Reprinted without permission from New Route, October 1989

by Bhargavi Mandava

"We're not a New Age rock band or anything and we're not Aerosmith revisited," says Chris Cornell deadpan. "So, chances are if we write about our own experiences, they won't be about taking home transvestites without knowing it." Or fast cars, heroin, whiskey, leather skirts, mystical dragons or demons. You see, Soundgarden aren't about snowjobs or blowjobs. They aren't afraid of the dark. They do more than scratch the surface. They dig. They're keen on getting dirty and excavating emotions with their bare hands. After this Seattle-based quartet released Screaming Life (SupPop) and Ultramega OK (SST), gums started flapping and pretty soon, they were getting attention along with groups such as Raging Slab, Mudhoney and Das Damen. Soundgarden-Chris Cornell (lead singer), Kim Thayil (guitarist), Matt Cameron (drummer) and a to-be-announced-bassist (Hiro Yamamoto split to learn more about physics and acceleration) has a Led Zep Comparison Meter that may hit tilt and detonate. "FUCK, we don't listen to Led Zeppelin records that much?" spews Kim. Ultramega okay, dude. Chill. "I feel comfortable with both 'heavy' and 'big rock,"' he says, subdued. "I take more offense to 'Led Zeppelin ripoffs'. At first, I thought it was flattering because they're (Led Zeppelin) a good band. I think the critics are being pretty near sighted when they point out the Zeppelin thing because there are so many other obvious influences that are present that they are not referring to like influences from Sonic Youth and Black Sabbath." Soundgarden's very recent release, Louder Than Love on A&M, produced by Terry Date (Metal Church), is bound to shatter new ground with sinewy tracks such as "Loud Love," "Get On The Snake" (previously featured on the Lost Angels soundtrack) and "Full On Kevin's Mom." Although Soundgarden has been honored in the past as being the only band to be signed to three record labels simultaneously, Kim clears up the confusion. "We were on three labels at one point in a weird way," explains Kim. "The Fopp EP on SubPop came out while we were signed to SST and then a half a year later, we signed to A&M -- a month or two before the SST record was to be released." And how's life on a big label treating them? "A lot of that remains to be seen," replies Kim matter-of-factly. "There are a lot of new people working there and they've signed bands like Tora Tora and Extreme which are not particularly bands in our genre or anything, but they are in the hard rock or metal genre. A&M has a great track record with punk and stuff like Bauhaus and Budgie-with the possible exception of the Police. A&M respects our decisions as far as packaging the record and the songs we choose." In fact, Chris says that they're trying to talk A&M into not putting any sticker on the record saying something like "Featuring 'Loud Love' and 'Get On The Snake'!" "I'd hate to sound like an arty geek, but it is sort of a packaging succession from beginning to end that I feel sort of drifts throughout the whole record," ponders Chris. "There isn't really anything that's better or much lesser. It just sort of all creates one."

Taking their name from a humming sound sculpture on a desert beach in Seattle, Kim, Chris, Hiro and Matt similarly started making "heavy and psychedelic" noise back in 1984. "I just answered an ad for a vocalist in this band -- they called it a rockabilly band in the ad, but it wasn't at all," recalls Chris. "It was kind of this bar band this guy threw together, so he could make some money, but I did it anyway because I never sang in a band before except for backup. Kim was the bass player and Hiro was the stand-in bass player when Kim couldn't come. We all sort of hated it and we all quit after a few weeks. And that's how I met them."

Over the years, Soundgarden evolved into a slo-mo chainsaw outfit, blending Chris' primal wailings with moody guitars and fervent drums. When they look back, they agree that college radio stations as well as indie publications, gave them plenty of support. If it wasn't for their drive, talent and the push Soundgarden received from friends family and fans, there's no telling what the 'd be doing now. When asked about previous occupations....

Chris: "Nobody trained alligators or anything.

Kim: "Hiro was a grounds keeper at a golf course and bicycle repairman before that."

Chris: "I was a cook and I was a grounds keeper at a restaurant."

Kim: "I worked at an art center. I got fired. Then I did things from dishwashing to making sandwiches."

Chris: "And Matt -- we never knew what his job was."

Kim: "I think he was a gigolo."

Chris: "He'd put on these jeans -- like acid-washed pants with a matching coat and he'd go down to Third Avenue. He'd always say that he was going out to hang out with a friend. But this one time, this guy dropped him off in this really long, nice car and he was kind of bald and wearing a suit."

Kim: "And we were wondering how Matt and a friend like that fit together because we figured he was too old to play softball with him."

Chris: "Matt was always disheveled and his clothes were all wrinkled and his hair was all messed up."

Kim: "He had a rip in the seat of his pants once."

Chris: "But he always had plenty of money to buy us drinks and stuff."

Kim: "Yeah and we never did find out what he did do."

Guess it's kind of like finding out your roommate's a klepto or something?

Anyway, let it be known that Soundgarden does not listen to Led Zep records that much. They also groove on Butthole Surfers, Minutemen, Big Boys, joy Division, Bauhaus, Killing joke and Black Sabbath (on a rainy day). After finding a new bass player (they held auditions in August), the band plans on filming a video for the first single "Loud Love" and surely a tour is to follow. Intact, Kim and Chris already have plans on designing a tour t-shirt to outdo last year s Total Fucking Godhead souvenirs. "Well, we might make an extra-small sized one in toddler sizes saying 'Total Fucking Butt Rash' or maybe a picture of a baby Godzilla blowing a smoke ring," explains Kim. "I think that would be adorable because punk rockers are getting, older and everyone can have their children with shirts that say 'Fuck' and 'Burp' and 'Butt Rash' on them." Ultraswell.