RollingStone - "Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil: My Favorite Grunge Albums"

Rolling Stone magazine’s recent “50 Best Grunge Albums “ featured 5 Soundgarden albums, prompting them to reach out to Kim and ask for his personal favorites. Below is the magazine’s write-up of Soundgarden’s albums (plus a couple compilation and side-project records), followed by their follow-up with Kim.

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Soundgarden, ‘Screaming Life’ (1987)

A far cry from “Black Hole Sun,” Soundgarden’s first big release, Screaming Life, is knotty, trippy and sprawling. At the time, guitarist Kim Thayil didn’t riff so much as swirl his lines around the rhythms, bassist Hiro Yamomoto wrung uncharacteristically chiming notes from his instrument and Chris Cornell was a topless howling banshee. Opener, “Hunted Down,” which was also the band’s first single, rattles and lunges unpredictably, as Cornell sings about wearing a “permanent disguise”; “Tears to Forget” boasts harder-hitting rhythms than the version on the Deep Six comp; and “Hand of God” is like a twisted, stuttering heavy-metal funk song (something the band would attempt somewhat more seriously on their bizarre cover of the Ohio Players’ “Fopp,” off the Fopp EP, which Sub Pop has added to Screaming Life). “Prior to Screaming Life, we were kind of angular and jagged,” Thayil once told Rolling Stone. “We did a lot of psychedelic stuff built around the feedback and Hiro’s bass lines. Gradually, that psychedelia made it so I was pushed into doing solos. Then the riffs started getting heavier. You just see how the audience responded to what we were doing, and you flow with that. Our songs started getting a little bit slower and heavier.” The record was pure art-punk, and it showed just how malleable grunge could be. K.G.

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Soundgarden, ‘Louder Than Love’ (1989)

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Grunge’s major-label debut is a lumbering, lubricious, pistol-whipping blow to the head. Although songs like the revolutionary-minded “Gun,” orgy-themed “Full On Kevin’s Mom” and the tongue-in-cheek “Big Dumb Sex” (“I know what to do/I’m gonna fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck you” in full stereophonic glory) are decidedly not ready for primetime, the album climbed into the lower half of the Billboard 200 and proved to be influential, inspiring Metallica’s Kirk Hammett to write the riff for “Enter Sandman” (“I was trying to capture their attitude toward big, heavy riffs,” he said) and providing cover fodder for Guns N’ Roses, who interpolated “Big Dumb Sex” into T. Rex’s “Buick McCane.” Future Pantera producer Terry Date worked with the band and helped them play up their metal edge, but that obscured the irony of some of the songs, which were more “meta” than metal. “I’ve learned that parody only works if you’re ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic and that’s what you do,” Chris Cornell said in 1994 of GN’R’s appropriation of “Big Dumb Sex.” “If you listen to that song, and you don’t know the band, and you don’t know that we’re joking, then it is [like] Aerosmith.” The band would revamp its sound on its next record, 1991’s Badmotorfinger, following Cornell’s more traditionally rock-oriented Temple of the Dog side project and the departure of bassist and prolific songwriter Hiro Yamomoto, making the unwieldiness of Louder Than Love all the more impressive in hindsight. They couldn’t have taken this sound any farther. K.G.

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Soundgarden, ‘Ultramega OK’ (1988)

When Soundgarden recorded “All Your Lies” for the Deep Six comp in 1986, the track was a messy, herky-jerky guitar explosion, and Chris Cornell snarled on it like a cat in heat; he even gave it a little demon laugh. The band overhauled the tune for its first full-length, the Grammy-nominated Ultramega OK, released two years later, and turned it into a bulldozing punk-metal juggernaut with a faster tempo and more cutting vocal attack. “We were unclassifiable,” Cornell said shortly before his death, “but we were unselfconscious about songwriting so we weren’t manufacturing anything.” That carefree aggressive sensibility resounds on the album’s leering, Led Zeppy “Flower,” the lumbering “Incessant Mace,” the locomotive “Mood for Trouble” (which spins the riff from the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin'” on its head) and concert showstopper “Beyond the Wheel,” on which Cornell stretches his vocal chords across three octaves, and guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamomoto make their instruments flutter. “I was trying to ratchet up the intensity,” Cornell told Rolling Stone of the latter song in a previously unpublished interview. “I remember thinking, ‘Is this going to seem like sort of a geek trick [showing] I could sing in three octaves?’ I was trying to avoid that. Ultimately it became one of those songs where it could never be a radio single, it was on an indie album, but it’s one that people always react to as though it were a hit song on the radio.” K.G.

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Various Artists, ‘Deep Six’ (1986)

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Leaf through the pages of the freshman class of Seattle grunge’s yearbook — a.k.a. the booklet that accompanied the 1986 multi-band compilation Deep Six — and you’ll see Melvins’ Buzz Osborne rolling his eyes back into his skull while digging his pick into his guitar; Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, shirtless and muscular, channeling Iggy Pop; and Malfunkshun’s Andy Wood mugging like a New York Doll. The comp is an invaluable document of where it all began. The record, which came out on the Seattle label C/Z, collects 14 ragers from Soundgarden, Melvins, Green River (which begot Pearl Jam and Mudhoney), Skin Yard (featuring guitarist turned producer Jack Endino), Malfunkshun (Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood’s first band) and the U-Men. The recordings are crude and heavy — Deep Six’s highlights include Soundgarden’s Devo-ish “All Your Lies,” Melvins’ furious “Blessing the Operation” and Green River’s seething “10,000 Things” — but that raw vitality is part of its charm. This is basically an ultrasound of grunge in utero. When Melvins paid tribute to Chris Cornell earlier this year, they included Malfunkshun’s walloping “With Yo’ Heart (Not Yo’ Hands)” in the set, ostensibly as a nod to Wood’s influence over Cornell and the scene as a whole. “The Deep Six compilation was really important to us,” Green River drummer Alex Shumway recently told Rolling Stone. “It was the first time we went to a ‘real studio.’ It had this mind-blowing feel to it. And it’s like everybody on Deep Six has become famous or there’s a person in the band that has moved on in the industry.” K.G.

