Reprinted without permission from Guitar World, May 1996


Album: Badmotorfinger
Studio: Bad Animals, Seattle
Producer: Terry Date

When Soundgarden set out in 1991 to record the pivotal Badmotorfinger, the last thing on Kim Thayil's mind was creating a stylized tone that would become one of the most imitated sounds of the Nineties. "I was trying to get a low, heavy sound while at the same time getting it to cut through," Thayil shrugs. "I was into Metallica's sound back then, the Melvins, too, and wanted to achieve that same overwhelming heaviness. He succeeded. With his beloved "Spiderman" Guild S-1 (customized with a sticker Kim found in a cereal box) pumped through his mainstay Peavey VTM setup, Thayil instinctively zeroed in on the earth-plowing sound by employing the now-famous dropped-D tuning and adjusting the amplifier's bottom end. "The VTMs have this circuitry where you can boost the lows," says Thayil. "I had it cranked. That sound has a good feel to it and good boom, which is great for muting. It also has a nice full lead tone and a warm low end that is good for vibrato."

Unaware he was spearheading a tonal renaissance, Thayil attained a finished guitar sound that relied less on studio magic and more on a necessity to accommodate his love for feedback and sustain. "I like to get a big guitar sound for melodies and vibratos and to get a lead sound that's fat and has sustain."

Imitated to the point of cookie-cutter absurdity, Thayil weighs the pros and cons of Soundgarden's guitar influence: "It's a bit flattering," he says. "But it takes away from the uniqueness when you no longer feel like you're doing something that's different from what everybody else is doing. Now it feels like I'm lost in a pile. That style is saturated. T'm very flattered by the imitation, but it feels like someone has stolen my toys. [laughs] 'Gimme my ball back, I'm going home.'"