Inductees include Guns n' Roses, Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys
Artist biography Jack Irons
Jack Irons (Los Angeles, CA, 1962) was the initial drummer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He left the band and was temporarily replaced by D.H. Peligro. In March 1989 Chad Smith joined the Chili Peppers as their permanent drummer.
In 1990 Jack played in LA rock outfit Eleven. Jack left Eleven in 1994 and later joined his friend Eddie Vedder in Pearl Jam. Greg Upchurch is Jack's replacement in Eleven.
Jack Irons' biography - in his own words:
I began playing drums at age 13. My best friend at the time was Hillel Slovak. We decided to take music lessons together. He took the guitar and I took the drums. I had wanted to play drums since the age of 9 when I saw a drum set in the window of a music store for the first time. We took lessons at a local music school and began playing together after about 6-9 months of lessons.
We were very into Kiss at the time and had made costumes for Halloween day at Bancroft Junior High School. I remember staying up all night in my dad's workshop getting our costumes together and putting on make-up. Hillel, who dressed as Paul Stanley, and I went to school all dressed up. My costume was that of Gene Simmons. I had used a tennis ball cut in half to create a cod piece. I was really spaced out that day in school and as I was walking in history class this guy, who wanted to see if the cod piece was real, gave me a punch in the balls. That guy was Alain Moschulski, more known as Alain Johannes. I did not know Alain yet. One day Hillel came to me and said we should play music with Alain, he is a really good guitar player. I only knew Alain as the guy who hit me in the balls. Alain was far more advanced at music than we were but still wanted to play with us. So we started playing music all the time. We would rehearse in my bedroom and play at our own parties. We played as a trio, doing covers and originals.
In 1977 we graduated Bancroft and went on to Fairfax High. At some point we started playing with a bass player but he wasn't as interested as us in a career in music. We needed to find a bass player that was as into music as we were. Hillel had become close friends with Flea, known then as Michael Balzary. Flea was a trumpet player and had attended Bancroft as well. I did not know him well then, but Flea recalls a story when we were in 6th grade: For about a year Flea and I attended the same elementary school, Carthay Center in Los Angeles. I had been there since kindergarten.
He was a new kid in 6th grade. He says, on his first day or so, I drew a picture of a funny face and passed it around the class. It read, "Hi, I am Michael Balzary" (I don't remember that). Hillel wanted Flea to play the bass for us. And so he did. We were called Anthym back then. Flea spent time with Alain and Hillel learning to play our songs. We rehearsed all the time. Flea and Anthony Kiedis were best buddies, so we all became friends. When Anthym would play shows Anthony would introduce us with a poem or rhyme that he wrote.
In 1980 we graduated Fairfax High. We then all tried college together, though Anthony attended a different one than we did. Hillel, Flea, Alain, and I went through the same attempts at college, but that wasn't working for us. In 1980, Anthym changed its name to What Is This. What Is This worked the clubs for many years trying to get a record deal. Sometime in 1981 or 1982 Flea left What Is This to play with Fear. What Is This had some transitional bass players eventually recruiting Chris Hutchinson as their permanent bass player in 1982. What Is This still pursued record deals via demos and live shows.
In the beginning of 1983, Flea and Anthony asked Hillel and me to do a performance with them opening a show for a friend (Gary Allen) at a club in Los Angeles (The Grandia Room, but it was called The Rhythm Lounge then). We all sat in a room at either Hillel's or Flea's apartment before the show and learned a song. We played one song, “Out In LA.” We were called Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. That was the beginning of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The crowd really liked our opening number, so we were asked to do another show. The next time we had two songs, “Out In LA” and “Get Up and Jump.” The Red Hot Chili Peppers then began working and writing a lot and playing more shows.
Meanwhile, What Is This was doing the same. Hillel and I were doing both bands. In august of 1983 both bands were offered record deals (What Is This by MCA Records and The Red Hot Chili Peppers by EMI Records). Hillel and I were trying to figure out a way to do both bands. We felt close to all of our friends, but that wasn't going to work. Hillel and I had a greater loyalty to our years with Alain, so we signed with What Is This. The Red Hot Chili Peppers picked up a new drummer and guitar player, Cliff Martinez and Jack Sherman. What Is This went on to record their first album, entitled "Squeezed,” released in 1984 and produced by Dave Jerden. We released the record and did our first tour. I could really get into some details about those first tours, but I think Spinal Tap has well documented those sorts of events.
