transcribed by Sabrina Knauf

Claire Sturgess interviews Chris and Ben


CS: Ben and Chris from Soundgarden, welcome to the Rock Show and congratulations on the Top 5 album in the UK...

CC: Oh, thank you

CS: Is that important to you, having a Top 10, Top 5, Number one or is it the quality of the music you've done that's more important?

CC: Well, it's not really important as far as we'd stop doing it, if we didn't have the Top 5 record, but it's nice to have a Top 5 record considering we have to come all the way over here, you don't play the songs. I mean, the more people we have to see us and buy our records the more worthwhile it is to do that. We don't like leaving home much really; just sit at home with our stuffed animals and... and... bags of chips and.. y'know... drink a lot of beer.. and talk to ourselves.

CS: You spent quite a lot of time on the road, what a year or so with people like Guns 'n' Roses and Neil Young, doing Lollapalooza. What did you prefer? Guns 'n' Roses support, or Neil Young?

CC: I would prefer.. umm... I guess we preferred.. err.. our own headlining tour that we did, over either of those.

CS: On these support dates at the time you were in the studio working on 'Superunknown'.. so were you trying out... with... Neil Young...

BS: Neil Young, yeah...

CS: Were you trying out any of the new songs to these audiences?

CC: Mmmm.... we did play some, but not so we could try them out for the audience, we were trying them out for... y'know... ourselves. It was more like playing them for, like rehearsal's sake, so when we got back in the studio, we'd be more familiar with them.

BS: That's actually, personally, not to slag the whole Guns 'n' Roses experience at all, in any way, but that's personally why I would choose the Neil Young tour, because we did that, y'know.. and got to play brand-new songs... totally brand-new, not even recorded yet...

CS: More fun for you...

CC and BS: Yes.

CS: Exactly.

BS: And plus, we were back in America too, and that makes a big difference. (laughs)

(Chris and Claire laugh)

CS: You really are... you love home don't... you love America? "Take me home now!"

BS: I like the planet, but it's just easier there... 'cos I'm lazy.

CS: (laughs) At the Empire's Theater, at Shepherd's Bush recently in London, which you unofficially opened, we've never had a gig there before, so that's quite exciting for people like me to go and see a gig there... ummm... the legendary Spoonman... was that the legendary Spoonman from Seattle, that I've read so much about?

BS: No, that was a hired guy, we found him....

CS: No! No, don't tell me that!

BS: No, that was him, that was Artis.

CS: Thank you.

BS: Used to have long hair... longer than your hair...

CS: Where did you meet him? I mean, has he always been around Seattle? Playing the spoons?

CC: Probably not...

BS: Not always...

CC: ...not since the dawn of Seattle, but... uhh... for a number of years...

BS: He used to live here for a while and played spoons, too.

CS: Wonder what it's like, just playing the spoons... for a life.

BS: He's been all around the world doing it...

CC: I dunno... definitely it's different than, I'm sure playing like amplified instruments..

CS: Mmm... did he jump at the chance, when you asked him to perform on the...

CC: at the show?

CS: Well, on the track first of all.

CC: Yeah, definitely... he was pretty happy about the whole thing.

CS: And performing? Quite happy to come out on the road? Will he be doing the rest of the tour with you, yeah?

CC: No.

CS: Just this one off at the end...

CC and BS: Yeah...


CS: When you went into the studio to do this album, you had a million selling album to follow up. Any... any hint of worry about "Can we follow this up? We know what sells. We know what the fans want. We've sold a million already. Can we do it again?"

CC: We don't care. We have bad attitudes. We don't really care...

BS: I don't think we sold a million. They told us, but I don't think so. (laughs)

CC: We think they gave away maybe half-a-million, and sold the other half...

CS: (laughs) To DJs... people like me..

CC: Yeah... just so we'd look good.

CS: So, no worries, you didn't feel hassled, you didn't feel pressured.

BS: The pressure's in your own head. None of us do that to ourselves.

CS: Are you uncompromising? Do you really have a bad attitude as far as your music is concerned?

CC: We have a bad attitude, pretty much cross the boards really. We try to not...

BS: I'm one of the king moaners nowadays...

CC: That's true.

BS: I read about myself... in press... all I do is moan. So I'm gonna get out of here. (laughs)

CS: (laughs) But do you do that just to get things off your chest, or because that's how you are? Or does this industry do it to you?

