Reprinted without permission from KERRANG!, March 1,
GARDENER'S QUESTION TIME
He might be getting mobbed by teenage girls on Soundgarden's Australian tour, but nothing can have prepared mainman Chris Cornell for your questions. Morat has the tricky job of telling him: "Kerrang! readers want to ask you about buggering sheep and being a gay sex symbol"...
As Soundgarden's tour bus cruises away from the sell-out show at the vast Hordern Pavillion in Sydney, Australia, the driver clicks on the radio. "Hey, turn it up," shouts Chris Cornell from the back as his band's classic Outshined drifts across the airwaves. The volume goes up.
Nearing the end of their Down Under On The Upside trek - which mixes arena dates with a headlining stint on the touring Big Day Out festival - Soundgarden seem to be in exceptional spirits right now. They're playing magnificently in the country where both Down On The Upside and Superunknown went to Number One. A country where gaggles of young girls scream hysterically at the merest glimpse of them. Soundgarden seem amused, bemused and a little unnerved by this - they've never had screamers before.
The radio station plays another two 'Garden tracks back to back ("Cool station," says guitarist Kim Thayil). Then a fan rings in to explain how she lost a tooth moshing to Soundgarden at the Big Day Out a few days ago.
"I felt something hard in my mouth," she says, sending a wave of guffaws around the bus. She goes on to mention that Chris wasn't wearing his wedding ring on-stage to a chorus of catcalls from the Soundgarden crew - Cornell's wife/band manager Susan Silver is sitting behind him on the bus. Susan doesn't seem the least bit fazed.
And neither does Chris an hour later, when we haul him into his hotel bar and present him with more tough questions from his fans - this time Kerrang! readers. He simply smiles, lights a cigarette and says, "Shoot!"...
Kerrang!: The first question is from Paul Wisely of Brighton. He asks: since Soundgarden are renowned for being a moody band, how do you put up with each other's moods?
Chris Cornell: "Well, we're always all dour at the same time. And if one guy's happy, we make him leave the room until he comes back in a bad mood like he should be."
Sarah Fitch from Birmingham wants to know if being married to your manager causes any problems?
"The bottom line is, most musicians give 50% to their manager and I just give it straight to my wife! No, the only problem is when there's a situation where I'm between her and the band. If I think she's wrong I'll defend the band, and if I think the band's wrong I defend her. There's been a lot of situations where I've felt like I've been in the middle, but it's never come to much."
"But the band's always been so cool about it - it was their idea to begin with. Probably the hardest part has been going home with her, because in a normal situation you're away from the band, but we'll always end up talking about Soundgarden."
Tim Marshall from London reckons Seattle is the heroin capital of America, and asks if it's ever been a problem for Soundgarden?
"It's never been a problem for us - except we've had friends who've died from it. But Seattle's not the heroin capital of America - that's bullshit. Per capita, in New York or LA there's a lot more people doing heroin. Seattle's a port city, so I'm not gonna lie and say heroin's not easy to get. But it's just as easy in LA or San Francisco."
Steve from Chertsey wants to know which member of the band has the most annoying habits?
"That puts me on edge. The easiest thing to say would be that I do, but I don't really have any annoying habits. So it'll have to be Kim. It's not only that he farts too much, and it's not that he drinks too much. But maybe he talks too much. Everyone else is pretty quiet. He can be quiet sometimes, but if he's in a talkative mood..."
Lee from Halesowen wants to know, what's the worst job you've ever had?
"I had to bugger sheep when the local shepherd went on holiday. Of course, sheep get lonely and the whole thing ended up being a hassle because of the personal attachment I had with the sheep. See, I'm a very sensitive guy. I'm not one of those guys who can just bang a sheep and then go away and forget about it."
Clare Sharp from Glasgow would like to know what you thought of your mum's appearance in Kerrang! last August - predicting the future for ten rock stars?
"Well, if she's gonna predict things, it seems like she would be really good at the stock market or something. But she is my mom, and she's a really good mom -so if she gives advice, it's good advice."
Ali Scott from Bath wants to know why you and bassist Ben Shepherd wrote a song about US baseball legend Ty Cobb, when he was allegedly an extreme right-wing racist?
"It was basically coming from a the frame of mind of some sort of hardcore pissed-off idiot, and that's why we titled it that. We weren't writing the song about Ty Cobb at all - I didn't even know anything about him. I was just thinking of a character who was a combination of a lot of people I've met and didn't like."
Kim Whitfield from Ipswich asks which song you're most proud of?
