Drummer Jack Irons has played with some of rock's biggest names over the years, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Neil Young. Born on July 18, 1962, Irons was raised in Los Angeles, and it was while as a student at Fairfax High School that he befriended Hillel Slovak, Anthony Kiedis, and Michael Balzary. Soon after, Irons and Slovak (who played guitar) formed a band called Anthym, while the pair eventually began to jam with Kiedis on vocals and Balzary on bass (the latter of which had adopted the nickname Flea). The group merged punk and funk, and added their colorful sense of humor, as evidenced by their original name, Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. By their first show in 1983, however, the quartet was rechristened the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although the group caused a major stir in the overcrowded L.A. music scene with their outrageous and high-energy stage show, Irons and Slovak refused to take the group seriously, as they jumped ship (on the eve of the Peppers signing a record contract) to record with another local group, What Is This?.
But it soon became apparent to both Irons and Slovak that they'd made the wrong decision (after a pair of What Is This? releases failed to catch on with the public -- a self-titled release and the EP 3 out of 5 Live). Kiedis and Flea welcomed the duo back to the Peppers with open arms, just in time for the group's sophomore effort, 1985's Freaky Styley. Although the album was produced by one of their heroes, Funkadelic's George Clinton, it didn't come close to matching the zaniness of their live show, a problem that the group corrected with their next release, 1987's Uplift Mofo Party Plan (often credited as the Peppers' first classic album). The album caused a major buzz with the college rock crowd, and it appeared as through the quartet's next release would catapult them over the top. But in June of 1988, Slovak died from a heroin overdose. Understandably distraught, Irons opted to leave the band, although Kiedis and Flea carried on with replacement members, and soon obtained massive commercial success.
Irons joined up once more with the former leader of What Is This?, singer/guitarist Alain Johannes (plus keyboardist Natasha Shneider), to form a new group, Eleven. With Eleven just getting off the ground, a pair of friends who were trying to form a new band themselves, ex-Mother Love Bone members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, asked Irons for help. He recommended a singer he knew of from San Diego, Eddie Vedder, and after a successful tryout, Pearl Jam was born. Although Pearl Jam asked Irons to join up with them as well, he remained loyal to Eleven, and drummed on such subsequent overlooked albums as 1991's Awake in a Dream, 1993's self-titled release, and 1995's Thunk.
In the meantime however, Pearl Jam quickly became one of the world's biggest rock bands (an early breakout tour opening for Irons' old pals, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was supposedly nailed down due to Irons' recommendation). When the group found themselves without a drummer in early 1995, the invitation was extended once more to Irons, and this time, he accepted. Appearing on such subsequent Pearl Jam releases as 1995's Merkin Ball, 1996's No Code, and 1998's Yield (as well as a Pearl Jam/Neil Young collaboration in 1995, Mirror Ball), it appeared as though it would be smooth sailing for Irons from there on out. But this didn't prove to be the case, as he abruptly left the group in 1998, citing "health problems" (he was replaced with former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron). Irons laid low for a while, working on a solo release called Attention Dimension that was finally released in 2004. During that time, he also got back together with Eleven, appearing on 2003's Howling Book. Although his time with the band was over, archival releases from Pearl Jam kept appearing that also featured Irons' drum work. He was part of the Spinnerette's studio band, appearing on an album and an EP and was also recruited to play on Hole's Nobody's Daughter and Fino + Bleed by Die Mannequin. His second solo album, No Heads Are Better Than One, appeared in 2010 and was quickly followed by the Blue Manatee EP in 2011.
~ Greg Prato