Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready has an identifiable sound. You hear him in a song and know it's him. He can destroy with distortion, or he can go aqueous with a phaser pedal and trace intricate music box dream-state lines. Mainly, McCready pulls from a three-tiered turret of influences: Ace Frehley, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. Coming up in Roosevelt High School in Seattle, McCready's blues-based fingerprint of KISS could be heard in his first band, Shadow. From there, it was Temple of the Dog, then Pearl Jam. In 1994, McCready formed Mad Season with Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees, and bassist John Baker Saunders—they released one studio album called Above. Sadly, addiction took hold of Staley and Saunders, claiming both their lives and spelling an indefinite end to the band.
On April 2, a deluxe edition of Mad Season's Above will be released with two CDs containing the original studio album, three previously unreleased tracks with Mark Lanegan singing, and a DVD that includes videos of their last show at the Moore and their New Year's Eve performance at the now-defunct RKCNDY. Mike McCready spoke.
When you think about Mad Season, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
Sadness. Tragedy. I think about Above, I think we made a good record. Sadness that Baker and Layne aren't around anymore and that I can't talk to them about stuff. I wonder what they would be like now. Would they be parents? What would they be doing? I miss them. I'm proud of the record, but sad as well.
How did Mad Season begin?
I was in rehab in 1994, getting sober for the first time, and I met Baker there. Layne was a friend of mine, and I knew he was struggling, I started thinking that I wanted to help him out. I was naive back then, thinking I could save people. My initial inclination with it was to help Layne out and to get to play with Barrett—I'd always loved his drumming.