Matthew David "Matt" Cameron (born November 28, 1962) is an American musician who serves as the drummer for the American rock bands Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. After getting his start with the Seattle, Washington-based bands Bam Bam and Skin Yard, he first gained fame as the drummer for the band Soundgarden, which he joined in 1986 and remained in until the band's break-up in 1997, triggered by creative friction. In 1998, Cameron was invited to play on Pearl Jam's U.S. Yield Tour. He soon became a permanent member and has remained in the band ever since. In 2010, Soundgarden reunited for new tour and released a new album, King Animal on November 13, 2012.
Additionally, Cameron was a member of Temple of the Dog, (with fellow Soundgarden and Pearl Jam band mates) and has served as the drummer for the side project bands Hater and Wellwater Conspiracy, also acting as the lead singer for the latter.
Cameron will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pearl Jam on April 7, 2017.
Matt Cameron was born and raised in San Diego, California. Cameron began playing drums at an early age. At the age of thirteen, he and some friends played in a cover band called "Kiss" (with the word imitation written underneath the name, in small print). During this stint, he met Paul Stanley. However, after a letter from the management of the band Kiss threatened the boys with legal action if they did not cease their infringement, the band melted away.
Cameron attended Bonita Vista High School. In 1978, under the pseudonym "Foo Cameron", Cameron sang the song "Puberty Love" which was featured in the movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The nickname "Foo" came from Cameron's older brother Pete, who pronounced Matthew as "Ma Foo".
Skin Yard (1983–1986)
In 1983, Cameron moved to Seattle, Washington, where he got a job working at a Kinko's. After doing his first professional work as drummer for Bam Bam fronted by lead singer, Tina Bell and guitarist, Tommy Martin, the parents of documentary film director TJ Martin. He next played in the local instrumental band feeDBack with musician Daniel House. Following feeDBack, Cameron joined House in 1985 in the newly formed Skin Yard. The band had been formed in January 1985 by House and Jack Endino. Cameron stayed with the group for almost a year. In 1986, Skin Yard contributed two songs to the now-legendary Deep Six compilation. This album was the first to showcase the early grunge sound. The band released its first album in 1986, the eponymous Skin Yard. Cameron wrote the song "Reptile" for the band which appears on its first record. (More of Cameron's work with Skin Yard can be found on the 2001 rarities compilation, Start at the Top.) Shortly after the release of Skin Yard, Cameron left the band, later joining Soundgarden.
Soundgarden (1986–1997; 2010–present)
By September 1986, Cameron had gained so much notoriety in the local music scene that he was chosen to play for Soundgarden, replacing drummer Scott Sundquist. Soundgarden was made up of vocalist/guitarist Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Cornell said, "When I first met Matt, he was already the best drummer in town...He just seemed very confident and well-adjusted." The band signed with the independent label Sub Pop and released the Screaming Life EP in 1987 and the Fopp EP in 1988. In 1988, the band signed with legendary punk record label SST Records and released its debut full-length album Ultramega OK. The album earned the band its first major award nomination, a Grammy Award, in 1990. The band subsequently signed with A&M Records, becoming the first grunge band to sign to a major label. In 1989, the band released its first album for a major label, Louder Than Love. Following the release of Louder Than Love, Yamamoto left the band to finish his master's degree in Physical Chemistry at Western Washington University. He was replaced by former Nirvana guitarist Jason Everman. Everman was fired following Soundgarden's tour supporting Louder Than Love.
