In New And Gripping Video

Levine Schneider Public Relations
October 30, 1991

After hitting the airwaves last week on both MTV and Video Juke Box, Soundgarden's fan club, the Knights of The Sound Table, have started receiving letters and calls from fans saying that their parents were not all too pleased with the images portrayed in the video for "Jesus Christ Pose," the first release from the new Soundgarden LP, Badmotorfinger. Scenes of crucified women, crucified skeletons, cyborg-type robots and even crucified vegetables placed in a "human" formation definitely raises eyebrows, not to mention the pictures of upside down crosses, crosses on fire, and pig's feet placed strategically around other crosses in the video.

But the members of Soundgarden were expecting this, and they're not taking it too hard. In fact, they're even amused by it. "I don't see any reason to be upset," comments Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil. "In no way is the video slagging any religious group or church, and in no way is it slagging Jesus Christ. It has to do with slagging people who exploit Christ's image for their own benefit, whether the exploiters are churches, entertainers, rock stars -- people who fancy themselves as martyrs and exploit the crucifixion to their advantage."

Adds lead singer Chris Cornell, "It isn't anti or pro-religious. The cross is such a widely seen symbol that's exploited in so many ways, from, say, fashion models to rock stars, satanists to neo-Nazis -- it's exploited more than any other symbol. The lyrics of the song are actually speaking out against that and are expressing being irritated by that. It has nothing to do with how I feel about Christianity or any other religion that uses or bears the symbol. If anything it comes to the defense of the situations where it seems like it's being exploited for no particular purpose."

So is there cause for alarm?

"None," continues Kim, "I think they're [parents] just immediately confused by it, they don't know what to think of it, and so they ridicule it and they're blaspheming it. But in this case, there isn't any blasphemy going on whatsoever -- it's more supportive of any of the positive images that Christ might have had that've been treated negatively and in an exploitive fashion by individuals."

So did Soundgarden themselves choose any of the imagery in the video? "It was a pretty unanimous decision by the band to have a woman being crucified in the video," says Chris. "As a visual, it's powerful and it's also challenging to people, because women basically have been persecuted since before recorded history, and it would almost make more sense than seeing a man on it." Continues Kim, "A lot was chosen by the director Eric Zimmerman, and we checked it out and decided what we liked and didn't like. We didn't really understand the pig's feet. We just thought, 'What's all this silly food there for?' As far as the upside down crosses -- it's to show a sense of motion with the fast drumbeats of the song, and to show the many different ways designs have been used for the cross -- from stained glass to wood, to metal sculpture." Adds Chris, "There's upside sown crosses and right-side up ones. But there's certainly no blatant direction as far as religious conviction in the video."

"A lot of people forget that crucifixion was a form of execution used back during Christ's time. He was by no means the only person executed -- many people were," reasons the guitarist. But are Soundgarden exploiting the image of the cross in the process of explaining the song? Is there a grain of truth to the complaints? "To a certain degree, the cross is a powerful image, that to a lot of people, in their minds, they think of as a 'peace sign' -- even smiley faces are powerful images to a sector of the population. We like the cross because it was a powerful image consistent with the song title, and for the video. It would be silly if we made a video without a cross in it for that song. I mean, what else could we have put in? Stop signs?!"

And what do Soundgarden think of other artists who use religious imagery to promote their wares? "They use the gothic church imagery and crosses because it's powerful and frightening to them, and sublime," says Kim. "We don't have much use for that, because we're not that kind of band. I think bands like that are kinda silly -- just constantly exploiting religious themes to make themselves powerful and sublime in one's life, or in art or music. It's kinda hard when you get locked into one particular style or symbol."

In Chris' opinion, he says, "I don't think parents should be up that late when kids are watching those videos, 'cause they have to work, you know? And, the video's six minutes long -- it's our version of 'Thriller.' Visually, I think it's really interesting as well as being challenging. I don't see how it could get any regular rotation airplay without causing some shit, though. Maybe we should do what Michael Jackson did and put a disclaimer at the beginning of the video that says 'This video in no way endorses a belief in the occult' -- and then sign it 'Michael Jackson.'"