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‘Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack’ (1992)

With Cameron Crowe writing and directing and Matt Dillon and Bridget Fonda leading the cast, the flanneled rom-com Singles symbolized grunge’s cultural-crossover moment. But starting with the fact that Crowe had begun working on it pre-Nevermind and that he had his own personal bond with Seattle (his then-wife, Heart’s Nancy Wilson, was a longtime resident), Singles was far from a crass cash-in. And its accompanying soundtrack, released several months in advance, was a note-perfect introduction to the scene by way of new, direct-to-Singles contributions from many of its leading lights. Some of those tracks — Pearl Jam’s ferocious “Breath” and “State of Love and Trust,” Screaming Trees’ burly “Nearly Lost You” and Alice in Chains’ Andrew Wood homage “Would?” — were peak grunge moments, and Chris Cornell’s acoustic “Seasons” captured the lesser-known psych-folk side of the scene. (Tracks by Jimi Hendrix and Ann and Nancy Wilson’s Lovemongers side project also reminded everyone that Seattle rock didn’t start with grunge, either.) Crowe, a fan of the way director Mike Nichols used Simon and Garfunkel songs in The Graduate, called the Singles soundtrack “like a little Graduate moment that happened. Singles felt like an opportunity to really fly into the arms of that feeling.” D.B.

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Soundgarden, ‘Superunknown’ (1994)

By 1994, grunge had taken over the radio, the festival world (Lollapalooza) and MTV, but where could it go from there, especially as an art form? Soundgarden knew: The band had to show it wasn’t just that month’s flavor but the next phase of rock itself. As Chris Cornell later told RS, “I felt like all of us were going to have to prove that we deserved to be playing on an international stage, and to have videos on TV and songs on the radio, and it wasn’t just a fad like the ‘British invasion’ or a ‘New York noise scene.'” In the face of that pressure, Cornell and his bandmates wrote their most robust group of songs — from bucking-bronco rockers like “Drown Me” and “Superunknown” to dark psychedelia like “Black Hole Sun” and “Fell on Black Days” — and producer Michael Beinhorn sculpted the splattered-paint fury of their early days into something colossal. The result was a fourth album that coincidentally was Soundgarden’s own Led Zeppelin IV: a record that revealed new, often subtler facets of the band and instantly felt like one of the landmark hard-rock records of all time. D.B.

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Temple of the Dog, ‘Temple of the Dog’ (1991)

The death of Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood in March of 1990 left the Seattle rock community completely devastated. The charismatic frontman was close friends and roommate with Chris Cornell, who poured all his heartache into new songs like “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down.” Once he played them for surviving Mother Love Band members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard and learned they’d just formed a new band with some guy from San Diego named Eddie Vedder, they all decided to come together and honor Wood by recording them under the moniker Temple of the Dog. It didn’t take for the project to grow into a full album. “It was a time when more importance was placed on albums,” Cornell told Rolling Stone in 2016. “Then it became cathartic and fun.” After Cornell’s shocking death in 2018, the songs of loss and regret took on a whole new meaning. A.G.

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Soundgarden, ‘Badmotorfinger’ (1991)

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After Chris Cornell had a revelation while working on Temple of the Dog, a project that forced him to refocus his songwriting toward catchier and more concise tracks, he led Soundgarden into a new era with Badmotorfinger, the band’s commercial breakthrough. Although drummer Matt Cameron proudly told Rolling Stone“We don’t make pop records,” when the album came out, it arrived at a time of sea change for heavy rock, and the band scored a trio of hits with “Outshined,” “Jesus Christ Pose” (thanks in part to MTV banning its video) and the rhythmically off-kilter “Rusty Cage” — the last of which Johnny Cash later covered. Each of the songs had a uniquely brutalizing riff, paired with Cornell’s otherworldly, always-perfectly-on-pitch shrieking, that made it a classic. Meanwhile, deeper cuts like “Slaves & Bulldozers” and “Searching With My Good Eye Closed” became live go-tos, because of the way they pummeled audiences. “After Louder Than Love, we kind of had to turn back,” guitarist Kim Thayil once said. “The dark psychedelia, which was replaced by our slight visceral heaviness on Louder Than Love, that came back and so did the quirkiness [on Badmotorfinger].” Soundgarden were heavier than Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but they still wrote anthems, securing them an easy place among the first wave of grunge superstars; the album made it to Number 39 on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified double platinum. It also earned a Grammy nomination. “I love Badmotorfinger because it sounds great in a car,” Thayil once said. “It’s got a lot of weird quirks in it — as is typical with Soundgarden. We always added that element of crazy and weird. We had an ability to not take ourselves too seriously, while committing to the heaviness. Sort of like laughing while kicking your ass.” K.G.


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Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil: My Favorite Grunge Albums

From Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’ to ‘God’s Balls’ by Tad, the guitarist shouts out records by Seattle-area bands

Kory Grow April 2, 2019 12:06PM ET

When Rolling Stone compiled our list of the 50 Greatest Grunge Albums, the MVP was clearly Soundgarden. Five of the band’s records made the cut — everything they released from their debut, Screaming Life, through 1994’s Superunknown — and two of those LPs placed in the top 10. Their 1991 album, Badmotorfinger, came in at number two, following only Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The group formed in 1984, playing psychedelic punk on early songs like “Hunted Down” and “All Your Lies,” tracks that showed off Chris Cornell’s jaw-dropping vocal ability. Eventually they introduced genre hallmarks like off-kilter time signatures, heavily thunking riffs and melodic pop songcraft until they were dominating radio playlists with songs like “Outshined” and “Black Hole Sun.” Their trajectory paved the way for many of their peers; they were one of the first bands to sign with Sub Pop and they were the first grunge act to sign with a major label.

