Reprinted without permission from Sounds, October 21,
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?
With decibels and Soundgarden all in a row. Paul Elliott encounters the greenhouse effect with Chris Cornell and discovers how Seattle's rock 'n' roll outlaws have put more fun into metal with their latest LP, Louder Than Love.
Ass-kickin' and piss-takin' Seattle's Soundgarden burst into flower last year with a ragin' slab of raw rock and heavy satire, Ultramega OK. Now they're back with less gags and more metal in a second archly-titled ham rock spectacular, Louder Than Love.
"Louder Than Love is more of a thought-provoking title," declares Chris Cornell, vocals and guitar. "It's sort of making fun of heavy metal bravado. Metal bands would say Louder Than Thunder or something. So Louder Than Love, what is Louder Than Love?"
What is Zen Metal - guitarist Kim Thayil's description of Soundgarden?
"I really don't know," laughs Chris. "It probably just popped out of his mouth. That's an area Kim stomps around on. He looks oriental but he's from Chicago. People always ask him about spiritualism and he thinks it's all a joke."
Louder Than Love is played straighter than Ultramega OK. Did you cut the jokes to court big league rock credibility?
"No, we didn't make any conscious effort to do that. We didn't do so many funny little bits, like on the last record we had the 665 and 667 thing. There's less jokes here but our next record isn't gonna be all gloom. Big Dumb Sex is pretty much a joke - and a hard joke for record company people to swallow."
Louder Than Love is a megalithic, heavy record, strutting and retrogressive. Are Soundgarden not simply The Cult with a sense of humour?
"Uh-uh," chuckles Chris. "I think there's more difference than that. I really like the last Cult album, but I think we're a lot heavier. My singing's different. The production (by Terry Date) is different. The lyrics are more cynical."
Soundgarden were once championed as rock 'n' roll outlaws soon to re-invent heavy metal. Strange that their 1989 record should sound more '70s than that of those gods of '70s rock, Aerosmith.
"Well, I dunno. I heard the whole new Aerosmith record but it didn't sound any different to Rocks. We tried to get away from the Def Leppard production technique, the exploding gunshot snaredrum."
The Aerosmith record, Pump, is trad rock with a contemporary sound.
"Our production sounds like a band rather than thousands and thousands of dollars. It's not so much '70s as not very late '80s. "
Witty in spurts, Louder Than Love is a dirty, sweaty, heavy rock record, no more no less.
"Uh-huh, it's not a metal record. If you look at what's on the market today, it's all pretty defined - Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax. And there's all those silly LA bands like Great White. We're heavy enough for anyone into speed metal, but we're heavy rock, like you say. Neo-metal maybe."
Curtain raiser, Ugly Truth, sounds like a battle between Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Are you fans?
"Not huge fans. It just wound up that way. We're more Sabbath fans. We're Budgie fans too. They're sort of a cult band in America. Everyone in England would laugh when we said how cool we think Budgie are."
Your vocals are very reminiscent of Robert Plant too.
"I don't try to sound like anybody."
Disillusioned, bass player Hiro Yamamoto quit Soundgarden once Louder Than Love was in the can.
"He got tired of being a musician. He didn't like touring. He began contributing to the band less and less. He didn't like the tension level. He wanted to go back to school and continue a degree in physics. It seems an odd time to quit. We're doing real well. We've got a touring budget now. We don't haul amps or do such long van rides any more."
Even minus a quarter component of the Ultramega machine, Soundgarden are avowed to rock on. They still carve great rock riffs (Get On The Snake is a giant), throwing in the odd cheap laugh for spice.
"Full on Kevin's Mom is about a friend of mine who slept with another friend of mine's mom. The guy who did it said to us, Yeah, full on Kevin's mom!"