In 1985, What Is This began recording their second record with Todd Rundgren. Hillel had begun considering returning to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We had all remained good friends, but musically Hillel felt he was growing in their direction and they were having more success than What Is This. So, during the middle of recording the second What Is This record Hillel left to rejoin The Red Hot Chili Peppers. With Cliff Martinez as their drummer, the Chili Peppers recorded their second record, “Freaky Styley” (sometimes it has been written that I played on “Freaky Styley,” but I did not). I stayed with What Is This. We finished the What Is This record as a trio. In 1985 What Is This’ self-titled second record was released and we did some touring. It was a difficult road for What Is This. Their business did not come easy. Eventually, the lack of success forced different directions.
In 1984 or 1985 Alain had become very involved with his then future partner, Natasha Shneider. Natasha was a singer, songwriter, and piano/keyboard player. They became songwriting partners and started a new project, Walk The Moon. Walk The Moon recorded an album in 1986 that consisted of Alain and Natasha’s new writings together as well as some previously unrecorded What Is This songs. I played on about half the tunes. Later in 1986, The Red Hot Chili Peppers were beginning to consider another drummer. Cliff Martinez, as I remember, was growing disinterested in the life style.
In 1986 I rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The priority at the time was to record a new album. We began a long stint of rehearsals. Michael Beinhorn was chosen to produce the next record. We rehearsed at EMI studios and recorded at Capitol Records Studios. At some point in 1987, “The Uplift Mofo Party Plan” was released. We also did some touring in 1986-1987. “The Uplift Mofo Party Plan” was toured pretty extensively. I remember a tour where we played 50 cities in 56 days. We also went to Europe a couple of times. On my first European tour, someone had the idea of crossing Abbey Road a la The Beatles, but just wearing socks… I remember wearing overcoats, hiding in the bushes outside of Abbey Road Studios, waiting for the traffic to clear. As it did, we would drop our overcoats and run out on to the cross walk and strike our poses. It was about this time that I began experiencing the beginnings of my battles with an anxiety disorder. We were touring a lot and there were some developing personal problems within the band.
In June of 1988, Hillel Slovak died of a drug overdose. His death was very difficult for me. I was already growing pretty unstable so I decided to leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was not well enough to keep going with the intensity that the band needed as it was obvious the band was on its way to much popularity. I was experiencing what would be a very long period of intense imbalance. After wrestling with myself for six months, I began medical treatment. During that time I started a band with some friends of mine called Jack’s Car, but that didn’t last.
In December of 1988, I got word that Joe Strummer was interested in me auditioning for his band. He was already in the process of recording and I was in the process of receiving medical treatments (I was actually in the hospital at the time I got the call to come and play with Joe). I made a trip to the studio where he was recording. I hadn’t played drums in a while and really struggled, but I did manage to cut a track, “Jewelers and Bums” from Joe’s album, “Earthquake Weather.” He told me I could have the job as soon as I was ready. I was always a big fan of Joe’s music. About a month later, I began recording more tracks for “Earthquake Weather.”
We were to tour in fall of 1989. That band consisted of Joe Strummer, Lonnie Marshall on bass, Zander Schloss on guitar, and myself. Our first leg of touring was in Europe. Those tours were interesting because Joe, being from England, toured in some of the smaller towns, as well as the major cities of Europe. We got a chance to go and play in some places that the usual European tour by an American band didn’t go to. We then returned to the US to do a few weeks of touring on the East and West Coasts. The west coast part of the tour would bring some very significant events to my life. It was towards the end of December that I would meet my wife to be in San Francisco, and Eddie Vedder in San Diego. We were playing a small club in San Diego and the power had gone out in the building. Eddie had a lighter and kept us lit backstage. We became very good friends and spent a lot of time together including hearing Eddie sing in some of the bands he was in at the time. Sometime after the Joe Strummer tour, Alain Johannes, Natasha Shneider, and I began playing together again. That was the beginning of Eleven.
