. Hiro Yamamoto left the band, and Jason Everman temporarily filled in for the Louder Than Love tour. Eventually, Ben Shepherd stepped in as the full-time bassist. Shortly after the close of Soundgarden’s first tour, Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) passed away. The band was deeply depressed by the loss—Chris Cornell wrote two songs in Wood’s memory. A few other friends who had played with Wood (Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament) got together with guitarist Mike McCready and Matt Cameron to record Temple Of The Dog in tribute to their fallen band mate. It was released in 1990.
As it turned out, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, and Stone Gossard were also forming a band tentatively named Mookie Blaylock, but they still needed a drummer and a vocalist. Matt agreed to help the newly formed band and recorded a large amount of material with them. Mookie Blaylock eventually changed its name to Pearl Jam, and the demo songs appeared on their early albums and b-sides. Matt Cameron also found the time to drum on an album for the Tone Dogs, a small jazz outfit.
In 1991, Soundgarden resumed recording and came out with Badmotorfinger. Badmotorfinger soon sold a million copies and went platinum. They toured Europe and the U.S. in support of the album and returned back home in time for Lollapalooza.
1992 found the band's members on hiatus from Soundgarden to pursue other projects separately. Matt Cameron got together with Ben Shepherd, John Paul McBain, Kevin Wood (Andrew Wood’s brother), and John Waterman to record Hater. The relaxed album was released on A&M in late 1993, and the track “Sad McBain” has Matt singing all by himself in his first solo vocal performance. Aside from a few shows in the greater Seattle area, the band kept a pretty low profile.
Soundgarden came back together shortly before New Year’s 1993 and recorded Superunknown. The album came out the following spring and was stunningly successful. The single “Spoonman” won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1995. The band followed up with a year-long tour that spanned North America, Europe, and Australia. Exhausted from the year spent on the road, Soundgarden took another break and Matt Cameron recorded an album with his side project, Wellwater Conspiracy.
The band recorded Down On The Upside and released the first single in early 1996. The entire album was released in mid-May and it did very well both locally and internationally. They went on a limited tour from September to December, concluding in their hometown of Seattle.
In early 1997, Soundgarden gigged in New Zealand and Australia and, to everyone’s surprise, announced that the band was dissolving on April 7, 1997. At arguably the height of the band’s popularity, the members went their separate ways to focus on other things.
His music career far from over, Matt Cameron almost immediately started fielding requests to join everyone who was looking for a drummer, from The Smashing Pumpkins to The Indigo Girls. He mostly ignored them all in order to take some time off, until Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder asked Matt if he would go on tour with the band (Jack Irons had left due to serious health issues). With Matt’s schedule more or less completely blank, he agreed to drum with Pearl Jam on their U.S. tour. Matt Cameron appeared on the live album, Live On Two Legs, in late 1998. But Matt hadn’t forgotten about his other commitments and went back to work with Wellwater Conspiracy for their 1999 album, Brotherhood of Electric.
Matt Cameron rejoined Pearl Jam on Binaural (2000), Riot Act (2002), and the self-titled album, Pearl Jam (2006). He also appears on the live concert DVDs, which sometimes contain a special Matt cam feature. Additionally, Matt has managed to make time to appear as a guest performer on Geddy Lee’s My Favorite Headache, Tony Iommi’s Iommi, Queens of the Stone Age's Over the Years and Through the Woods, and Peter Frampton's Fingerprints.
Matt Cameron’s influence stretches far beyond the Seattle sound that made him popular. Matt Cameron's innovative and elegant playing style has earned Matt respect and admiration from fans, critics, and seasoned drumming statesmen alike. Matt Cameron's powerful performance at a Buddy Rich memorial benefit garnered praise from both the audience and the Buddy Rich big band itself—not just as a rock drummer or a jazz drummer, but as a graceful artist who is fluent in his craft.
Instruments of Choice
Pics & Clips