SOUNDGARDEN RADIO INTERVIEW, JANUARY 1994
transcribed by Justin Nicholls
Interviewer: Richard Kingsmill
Richard Kingsmill: You've managed to get over to us in time for this australian visit. It's a pretty cool song (Spoonman). It reminded me a little bit of The Who the first time I heard it. Did that sort of go through your mind when you were putting it down in the studio?
Chris Cornell: I s'pose, a little bit, just because of the percussion. Kinda reminded me of Magic Bus the first time I ever did it. But other than that, it's not, the rhythm is too quirky, really, to be something like that would remind me of anybody else but us.
RK: It's the first song that I can recall, like a rock song, that actually has a spoon solo in it. Can you think of any others?
Ben Shepherd: Nahh, I don't think there ever has been, ever. Spoon solo... maybe in some weird old bluegrass thing in the U.S. I don't think so. Not for a rock band.
RK: Was it fun recording it in the studio?
CC: Yeah, it was great. That song was...the original demom of it was just, like, a guitar and a bass and a bunch of pots and pans, so we didn't really know what it would turn out like, as a rock song. And everyone liked the song and it ended up turning out really great, in terms of sounds. Y'know, there's more of...(bus squeals in background)
BS: There's more of that!
CC: Yeah, there's more sreeching and whistling. more of a striped-down approach, more organic rock music, as opposed to our normal wall of sound approach.
RK: How do you, as a band, write music?
CC: I think we all just react to each other. We all write music and we all listen to different things individually. When we make a record it's usually just the object of taking the song we wrote and making it sound the best way we can, or the way we feel it should sound.
RK: The material that is contained on Superunknown, it's like, sixteen songs, which is one of the longest albums I've heard in a long time. It's one song less than Iggy Pop's album, which is a pretty mighty epic of an album. Why did you want to make it so long?
CC: We didn't really want to make it so long. We just had a lot of material and we recorded a lot of songs, and they all seemed to turn out in one fashion or another in a way that we liked. So, when we realised we could fit it all onto one CD we just went for it. But definitely, I like it when we write in capsules, where we put down what we are doing at the time, as opposed to holding over songs and then putting them out on a record two years later, that are songs that have been around for three years.
RK: The title of the album, Chris, false modesty on your behalf to call it Superunknown?
CC: Well, yeah, you could look at it any way you want. But really, there isn't a whole lot of thought behind what the title could mean, other than it could mean just about anything.
RK: It also, I reckon, ties more into the fact that there's a few surprises on this album, so it's a little unknown what fans might make of some of the new directions you've taken.
CC: Yeah, that's probably true.
RK: How are you going to measure the success of Superunknown?
CC: That's a good question. I have no idea. I think that usually our feeling, or my feeling at this point, you know, whether it was successful or not has already sort of happened. I think that this record is already successful in that we like it as a band, and I feel like that whoever our fans were who bought our last couple of records will definitely like it. That's good enough for me.
RK: If it doesn't sell as many copies as Badmotorfinger, what sort of reaction will you have to that?
CC: It wouldn't surprise me, really, but I don't think it would bum me out. You know, if it sold, like, drastically less or something then Badmotorfinger maybe I'd kinda wonder why. But I don't think it would change our approach to whatever our next album is.
RK: Is it hard these days to make an album that sort of leaps out, that stands above everything else that's out there? Because there's a lot of CDs released these days.
CC: I think it's probably easier. I think there's a lot of CDs out there, but there's probably less attention payed to quality in terms of songwriting and actually organically recording a record.
RK: There's a lot of bands, don't take this as an insult, that sound like soundgarden.
CC: It's kinda funny, really. I mean, every time we put out a record, like Superunknown, whoever those bands are and whatever they're doing, it seems like it would be almost impossible for them to take another step in that direction. I think we do too many diverse things musically, and we're such an odd group of people writing songs taht I don't see how anyone can really sound like us. Maybe the style of their band is similar to one particular thing we do, but it's certainly not the whole picture.
RK: I want to talk about the song Black Hole Sun, which was one of the songs which stood out the first time I heard it. Have you got any intentions of making that a single? It sounds like it.
CC: It's possible, but that's kinda lookin' ahead. It may just depend on how it's reacted to by other people, or just how we feel when it's time to bring out a new single.
BS: Your opinion is being tallied as we speak.
RK: It didn't sort of leap out when you put it down that it would be a huge single if you released it?
CC: Yeah, definitely, I think. A lot of people seem to react to that one. But what you've got to remember is when you have an album with fifteen or sixteen songs on it, that there's a lot of songs to consider, and a lot of reasons to make different choices. It also depends on what the second single is, as to what the third single might be, because there are so many different feels. We don't wanna do two songs that are similar. I'd rather do four or five singles that are all really different.
BS: The single has to represent the song itself, and the record too. So that lends a whole bunch of different facets to it.
RK: Which makes it difficult with Superunknown, because of the diversity.
BS: Yeah, it's true. There's a lot of spaghetti there.
RK: Let's look even further down the track. Say you did release that song as a single. The problem with singles these days is that it seems to be putting bands into pigeonholes, and I reckon if you did release that song and it was as successful as I think it will be, it could sort of pigeonhole you.
CC: I don't see how, really. I mean, to me, I don't even know where I'd put that song in terms of a style. And considering the history of our band and how long it is, I don't think we are in real danger of doing that. If there was three or four songs that sounded like Black Hole Sun, and if we put out a couple as singles, I could see that.
RK: Chris, I wanted to do a High-5 with you, which was you coming in and playing five songs that changed your life, but I got an answer back from the management of your record company saying you don't like to do that kinda stuff. Why is that?
CC: Well, it' sort of, I mean, I can't even imagine coming up with five songs that influenced me more than other songs. Because I've listened to so much music over my life, and a lot of it meant different things at different times, and it seems like that's too simple of a format for how I feel about music, I guess.
RK: You worried that it might stereotype people's views of you?
CC: No, I'm just worried that I can't think of five songs...
RK: You chickened out!
CC: ...that could possibly represent what's influenced me.
RK: Everyone who's done it has always said that, you know, Oh God, trying to pick five songs is a hard task, and now you've chickened out.
CC: Well, I never do top ten lists either. It just seems like an unfair way to try and slip songs or music or bands into some sort of a tally. It's just like a music awards or something to me, y'know? It all means different things to me at different times. So, bottom line is I guess I chickened out.