In 1990, the band was joined by a new bassist, Ben Shepherd. The new line-up released Badmotorfinger in 1991. The album brought the band to a new level of commercial success, and the band found itself amidst the sudden popularity and attention given to the Seattle music scene and the genre known as grunge. Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1992. The band's next album was to be its breakthrough. Superunknown, released in 1994, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and launched several successful singles, including "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun". Cameron's drumming is showcased throughout the album, as he provides the complex backbeat (and plenty of improvisation) to the unusual time signatures present on many of the tracks. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 1995. Two singles from Superunknown, "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman", won Grammy Awards, and the music video for "Black Hole Sun" won a MTV Video Music Award and a Clio Award. Superunknown was ranked number 336 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and "Black Hole Sun" was ranked number 25 on VH1's list of the 100 greatest songs of the '90s. In 1996, the band released its fifth studio album, Down on the Upside; while successful, the album could not emulate the precedent set by Superunknown. Tensions within the group arose during the Down on the Upside sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell's desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become the band's trademark. In 1997, Soundgarden received another Grammy nomination, for the lead single "Pretty Noose". In 1997, the band broke up due to internal strife over its creative direction. In a 1998 interview, Thayil said, "It was pretty obvious from everybody's general attitude over the course of the previous half-year that there was some dissatisfaction." Cameron later said that Soundgarden was "eaten up by the business."
On January 1, 2010, Cornell announced on his Twitter that Soundgarden would be reuniting. The official website relaunched soon thereafter. The band had begun recording a new album in February 2011, which was later released in November 2012, known as King Animal. While a member of Soundgarden, Cameron wrote the following songs for the band:
- "He Didn’t" (Ultramega OK) ... music
- "Jesus Christ Pose" (Badmotorfinger) ... music (co-written)
- "Room a Thousand Years Wide" (Badmotorfinger) ... music
- "Drawing Flies" (Badmotorfinger) ... music
- "New Damage" (Badmotorfinger) ... music (co-written)
- "Birth Ritual" (Singles soundtrack) ... music (co-written)
- "Exit Stonehenge" ("Spoonman" single) ... music (co-written)
- "Mailman" (Superunknown) ... music, and played mellotron
- "Limo Wreck" (Superunknown) ... music (co-written)
- "Fresh Tendrils" (Superunknown) ... lyrics (co-written) and music
- "Jerry Garcia's Finger" (Songs from the Superunknown) ... music (co-written)
- "Rhinosaur" (Down on the Upside) ... music
- "Applebite" (Down on the Upside) ... music, and played Moog synthesizer
- "A Splice of Space Jam" ("Blow Up the Outside World" single) ... music (co-written)
- "By Crooked Steps" (King Animal) ... music (co-written)
- "Eyelid's Mouth" (King Animal) ... music
The task of figuring out the time signatures for Soundgarden's songs was usually left to Cameron. Regarding his drumming with Soundgarden, Modern Drummer stated that Cameron "always injected a maturity into Soundgarden's music. His ghost-note grooves and the uncanny ability to make odd time feel like straight time have already earned him status among rock's drumming's elite pacemakers."
On November 15, 2013, Cameron announced that he would not be touring with Soundgarden in 2014, due to prior commitments promoting Pearl Jam's album Lightning Bolt.
Pearl Jam (1998–present)
Almost a year after Soundgarden's break-up, in summer 1998, Cameron was invited by rock-colleagues Pearl Jam to drum on its U.S. Yield Tour after the band's drummer Jack Irons left due to health issues.Cameron had worked with members of the band before on the Temple of the Dog project and had helped them record some early instrumental demos in 1990. Cameron said, "I got a phone call out of the blue, from Mr. Ed Ved, Stoney and Kelly (Curtis, Pearl Jam's manager). I was ambushed. It was really short notice. He called and said 'hey what are you doing this summer?'" Guitarist Mike McCready said, "We knew him from being around the same scene and seeing him on tour. It had a lot to do with it. We knew he was a normal cat too, a normal guy." Cameron learned over 80 songs in two weeks. He was hired on an initially temporary basis, but soon, during the tour, he was invited to become a full-time member. Cameron stated, "The guys made me feel real welcome and it wasn't a struggle to get it musically, but my style was a little bit different, I think, than what they were used to. And they've been through so many different drummers, I don't even know if they knew what they wanted. So, I just kind of played the way I played and then eventually we kind of figured out what worked best for the band."