Because of Soundgarden’s importance, we reached out to the band’s guitarist, Kim Thayil, to find out what his favorite grunge records are, and how he defines the genre. “I think for a number of years, most of the Seattle bands avoided the term ‘grunge,'” he says. “It’s kind of hard to recall what might be considered grunge or what might have been referred to as metal or pop or punk. I think the easy way to define it would probably be: ‘Seattle-area music of a particular community and genre during a particular period of time from the mid-Eighties to the mid-Nineties.'”

To narrow it down, Thayil — who says he currently has no projects in the works, “just a lot of things on paper and in my head” — picked records by artists that started up mostly in the Seattle area and put out albums on regional labels. Here are his favorites.

Nirvana, Bleach (1989)
I’m picking Bleach for this list on the strength of “Negative Creep,” which would be amazing as a hardcore song or as sort of a metal-grunge song. I also love the riffs on “Blew” and “Swap Meet”; I’d listen to those over and over. That record was so popular with our band when we were touring. We’d play Fugazi, Margin Walker; Meat Puppets II; Neil Young, After the Gold Rush; and Nirvana, Bleach, all the time on a cassette player in our van.

Nivana opened up for us a few times, and we were like, “Shit, these guys are good.” I remember thinking they’ve got some cool songs and Kurt could sing, but their stage presence really didn’t have that confidence or identity yet. Kurt would just stand there and not move, and his hair was in his face. He had zero charisma, except for [the fact] he had a good voice. Chris [Cornell] definitely picked up on his voice. In a year or so, they found their groove and that confidence. Live, it was pretty amazing.

Green River, Dry as a Bone (1987)
Of all the Green River records, I liked Dry as a Bone the best. The first record, Come On Down, is a little bit more grungy I suppose, but it’s not as memorable as the stuff on Dry as a Bone. And their Rehab Doll album is sort of like tipping their hat toward L.A. glam, which I never like that shit, ever. But Dry as a Bone is the one that got me with the vibe that was like the Dead Boys and Aerosmith.

At the time, I think [guitarist] Bruce [Fairweather] was hyping them as being like the Stooges meets Aerosmith. I never really saw the Stooges thing. I also love Dry as a Bone because of its packaging, that sort of [Green River and Pearl Jam bassist] Jeff Ament school of graphics that was popular back then. I love the fact that it’s a quick record, five or six songs and they’re all pretty strong.

Melvins, Gluey Porch Treatments (1987)
I could pick almost anything by Melvins, but I’m going to say Gluey Porch Treatments since it was their debut album. They made a lot of albums that were more inventive creatively and better produced sonically, but I’m picking this one because I like to think of them in that period.

They were the slowest band in the scene, but they started of being the fastest. At times Buzz had this Gene Simmons thing to his vocals, but the music was incredibly arty and somewhat experimental even if they were never self-conscious about it. They may not have been aware they were being so arty at the time, but all the rest of the bands certainly took notice. Just the fact that they slowed down was a big deal. The fact that they have arrangements that would often not repeat was cool too; it would just be a linear sequence: A, B, C, D, N.

U-Men, U-Men EP (1984)
There’s an argument about whether the U-Men are grunge or not. They’re certainly proto-grunge. Everybody kind of looked up to them. They were distinct from all the other bands in Seattle in the early Eighties; most of the bands in Seattle kind of sucked. They were either goofy New Wave or some kind of college butt-rock. And then the U-Men came along and they had these jagged rhythms. They were inventive and had a lot of charisma. Everyone in that fuckin’ band had a presence. It was fun to watch, and the way they related to the audience and each other was great.

Malfunkshun
In the absence of a real Malfunkshun album, I’ll say all Malfunkshun should be on this list. There’s an album called Another Pyrrhic Victory, and Malfunksun had a couple of songs on that, “My Only Fan” and “Shotgun Wedding.” And the Deep Six compilation had “Stars-N-You” and “With Yo’ Heart (Not Yo’ Hands).” Those are amazing songs. And there’s a Malfunkshun album [Return to Olympus] that’s posthumous on the Loosegroove label.

That band was very inspirational and influential, just because they were heavy as shit. Kevin Wood’s guitar playing was way fast and not coherent; it was this chaotic, crazy fast thing. And [singer] Andrew [Wood] was crooning, dressed-up and comical, and then when the riffs came in, it was truly heavy. It was just amazing. They could also have a nice R&B groove when they needed one in the metallic sets. They would refer to themselves as “Mötley Crüe North” or “Kiss West Coast.” It was hilarious.

Andy Wood was a fun guy. He was definitely a character and a personality. [Editor’s note: Wood died in 1990.] Even at shows Malfunkshun didn’t play, we’d get Andy to MC as “Landrew, the Love Master of Ceremonies.” There were a few shows we were headlining, and Landrew would come out and introduce each band, and he would come down from “Olympus” and introduce the bands. It was hilarious. He was wearing these giant Smurf boots, and he’s got makeup on.

Skin Yard, Hallowed Ground (1988)
I don’t think any of us [in Soundgarden] really liked the first Skin Yard record, but we liked them as people and the uniqueness of what they were trying to do. Then they became heavier, more in the mold of Soundgarden or Tad, and they started making better records that were kind of fun. By the time they put out Hallowed Ground, they were getting into the groove and had the rock idea going.

Jack Endino was experimental as a guitarist, but he’s got a background that’s all rock. He’s the one who turned me on to Budgie and the Groundhogs back in the early Eighties, and of course he loved Sabbath. He likes big riffs. On Hallowed Ground and the subsequent records, they really captured Jack’s interest and his strength as a rock fan and rock guitar player. When the songs got stripped out a little bit to become more rock, it was also a lot easier for [vocalist] Ben [McMillan] to develop lyrics and melodies that would fit, so I think on this one you get the best of Ben McMillan and Jack Endino. [Pauses] And we got the best of Skin Yard when their drummer, Matt Cameron, came over and joined us.

Mudhoney, Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)
Mudhoney had this great presence from [singer-guitarist] Mark [Arm]. And I always liked the way Steve [Turner] played guitar; I liked his solos, because they were loose and somewhat expressive. It’s easy to be supportive of them. I’m putting Superfuzz Bigmuff on this list for no other reason than the song “In ‘n’ Out of Grace,” which his probably still my favorite Mudhoney song. I love the line, “Oh, God, how I love to hate,” and the way it kicks back in from Danny [Peters’] drum solo. It’s just an amazing moment every time they do it live. And the groove is cool; it’s this weird Blue Cheer thing.

Tad, God’s Balls (1989)
I’m picking God’s Balls because of [bassist] Kurt [Danielson’s] poetic background. I think some of that insight contributed to the band. And then I love Gary [Thorstensen’s] inventive guitar playing and use of feedback. He had colors to augment what would otherwise be the same old linear groove. That album was so important because it helped establish Tad as an influential and significant artist from the Seattle scene. They weren’t just knuckleheads.

When they came out, they were marketing [frontman Tad Doyle] as some kind of retarded lumberjack, but he’s an incredibly smart, articulate multi-instrumentalist and a producer and engineer himself. They had him write his name left-handed on the single: “My Name is Tad.” What the fuck? It was silly and obnoxious because Tad’s a super smart guy.

Screaming Trees, Clairvoyance (1986)
I don’t know what you’d call them, but they were probably grunge at least by fashion. They were wearing flannel independently of us. I like Clairvoyance for the song “Clairvoyance,” but my favorite song on there is probably “I See Stars” followed by “Orange Airplane.” After this album, they kind of fattened up their sound.

Their influence and impact on us and on Seattle was definitely significant. They were influential in getting us on [the record label] SST. They came to see us out in Ellensburg [Washington] and they talked us up to Greg [Ginn] and Chuck [Dukowski]. SST was our favorite label in the early to mid-Eighties. Since then, [Soundgarden bassist] Ben [Shepherd] has worked with [Screaming Trees frontman Mark] Lanegan, Chris [Cornell] co-produced Screaming Trees’ Uncle Anesthesia and they were managed by our manager for most of our career, Susan Silver, at some point. They were very much part of the family.

Alice in Chains, Facelift (1990)
Alice in Chains came from a different scene, but then started playing with us and Pearl Jam, and they played some shows with Nirvana on Facelift. I think of a song like “It Ain’t Like That,” and I love the groove. When I would play with them onstage, they’d ask me what song I want to do, and that was the one. [Sings the opening riff] I love that riff and that song. I wish I’d written it, and that’s why I love that album — just because of that song. It’s easy to fall in love with something when you think, “Why the fuck didn’t I think of that?” The whole record has great stuff on it.

Pearl Jam, Ten (1991)
Ten was a super album with the super hits. It kind of speaks for itself. Everyone has a copy of that at some point. There’s no question it’s a great record, simply in terms of commercial success, and personally it’s important to me because I know those songs from a live context.

I saw them live a few times before the record came out as [original band name] Mookie Blaylock and as Pearl Jam. Mike McCready and Eddie [Vedder] were strong additions to what Jeff [Ament] and Stone [Gossard] had been doing in their previous bands [Green River and Mother Love Bone]. Mike was a really strong lead guitar player who worked with where their songwriting was going, and it was just emotive. It could do all the things you want a lead guitarist to do, especially for the songs they were writing. And then it complemented one of the greatest rock vocalists ever, someone who was so emotive that the first few times I saw him, I actually had those weird tingles go up my spine. I think Jeff Beck’s done that for me, and Chris [Cornell] and Eddie and Derek Trucks. I’m sure there are other performances that have done that for me, but Eddie’s voice certainly did that.

"In The Studio" Video Blog Looks Back On Superunknown For Its 25th Anniversary

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SOUNDGARDEN- SUPERUNKNOWN 25TH ANNIVERSARY- CHRIS CORNELL

Time flies when you’re making history. When listening today to the uncanny way in which songs such as “Spoonman”,”Fell on Black Days”,”Black Hole Sun”,”My Wave”,”The Day I Tried to Live”, and “Superunknown” on Soundgarden‘s March 1994 Superunknown somehow bridged the evolution of rock over the preceding quarter century, it feels like merely twenty-five months have passed, not years.

When it came time for Soundgarden to enter the studio in 1993, the song stash was empty, a daunting creative challenge to main songwriter Chris Cornell. All of the ripe musical fruit had been harvested for the series of singles,  EPs, and three preceding albums including Badmotorfinger,  but Chris found the untilled earth liberating as well, fertile musical ground. No doubt one of the strongest aspects of the songs that Cornell, crunchy angular guitarist Kim Thayil, thundering bass player Ben Shepherd, and powerhouse drummer Matt Cameron came up with on Superunknown   twenty-five years ago was their unapologetic admiration for the Vol.4-era Black Sabbath sound and unabashed dynamics of Led Zeppelin. The late Chris Cornell is my guest from the In the Studio  archive. – Redbeard

Highlights From SiriusXM Lithium's "#Superunknown25 Weekend"

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This past weekend, SiriusXM’s Lithium station celebrated the 25th anniversary of Superunknown by playing all 15 tracks from the album, in addition to many of the demos, live versions, and rehearsal versions from the Superunknown 20 year anniversary deluxe edition. The Soundgarden songs were played throughout the weekend, scattered into the regular Lithium playlist.

In addition to the music, short clips sent in by fans were played throughout the 3 days, in addition to some clips from the band discussing the album’s creation and other topics.

While we didn’t get every clip that aired, the ones that we did capture are in our “Superunknown Turns 25” post, and below are some of our favorites:

“The first tours we did with Matt, you know we’re going to clubs in towns where, you know you’re just sort of intimidated. 
And you go into these dirty, dingy clubs that are dark. And they stink like rotten alcohol, you know, and there’s guys with neck tattoos wandering around, mopping [it] up, and everyone seems to hate you.

It was the first time I was outside of Seattle, and it was intimidating. One of the things I would remember...every time Matt would finish putting his kit together, he would sit down and start hitting the drums a little bit - that was one of those moments of confidence because whoever was in that room, would always look up with kind of a “holy shit !”. He was the only one in the band, at that time, that had that power. So it made me...”oh ! We can hold our head up”. It was very important.

When he would hit the first couple of drums, it would always make somebody look. “


Chris Cornell wins "Best Rock Performance" Grammy for "When Bad Does Good"

Chris Cornell wins the Grammy for “Best Rock Performance” for When Bad Does Good

The Man Behind the Lens: Charles Peterson

If there is one photographer’s name that is instantaneously synonymous with the Seattle music scene, it would undisputedly be Charles Peterson. During the reign of Sub Pop, he was in the midst of it all, capturing historical photos of bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mud Honey, Pearl Jam, Green River and many many many many more “grunge” heavyweights.

Peterson’s ability to take incredible photos of concert crowds and translate the intensity of the motions in the mosh pit into print is just one dimension of his massive talent.  Of course, we all love to see images of our favorite front men crooning into the mic, but during the days before camera phones, the way Peterson turned the camera on to the crowd helped encapsulate the vibe that defined that transitional era of music.

CHARLES PETERSON / CHARLESPETERSON.NET

CHARLES PETERSON / CHARLESPETERSON.NET

The Seattle audiences were entertaining. I didn’t want to just get a head shot of the lead singer. I wanted to get the experience, make you actually feel like you’re there. ... I like the composition part of shooting. The way my eyes and brain work together — I’m constantly composing with or without a camera.
— Charles Peterson

With a knack for capturing movement, Charles has also taken some incredible photographs of Soundgarden in action, especially from the early days which we affectionately refer to as Babygarden.

CHARLES PETERSON / CHARLESPETERSON.NET

It wasn’t long before Charles Peterson achieved cult status among music fans not just in Seattle, but all over the world. Just the other day fellow friend and fan found a print of his while walking down the streets of Bologna, Italy. His images truly can be found everywhere from iconic album covers to music publications and zines dating back to the 80s and 90s. Check your local record store or music museum; you will probably come across a Charles Peterson piece.

Scene from the documentary HYPE!

Scene from the documentary HYPE!

Many people may recognize Charles from his memorable cameo in the indie docu-flick called HYPE! In his segments, he’s sitting on the ground completely surrounded by photos he took from various gigs, stopping to comment on several memories tied to specific photographs.

HYPE! celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 with a re-release with extra footage

HYPE! celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 with a re-release with extra footage

We just so happened to be in Seattle for the 20th anniversary screening of HYPE! and had the privilege of hearing Charles Peterson speak during the live commentary portion of the event. Though soft spoken, Charles has many wise words when he speaks about the music scene that so many young people today admire and fantasize about today. His speaking portion begins around the 9-minute mark.

Being in the same room as this magnanimous panel of “grunge” greats was an awesome experience and it was comforting to hear them speak about Chris and his impact on the Seattle music scene. Check out more details from that event here.

Though Charles mostly keeps a low profile, his portfolio boasts pictures that span the realm of sweaty grunge shows and into beautiful scenic photography from his travels and candid photos from events like Sundance Festival. Take a moment to visit his website www.charlespeterson.net to explore just how talented our favorite grunge photographer is.

We want to extend a huge THANK YOU to Charles Peterson for all of the crucial and memorable work he has done photographing artists of the Seattle music scene and beyond. Without his skilled eye for capturing our favorite artists in their element, we wouldn’t have all of these beautiful pictures to look back on and remember those whom we have lost.

For fine art prints please contact Charles for direct sale pricing.

For more Charles Peterson check out the following publications:

  • Touch Me I'm Sick, by Jennie Boddy (Author), Eddie Vedder (Author, Introduction), Charles Peterson (Photographer)(PowerHouse, 2003)

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  • Screaming Life : A Chronicle of the Seattle Music Scene, Charles Peterson (Author, Photographer) (Harper Collins, 1995)

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  • Pearl Jam: Place/Date, Charles Peterson (Author), Lance Mercer (Author) (Rizzoli/Vitalogy, 1997)

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  • Cypher, Jeff Chang (Author), Charles Peterson (Photographer), (PowerHouse Books 2008)

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You can also catch mentions of Charles Peterson in Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm (not to be confused with Mark Arm)

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

Films featuring Charles Peterson:

  • All apologies : Kurt Cobain 10 years (2006)

  • The Last 48 hours of Kurt Cobain (2007) 

  • Seven ages of rock (2007)

  • Hype! (1996) 

  • Photographs were used in Cobain : Montage of Heck (2015) 

  • Too young to die : Kurt Cobain (2012)

We dedicate this post in memory of Othello, the most handsome babushka on four legs.