CC: I think the industry does it to you... not the industry... uhh.. it's not like the industry as an industry, you just constantly like, the fact that it exists and the fact that you have to deal with it, it's... it's.. simpler than that... it's.. it's more like normal and human... just a one-day-at-a-time thing... y'know. It's like telling the same story, and I'm sure it gets boring for journalists to hear the same story, y'know.. and.. it's... at some point... that's sort of where things start to seem... that the industry is something that becomes hard to deal with, but... umm... it's like nothing, it's no one individual and it's not anyone's fault. It's just like anything... y'now, when you start to be in a band, and you do it because it's something you get to do when you get off your day job, and it's exciting and you don't have a boss, when you're doing it and no one can tell you what to do and no one can change it. It's just you and doing that, and when you start having to deal with the record industry, then there's a distraction involving the music that you play that becomes like a job, and then it's just like a job, and everyone that has a job complains about their boss and co-workers. I'm sure there's no one out there listening right now, that could say that they don't... y'know, that's the way that life is... you sort of have to I think, just to get by.

CS: What inspires your songwriting? What inspires the lyrics? Things that happen around you?

CC: Sometimes it's the music... ummm...

CS: What comes first? The music then... or...

BS: Sometimes...

CC: The chicken..

CS: The chicken or the egg?

CC: It always comes first... the chicken always comes first. Then you cut off the head...

BS: It comes from planet Zorgon...

CC: (laughs) It depends. For me usually the lyrics never come first. Sometimes the lyrical idea, and idea... for... for the subject of a song or the title of a song will come before the music, but I would never write like entire lyrics and try and make music fit around it. That never sounds right to me. It always seems, that the music becomes sort of structured and I think it's easier to bend phrases over music than like to bend chords over words.

CS: 'Cos you all contribute to all the songwriting, all the lyrics. How do you decide... I mean if you're all doing stuff and you all meet up and you all have a pool of songs...

BS: Subscription order only...

CS: (laughs) "I'm sorry I prefer your one to my one..."

BS: (interrupts) Cash on delivery...

CC: Yeah. (laughs)

CS: y'know... "Sorry Matt, you're out on that one; we don't like yours" I mean how...

BS: No, we all know as a group, what is a Soundgarden song and what isn't.

CC: And also, a lot... I mean it's not necessarily a situation where, here you bring your song and try and get the rest of the band to play it; bring a song in... and... and you're not sure about it, or you don't even like it, or sometimes you don't even have a song on a tape; you didn't even want them to hear; you're trying to find another song, and then they hear that one, and the band really likes it, y'know... it's just... it's sort of... once the song is written, it doesn't really matter who wrote it anymore, just... it just becomes a song on it's own and if the band likes it, and... or we can play comfortably as a band and it seems to work, when we record it, then it becomes a Soundgarden song. Sometimes we like a song, we'll all unanimously like a song that somebody brought in that was recorded on a tape, and then we'd try to play it and as a band, we could just really get it back to where that was, and so... we don't do it...

CS: I read... uhh... I read recently, that you said some of the music you've used on this album, you wouldn't necessarily have used in the past, because they weren't the type of songtune you'd want to use.

CC: Well, the reason why, it wasn't because so much that they weren't the type of song we'd want to use; it's just sort of like a... think we were less.... ummm... I think we were less adventurous and more self-conscious as a band, mainly because we had... y'know we had a period of time when.... when one of the founding members left... it's a situation where everyone's confidence was kinda waning, because he'd lost confidence in himself and us, and it's sort of a creative process for a while. That's the main reason I think, you know, why there'd be a song on this record that wouldn't have been on one of the last two records, because we were just... I think we were just a little more uptight and self-conscious.

CS: Umm... I'm thinking of Head Down, which I think you wrote, didn't you Ben? This sort of... this psychedelic '60s, early '70s feel of it, which wouldn't, I don't think, wouldn't have made it on to previous albums? Or am I being presumptuous there?

CC: No, you're not being presumptuous, but you're wrong...

[Head Down]

CS: So you don't want any boundaries in your music; there should be no limitations to what you want to play, whether it's live or on tape...

CC: Unless it gets to a point where... unless there's some really embarrassing or completely inappropriate... y'know... but that's what good about a band... you have like...

BS: ...bouncing check system.

CC: Yeah... I mean somebody's going to figure out, if it's really stupid thing to do... and going to say it...

BS: ...and we'll all blush.

CS: (laughs) Do you think bands limit themselves too much though. They find themselves being lumped into a category, like "you're a rock-band, you're a dance-band, you're rap" and they find "oh, we'd better stick to this then".

CC: Well, I think some bands do that, because y'know, for what you said there... or for what I was saying y'know, that either they're interested in selling and maintaining a market or they're self-conscious and afraid to try anything new... and I think, but actually I think these days especially with the way... ummm... the music business is run, I think a lot of bands aren't really capable of doing much else than one thing, y'know it's a formula they... they've figured out, they kinda understood that, but they can't really do anything else. I think there's less emphasis on bands as songwriters and talents and musicians... umm... nowadays, and more emphasis on "can we make a TV-star out of them by putting them in a one-hit-deal"

BS: (interrupts) "God they look cool!"

CS: Ben, stop making him laugh! Oh, nice to see you laughing anyway...

CC: I didn't laugh.

CS: No, I'm talking about Ben at the moment. Ok, I'm gonna talk to you now, Ben. Let's talk about the Hater project. Will this ever resurface again?

BS: No.

CS: These side-projects you do... I mean, Chris you did stuff for the 'Singles' soundtrack, you and Matt have done the Hater stuff, and you've actually, I've heard the track a couple of months ago, you've done something for Alice Cooper's new concept album...

CC: Oh yeah, yeah... I forget about that... it's a "concept" album...

CS: Well, I was going to say... a concept album... did he say... "I'm doing this concept album. This is the concept... write a song about it"?

CC: No, I didn't... those songs were already written. Somebody else heard the tape and played them for Alice Cooper and he was interested in using them.

CS: Well, in that case he wrote his concept around your songs then.

CC: No, I think he just took my songs and somehow managed to kinda fit them into the concept. See that's the... concept albums are... they're not really real... y'know it's a...

CS: Well, do you know what it's about?

CC: The concept?

CS: Yeah.

CC: No, not really.

CS: No, neither do I. And I've interviewed him.

CC: Have you?

CS: Yeah.

CC: Did he not tell you what it was about?

CS: Well, it has something to do with...umm... comic books and uhh.. some...

CC: Maybe you weren't paying attention.

CS: I was paying attention, I just don't understand it, 'cos I never read comic books.

CC: Me neither.

CS: And so...uhh... he's a really nice guy and I loved interviewing him, and he was singing your praises.

CC: Was he?

CS: Absolutely. Huge fan.

CC: Wow.

CS: Just thought I'd share that with you.

CC: I'm bowing now... in front of my...

CS: (laughs) So, doing stuff out on your own, aside from Soundgarden... does that keep you refreshed as far as your music is concerned or just 'cos you want to get away from the other guys.

CC: I think it's just like a way of getting out material that we don't release on Soundgarden. I mean it's kinda like... "well, the material was there, and the opportunity to put the record out was there"... as opposed to "I really feel like I wanna like do a project and write a bunch of material for it"... y'know. For me that sort of ended up... I just have a bunch of songs laying around and have enough time to actually like think about maybe doing something with them, instead of letting them just lay around. 'Cos I'll forget I even have 'em. I never label my tapes, and I forget about entire songs I've written. So that's like the best thing about the side-projects I've done, is... that if I hadn't done them, those songs would probably have just disappeared, and no one would have heard them.

CS: Yeah. What about you Ben? Much same for you?

BS: Yeah, just for the fun of it.... it's just for the fun of it. Hater wasn't supposed to come out. That's why I'm more... less reluctant to talk about it.

CS: It wasn't supposed to come out?

BS: Not... not in my stupidly ideal world. We were just recording for the fun of it. And through friends, saying "Oh, you have a chance to put it out, you should put it out... they're songs worth hearing". It's kinda... "allright, whatever".

CC: It is good though, that people get to hear it, 'cos it is great.

CS: Will that sort of make you a bit hesitant about doing something else.

BS: Yeah, I'll never do it again.

CS: Really.

BS: I'm self-conscious now; I'll never do it again.

CS: Why are you self-conscious?

BS: Because I've talked about it. I'd rather not even think about it; just keep going. I'd rather be so busy with music, that there's no time to talk about it. I'm susceptible to getting self-conscious and scared.

CS: What were you like at school... Ben?

(Chris laughs)

BS: I didn't go to school. I'd leave home or leave there and go back home and play guitar.

CS: Really.

BS: Yeah. I'd just go to watch kids. That's what... that's why I liked school at all. Then they got boring. 'Cos I learned the trick of boredom. And then I went from there to guitar.

(Chris and Claire laugh)

CS: What sort of music do you listen to? What... at school age. What were you into then?

BS: Probably in a... what was it... sixth grade, seventh grade, I was really into AC/DC. Then Bon Scott died. Then I went to... umm.... more punk-rock, I guess you call it post-punk.

CS: I was reading you're into Bauhaus. I was a huge Bauhaus fan, you know, in the backcave-era. Fabulous.

BS: Yeah, there's a whole spectrum of music. I was like... from James Brown all the way to... y'know Birthday Party.

CS: What music do you... when you go home... you don't have your guitar with you. What do you put on the stereo?

CC: It depends on the mood I guess.

BS: New Masters of Reality record.

CC: Old, old Captain Beefheart records. The old ones. The ones where he's kind of, not completely out of his mind yet.

(Claire and Ben laugh)

BS: Not completely against the record company...

CC: Not that I don't like them.... I like the crazy ones too... but the sort of structured ones are cool too, where you can see, it's just kinda starting to ooze out of the normal pop-song sensibility, and the personality is just sort of on the edge, cracking through the normal... the normal formula of music... pretty entertaining.

CS: So what happens now... after uhh... you've got some serious touring to do now. You've done Australia, haven't you?

BS: Yeah.

CS: How did that go? Was that good fun?

BS: Yeah.

CC: It was great... yeah.

BS: Get to see some good local bands and meet bands, who we've always... y'know, heard of or listened to and... fans were great.

CS: So you had time to enjoy it in Australia?

CC: Well... yeah, not really. You never do on tours... touring... people think it's different than it really is, but it's not that much different than a job, except for the playing live part, that is probably a lot more fun, than a normal job. But the... I guess the point is, that when you have a day off, you're usually driving from one city to the next city, and otherwise... y'know... if it's a show day, you wake up at... whatever time you wake up and you deal with some press until it's soundcheck, and then after soundcheck, you... then you throw-up, and then you go out and play and then afterwards you get in the bus and you're gone again. You don't see cities really. You see Laundromats and you see clubs and bandrooms backstage, that smell like piss and you drink beer. That's what touring's like really. We did see the leaning tower of Pisa once, and boy was that exciting. It's a tower, and it kinda leans... wow... can you believe it?

CS: Do you like doing your sight-seeing?

BS: Ummm...

CS: Do you get time for the sight-seeing?

CC: I don't mind... yeah we don't, I guess was my big rambling back there...

BS: Nice building if you bother to look.

CC: Yeah, there's been times when... when it's cool. But it depends on how long you've been gone too. If you're out for couple of weeks and the tour is easy-going and you have a lot of sight-seeing you can pull off, that's pretty cool. But if you've been gone for like two months, and you have time off playing, it just makes you wanna go back home, and you have time to wish you were home again.

CS: So what next? After the touring, what next? Home, start writing some more tunes... or just having a break?

BS: Which touring? We have the tour split up...

CS: You're having loads of different... you're in and out. You're backwards and forwards. So when all of that has finished, and you've promoted Superunknown to it's end. What then?

CC: We've buried the last record, then we'll probably take a short break and start working on songs for our next record... y'know... it's a typical boring story of rock-bandom.

CS: But the... uhh.. for the foreseeable future it's on the road; it's umm... playing live... it's enjoying it.

CC: (laughs) Yeah... unfortunately there's like a schedule for the next year for us already, so... and then touring is cool, but it's weird, it's very unusual to have a schedule for yourself that's a year long... and y'know, you can look at... we can look at the schedule and know where we're gonna be six months from now, exactly... and have a phone number, and call the hotel..."Hi, I'm gonna be here in six months, and make sure my room is ready"

CS: (laughs) Well look, continued success with the album. Thanks a lot for coming in, and we'll look forward to seeing you again next time. Cheers.

BS: Thanks.

CC: Thank you.