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

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.

Event: "I Am The Highway - A Tribute To Chris Cornell"

“I Am The Highway . A Tribute To Chris Cornell”
January 16 2019

Update: Live Stream

Update: Setlist (42 songs)

The Melvins -
The Kicking Machine | With Yo’ Heart, Not Yo’ Hands (Malfunkshun cover) | Leech (Green River cover) | Let It All Be | Honey Bucket | Spoonman
Rita Wilson - The Promise
Nikka Costa & Alain Johannes - Disappearing One
Chris Stapleton - The Keeper
Foo Fighters - No Attention | Girl U Want | Earache My Eye | Everlong (Dave Grohl solo)
Josh Homme - Rusty Cage
Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, & Stone Gossard - Seasons
Miley Cyrus - As Hope And Promise Fade
Audioslave (Tom Morello & Brad Wilk) - Cochise (feat. Perry Ferrell) | Be Yourself (feat. Juliette Lewis) | Set It Off (feat. Chris Chaney, Sam Harris, and Tim Mcilrath) | Like A Stone (feat. Brandi Carlile) | Show Me How To Live (feat. Robert Trujillo and Dave Grohl)
Toni Cornell & Ziggy Marley - Redemption Song
Metallica - All Your Lies | For Whom The Bell Tolls | Master Of Puppets | Head Injury
Ryan Adams - Dead Wishes, Fell On Black Days
Temple Of The Dog - Preaching The End Of The World (feat. Nikka Costa) | Can’t Change Me (feat. Alain Johannes), Hunted Down (feat. William DuVall, Jerry Cantrell, and Josh Freese) | All Night Thing (feat. Fiona Apple, Brendan O’Brien, and Matt Chamberlain) | Reach Down (feat. Miguel, Nikka Costa, and Brendan O’Brien) | Say Hello 2 Heaven (feat. Miley Cyrus) | Hunger Strike (feat. Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton, and Brendan O’Brien)
Soundgarden - Rusty Cage (feat. Taylor Momsen) | Flower (feat. Marcus Durant) | Outshined (feat. Marcus Durant and Stone Gossard) | Drawing Flies (feat. Taylor Momsen, Buzz Osbourne, Matt Demeritt, and Tracy Wanamae) | Loud Love (feat. Taylor Momsen, Tom Morello and Wayne Kramer) | I Awake (feat. Taylor Hawkins and Buzz Osbourne) | The Day I Tried To Live (feat. Taylor Hawkins and Buzz Osbourne) | Black Hole Sun (feat. Brandi Carlile, Peter Frampton, Tim Hanseroth, and Phil Hanseroth)

Update: Videos (currently adding all of the missing videos…they’ll pop up as they upload)
Use the YouTube menu at the top left to drop-down and choose a video

Update: Photos


Original (pre-show) post:

It’s difficult to say now what we’ll be able to come away with…
We hope to be able to record parts of the show, and post clips on this page tomorrow [over]night.

If we can, we will try to also live-stream on our Twitter feed at Twitter.com/iJeffgarden (note the username is iJeffgarden and not Jeffgarden on twitter)

If we have to choose 1, while the live stream is cool, it also lowers the quality of the video in order to broadcast it easier, so we would forgo that in favor of videos that we would post after the show. If we can do both, we will (try).

In any case, whatever we do end up with will pop up on this post, and our What’s Mine Is Ours page

‘I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell’ will take place on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at The Forum in Los Angeles. The event will feature performances from the members of Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave, plus Foo Fighters, Metallica, Ryan Adams and many more. Tickets go on sale this Friday, November 16 at 10am pt at: http://bit.ly/IAmTheHighway. Proceeds will benefit EBMRF.
— ChrisCornell.com 11.13.2018

Additional artists have been added to I Am The Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 at The Forum in Los Angeles. Fiona Apple, Brandi Carlile, Josh Homme, Miley Cyrus, Adam Levine, Ziggy Marley, Miguel, Taylor Momsen, Chris Stapleton and other special guests will join the star-studded concert event.

Posted by Matt Cameron to Instagram stories. Uploaded by AlternativeNation.net on 2019-01-09.

Matt Cameron on Instagram

Taylor Momsen on Instagram

Brad Wilk on Instagram

"Chris Cornell" Career Retrospective - Photos & Unboxing

We received our own copy of the Chris Cornell box set, but our “Soundgarden Room” project isn’t quite ready, so we wanted to share the photos and posts from our friend and fellow Chris Cornell fan account OriginalFire from Twitter
The following are their posts and photos:

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Article: Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil Talks About Putting Together That Massive Chris Cornell Box Set [Vulture]

Article: Vulture
Author: Stuart Berman
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


When a band is mourning the loss of a key member, the recuperation process can take several different forms: commemorative books, memorial concerts, reality-TV recruitment drives. For the friends and family of the late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, it’s spurred a yearlong effort to distill a wildly eclectic three-decade career into a cohesive, comprehensive portrait of one of rock’s most versatile voices.

The resulting 64-track, four-disc box set, titled simply Chris Cornell, is the first collection to encompass all facets of the singer’s free-ranging discography: Soundgarden’s golden grunge greats, Audioslave’s alt-rock hits, and highlights from a solo catalog that zigzagged between campfire serenades, James Bond themes, and Steve Aoki remixes. (There’s also a trove of live performances, covers, and unreleased tracks.) Overseeing curation of the Soundgarden selections was guitarist Kim Thayil, who, following the band’s 2009 reunion, has served as the band’s de facto archivist, spearheading a series of reissues and compilations that have helped establish Soundgarden’s presence in the digital age and regenerate their fan base.