Paul Lorkowski Posts New 2019 Soundgarden Calendar

1 on 1 with Corbin Reiff, Author of TOTAL F@&KING GODHEAD: The Biography of Chris Cornell (2020)

As you may already know, Corbin Reiff is the music journalist who is taking on the enormous task of writing the upcoming new biography of our dearly departed Chris Cornell, due out sometime in 2020. Someone capable of taking on a project this immense must be a pretty remarkable person considering how intense and incredibly vast Chris’s career was and how rich his legacy is proving to be.

So, naturally, we wanted to get to know a little more about the man who is tirelessly conducting interviews with people who have worked with Chris, along with giving us exciting Twitter updates about his writing process. Corbin has written for publications like Rolling Stone, Billboard, Uproxx, Complex, Noisey, The A.V. Club, Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, and Guitar World Magazine. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he’s also the author of a book called LIGHTERS IN THE SKY: The All-Time Greatest Concerts, 1960-2016, which is out now.

lightersinthesky.com

lightersinthesky.com

We were lucky enough to meet Corbin at the ‘I am the Highway Tribute’ in LA and chat briefly, but we still want to know more about his thoughts and ideas in regards to Soundgarden and Chris’s other bands and musical projects. He was gracious enough to give us a little bit of insight into his life and the future of this TOTAL F@&KING GODHEAD biography.

 

What were you doing before you became a music journalist?

I was in the U.S. Army for about five years before I started really writing. I joined out of high school and deployed to Iraq in 2009. When I came home, I enrolled at the Evergreen State College and then began blogging, mostly as a hobby.

How did you get into writing?

I’d been writing casually for about a year when a guitar magazine hit me up and asked if I’d like to write a 3,000 word piece about this obscure, English session guitarist named Big Jim Sullivan. I was supposed to interview him for my own blog, but he died literally the day before we could talk, so I posted an obituary instead. They noticed it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What your favorite music memory from childhood?

That’s a tough one. I think I’ll fast-forward a few years to seeing my first concert at 14, at ARCO Arena in Sacramento. Nine Inch Nails was headlining, with Queen Of The Stone Age and Autolux in support. The intensity and the volume are what I remember most fondly. I guess I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

Do you remember the first Soundgarden song you ever heard?

It had to be “Black Hole Sun.” Even as a young, young kid, that song was everywhere when it came out.

What are some of your favorite Soundgarden/TotD/Audioslave/CC solo songs?

Do you have an hour? Haha. “4th Of July” from ‘Superunknown’ is probably my favorite Soundgarden song. “Reach Down” is my favorite Temple Of The Dog track. I’d have to go with “Shadow On The Sun” for Audioslave.” And then Chris’s solo work, excepting “Seasons,” which is incredible, I think I’d pick “Can’t Change Me” from ‘Euphoria Mourning.’

Do you have a personal story or connection to Chris or any of the bands you’d be willing to share?

Chris Cornell has always seemed like an omnipresent musical force in my life. I was in High School around the time the first Audioslave album dropped and it was inescapable. Then you realize, ‘Oh, that’s the guy from Soundgarden??’ and get to really dig into that collection of music. A few years later I moved up to the Seattle area, and you could feel the mark he left on that place, even if he wasn’t living there at the time. Seeing Soundgarden at the Paramount in 2013. Seeing him solo and as part of the Mad Season celebration at Benaroya Hall where Temple Of The Dog reunited. Bumping into him in LA for the onstage chat with Jimmy Page he did at the Ace Hotel. His music meant a lot to me. 

What did you think of the I Am the Highway Event? Who was your favorite?

I thought it was spectacular! My first book, ‘Lighters In The Sky’ is a year-by-year profile of the greatest concerts of all-time, and if my publisher asked me to cook together a chapter about 2019, I mean, it’s only January, but I can’t imagine another show surpassing the quality and emotion of that one. Favorite singer was probably Miley Cyrus doing “Say Hello 2 Heaven” or Dave Grohl shredding his vocal cords on “Show Me How To Live.” The most powerful moment however, was at the very beginning, just seeing the three Soundgarden guys together again and the outpouring of love from the crowd for them. I still think about Matt Cameron’s speech.

What has been your favorite part of putting the Total F@#king Godhead biography together? What has been the most challenging?

Hearing people’s stories about Chris. It’s incredible how many lives he touched and humbling as a biographer to learn how much he meant to people. That’s also the challenge. I just want to make sure that I tell his story as accurately and empathetically as I possibly can.

Without prying for spoilers, what are some of the most exciting parts of the book that we have to look forward to regarding interviews and new information?

I think the area I’ve focused on the most thus far is Chris’s development as an artist. In terms of new information and insight, I think, or at least I hope, that people will come away with a better understanding of how he created and recorded everything from Soundgarden’s first contributions to the DEEP SIX compilation in 1986 to his last solo album HIGHER TRUTH and beyond. Why he did what he did. Why he wrote what he wrote, etc. Chris once said that, “My albums are the diaries to my life.” Any understanding of who he was has to begin there.


I think it’s safe to say that Chris’s biography is in good hands. Soundgarden fans have this innate over-protectiveness over the band and its members, especially now that Chris is no longer with us. It’s comforting to know that Corbin is not only a fan but someone who is genuinely interested in Chris’s music process and the man that was behind all of the songs and albums that have defined the soundtrack to our lives for over three generations.

Big thank you to Corbin for giving us some insight! To stay current with his updates, give Corbin a follow on Twitter or Instagram.



