When Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine Almost Joined Pearl Jam Instead

Pearl Jam via Legacy Recordings. Brad Wilk via Pinterest.
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One thing that most Pearl Jam fans just had to accept in the early days was the revolving door of musicians behind the drum kit.

For a band that seemed so self contained in Seattle, the amount of people coming and going to keep the tempo ended up reaching Spinal Tap levels of craziness, before they finally settled with Matt Cameron from Pearl Jam, who has remained their drummer ever since the early ‘00s.

Just before they really blew up though, they almost made a decision that could’ve stopped Rage Against the Machine from ever existing.

When talking with Lars Ulrich, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine had mentioned how Brad Wilk was originally going to play in Pearl Jam, being friends with Eddie Vedder back when he was living in San Diego.

At the time, Rage were still fairly green in the California rock community, and Tom had talked about setting up their rehearsal space behind the drum kit of another band that was using the rehearsal space at the time.

Before they got a deal though, Tom saidBrad went away for a while to join the beginning version of Pearl Jam. He and Eddie Vedder were friends. They had made Ten and had parted ways with that drummer and called Brad to ask if he wanted to join them…they were still called Mookie Blaylock at the time.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be. Brad later recalled to Let There Be Talk Podcast that while he was given a chance to go to England with Pearl Jam to jam with them while they were mixing ‘Ten,’ ultimately the chemistry just wasn’t right:

“I’m like shitting my pants – I’ve never been out of the country. I’ve got to go get my fucking passport, I’m listening to the songs, I’m super-young and thinking, ‘This is my break. This is my time!’ I go to Europe and we play together. Me and Eddie have this history, and we’re bonding over in Europe. But to the others I’m just the new guy.

Long story short, I go there, and I just don’t click musically, mostly with Jeff [Ament], who is an incredible bass player, awesome guy. … This is a classic case – it doesn’t matter how good you are, chemistry is everything. It just wasn’t clicking. … I just wasn’t the guy.”

Since he was without a band, Tom Morello said that Brad leaving actually indirectly led to the rest of Rage coming together, saying “while Brad was two timing me, another drummer introduced me to Tim and Zack, so when Brad finally came back, eventually we all got in a room, and it sounded like Rage Against the Machine from the first few sessions.

Even in those beginning stages of Rage though, Tom also had mentioned that the pieces were all there from the get go, with those first few jam sessions with just Brad becoming the basis of what would become songs like “Know Your Enemy” and “Township Rebellion” off the first record.

Although Pearl Jam would have probably been phenomenal with Brad playing songs like “Even Flow” live, all the members of Rage were necessary to translate that anger into something a lot more aggressive on the live stage.

Here’s Tom Morello explaining Brad’s relationship with Pearl Jam: