SOUNDGARDEN TELEVISION INTERVIEW, AIRED ON "RAGE" ON ABC-TV
transcribed by Justin Nicholls
RAGE: With the huge growth in the music video market, how important do you feel having a music video is to a band?
Chris Cornell: Well, with the way record companies tend to go about trying to sell records nowadays, it's pretty hard to sell records without making a music video, because that's generally the way people hear about music first, as far as a large number of people. You can sell records and tour and have a career, without making videos. But you have to work a lot harder, it takes a lot longer, and it's not those instantaneous rewards, as well as probably would get less support from a record company if you didn't.
Rage: How important do you think music video has been to the success of Soundgarden?
CC: Well, this far it hasn't been hugely important because we haven't had, like, a video hit. At least in our country. It's been probably like thirty percent of what's created a national audience for us in the States. But not necessarily like the audience that we'll have five years from now or ten years from now. We spend a lot of time touring, we've made albums that actually didn't do that well on radio either, because they're album-oriented, where as radio seems to be single-oriented. So it's been kind of difficult for us in terms of commercial access to the public, to reach everybody. Unfortunately acting in our own videos is probably the quickest and easiest way.
Rage: As a musician, how do you feel about the video-making process?
CC: Sometimes it's actually fun, if it's ideas you've had visually that come out the way you want them to. But it's not the same as making a record, where you have a set amount of time and all the music is actually coming through you. Because, when you've co-directing a video or someone else is directing it, it's all your ideas. Generally it's all your visuals coming through somebody else, and as opposed to having a month to make it or two weeks or six months, it's generally two days, three days, and then editing is happening, and we're out trying to be musicians trying to play our instruments, while someone else is in charge of this video that's representing us. Y'know, it's not the director's face or the director's hands or whatever in the video, it's ours. So it's not, it's really difficult to have the same amount of creative control, and to have it feel like it's organically a Soundgarden project or a Soundgarden expression.
Rage: So what role do you have in the video-making process?
CC: Uh...choosing directors, which is going through reels and reels and reels of videos that directors have done, and trying to find somone that seems like they either have a particular style that'll lend itself to this song. Which is probably the smartest way to choose a director, or someone that just seems to have a lot of ideas. Everyone is gonna tell you that they're artist-friendly, and that they're interested in your ideas, and whatever you want is what will happen, but rarely is that really the case once you get into making the video. So, generally what you want to do is find somebody who already does something you're interested in. And maybe if you're lucky, you'll find somebody who is really interested in what you're interested in, or really interested in making your vision happen.
Rage: Do you have a memorable Soundgarden video?
CC: I don't know, they all kinda seem the same, as far as making them. I guess the one we had the most fun doing was Jesus Christ Pose, where it was the most interesting, and we didn't really know how things would turn out, the way we were doing them. We just tried a lot of different things, and a lot of it turned out really good. A lot of the time you might be having fun and you might feel like what you're doing is going to be really amazing on flim, but then when you see it, like, on this box, and these moments that seemed long and energetic and exciting are all chopped into little pieces, it gets kinda disappointing. But on the Jesus Christ Pose video we did a lot of experimenting at different kinda fun, cool things. I guess it seems fun to me because I didn't end up getting disappointed by it.
Rage: Was there any reaction to the religious imagery in Jesus Christ Pose?
CC: Yeah, there was some. In the UK, the UK promotions department had made gigantic posters of a still from the video where there's a metallic skeleton nailed to the cross, and they put it up around different towns. There was some protesting about that, like threatening phonecalls and that kinda thing. Which is kinda silly, because if they had bothered to read the lyrics of the song at all it's actually almost more protective of that symbol, than it is exploiting it or making light of it or even attempting to describe it in a way they wouldn't agree with.
Rage: It's interesting how you say that you feel, in certain of your videos, that you lose the power (of the song). Without grovelling, I feel that Soundgarden videos work intensely well with the songs, because I find the videos end up being as powerful as the song itself.
CC: Well, maybe that's part of the problem. It's sorta like pulling the rug out from under what you've spent six months or a year writing and recording. It's like...we don't write the songs so that it can become a component of something you see on television. We write the songs so someone can buy the CD and listen to it, and have their friends listen to it, and get something out of it musically. It seems to have become far too important to have the visual, and it's really for one reason, and that's promoting the record. Y'know, it doesn't make sense that a tool of promotion should become as important or as powerful as what you're trying to promote in the first place. But I guess in some cases and in this type of media-driven world we have now, we're sort of stuck with it, in a way.