Reprinted without permission from Lollapalooza '96
Magazine, Summer 1996
'Down On The Upside' is the title of Soundgarden's fifth album. Upon listening to the album, rock critics (and other people with too much time on their hands) may be spending hours theorizing on a supposed "hidden meaning" of the title, and using words like "progressing" and "maturing" to define where the band's heads are at right now.
And the thought of all that drives guitarist Kim Thayil up the wall. "When I hear that word 'maturing,' I think of it as meaning 'more marketable.' Does that mean that by 'maturing' you can't be aggressive? Our records are just broken down into subsets of songs: songs we write, ones we learn how to play and ones we decide to record. And that has nothing to do with predicting the style or the direction of the band at that time. I think there's a certain style of heaviness in what we do, but it doesn't necessarily have to be loud, fast and aggressive."
And he's right. 'Down's' sixteen tracks are diverse in execution and texture. For every laid-back summer-night groove like the one on "Dusty," there's the maniacal "Ty Cobb" and "Never The Machine Forever," or the transcendent "Applebite." It's as diverse as 1994's 'Superunknown', which made a lot of people's heads swivel at the band's versatility. And when you consider that Soundgarden's early audiences consisted of punks, metalheads, black-clad goth fans as well as the archetypal flannel-clad Seattle grunge rocker, it's fairly obvious that the band calls the shots, and no one else.
Thayil and bandmates Chris Cornell, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron originally played Lollapalooza's second year, and are the first band to ever play the festival twice. It was the quartet's wish that the Ramones and Seattle compatriots the Screaming Trees be invited onto the bill. Thayil thinks that the metal-versus-punk dichotomy is a press-generated attempt to pigeonhole the event.
"The fans that go to Lollapalooza are generally white 18- to 24-year-olds that tend to have the same social experiences. What is different is that they exist in different kinds of subcultures. But they have more in common than everyone thinks. People don't like us because we're too alternative, and some people don't like us because we're too metal. Music means different things to different people. Some people find it a tertiary thing in their life or even less. If you want to start calling people sell-outs, grow up," he laughs. "And mature.!"
Q: Who's your favorite Second Stage act?
Kim: "The Melvins. They had a profound effect on the Seattle music scene. Satchel is the band we'd most likely go out drinking with."
Q: Whose tour bus smells the worst?
Kim: "Probably us because we'll have the sweatiest socks and the most beer damage."
Q: What's your favorite form of male bonding?
Kim: "Public farting and frequent use of the c-word."