Reprinted without permission from Riff Raff, November 1991

by Mike Harris

Following their Grammy nominated debut Louder Than Love in 1989, Soundgarden return with a new album for A&M entitled Badmotorfinger. Retaining Terry Date as producer, the only change musically is the introduction of Ben Shepherd on bass, who replaces Hiro Yamamoto. Continuing the grind of LTL, the new work contains twelve aggressive workouts with relentless attack and enough off-centre madness to keep the grunge metal audience satisfied. Strong as the record is though, I can't help thinking Sabbath did it before, 20 years back, on early recordings like Paranoid and Masters of Reality. I throw my derivative criticism at vocalist Chris Cornell and await his reply. Mo< "Well I guess there is an element of truth in what you're saying. I suppose if one's going to compare us with one of the big bands of the past, Sabbath comes closest to the mark. It's impossible not to hear The Stones, Zeppelin and Sabbath if you're into rock, and whatever the influence, it's got to somewhere there lurking in the back of your mind, whether you like it or not."

What developments do you think you've achieved on this record?

"It's a harder record and I feel the personalities of the songs are more direct."

Any reason for sticking with Terry Date as producer?

"We'd developed a good relationship working on the first record and he knew what we were looking for as a band. We felt it would be easier going back with him rather than going through the labour of figuring out someone else's personality."

Was it easy integrating a new bass player into the band?

"Very much so. He joined during a tour and before him we used someone who didn't work out, so we were beginning to get worried. When a band starts, it's usually a bunch of friends, and an outsider might find it difficult to get off on the humour and share the same interests. Luckily with Ben, we already knew him, he was an old friend and a big fan of the band. He gelled in well and contributed to a large part of the material."

Did the Temple of the Dog project interfere with the recording of the new album?

"Not really. Most of the arrangements were written when I was on tour with Soundgarden and the recordings were just done on spare weekends so it never crossed over. A&M were also very helpful and made every effort to support both projects."

Has the scene in Seattle changed that much since your rise in the eaarly Sub Pop days?

"The scene's changed and the city has too. Five years ago it was considered the most livable city in the States, now it's about 49th. A lot of people have moved in, a lot of musicians among them, in the hope of forming bands. People think it's happening here and quite a lot of out-of-towners are getting deals because record company reps are suddenly calling in. Five years ago this never happened and the scene I knew doesn't exist in the true sense. I think it's all getting a bit cynical and a touch regressive."

As the band's growing and reaching wider audiences do you fear a shift away from the original noise you first created?

"That's a possibility, but that's true of all bands. A lot of acts soften up, and success often brings with it a safer approach to the music. I don't think that will happen to us because we follow an attitude not a smell for sucess."

What about further developments, are you writing or working on any other musical ventures?

"I'm not working with anyone else, but I find myself constantly writing material. Songwriting is a hobby as well as a career, it's something I do out of habit. I can't imagine not writing."

Do you get much help from the other guys?

"Yeah, I do most of the lyrics, the music though is completely a team effort. It's pretty much a collective thing."

Has anything you've listened to excited or made you take note in recent months?

"I thought the last Ministry record was pretty wild and I'm into a band called the Smashing Pumpkins who are making things happen over here. Before that, I'd heard nothing that moved me. I've always been more interested in some of the older stuff in my collection."

Not Black Sabbath by any chance?

"Back to them again. Well why not? It's only now people are starting to accept Sabbath's influence and coming to realise that what they did was pure. They were always considered a bit of a joke in their day but time has changed that. It's funny how the big joke bands have a way of becoming 'godlike' bands. There was a lot of parody in what Sabbath were doing and that's very true of us."