Article: Interview With 'Superunknown' Producer Michael Beinhorn (eonmusic)


'Superunknown' Producer: The Thing I Told Chris Cornell That Completely Changed Direction of This Album

"He was trying to write songs for Soundgarden fans, which I strongly urged him against," Michael Beinhorn explains.

michael-beinhorn-cropped_1_orig.jpg

Michael Beinhorn has worked with some of the biggest names in Rock. The man behind the desk for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Marilyn Manson , Korn and a whole lot more, he’s perhaps best-known as the producer behind Soundgarden’s monolithic ‘Superunknown’ album. Launching a new pre-production service, we sat down with Michael to talk about the importance of song writing, his work with Ozzy Osbourne, and the album that brought the world ‘Black Hole Sun’. On the other side; Eamon O’Neill.

Hi Michael, you’re starting a new venture offering pre-production to musicians and bands; why have you decided to focus on that area?
Well, the focus is on pre-production, and I discovered over this past fifteen years now, that fewer and fewer people are actually using pre-production to make records. A lot of people because of budgetary restraints are just rushing into recording studios with a bunch of songs once they’ve written them, and they don’t really think about what may or may not be working with the songs. That decision is one of the single most vitally important that a person can make before they’re going to make a recording. If they’re going to rush into the studio with a bunch of songs that are potentially good before they’ve honed the arrangement right, they’re going to regret that. It’s really about focusing, and putting as much attention as possible into the end result.  

For artists who arrive into the studio without doing any pre-production, would you say that it ends up costing them more in studio time?
Yeah. The thing is there’s one finite aspect of recording right now, and that’s the budget. The budget now is what dictates everything. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s important to have some kind of limitations when you’re making a record, depending on what level artist you are. The thing is that when every single decision is dictated by how much or how little money you have to make your recording, it kind of puts you up against a lot of unfair pressure. For example, if you’re work is based in creativity, it doesn’t make sense that you should be completely and utterly restricted by how much money you have to work with. I mean, sure, you’ve got money to make a recording on the one hand, but on the other hand, there still has to be considerations made; how are we going to make this the best recording possible?

Surely that’s the most important question?
That is the question that’s always been asked when I’ve been involved in recordings in the past, regardless of what the budget was. There’s no reason in the world why artists shouldn’t be able to deal with the same kind of variables, no matter what their financial situation is. That’s really where this comes from; I want to make available to people something I consider that has been vitally important in the making of records for decades. To a lot of extent, it’s made a lot of recordings that people are familiar with, as good as they are; because people had time to work on them, they had time to invest in creating the structural element, not just going in and banging a bunch of parts out.

With the advent of quality home recording in the last decade and a half, has the role of the producer become more undervalued?
It depends on the genre of music you’re talking about. It also depends who the artist is. In many cases, the role of the producer has actually expanded considerably, and I don’t necessarily think that that’s the best thing either. I’ve always enjoyed a healthy balance between the producer and the artist, really. We have a collaborative aspect going on in a recording; with an understanding that the artist is really the person who’s responsible for creating the music, and the producer is there as someone who’s there to help recognise the vision. That’s strength in numbers. You have a bunch of talented people coming together under one banner, with a joint vision. Assuming that everybody’s wonderfully talented and there’s great material for it, and great performers, the resulting collaboration is always fantastic. 

That magical collaboration you’re talking about is exemplified perfectly on Soundgargen’s ‘Superunknown’, which you produced in 1994.
Yeah. I will say that once the songs were written, I didn’t really have to do a whole lot, in terms of rearranging it. I think it was more a matter of getting them on the right track with their stuff and really encouraging them. But, if I hadn’t been there, the record wouldn’t resemble by a long shot what it looks like now, because the songs that they initially started with were like a shadow of what the record wound up being. 

What was it that you brought, was it arrangements, guitar sounds – the picked verses of ‘Black Hole Sun’ for example?
As far as the Leslie guitar that he plays on the arpeggios – which I think is what you’re thinking about – that was all in the demo. That was his demo, but to give you an idea of what my involvement was from, I was getting a lot of demos from Chris [Cornell]. As I mentioned, they started with a bunch of songs, some of which were good. About four or five actually wound up being on the record, but the rest of it was kind of meandering jams, and it wasn’t anything steady, and none of the songs that were singles were in those batch of songs. I’d say the most important aspect of it was, I said to them; “Look, we can’t get started here, you don’t have a record. We need to write more”. 

So you sent them away to write?
I was getting songs from Chris, and after about a month and a half, I realised that he was starting to go in a natural direction. He and I had a conversation about it, and we focused on what he really loved musically, which is something that he hadn’t really considered. He was trying to write songs for Soundgarden fans, which I strongly urged him against, because my feeling is like; “look, if you write the song, and your band plays it, it’s going to sound like Soundgarden!” You don’t have to write songs that are going to please the constituency of your fans; they’re either going to stay fans or they won’t - all you have to do is write songs that you really love.

It sounds like that piece of advice changed the direction of ‘Superunknown’ considerably.
About two weeks after that conversation he sent me a cassette tape and I played it. There were four songs on it. The first was ‘Fell on Black Days’, the last was ‘Black Hole Sun’, and from the first few notes of ‘Black Hole Sun’, I was like; “Oh my god! This is incredible” I listened to the song many, many times - I just kept playing it over and over and over again, and I just called him up, and I was like; “This is incredible. We’re ready to record now. You’ve basically got the most important track on the whole record, and it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard”.

The song has gone on to become almost immortal; Is it strange to think you were one of the first people to ever hear it, and have a hand in its creation?
It’s still pretty mind blowing. It’s wonderful because people still listen to it, it’s wonderful that people are still inspired by it and still love that record so much, and it’s wonderful because the record does what I wanted it to do. I meant to do something that would hit people emotionally, that would affect them; that they wouldn’t just hear it, but they would feel it, that it would be something that would get under their skin, and would stay with them. And that’s not like; “Oh, I wanted to sell millions of copies”, that’s like, yeah, that’s great, I’m very happy about that too, but it’s secondary. It was really important to me that this album would mean something to people. I knew that this band could create something, I just had no idea it was going to be that.

