Reprinted without permission from Raw, October
30-November 12, 1991
COLOUR ME BADMOTORFINGER!
Soundgarden return with a brand new album, Badmotorfinger, capturing their raw live energy on vinyl in a dirty stomp. Set to tour the States with Guns 'N' Roses, the Seattle-based four piece's vocalist CHRIS CORNELL talks religion, bass players and pleasing your record company with Liz Evans.
It's been two years since Soundgarden blew the heads off an unsuspecting rock and roll public with their explosive major label debut album Louder Than Love. Since then they've been subjected to numerous Zeppelin/Sabbath comparisons, sawn through two bass players and now finally have their second major platter, Badmotorfinger, steaming into record shops.
Soundgarden's formidable reputation has been built around their monstrously hypnotic songs, their compelling live shows and their subsequent escape from traditional metal territory. Along with bands like Jane's Addiction, Faith No More and Ministry (all of whom are totally dissimilar), they've taken the basic formula of metal and bent it into something new and utterly individual. Working like some kind of dangerous drug on the minds of their audience, with BMF Soundgarden sound very, very heavy!
"I think you go through periods where you learn to get that kind of aggression out of you," says Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell. "If you really think about it, it's not that tough to do. On Louder Than Love it didn't really come out in what we did, so we decided we wanted to hear more of it. The new album is very close to us as a live band, but the main problem with most bands is capturing that live sound on record. Listen to The Stooges though... they did it, no problem!"
"When you're in the studio, you can be in trouble if your producer does his job on the basis of technology as opposed to trying to capture you. But we're pretty hands-on as far as that goes. Although, in the past, we have had situations where a producer has tried to push things like that on us."
In some quarters it's been said that BMF wasn't the album that Soundgarden's record label had expected - they'd supposedly been down for a big commercial move with dumb choruses and cleaner material. The dirty feel and harder line of the set might seem even further from that than their first, but Chris sees it all a little differently...
"I think there's songs on the new record which are almost more commercially viable because they have that memorable feel to them, and I think if anyone expected us to come out and make something more commercial than Louder Than Love, then I'm glad that they were surprised. Looking back, Louder was just a few degrees too produced and too clean, although I wouldn't want to change any of it. At the time Hiro (Yamamoto, the first bass player) had excommunicated himself from the band and there wasn't a free-flowing system as far as music went, so I ended up writing a lot of it. We were also listening to and being influenced by a lot of different things that allowed us to change. Whoever you are I think you should be ready to embrace new things, it keeps people excited and interested in you."
After Hiro's departure, newcomer Jason, ex-Nirvana, didn't last too long and he was replaced by Ben 'Hunter' Shepherd, a friend of a friend who played with the group when they played the UK a year last July.
"He's a very unusual person," explains Chris. "He's way different from your average musician type, which is kind of what we've been used to. We're used to having four different, unusual members and he brought that back to us after Hiro left. He brings in his own material and he's easy to get along with."
Between the first and second albums, Chris was also involved as part of Temple of the Dog with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, two of Mother Love Bone and two unknowns - the latter four having since become Pearl Jam. The studio project saw Chris approaching recording in a different way and some serious issues being tackled, something that's also occured with the new Soundgarden record, although the studio awareness has been crushed by seething and spellbinding guitars. Intensity is the name of the game.
"In America, they seem to be trying to tell the average person what to think. Holy Water from the album is mainly about that, about people trying to force what they believe on you. It's pretty strange for album stickering to be going on so much, the anti-abortion movement to be so strong and for laws being passed that make freedom of speech even harder, but at the same time a band like NWA get to number one! They're obviously saying something more challenging than the chart fodder, so it must be what people want now they're getting pushed."
But not everything is thematic and clear cut with Soundgarden, as a video director recently discovered when he worked with them on Jesus Christ Pose.
"He was talking about the social and political implications of the song. Well there aren't any because the song is more like a personal grind between two people and a persecution complex. The pose thing came from looking through magazines and noticing all these guys with beards and long hair and outstretched arms. It has nothing to do with religion, but everyone seems to be cross."
And Soundgarden will be celebrating somewhat unholy resurrections on this year's Halloween, when they embark on a US tour supporting Guns 'N' Roses - atour set to end on Frifay the 13th (of November). If they, and the world, survuve such a furious prospect, they should be badmotorfingering these shores early next year.