Guitarist Kim A. Thayil was born in Seattle, Washington, on September 4, 1960, to East Indian parents. He lived there until age 5, when he moved to Park Forest, Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. He spent the majority of his childhood there, though he did live in India for a while. Thayil grew up listening to the MC5, the Dolls, the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground, but it all began with Kiss. "Kiss Alive was the second album I ever bought, and the first record that made me realize things could be a lot louder and more violent than the Beatles. It emphasized volume and guitar over harmony, melody and lyrics; all the stuff I never listened to anyway," he told Mudhoney's Mark Arm. Thayil's first band, Zippy and His Vast Army of Pinheads, did both original songs (written by Thayil and inspired by his punk music tastes) and cover tunes (mostly the Sex Pistols and the Ramones).

He graduated, along with Hiro Yamamoto and Bruce Pavitt, from the alternative learning program at Rich East High School in 1981. He and Yamamoto decided to move to Olympia, Washington, to study at Evergreen State College, but they were unable to find jobs, and decided to move to Seattle. There Thayil enrolled in the University of Washington, where he subsequently earned a degree in philosophy, and earned money as a DJ for KCMU.

Thayil wound up in the Shemps, a band founded by his roommate Matt Dentino, replacing, oddly enough, Yamamoto as bassist after Chris Cornell joined the band. In 1984, after the demise of the Shemps, Thayil -- sans beard -- was invited to join Yamamoto and his new roommate Cornell in a band. They named themselves Soundgarden.

Since then, Thayil has lent his talents to other projects: he plays guitar for Pigeonhed; he appears on the Presidents' of the United States of America self-titled album; and he teamed up with big names like Johnny Cash and Krist Novoselic to record "Time of the Preacher" for the Twisted Willie non-tribute to Willie Nelson. In addition, he is involved in a project called Dark Load, with Seattle personality Jeff Gilbert.

Kim Thayil speaks...

on Soundgarden's stance:
"We're sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll without the sex and drugs."

on "One Minute of Silence":
"We thought it was so good, we could add a little something to it. It's the heavy metal version."

on guitar solos:
"Most are annoying, self-indulgent," he said. "To me, a great guitar solo is Neil Young's on 'Cinammon Girl,' where he plays basically one note."

on his reason for doing what he does:
"I play guitar because I like to make loud noises. And the guitar is the coolest way to make a loud noise."

on the band's name:
"It's a name that conjures up powerful visual images, although at one point we thought it might be too soft! But there was something about the name that we liked. One of our hopes is that people come to see us thinking they're gonna get something pretty, and then get their heads blown off and walk away feeling like they got more than they expected!"

on categorization and selling out:
"Obviously we're not gonna come out with all the metal cliches that have been put on the radio for the past eight years. It we're going to patronize the audience that likes that stuff, we might as well be another Bon Jovi or Cinderella. If we are attracting different audiences, that's fine, because we did it by being what we are. If we were naturally a country band, I hope the country people would come out and listen to us."

on the benefits of stardom:
"I do get free pizza sometimes. We did this not for the usual rewards -- girls on our shoulders. We just like writing songs and playing. That's sincerely the goshawful truth."

on being politically correct:
"I'm probably in most cases actively anti-political correctness because the ideals are not thought out very well."

on concert performances:
"Sometimes I can hear the audience more than I can hear Chris who's standing right next to me. We also get to see how each different city chants Soundgarden -- the fateful three-syllable band. In Florida, they just go, 'Garden, Garden.' In Germany, they stress each syllable with equal ferocity. In Britain, they just go 'Mud-hon-ey.'"