Cameron has since become the longest serving drummer of the band. McCready stated that Cameron has made Pearl Jam "into a way better band." In 1998, Pearl Jam, with Cameron on drums, recorded "Last Kiss", a cover of a 1960s ballad made famous by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. It was released on the band's 1998 fan club Christmas single; however, by popular demand, the cover was released to the public as a single in 1999. "Last Kiss" peaked at number two on the Billboard charts and became the band's highest-charting single. In 2000, the band released its sixth studio album, Binaural, and initiated a successful and ongoing series of official bootlegs. The band released seventy-two such live albums in 2000 and 2001, and set a record for most albums to debut in the Billboard 200 at the same time. "Grievance" (from Binaural) received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The band released its seventh studio album, Riot Act, in 2002. Pearl Jam's contribution to the 2003 film, Big Fish, "Man of the Hour", was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2004. The band's eighth studio album, the eponymous Pearl Jam, was released in 2006. The band released its ninth studio album, Backspacer, in 2009. Their tenth studio album Lightning Bolt was released in 2013.
Since joining Pearl Jam, Cameron has written the following songs for the band:
- "Evacuation" (Binaural) ... music
- "Save You" (Riot Act) ... music (co-written)
- "Cropduster" (Riot Act) ... music
- "You Are" (Riot Act) ... lyrics (co-written), music, and played rhythm guitar
- "Get Right" (Riot Act) ... lyrics and music
- "In the Moonlight" (Lost Dogs) ... lyrics and music
- "Unemployable" (Pearl Jam) ... music (co-written)
- "The Fixer" (Backspacer) ... music (co-written)
- "Johnny Guitar" (Backspacer) ... music (co-written)
While not as frequent as the other members' written contributions, Cameron's are held in high regard by the band, as are his performances. In the liner notes of the 2003 Lost Dogs compilation, Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder says:
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?
Other musical projects (1990–present)
Along with Cornell, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, McCready, and Vedder, Cameron appeared on the 1991 Temple of the Dog album. The album paid tribute to Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose at age 24.
He has played in two jazz-influenced side projects: Tone Dogs in the early 1990s, and Harrybu McCage, which formed in 2008. He recorded with the Tone Dogs for their debut album Ankety Low Day, which was released in 1990. Cameron also has a fondness for psychedelic garage rock, and his side projects Hater and Wellwater Conspiracy reflect this. Cameron formed Hater in 1993 with Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd. The band released a self-titled album in 1993 and recorded a second album in 1995 following Soundgarden's Superunknown tour. The band's second album, The 2nd, would not see release until 2005. Cameron founded Wellwater Conspiracy with Shepherd and guitarist John McBain. The band's debut album, Declaration of Conformity, was released in 1997. Following Shepherd's departure from the band in 1998, Cameron took over lead vocal duties for the band. Cameron and McBain maintained the group after Cameron joined Pearl Jam, and a further three Wellwater Conspiracy albums were released following the band's debut album (Brotherhood of Electric: Operational Directives (1999), The Scroll and Its Combinations (2001), and Wellwater Conspiracy (2003)).
He worked with electronic punk act The Prodigy on their breakthrough album The Fat of the Land, providing beats and fills that were sampled for hits such as Firestarter and Breathe.
Cameron appears on the Gamma Ray 7" which would become the first recorded material by Queens of the Stone Age. Cameron played drums at the band's first show on November 20, 1997 at the OK Hotel in Seattle, however he did not join the band as its drummer. He also appeared with them in 2008, at the memorial concert for Natasha Shneider, playing double drums along with their then-current drummer Joey Castillo, of which various Queens of the Stone Age and Desert Sessions songs, as well as covers by artist including The Doors and Cream were played.
Cameron contributed his drumming on seven tracks considered for The Smashing Pumpkins' 1998 album, Adore, though only "For Martha" appeared on the album. Another studio track, "Because You Are", surfaced on the 2001 B-sides and rarities collection, Judas O. Rumors circulated in the beginning of 1998 that he was considered as a permanent drummer replacement for Jimmy Chamberlin, but Cameron denied this.
Other drumming contributions by Cameron include four tracks on Eleven's 1995 album, Thunk, the track "Disappearing One" on former bandmate Chris Cornell's 1999 solo album, Euphoria Morning, and Geddy Lee's 2000 solo album, My Favourite Headache.
