CHRIS CORNELL RADIO INTERVIEW, DECEMBER 1, 1996
transcribed by RoseeMisst
Aired on KROQ 106.7FM, December 1, 1996. Interviewer: Tami.
Tami: So I guess you were gonna be on our morning show, but somehow, that didn't work out.
Chris: Probably 'cause mornings don't exist for me on tour, really.
Tami: When does the morning start?
Tami: Yeah, I used to be on 1 to 4 in the afternoon, and I always thought of it as a wake-up show...
Chris: [short laugh]
Tami: ...for rock people.
Chris: For losers, yeah. That's actually almost late for losers, because commercial programmers for TV stations -- they seem to think it's about 11:30 'til about 1:30 or 2. And then they figure even the worst loser is out of the house by then. But you can tell by the commercials because right around 11:30 you start getting the 'Barbizon School of Modeling'. You start getting the 'ITT Technical Institute', the 'Bartender College' and then you get the 'Addiction Recovery' commercials, and the lawyers for people who got hurt on the job, things like that. Anything that is going to appeal to somebody that they figure is a loser and is at home in the middle of the week at noon.
Tami: Yeah, the only time I watch TV during the week is when I'm at home, sick. And I watch all those talk shows and I'll just get sicker. But I feel like I'm doing some kind of weird homework, or something. Catching up on...
Chris: I don't think you're getting the full experience though, unless you're on anti-depressants-
Tami: You mean Prozac?
Chris: Yeah, or maybe valium or synthetic valiums or something. So if you're watching that without the benefit of those types of drugs, then you're not really getting the same experience that most of the people get when they watch it. So I think you gotta be somewhat sedated to watch that stuff.
Tami: Yeah, I was thinking about that. I've watched Rosie O' Donnell's show for the one and only time, and I was like, 'this is so nice and pleasant and laid out'. It was surreal. I was shopping yesterday, and there was this screaming child, and I was like, does some natural Prozac kick in, in the brain of a parent once the kid reaches a certain age?
Chris: They could be. It's like, they give up. I always figured you'd have to have more than one. Once you have two kids or three kids, then you give up. Just forget it -- let 'em do whatever they want. Let 'em scream, steal things, set fire to people -- who cares.
Tami: So let's see -- did Soundgarden take any time off between Lollapalooza and this tour?
Chris: We went to Europe, and did 5 weeks there. And, it went really good, it was the best tour we'd ever had in Europe, and then we came back, took a couple of weeks off and then started this one. So, pretty busy.
Tami: So would you do a Lollapalooza again? Because you're like the "two-timer band".
Chris: No, I don't think so. The only reason why we did it the second time was 'cause the bill was so unusual. There was a lot of bad feelings about it, and that was attractive -- the thought of doing something where there was controversy and people were being bummed out made sense to us.
Tami: I don't really understand the controversy or why people got upset. Metallica kinda always made sense to me in that 'world' if we're calling it 'alternative' this week or whatever, but I would go see them. You know, I used to live in Boston, and I used to work for a rock station there, and they were of the metal bands of the time. They were the one band that I would go see, 'cause they didn't strike me as a "pretty boy band". It was just hard, fierce, you know -- it rocked!
Chris: There's a different way to look at it. One way is that is seems to at this point to be very much into the arena rock sensibility with a major production. Out of the two Lollapaloozas that we were on, they [Metallica] had more production by far than any other band. And they kind of have an entourage, and things are kind of done in an old-school way, so it sort of reminds you of that period in music that a lot of people don't really like right now. But at the same time, there's a lot of bands. Most bands right now out there that are considered 'real alternative' and are considered to have a lot of integrity never even released a record on an independent label. Metallica did. They made a couple of records on independents and they really paid their dues like any other alternative band would have and did whatever they felt like doing without worrying about anything, whether it was radio or MTV or anything else. And then the other point is that the original idea of Lollapalooza from my point of view was to turn a lot of people on to new and alternative culture, music and art and different musical groups and ethnicities and not necessarily all male bands but females and whatever, just have it be really broad and new and different. And you can't get 20,000 people to come and see something that they'd never heard of, 'cause it doesn't work. Everybody knows that. So now you've got this situation where you have a band like Metallica headlining, who you know can pull down 15- or 20,000 people anyway. What could have been a better opportunity to try a lot of different strange and new things that you would want a lot of kids to see that they would otherwise never get to see? Rather than get upset about it, and feel like, 'Metallica didn't represent the original idea', why not use the fact that they're gonna draw a lot of people to really make that idea work? I think that was a blown opportunity. Part of it was the musicians. A lot of the bands didn't want to be on the tour, 'cause Metallica was on it. They had tough times actually finishing the bill. And a lot of the reason why there wasn't a female group or a more ethically diverse group was just that a lot of people really didn't want to do it. It's too bad, because they would have been exposing themselves to a completely different audience than they're ever gonna get.