And that people would be asking you about it all the bloody time!
If I told you I’m sick of talking about it; that would be disrespectful, and it would be terrible, because that song was beneficial to all of us. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful piece of music; even dissecting it musically is so much fun because there’s so many wonderful facets to it that I think very few rock songs actually have.

Moving on, and in 1995 you worked on Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ozzmosis’ album; was it a struggle to get that one down?
It took a long time [*laughing*]. It took a long time trying out some of the material for it, and I also worked Ozzy’s record in the middle of someone else’s record. It took months to assemble all the material for it and to coordinate everything. It was definitely a movie, and I remember we were looking at studios and Ozzy called up and he told me all the studios he didn’t want to work in, and then he hung the phone up! [*laughing*]. We wound up tracking the record in a studio in Paris, and it was a long, drawn out process.

You had Ozzy, Zakk Wylde, Geezer Butler and Rick Wakeman on there; does it go to show that even with the right ingredients, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a great album?
It’s funny because you can work as hard as you can, and you can put as much intent and as much effort into something as you possibly can, but if the stars aren’t aligning and everyone isn’t on the same page? You really need to have so many things heading in the same direction in order for something like that to work. I’m certainly very grateful that the record was a [commercial] success. Unfortunately a lot got lost in translation too. I’d recorded it a certain way; I had come up with this two inch eight track analogue recording system that no one had ever used before, and I tracked the drums on it, and unfortunately when it was mixed, the guy who was mixing it didn’t really know how to work with it. He lost all the subtleties and the depth of the drum kit, so that part of it was kind of heart breaking.   

It sounds like it was a completely different recording experience to ‘Superunknown’ the year before.
Well, it’s hard to describe it exactly. Comparatively speaking, on a record like ‘Superunkown’, there was just an energy about it, like, I can’t really describe it. It was one of these things where you just knew that this thing was going to happen no matter what; like we were all just pawns it in. I could say; “Oh, I did this, I did that”, but the fact is that we were really just being drawn along by some other kind of force or energy or whatever, that took the whole project to its inevitable conclusion. To me, that’s the best that you could hope for when you have a recording project. Ozzy’s record? Not so much. He’s not much of a participant, or at least he wasn’t on that record. He kind of left us to our own devices. It was me and the other musicians, and I think when you’ve got a record that is basically by a solo artist, it’s a little more difficult if the solo artist isn’t really heavily involved in the creative process. 

Despite that, it still contains ‘I Just Want You’, which is still a classic, underrated track.
It’s really funny, I only had one DAT recording of the way the drums sounded when we first tracked them in Paris, and to this day – this is going to sound very immodest, and I apologise for that – but I’ve never heard a better recording of drums in my entire life. I mean, it was that good. 

For you, what would you point to as examples of some of the best produced albums recorded?
Oh, there’s so many, oh my god. It really depends. The thing is production is something that you can’t always detect what it is, because it’s so much more. The only way you could really know what production really is, is by comparing an album that an artist did with one producer, with one they did with another producer, and looking at where song structures were changed, as well as sonic elements. From an overall perspective, obviously Beatles records are incredible, as are Led Zeppelin records which are self-produced; that’s a feat in itself, because there’s virtually no one else on the face of the earth - save maybe Prince, who could really self-produce like that. That’s over the top. Chris Thomas[The Sex Pistols, Roxy Music, U2]; his records are amazing; and I think no matter what anyone says about him, I think Mutt Lange is a genius. His records with Def Leppard and AC/DC are stupendous. 

AC/DC is a great example of what you’re talking about; comparing the difference between the Lange-produced ‘Back in Black’, and the self-produced ‘Flick of the Switch’.
Yes, and you can see where that went; you can see what Mutt actually brought to them. There’s an element that’s actually very subtle that Mutt introduced into their records. There’s a very refined quality to their records, and I think that that comes through in the sonics, as well as the feel of the performances. He’s a bass player, and he’s got a very, very refined sense of feel. I love what he did with their stuff. To me, adding contrasting elements, adding refinement to something that’s really rough and basic and nasty; that’s fantastic, and it gives the listener something to grab hold of.    

Moving back to your latest venture, what are you hoping to achieve?
I would really like to focus musicians on making better recordings, and how they can be proactive in their own work. One of the reasons why recording projects still cost a certain amount of money is you hire some guy who takes a large portion of your budget, who’s going to go into a studio with you for a week, maybe two weeks, cut everything and then go. And that’s the end of your project, instead of taking time to really look at the songs and making sure that when you go in with that guy, your material is stuff that you’re so confident about, you have no problem laying it down. I spoke to someone recently who I’m working on one of these projects who said; “Before, the only way whether my songs were good, was once my record was completed and mixed”; now think about that, that’s kind of sad, being an artist but not knowing. That’s terrible, and I don’t see any reason why people should have to suffer through that, so that’s my aim.

Does that mean that you’re no longer active as a producer, or will you be doing both in tandem?
I’m doing everything! I don’t rule anything out.

Toy Box: Soundgarden @ Italy 09.09.1995

Soundgarden
Festa dell'Unità
Reggio nell'Emilia, Italy
09.09.1995

Set List

  1. Searching With My Good Eye Closed

  2. Let Me Drown

  3. Spoonman

  4. My Wave

  5. Drawing Flies

  6. Incessant Mace

  7. Ty Cobb

  8. Fell On Black Days

  9. Mailman

  10. Head Down

  11. Superunknown

  12. Rusty Cage

  13. Waiting For The Sun

  14. Black Hole Sun

  15. Jesus Christ Pose

ENCORE

16. 4th of July
17. Kickstand
18. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)