Cameron has enjoyed a friendship with fellow drummer Jeremy Taggart of Canadian rock group Our Lady Peace. When Taggart was sidelined with an ankle injury during the recording of that group's 2000 album, Spiritual Machines, Cameron played drums on songs such as "Right Behind You (Mafia)" and "Are You Sad?". Cameron contributed to the soundtrack for the 2002 film, Spider-Man, playing on "Hero" with Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott. As Cameron was unable to attend the shoot, Jeremy Taggart returned the favor and is shown in Cameron's place in the video.
Cameron, along with fellow Pearl Jam bandmate Mike McCready, contributed two songs to Peter Frampton's instrumental album, Fingerprints (2006). These include a cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and "Blowin' Smoke".
Cameron has lent his talents to Submersible Music's DrumCore software.
In 2013, Cameron performed with drummers Janet Weiss of Sleater Kinney, and Zach Hill of Death Grips on an all drum album entitled Drumgasm.
Musical style and influences
Cameron was described by Greg Prato of Allmusic as "unquestionably one of rock's finest and most versatile drummers." Though known for his creativity, power, and precision, Cameron's style is one that does not instinctively seek to dominate a song, but rather tease out a groove that will complement and support its atmosphere. Examples of this can be clearly heard in Temple of the Dog's "Wooden Jesus" or Soundgarden's "Mind Riot" and "Applebite". Cameron's time in Pearl Jam has helped see his technique mellow to a more modest backing role, providing support for the more straightforward nature of Pearl Jam's matured style compared to Soundgarden's more extreme and unusual tendencies, e.g., the song "Face Pollution". Despite a career in rock music, Cameron stated in a 1989 radio interview that growing up he "wasn't a big rock fan..." and that his musical tastes during his youth were "more into jazz." Cameron has professed that his primary musical interests lie in progressive rock and various jazz subgenres, including hard bop, both of which are characterized by a much busier playing style than Cameron typically exhibits, especially in the aforementioned matured Pearl Jam. Cameron has cited Tony Williams, Keith Moon, Steve Gadd, Stewart Copeland, Bill Bruford, and Kiss as influences.
Cameron tends to revisit the paradiddle for effect. Examples include the spreading of the RLRR-LRLL pattern amongst ride and snare on Soundgarden's "Never the Machine Forever" (from Down on the Upside), "Unemployable" (from Pearl Jam), creating a driving shuffle; and "You Are" (from Riot Act). This pattern can also be heard during the bridge of "Bleed Together" (from the "Burden in My Hand" single). Cameron also is well known for his use of tom grooves and tribal patterns, the most famous of which being the tour-de-force "Jesus Christ Pose" figure, as well as "Little Joe", "Gun", and "Spoonman". Cameron also incorporated the technique of open-handed drumming into his playing, particularly around the Badmotorfinger period in Soundgarden, specifically the tracks "Slaves & Bulldozers", the outro of "Rusty Cage", and "Somewhere", and used the technique later on Superunknown's "Limo Wreck."
Throughout the 1990s, Cameron favored two to three crashes (generally matching 19-inch Zildjian Avedis Rock crashes and eventually Z Customs by Superunknown touring period), an A or K ride of 20 or 21 inches, and 15-inch hi hats with an occasional 10-inch splash or bell. China cymbals were used throughout the 80's but infrequently in the 90's, the most notable being Superunknown's closing track "Like Suicide", even though they were eliminated from his live setup by Badmotorfinger. Even after becoming a full-time member of Pearl Jam upon drummer Jack Irons' departure for health reasons, Cameron's cymbal setup did not change radically from his Soundgarden days. Currently, the most noticeable difference is his use of the A and K series as opposed to the heavier A Rock and Z Custom series.