Tami: To me, watching the mosh pit -- and you must notice this too -- there seems to be this repressed, male you know, maybe homosexuality --
Tami: -- in the pit. I always see it as a football game, and it's kinda funny to me.
Chris: Yeah, last night in San Diego was a very violent pit. I looked down at one point and I actually thought there was a fight going on. The big muscle-y guys were smashing into each other at such a fast rate of speed that it didn't look like a mosh pit to me -- it looked like they were actually chasing each other, trying to beat each other up. It's kinda comical. I don't know that I really understand it. I remember in the early '80's going to shows were you just kind of jumped up and down and bounced off of each other, but there wasn't this attempt at getting someone into a fight. It looks like people are just trying to see how far they can push the other guy without actually throwing a punch.
Tami: What did you do when you were, you know -- you've been in Soundgarden like 10 years or more now --
Chris: 12 years.
Tami: When you were a kid, when you were that age, when you were a fan -- what is it like for you to see 14-year-old kids at the shows? Is it a different energy, from when you were doing it --
Chris: Well, it's a completely different thing, because we're playing venues that I never really went to when I was that age -- I never went to see big rock shows ever, I never went to see big touring bands with big shows, so I never really got that. The rest of the band is the same way. I think that's partly why we've never really had a big show. It wasn't anything that we were brought up with. We were all sort of brought up with a band like the Ramones, who was the Ramones and they'd go up and they'd play, and you'd see them and you'd listen to their songs and that's what you went there for. So a lot of the places we're playing now aren't really what I went through when I was younger, 'cause it was generally smaller clubs and pretty much unknown indie bands that would travel around. Seattle didn't always get a lot of big tours because it was so remote. If they didn't play Vancouver, they wouldn't play Seattle 'cause there's nowhere else to go but up there. A lot of the independent bands, they didn't care- as long as they had a band, they'd go anywhere, so we actually got a lot of really cool, small shows, which I think probably had a lot to do with why the scene became so vibrant at a certain point. Our audience has also changed a lot. When there was that moment where punk or new-wave or alternative, whatever you want to call it -- started crossing over with heavy metal which was a sort of commercial force at the time, we'd get a lot of really hard-core metal fans there, and I don't see that so much anymore. It seems like, if they are hard-core metal fans, they don't really look like they used to or act like they used to. And, we have a pretty diverse audience. We actually get a lot of females coming to the shows. But it's the kind of women that would come to like you would think of as an 80's metal-band type of an audience. We don't get strippers. It tends to be girls in flannel shirts or girls with a rock T-shirt. But they probably have tattoos or nose rings or something. They don't seem really fit into any kind of group of people that I can think of as like a specific cultural genre.
Tami: That's what's the 'normal' rock crowd now.
Chris: Yeah, I suppose that's true.
Tami: Do you miss playing the 500-200 seat "things"?
Chris: Sometimes. We did our best on this tour to kinda scale it back and play smaller places. Even if it meant playing multiple nights. That came about by realization. As we started selling more and more records, we started playing in larger and larger places and it was almost kind of this unspoken necessity, like well, 'you play the biggest place you can play'. So that's how you do it, right? The promoters come and say, 'we're going to put you in this hall because you can sell this hall out and it's much bigger than the last place you've played and we wanna make money, so...' So we did that for the whole Superunknown tour and we didn't like it very much. We didn't like playing hockey arenas. We had done some opening tours with Guns N' Roses and played these enormous places and all of a sudden we're doing our own tour in these big places and realized it wasn't us. The attitude that as you get more successful you have to play larger venues is totally wrong. As you become more successful, you can play anywhere you want. And that's the attitude we went into with this tour. Just playing smaller venues and it's been a lot better. I think its been a lot more comfortable and seemed a lot more natural to us. It's kinda in the middle -- it's bigger than 'club size' but it's more like theaters. It's not sports arenas, usually.
Tami: You were not like, overnight -- you know, you had a nice gradual build...
Chris: Yeah, we toured for a long time without much support from anywhere except for fans. There wasn't radio or MTV or anything. And I'm really glad we did. I don't think of the tours we're doing now as any more important than those tours. The only times that it really wasn't great was when we'd come into a town and play a club, and there was just no Soundgarden fans because the promotion was bad and no one knew we were there so you'd just get like a 'walk-up' kind-of-drunk-crowd that would go there no matter who played. And play pool. Some of those shows were kind of a waste of time. For the most part, all those early years of van touring and supporting indie records were great.
