How a Run-in With KISS Led to Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron Receiving a Cease and Desist From His Idols

In a recent interview with Howard Stern promoting Pearl Jam’s new album, Dark Matter, drummer Matt Cameron explained how he received a cease-and-desist letter from KISS.

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Cameron, the Hall of Fame drummer for Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, began his musical journey from much humbler beginnings in San Diego, California. At age 13 or 14, Cameron had formed a KISS cover band with his neighborhood friends. Following shows at local high schools and parties, Cameron had the opportunity to meet his idols.

In 1975, KISS were performing on the Alive! Tour, and scheduled to play at the San Diego Sports Arena. Cameron’s father knew the head of the stagehand union and arranged for his son to watch Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss run through their soundcheck.

His bandmates—Tim and Dave Mahoney—joined Cameron at KISS’s soundcheck, and they brought a photo album of their cover band to show their heroes what they were up to.

Igniting Tim’s Garage

The fledgling cover band had costumes and production. Their mothers fashioned shock-rock costumes, and the boys turned Tim’s garage into a makeshift arena with wooden platforms. For the pyro, they made flash pots from coffee cans. For those unfamiliar with the term, a flash pot is a container holding pyrotechnic powder. Cameron and his friends added a light socket with flash powder inside. He told Stern the entire production was “janky, low-rent, horrible.”

So Cameron and his friends finally met Paul Stanley. He posed for photos with the kids as they told him about their band and proudly showed off their photo album to The Starchild.


A few months later, the kids received a letter from Aucoin Management. Bill Aucoin managed KISS at the time and later Billy Idol. Cameron and his friends were familiar with the Aucoin logo from KISS albums, so they were excited to receive “official” mail from the band. This was their big break.

However, they instead received a cease-and-desist letter from KISS. Cameron and his cover band received the letter because they also called their band KISS. After receiving the discouraging document from their heroes, they changed their band name to (KISS) Imitation.

Leaving San Diego for Seattle

Things worked out for Cameron. He moved to Seattle in 1983 and eventually joined Skin Yard, where he appeared on the Deep Six compilation, which showcased the early grunge movement. The album also featured Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament’s band, Green River, as well as Cameron’s future band, Soundgarden.  

Deep Six, released in 1986 on C/Z Records, included Andrew Wood’s band, Malfunkhun. Wood formed Mother Love Bone with Gossard and Ament following their departure from Green River. Tragically, Wood died from a heroin overdose at age 24, ending the band. Wood’s death foreshadowed the dark future and young deaths that became a defining part of the Seattle grunge movement.

After Mother Love Bone ended, Gossard and Ament formed Pearl Jam. Another San Diego connection brought singer Eddie Vedder north to join the band in Seattle. Cameron played on early demos of “Alive,” “Even Flow,” and “Animal.” He also joined the Seattle side project, Temple of the Dog, featuring members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. The project was Chris Cornell’s tribute to his late friend, Andrew Wood.

Following Soundgarden’s breakup in 1998, Cameron joined Pearl Jam.

(Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

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