"Oh, that's tough. 4th Of July is probably the one I'm particularly proud of, because it always felt like it was entirely my own. If a song means something to you and a whole bunch of people respond to it, then it sort of changes your idea about it. And if I think a song's really great and other people think it's shit, then I almost start liking it more because I feel like I knew something they didn't."
"Generally, the songs I've been most proud of have been the least likely ones. It's weird: I wrote Black Hole Sun in about 15 minutes and it was a big hit, but I've spent weeks and weeks on other songs that weren't."
If Soundgarden hate touring so much, why do they do it?, asks Kev Louth from Cardiff.
"We don't hate doing it, we just hate doing it for a really long period of time. We used to tour for son long that I think it sort of soured us. Nowadays, we really enjoy it to a point and then it gets tedious, because it becomes repetitious. You feel like fans have paid their money and they expect you to come out and play them your songs like the first time you ever played them. That's the point where we hate touring."
"People don't realise that touring is like a 24 hour a day job. When you have a normal job you get to go home after work, and make plans for your days off, and see your friends. But when you're on tour it's hotel, hotel, hotel - you're always working."
Paul Trant from Reigate wants to know what you love and hate most about being in Soundgarden?
"I love making records and playing shows some of the time. I hate the decision-making, like merchandise, record packaging, meeting with lawyers to talk about getting sued, tax - all the things you have to do to protect yourselves and make sure the corporation is working okay. Things you never thought you'd ever have to do in a rock band, which ends up being the stuff you have to do all the time."
Kim Thayil was recently charged with assaulting a fan. Helen Barlow from Cambridge asks if you have to be more careful every time someone approaches you now?
"Only cos you can't haul someone off and smack them in the face cos it costs $200,000! So, yeah, you do have to be careful, and it sucks. All the band have been sued now - I can't believe Matt ever got sued, cos he's the nicest guy. He took his snare drum off the stand, threw it up in the air, and it landed on the drum riser and rolled off and landed on some guy's shoulder. I think that cost us $40,000! How hurt can the guy have been? And I'm sure he didn't even earn $40,000 a year, more like $10,000. But if I actually punched someone it would cost us more than $40,000, unless there were witnesses or he punched me first."
David Wells of Norwich wants to know, what's the weirdest request you've ever had from a fan?
"I don't know about the weirdest, but the dumbest request was when we were doing an in-store and this girl wanted me to stand on the table and do a Jesus Christ pose for her while she took my picture. Of course, I said no, and she started raving at me - like, 'I've been a fan for years, how dare you not stand on the table and pose for me!'. It was really annoying... So I nailed her to a cross and got sued!"
Sarah Underton from Gateshead wants to know if you work out?
"I only work out doing things that are fun, so I guess I don't work out. It's snowboarding and wakeboarding, which is like snowboarding only you're pulled behind a boat. And cycling."
Adam Douglas from Dundee asks where you'd like to live if not in Seattle?
"In Fife, which is about 20 minutes south of Seattle. and I'd probably live in a trailer park...I don't know. I've thought of living in Canada because it's huge and there's nobody there, which appeals to me quite heavily. I like extremes and nothing in between. I hate suburbs, and there's a lot of them in Seattle. I'd either be in a big city or in the middle of nowhere."
You've appeared in the 'grunge movie' Singles, says Colin Sherwood of Worcester, so have you ever considered acting as a career?
"No, I thing that's the worst f**king thing. I mean, can you imagine having to get up at 4am and sit in a trailer while someone puts makeup on you? Then stand in front of a camera and say the same lines 60 times. I feel sorry for actors and I never want to do it. I stood in front of a camera in Singles and that's about it."
'Kim Thayil's Beard' from Maidstone has noticed that you wore a fork around your neck for several years - why?
"It was given to me by the late Shannon Hoon, who fashioned it out of a fork he got in Denny's (a US fast food chain) on the first tour Blind Melon ever did, which was opening for us. I really liked it, but I stopped wearing it after he died. Because the other thing I wore was this ring that belonged to Andy Wood, who died. It's like, 'I don't wanna wear these f**king things from people who died.'"
"A girl outside the hotel tonight had a similar fork, and I've had people throw them on-stage. I've seen hundreds of those forks, but it always reminds me of Shannon. They're making them cos they're thinking of me, but really it's him. Which is cool."
Finally, Jason Barmouth from Hull wonders how you feel about being a sex symbol for gay men?
"I think it's wonderful. The only problem is, I've done my best to get in touch with my feminine side, and it turns out my feminine side is a dyke. So I'm stuck with women for the rest of my life!."