Reprinted without permission from Melody Maker,
November 27, 1993
GARDEN OF THE UNKNOWN
Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell has been talking exclusively to The Maker about the band's follow-up album to "BadMotorFinger."
They've just finished recording and mixing the album in Seattle's Bad Animal studios with producer Michael Beinhorn. It's called "Superunknown" and it will be released by A&M in March.
Those who've heard it say the album reflects a more varied and measured sound to Soundgarden, and Cornell himself admits it was the group's most challenging album to make.
"We did a lot of songs," he said. "We have a lot of different guitar and drum sounds on this record. We did things like layering sounds that we'd never really done before. I think we were trying to make each individual song sound like we thought it should do, as opposed to throwing it in there and just taking what we could get."
Cornell says that, in the past, the band have recorded songs in the studio, and then found later that they felt certain key elements were missing: "You end up with a thing that's just a regular rock song. We didn't want that to happen on a lot of these songs cos we like them a lot."
The band knocked the new songs into shape during an eight-date tour with Neil Young in the States. They decided to go for a less metal feel than before.
"We actually used less guitars on this record than we ever have before as far as doubling and tripling parts goes," Cornell said. "It's just that we used a lot of different sounds that we've never tried to use before. It's mostly just the rhythm guitar sounds in general."
The album runs for 70 minutes and features 15 tracks. It's released on vinyl as a double on March 7. The first single, yet to be decided, is out on February 14.
Songs on the LP include: "Kickstand," "Let Me Drown," "Limo Wreck," "My Wave," "Superunknown," "No Attention," "The Day I Tried to Live," "Spoon Man," "Head Down," "Mailman," "Let Me Drown," "Black Hole Sun" and "Fell On Black Days".
"I think that 'Fell On Black Days' will surprise people," Cornell said. "There again, it's hard to imagine taking people by surprise, really, because between Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog and Hater we have all been associated with different stuff.
"But there's a song that Ben wrote called 'Head Down' which still kinda surprises me when I hear it. It's a big, wide, open song that sounds like the Sixties English bands that were good, maybe later-period Beatles. It doesn't sound like a band, it sounds like a place that they might sound like.
"It's a really natural song and I'm really happy that we did something like that.
"There's a song that Matt wrote the music for called 'Limo Wreck'. That was a tough one but it worked well, eventually. It's a 'shame-on-decadence' song. It's very strange, it's in a weird time signature and it has a real flow to it. It has a lot of different melodies and moods, and it's really dynamic, too. The bassline and the guitar lines are also really swirling, almost kaleidoscope, but then it just clears out, and there's this vocal that's left. It's hard to describe, but it worked.
"I don't wanna take anything out of context. I'd rather people would listen to the record as a big hunk. It's probably more challenging than our last record.
"We just got ourselves out of a situation that we knew we could do. We put ourselves in a situation where we're working with a new producer, and we were trying to record songs that we could never have really tried to record before.
"Before, someone would bring in a song which had a particular charm and we would just put it through the Soundgarden machine and play it. I think sometimes we sacrificed the original charm of the song that way. I think we did a pretty good job this time."
For "Louder Than Love" and "BadMotorFinger" Soundgarden used producer Terry Date. Ths time round, they've enlisted the help of Soul Asylum and Red Hot Chili Peppers producer Michael Beinhorn.
"It was good having someone new to bounce ideas off," said Cornell. "He had a pretty strong opinion on stuff. He came from the same school as us as far as going with the approach to each song as opposed to an overall view of who we should be.
"It took longer because we had to form a relationship with this new guy whereas before, with Terry, we all knew where we were."
When The Maker spoke to Cornell, the artwork for "Superunknown" was yet to be finalised.
"'Superunknown' relates to birth in a way," he said. "Being born or even dying--getting flushed into something that you know nothing about. The hardest thing is to nail down a visual image to put on a title like that. The first thing we thought of was a forest in grey or black. Soundgarden has always been associated with images of flowers and lush colors and this was the opposite.
"It still seemed organic but it was very dark and cold. I think that will be part of it.
"I was into those stories as a kid where forests were full of evil and scary things as opposed to being happy gardens that you go camping in."
In January, Soundgarden head off for dates in Australia and Japan. british dates are currently being arranged for March. After these, they undertake a coast-to-coast tour of the US.