Cameron is best known for his use of California-based Drum Workshop during his time with Soundgarden, though he used his own Yamaha kits before 1990 when he started using DW, which he later admittedly approached after Yamaha first turned down his endorsement. It's unclear whether Cameron actually used DW during the Badmotorfinger sessions in 1991 or a presumably self bought natural maple Yamaha 8000 series drums seen at live shows from that time. By fall '91, however, Cameron started using DW's with a copper gloss, black bass drum hoops and a knurled steel snare. By 1993 his Superunknown era kit arrived, a black gloss kit with 12, 13, and 14-inch hanging toms, 16 and possibly 18-inch floor toms and a 24x16 inch bass drum. Cameron revealed in a 1994 interview with Modern Drummer magazine that to greater emphasize the dynamic shift in the aforementioned "Like Suicide", two kits were used, the latter having shells both larger in depth and diameter. Superunknown is well known for its huge drum sound and practices such as this brought attention in the drumming world. Other examples include the use of all ride cymbals on "Black Hole Sun" and 3 drummers playing at the same time at the end of "Head Down", being Cameron, Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd and drum craftsman and tech Gregg Keplinger. Cameron, along with fellow Northwesterner William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate and Foo Fighters), was an early supporter of Keplinger's snares, famous for perhaps being the heaviest and most characteristic stainless steel snare drum available.
By the recording of 1996's Down on the Upside, and the album's subsequent tour, he was endorsed by the Canadian custom outfit Ayotte, a company Keplinger had teamed with offering mass-produced steel snares, and soon cohorts and fellow Keplinger artist Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace), Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, session), and Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace) joined as well. During Down on the Upside and a short 1995 tour in the middle of making it, Cameron used natural maple Ayotte's with wood hoops in 10, 12, 13, 16, 18, and 24, with Ayotte/Keplinger snares or his longtime favorite Keplinger 14x7 stainless steel snare. By the album's official tour in 1996, a kit in the same sizes but with dark purple sparkle toms and a silver sparkle bass drum was used all the way up to Soundgarden's breakup.
Following his hiring for Pearl Jam's U.S. Yield Tour Cameron could be seen using his purple Ayotte kit, which would stay intact for the most part for the next 4 years. Cameron's subsequent time with Pearl Jam is notable for his shift away from maple-shelled drums, arguably the most popular drum material in the rock market for its low fundamental tone and strong projection. In 2002, following a corporate mutiny resulting in the ousting of Ray Ayotte from his own company and their subsequent end in partnership with Gregg Keplinger, Cameron switched to Yamaha, endorsing and using their Birch Custom Absolute drums in a vintage natural finish. Compared to maple shelled drums, birch is higher-pitched with a quicker attack and produces fewer overtones. By 2009, he began to use yet another type of wood, the Yamaha Oak Custom in a black finish with Yamaha Vintage Maple hoops. Oak drums are noted for their additional attack and projection, with a similar fundamental tone to maple.
His current setup continues his longtime use of 12, 13, and 16-inch toms, with a shallow 24 bass drum, more specifically 12x8, 13x9, 16x14 and 24x14. He occasionally uses a 14x14 floor tom on his left side and an 18x16 floor tom when not using 14x7 Alex Acuna timbale for certain songs in Pearl Jam. His switches his snares between his various Gregg Keplinger built models and Yamaha productions, varying from copper and aluminum shelled models to discontinued signature snares for David Garibaldi, Roy Haynes, and Steve Gadd. Lately he has experimented with Kapur shelled Yamaha Club Customs and his Yamaha/Steve Gadd 30th anniversary drum set. He has also used a Yamaha Steve Jordan signature cocktail kit live occasionally.
Matt endorses Yamaha drums and hardware, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth drumsticks., and Remo Drumheads.
Cameron and his wife, April Acevez, are the parents of two children - son Ray and daughter Josie.
- Ultramega OK (1988)
- Louder Than Love (1989)
- Badmotorfinger (1991)
- Superunknown (1994)
- Down on the Upside (1996)
- King Animal (2012)
- Pearl Jam
- Binaural (2000)
- Riot Act (2002)
- Pearl Jam (2006)
- Backspacer (2009)
- Lightning Bolt (2013)