Chris Cornell Interview In "Men's Health"
Source: Men's Health [Link]
Interview By Maggie Serota
Chris Cornell Reveals the Beatles' Song He Could've Written
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Who would have thought that 2014 would be a big year for Soundgarden? The band reunited in 2010 after an 11-year split and has already released 2012’s King Animal, a new album of fresh material. Earlier this year, the band put out a 20th anniversary reissue of their landmark album Superunknown. And just this week, they released Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path (Amazon Link), a three-disc set of recently unearthed covers, B-sides, and assorted rarities.
We caught up with frontman Chris Cornell to discuss '90s nostalgia, the bizarre appeal of “Black Hole Sun” and how The Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey” is a song that Soundgarden could have written.
Men's Health: In your 30-plus years as a musician, when did it first register with you that artists you admired were aware of you and your music?
Chris Cornell: I think it started to happen even before we were on commercial music’s radar. This is back around 1990 or 1989. There was just this big buzz on Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction. People were talking about both bands. A handful of people sort of saw the future and we were a big part of that. That’s when famous musicians started to show up at shows.
MH: You’ve always expressed a certain amazement that “Black Hole Sun” was a hit because, by your own admission, the song is pretty weird and surreal. Why do you think that a wide audience connected with it?
CC: I don’t know. I think the melody factor. I think that the chorus itself and the lyrics were something that you could make a mantra, in a sense. I think at the time, it didn’t sound like anything else. And this happens occasionally when a song doesn’t make sense on paper but every single person that listens to it reacts to that one the most.
MH: Between the Superunknown 20th anniversary reissue and the Echoes of Miles collection, how do you strike that balance between celebrating your career highlights but not falling into a nostalgia trap?
CC: Well, for us the fact that we had just made an album of all new material [King Animal] felt extremely vital to us, and it took away the notion of any nostalgia. Then we went out on tour with Nine Inch Nails, and you have to be realistic that to many people, it kind of is nostalgic, even though we’re playing a lot of new music. We both put out albums in the past few years of new music, but the nostalgia part is there, and that’s okay. Once you’ve been a band long enough, it’s gonna factor into it. When The Rolling Stones were playing stadiums in the '80s, I remember friends going to those shows. There were a handful that would listen to the new record and be really into that, but for most people it was nostalgia.
Having said that, the B-sides and rarities don’t seem nostalgic necessarily because what we’re putting out, our fans are going to look at and say, ‘Oh, that’s what they were like way back then.' Everything that is on it is some sound of us and some side of us that they’ve never heard before.
MH: The Devo cover on the second disc was a pretty interesting and unexpected choice.
CC: The reason it appealed to me was that Devo was really just a rock band. And if you focus on the song as a rock band, as if it was written by a rock band, it makes a great rock song. That’s an example of a song that you could do and make it your own that no one would ever second guess it.
And then there were songs like “Homicidal, Suicidal” by Budgie, which was a British metal band from the '70s. That’s something that would make more sense because there’s this dirgy riff where we kind of do what we do, where it wouldn’t surprise anyone if we would do that song.
Then there are in-between things that I think speak more to who we really are. Like “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by The Beatles. That felt natural to do. It felt like it could be a song that we wrote. It didn’t sounds like The Beatles, it sounded like us.
MH: When you were in the process of unearthing a lot of these old recordings, what was it like to hear a song with fresh ears after not hearing it for decades?
CC: I think you judge everything differently after that much time, even if it’s just a couple years. You sort of drop all of those caution flags and the different inner critics and the different editorials. I have like an editorial staff in my head and they don’t even agree with each other.
When that much time goes by, you’re really listening to it differently. At the time it’s written, it was the beginning of our career and with every song we’re thinking, 'This is what’s creating us.' Now, nothing is creating us. We’re well-created. We’re there. It becomes just pure pleasure and you become sort of an archeologist of your own music. You don’t judge it, because what’s the point? It’s a 30-year-old song. It just becomes fun.
MH: Are you itching to get back into the studio with Soundgarden and make some new music?
CC: I don’t think we’re ever far from it, really.
The thing I noticed about the studio this time, with King Animal, is that the way we set about achieving what we were trying to achieve, from one song to the next, was just a new experience. The sound we wanted to hear, it didn’t seem like it was that difficult to get. If there was an effect I wanted to achieve, it seemed like I knew exactly how to achieve it. That made things kind of less stressful. Our biggest problem as a young band is that we knew exactly what we were and what we wanted to sound like, but how do you get that on tape? Now we have a lot of experience with that. Now it’s just kind of getting the ideas together. Once the ideas are together, it pretty easy for us to just get them across.
To look ahead to the next thing is always very exciting because there’s no way to possibly know what it’s gonna be.