In the fall of 1990, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament approached me and asked me if I wanted to play drums in a band with them and Mike McCready. They were rebuilding from the losses of Mother Love Bone. I had already accepted a nine-week touring gig with Red Cross, as my wife and I were expecting a baby and I needed the work. It was hard to imagine moving to Seattle at the time. Stone and Jeff gave me a demo that had Matt Cameron playing drums on it. It did not have vocals. They said if you know of any good singers, pass it on. I gave the tape to Eddie. He went up to Seattle and that was the beginning of Pearl Jam. I completed the tour with Red Cross and came home in the winter of 1991 to begin more extensive work with Eleven.
In 1991, Eleven was signed and released “Awake In A Dream.” We toured in 1992, including some shows opening for Pearl Jam. In 1993, Eleven released their second record, which was self-titled. We began a stretch of touring that included opening for Soundgarden. We had a song called “Reach Out” that almost got us to the next level. During that time my wife and I made a decision to leave Los Angeles. I was getting tired of the difficulties working within the music business and living in the city. At the end of a May/June 1994 tour with Soundgarden, we relocated. Eleven was scheduled to begin recording another record in the fall. Eleven was a Los Angeles-based band and was having its share of struggles with the business.
I became unsure about the future, in terms of my career. I was living in a remote location contemplating other kinds of work, not only in music. In August of 1994, I heard that Pearl Jam was going to be looking for another drummer (I had other opportunities to play with Pearl Jam as they were making drummer changes in the years prior but did not feel ready to work at their high intensity level and I was loyal to Eleven). This time I wanted to try. I began both auditioning with Pearl Jam and recording for Eleven. In the fall of 1994, I joined Pearl Jam. I finished the recordings I had started with Eleven. Matt Cameron joined for the rest of those sessions. That Eleven release was entitled “Thunk.” I played my first shows with Pearl Jam at a Bridge School Concert as well as a show in Washington, DC for voter’s choice with L7 and Gloria Steinem; that featured a couple of songs
playing with Neil Young.
Also, during that fall I began recording my first piece of drum music. It was recorded in Flea’s basement studio at the time. It was a demo. Pearl Jam liked to play that song (called “Small Mosquito”) as the song that played before we went on stage. In January of 1995, my family and I moved to Seattle. Pearl Jam did the first of their live radio broadcasts, Monkey Wrench Radio, along with many other Seattle musicians. I began hearing rumors of a possible recording session with Neil Young. I was a huge fan of Neil’s.
In February of 1995, we recorded songs for Neil Young’s “Mirrorball” and Pearl Jam’s “Merkinball.” In March of 1995, Pearl Jam toured Asia and Australia. In the summer of 1995, we toured for a few weeks with Neil
in Europe (I wish I had copies of those shows). In the fall of 1995, we began touring in the US as well as creating the first recordings for “No Code.” I was recording drum music demos whenever I could (I recorded the basic tracks for “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” from my album, “Attention
Dimension” at John and Stu’s Place in Seattle in 1995 as well). We completed and released “No Code” in 1996. We began some off and on touring for that release. The end of 1996 and beginning of 1997 brought a Pearl Jam European tour and the beginnings of preparation for the recordings of “Yield.” “Yield” was completed in 1997 and released in 1998.
In the spring of 1997, I had made a decision to stop taking medications that I had been taking daily since 1988. In February of 1998, Pearl Jam went back to tour Australia. I was doing pretty well (being off the medications) until then. But on that tour the shit hit the fan in my head. By the end of that tour I was a mess. I could not finish the rest of the tours the band had planned. I was
replaced by Matt Cameron.
The next years of my life were about recovery, healing, and right living. I never lost the need to create. I did also play a few shows in those years: one with Les Claypool and The Frog Bridgade (along side Tim Alexander) and a couple with blues guitar player, Nick Gravenites. In 2002, I began playing with Eleven again. We recorded another record, entitled “Howling Book,” which was released on the band’s own label in 2003.
I began the process of recording myself seriously in the fall of 1999. If I could finish an album of my own music, I would. Five years later, anno 2004, I am happy to say I have and my health is doing really good.