Tami: I was curious about talking about the gradual progression of the band- and it seemed like natural evolution and because there wasn't radio and wasn't TV and there wasn't this stuff as you were coming up, is it a chore to do the press -- to get along with the press on MTV and radio?
Chris: I think we went through that period on the last record. We never took a break. Every time we put out a record -- in fact, we were touring before, during and after our second record came out which was on SST. Then we were negotiating with SST when on tour 'cause we had been on Sub Pop previously. We did another thing on Sub Pop, and then we were touring for the SST record. We were negotiating with A&M Records and then finally did a deal with them and then did one of their records and we'd never stopped. It was just songwriting, recording, touring, meeting with lawyers, meeting with record companies. People started asking us questions after we had signed the deal with A&M. 'Well, isn't it intimidating now -- you just did this long, seven-record deal?' And my answer was no! We've spent the last 3 years -- we've been on 3 different labels doing all this business-oriented stuff in term of negotiating and making sure you're not getting screwed and now it feels really great to just be able to sit back and not worry about it and make records. And we did a lot of press up through Badmotorfinger because it was necessary to get the word out and then Superunknown came along and then escalated to a whole another level and we've just never stopped. And I think by the end of touring off the Superunkown record -- we cut it short, actually and we were just sick of it. And we took a pretty lengthy break that time, considering that we didn't tour very much. I think that sort of set us back up. To me, I don't mind doing press now. It's kinda reminiscent of those early days when we did a lot of it and I like it. And touring, the same thing. I'm really enjoying touring. I'm really glad that we have the opportunity to do it, It's a fun thing to do, but we had just done too much of it.
Tami: Right. So, do each of you get a Grammy, or is there just one, and who has it?
Chris: We just get two. So there's uh, eight... no. Yeah. Eight.
Tami: And do you have a trophy room that's about me? [Laugh]
Chris: No, I don't . I actually hid them [Grammys] in the basement because people would come over to fix the furnace or something and we always try to not let them know who lives there because Seattle's a small town and we'd have problems with that and they'd come in, and you know -- 'Well, the furnace isn't -- hey, whose Grammy's?' So we took 'em off the wall and hid 'em somewhere.
Tami: Have you seen "Hype!"? I mean, you're in it and all...
Chris: No, the closest I got to seeing it -- I went to see another movie and there was the trailer for it in the theater. There was a picture of me on the cover of SPIN, like movie-screen theater size and I almost walked out right then. So I probably won't go see it. Maybe I'll wait 'till I can rent it, you know, and watch it at home. It's kinda weird to see yourself on a big screen.
Tami: Is it? For you?
Chris: Yeah. It is for me.
Chris: I don't know. I don't like watching our videos, and I don't even read interviews.
Tami: I remember, and it was a couple of years ago when you cut your hair and it was the same time Dave Gahan was growing his long.
Chris: [Innocently] Who's Dave Gahan?
Tami: He's the singer for Depeche Mode.
Chris: Oh, okay. So one of the two of us was a visionary. It's up to you to figure out which one!
Tami: Somebody was, and someone was the imitator. Whatever happened to the song, Karaoke?
Chris: Right now it's a B-side for a single in Europe and we'll release it on something over here. We'll probably do a B-side compilation 'cause it's always kinda pissed me off that the European market, particularly in the UK -- they require that you release singles for retail, which we don't do in the US We've always considered ourselves an album band. We make long albums and 15-16 songs, usually over an hour. What do we need to make singles for? So when they sell singles, part of the way they do it is, they want extra-unknown-never-heard- before "things", when there's live tracks or whatever. And I've always gotten in long arguments with the international people at the record company. And that's just the way they do things over there. But I think our fans here deserve to hear those songs even more. And so we'll probably do a B-side compilation and release that.
Tami: Any holiday message for the KROQ kids?
Chris: Yeah, have a really wonderful time during the holidays and don't buy anything for anybody. Just give things to charity in other people's names. And then you don't have to worry about it and people who need it, get it and the economy will collapse and it'll all be my fault.
Tami: [laugh] And what is next for '97? After this tour, what goes on?
Chris: We don't know yet. We're still in the process of touring. We go to Australia after this. It's kinda up in the air after that. We have a lot of other tour offers but I'm not sure how long I wanna do it. We could do another US tour, we might do some more European shows, we're talking about South America. We don't wanna make the mistake that we made before where we commit to more touring than we can mentally deal with, so we're taking it one step at a time.
Tami: All right. Thanks!
Chris: Thank you!