Reprinted without permission from Metaverse.com,
KIM THAYIL SHEDS SOME LIGHT TO THE SUPERUKNOWN NATURE OF SOUNDGARDEN. ANDREAS VENERIS GIVES HIM THE TORCH TWO HOURS BEFORE THEIR FIRST SOLD OUT SHOW IN CHICAGO
If we were to judge by influence, then Soundgarden is nothing totally innovating for rock! Imagine Robert Plant leading the early and doomy Black Sabbath, and moreover taking place in 1994, then we have a neat description for somebody who doesn't know how Soundgarden sounds like (is really anybody out there who doesn't ?!). I agree with what Mr Axl Rose one time said "we're not doing something new, we're just playing the Rolling Stones and Led Zepellin in the 90s".
The only difference, though, is the fact that there are tons of bands doing that (or at least think they do...). Some of them are doing it OK, some good and Soundgarden is one of which they do it the best. With their long anticipated latest "Superunkown" release they managed to get in Billboard's number one position while their recently US tour, headlining a 3.5 hrs show with Mechanix artist (and long Seattle mates) TAD and Hollywood artist Eleven. Getting backstage in one of their two sold-out shows in Chicago's doom-room Aragon (a 5000 capacity place) was not an easy thing to do! Over there I met guitarist Kim Thayil, and original member of the band, and we spend some time chating while watching vocalist/guitarist Chris Cornell...(please give time to young ladies stop sreaming and I continue!)... and drummer Matt Cameron giving a TV interview to some guys that came all the way from Argentina for this show!
So how do you feel you're back home, I ask Kim since he's originally from Chicago? "Well, home for me is Seattle now, I moved there ten years ago when I started school (Kim holds a bachelor degree in Philoshopy from the University of Washington). I was raised here, you know, spend the first eighteen years of my life in Chicago". Why did you move to Seattle, not for music I suppose since at that time the whole scene was virtually unknown, if there was any... "I moved when it was the time that I quited school, split with my girlfriend, my band splitted to, I lost my job, everything came at the same time! I just wanted to get out of here, and decided to move to Seattle, sounded like a cool place to be"
"It's nice to be back though, see old friends, my parents, it's an opportunity for all that". So how life has changed for you, being in a million plus selling band, which right now is at its peak, can make things really complicated I suppose. "Yes, things have changed, it's kind of funny, the attitude of people towards you is different, even old friends, how they speak to you, or treat you", he says while staring at a huge list of people, old Chicago friends, he was calling before this interview and was trying to get them passes for the show next day. At the other corner of the room it was his father, his face was smiling, and how could he do differently?! "My life has changed in many senses", he adds, "you're too busy doing things around that it gets hard to maintain personal relationships, keep your identity, you know. Sometimes it gets kinda confusing, how your life has changed, but sooner or later you learn how to adapt in it". No kidding,after they released their album they had to travel to Japan and Australia for a small promo tour and interviews, then come back to the States, shoot another video (Yes, this song, "Black Hole Sun", the song you're listening with a 1 time per hour frequence at your local radio stations!) and started their first part of the US tour with Eleven and TAD. "Touring is nice", he says to my question on how he feels when he is on tour. Working or entairtainment? "But when you have to play nearly every single day, sometimes it's getting like you have to work. You cannot be in the mood for partying every night, so sometimes it gives you the feeling of being a job you got to do it the best you can".
Their show was about two hours, until smashing their equipment in The Who style! The crowd was moshing big time, turning Aragon hot as hell! If ladies are used from Pearl Jam shows going first row, this is definetely not their event! Intense atmoshpere from the people, they gave equal doses of old and new stuff, but with kind of less effects compared to what you listen on album. My ever fave Soundgarden show will always be the Foundations Forum one (1992) when they kicked the hotel covention was taking place down! Cornell was a real animal, and Soundgarden always performed better in smaller venues.
I also remember this wonderful 1990 Voi Vod tour, where Faith No More and Soundgarden were playing support! How do you feel that bands as Voi Vod did not get the popularity they deserved? "That tour was great, Faith No More were getting big success from "Epic", and Voi Vod is a great band. I think what really hurt this band (Voi Vod) was the lack of promotion from Mechanix/MCA, their label". There were also those rumours that Soundgarden will perform to Woodstock'94. "No, we're not playing Woodstock, we don't want to play there actually. We are a band that prefers to do things by our own, rather than playing somewhere like Woodstock, the idea did not appeal that much to us, especially after the Lollapalooza tour we did in past"
"It is also the fact that with our previous albums we mainly did support tours, it's our first chance for a big headline Soundgarden tour and we prefer to keep it that way. I believe that if our band was around in the 60s, we wouldn't play Woodstock'69! We're more self-contained, doing stuff that we want to do".
Speaking about past, how would you desrcribe Soundgarden when they started, in 1984 at Seattle, at the time the Deep Stic compilation album took place (1985, they contributed three songs, Tears to Forget, All your Lies and Heretic) "We were listening to stuff as Sabbath, MC5, Wired, Killing Jokes, Zepellin, Meat Puppets, and some early Metallica. Stuff that was twisted, weird and energetic! We really enjoyed trying to play at that style and at the same time trying to come up with more ideas and playing in underground clubs". I remember Queensryche was huge at that time in the underground. "They were but there were never really part of Seattle's underground scene. They just recorded a couple of tapes, got a management deal and signed, they never played or hang out at local clubs as others did". You speak about all those bands that later, in the early 90s, created the so called Seattle-scene explosion? "Mainly yes". So how are things now in Seattle, it seems that only the big-4, which with the commit suicide of Curt Cobain became big-3 ( Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden) are still doing amazingly well... "This is because most of the new bands, bands that moved to Seattle, after it became famous are not trying to do something new. There're trying to imitate rather to put their own personality in what they do. When we started it was much different, and it was also the fact that labels as Sub Pop and EST helped things out". Do you think what hapenned to Seattle today is what LA came through in late 80s, after the big explosion of glam/sleaze metal with bands as Ratt, Poison and Motley Crue? "Kind of, everybody jumped on the train instead of getting their own direction. The only difference is that LA was and still is the center of the music industry, all record labels and management offices are still there, in Seattle you cannot find stuff like that. What happened to LA happened also to Seattle in a much lesser degree."
"People came to Seattle waiting to be picked up from companies that had their eyes in there, but it's kind of old now. LA will still attract because as I've told you it will always have this industry scene happening". Do you see any good bands coming out of Seattle keeping the spirit alive? "There're a few others, it's hard to tell, although Screaming Trees are growing in popularity and as mucisians. I really like them". And moving back to Soundgarden, how did you write the stuff for 'Superuknown'? I remember you were touring hard time after 'Badmotorfinger', did you compose on tour? "No, we took some time off after the tours to do the writing, it's hard to write when you're on a tour non-stop. I also wanted to do more readings on philoshophy, but it's hard to pursue something when you're fully dedicated to a band finding success". And he concludes, as it was time to prepare for the show: "The second half of the tour will be with a different line up, including a band from Australia, and by Fall we expect to go overseas, in Europe. There're more tour plans which are not definite yet". I guess you met them when you recently played down there, the land of the down-under. It sounds like Soundgarden really help bands they feel like having potential! TAD, for example, was their own choise since they know the guys for years! "Don't find a reason not to do so", he responses, "we enjoy their company and people really enjoying see them live, so why not?!"