Dave Krusen, of Pearl Jam and Candlebox fame, discusses his enduring career in rock music
For drummer Dave Krusen, less is sometimes more.
His kit, for instance, is fairly small by most standards — it’s comprised of just a bass, snare, floor tom, ride cymbal, China cymbal, two crashes and a set of hi-hats. That’s pretty basic for a rock drummer, but it’s a set-up that has treated Krusen very well through the years; and one that he can generate a lot of sound from. It’s also a kit that has allowed Krusen to play in two widely loved alternative rock bands — Pearl Jam and Candlebox — and placed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I have been playing a set-up like that since the mid-’80s — like 1986-87, somewhere in there,” Krusen said.
It was on that style of drum kit that Krusen helped to create one of the greatest rock albums of all time — Pearl Jam’s “Ten,” which was released in August of 1991. But if Krusen’s name doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think about Pearl Jam, there is good reason for that. He wasn’t in the band for all that long, and left shortly after helping the group record its debut album. Because of personal issues and his struggles with alcoholism, Krusen was ousted from Pearl Jam before the band ever truly got any national attention.
It wasn’t until Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, that Krusen was able to reconnect with his former bandmates. He was one of just two drummers to play in Pearl Jam (there have been five drummers in the band’s history) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with the group; the other was the band’s longtime drummer, Matt Cameron, who has played with them consistently since 1998.
For some, including Krusen, his induction into the HOF with the group came as a huge surprise. But it’s not at all rare for original band members to be given the honor of induction, and Krusen was with Pearl Jam before the group was even going by that name. He joined at roughly the same time Eddie Vedder was brought into the fold, during the band’s days playing under the name Mookie Blaylock.
“I was fortunate enough to have a friend who played a lot of shows with Mother Love Bone, who told me that (Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard) were looking to jam with drummers and to give Jeff a call,” Krusen said. “So I did.”
Krusen described what ensued as “an overwhelmingly creative experience” that he wasn’t necessarily ready to handle given the tumultuous state of his personal life at that point in time. Still, the group left an undeniable impression on him.
“I was just very taken with their work ethic and their creativity as well. It seemed pretty much boundless,” said Krusen. “It was just like every time we got together and played, it seemed like there were new ideas that could pop up at any moment.
“It was just amazing music,” added Krusen. “There was just great chemistry with that band.”
Helping Pearl Jam create the music on “Ten,” which contains hit singles like “Alive,” “Even Flow,” “Jeremy” and “Black,” was an experience that Krusen now looks back on as “humbling.” With the album selling upwards of 13 million copies, Krusen added that it is easily the highlight of his musical career.
“It is a great feeling to have been a part of that for sure,” Krusen said. “It definitely will always be a massive life event for me. I am very fortunate.”
When he reunited with Pearl Jam at the HOF ceremony two years ago, Krusen was able to briefly reprise his role as the group’s drummer, when he joined them on stage for a performance of “Alive.” Calling the experience a “huge honor,” Krusen added that playing with his old bandmates was also “a blast.”
“It was an amazing, mind-blowing experience and it was super cool to play with them again,” he said. “It was just such an honor to be included.
“It was very overwhelming, and I can’t really put it into words,” added Krusen. “It was a really intense and amazing feeling. I thought it sounded great.”
Nowadays, Krusen and the remaining members of Pearl Jam don’t really get many opportunities to cross paths with one another, but he described their relationship as “amicable and good.” The reason for that, he said, is because they are all busy doing their own thing and continuing to persue their careers in music.
Just recently, Krusen wrapped up a European tour with another big name on the alt-rock music scene — Candlebox (“Far Behind,” “You”), who he rejoined in 2015 after serving as the group’s drummer from 1997-99. The European tour saw the group play seven dates in the United Kingdom, as well as festivals in Belgium and Denmark.
The band is now in the middle of a United States tour that has them playing two-dozen shows across the country. Candlebox’s lone stop in Pennsylvania on its current string of shows will be at the Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks on Oct. 20.
Krusen said that his recent stint with Candlebox has a “different dynamic for sure,” when compared to his previous run with the group. That’s mainly because the band’s only remaining original member is lead vocalist Kevin Martin.
“It’s been cool, but it has its upsides and downsides,” Krusen said. “It is a lot different; everybody is older and that is such a huge factor. Vibe-wise, everybody has kind of mellowed out.”
At the end of August, Krusen said Candlebox will be going back into the studio to record their seventh album and the follow-up to 2016’s “Disappearing in Airports” record.
“It has been a while (since the last album came out), but it doesn’t seem like it, actually,” Krusen said. “I guess it has been three years, so it seems like a good time.”
Along with playing in Candlebox, Krusen also plays in the group Sons of Silver, who released the single “Never Enough” back in April. The indie-rock group, based out of Los Angeles, previously attracted a lot of attention under the name Pete RG. Krusen said that the group has recorded extensively, and has enough material to fill two EPs. At least one of the band’s forthcoming albums will be released by Universal Music Publishing in the near future.
“It is doing really well,” Krusen said, of the band’s new single. “People are digging it.
“We just shot a video for it, and we will probably be doing some more recording over the summer; and then I think some shows in the fall,” he added.
Saying that he recently had surgeries on his wrists, and also has issues with his elbows that will require surgery, Krusen tries to keep a healthy balance these days between his work and home life.
“I definitely like to keep busy and I like to work with different people. I like to be creative and all that good stuff,” he said. “But I definitely have reached a point in my life where I realize I can’t do everything, you know? I kind of have to keep a balance there, so that has definitely been more on my mind the last few months.”
Now in his mid-50s with a career that most musicians would kill to have, Krusen still approaches his role as a drummer the same way he always has.
“I think (a drummer’s job) is just to support the music and do what is required. Don’t ever play for any other reason,” he said. “The job is to support the music and get the point across.”
That’s a pretty basic view. But sometimes less is more.