True to the band’s original mission of demystifying and punking up ’70s-style hard rock, Thayil has traditionally kept the lowest profile of any Soundgarden member outside the band, and understandably, he’s been especially covert since Cornell’s death. But he’s recently reemerged to play the Fred “Sonic” Smith foil to Brother Wayne Kramer in a recombinant 50th-anniversary version of Detroit proto-punk legends the MC5 (dubbed MC50), whose current European tour happens to coincide with this week’s release of Chris Cornell. Prior to kicking out some jams in Paris, Thayil spoke to Vulture over a shaky cell-phone connection to talk about life after Chris.

How’s it feel being on this MC50 tour? I imagine it must be a therapeutic experience for you …
I suppose. It could be a lot of things …

How did this opportunity come about?
Wayne Kramer called me a year ago, and asked if I’d be interested in jamming and playing with them, and going on tour for a year. And I said, “of course,” because they’re my favorite band.

Has playing with the MC5 given you any fresh perspective on how a band can soldier on without its original front man?
No, this is just an opportunity to celebrate 50 years of Kick Out the Jams, that’s what it is. I don’t think it translates to any perspective on Soundgarden; it’s a separate thing.

You recently played Detroit — what was that like? 
It was a triumphant homecoming for Wayne, certainly … we did three really fun shows.

But I imagine it was also very bittersweet experience for you.
Nothing I’m going to share with your audience.

So what has this last year and a half looked like for you? Did you feel like you had to stay busy to keep your mind occupied, or was it a more meditative experience?
A bit of both, I suppose. Eat, drink, shit, walk the dog, like everybody else. Drinking …

How does it feel to be revisiting Chris’s work now through this retrospective? 
This started over a year ago, so most of the revisiting went on the summer before this past one, when we came up with the general track list. Most of what I tended to [on the box set] was Soundgarden’s work, so I don’t have to listen to any of it; I can just look at the titles and reference it by memory just fine.

Any fan could conceivably put together a playlist of Soundgarden favorites. What perspective on Chris’s work were you hoping to show through your selections?
I guess I’m doing some of the work for them, I suppose. I can direct them to the … I don’t want to use the term “evolution,” because it gets misused, but to the growth and transformation of Chris’s talents, either as a songwriter and singer. There’s a chronological organization; it’s also organized by the various projects he was involved with.

Is there a song on this collection you were especially keen to include that’s really meaningful to you?
Yeah, I prefer the Soundgarden songs, thank you — as opposed to two-dimensional versions of it. [Laughs.]

When you read testimonials about Chris in the early days, a lot of people say he was a natural-born rock star from the very beginning. But Chris also said that, as a teen, he was more of a New Wave fan than a Led Zeppelin fan, and that he envisioned Soundgarden as a weird post-punk band. What did you make of Chris when you first met him? What drew you into his orbit? 
I think it was the way we connected musically. When we jammed together, we immediately started writing songs — it came pretty easy to us, and I think the interest in the material we were coming up with was enthusiastic and mutually appreciated. We liked the uniqueness and creativity we were sharing. We were coming up with progressive elements, and we liked to focus on emotive things and use chaotic elements — that’s what the band was about. We didn’t like traditional song-structure arrangements. We weren’t interested. Otherwise, I’d go do something else. I’d be a dishwasher.

At what point did you realize this guy in your band wasn’t just a talented singer, but actually one of the greatest voices of our generation?
I don’t know when that point was. It’s really easy to take that talent for granted when you’re around it every day, I suppose.

Soundgarden were all about subverting the hard-rock clichés of the day and stripping it down to just the raw power. But people came to see Chris as this golden-god front man — how comfortable do you think he was in that role?
I don’t know … I think there were probably times where he was not comfortable with it; there were probably other times when he tried to accept it, but he didn’t necessarily reap any rewards from that kind of title, other than critical accolades. It wasn’t like he indulged in that kind of recognition.

From my outside perspective as a fan growing up in the ’90s, it seemed like Soundgarden were the cool big-brother band in the Seattle scene that had their shit together, whereas Nirvana and Pearl Jam seemed a lot less comfortable in the spotlight. What was the feeling on the inside?
I don’t think we were particularly comfortable in the spotlight, either. I think that feeling was generally shared among the Seattle bands.

In a recent interview, Ad-Rock and Mike D talked about how putting together their new Beastie Boys book made it feel like they had their band back, because Adam Yauch was coming alive through the stories being told. Do you get a similar feeling from undertaking archival projects like this?
This particular one, not so much. Other collections we’ve made — Telephantasm, the Echo of Miles collection, the 20th anniversary of Superunknown, the 25th anniversary of Badmotorfinger, the Sub Pop reissue of Ultramega OK— all of those already gave me a perspective on the body of work Soundgarden has. All those things allowed me to reexplore that material, as well as bonus and unreleased material. So, at this point: no.

What are you most proud of when you look back at the catalogue?
I just like the body of work in its entirety. It’s a lot of material. Echo of Mileshad 50 recordings that weren’t on any album — that’s like another four albums right there!

Is there anything left in the vaults?
There is some unreleased Chris solo work, which are nice little gems. And there is material from the Sub Pop period that has never been released.

In interviews, you seem to bounce back and forth between soldiering on or just laying things to rest. What’s your feeling today? 
As long as I have ideas I want to share and people I want to play them with, I’ll do that.

You’re the one member of Soundgarden who’s never joined another band or side project …
Yeah, because Soundgarden was my band! So why would I be a member of another band?

But do you have any designs on doing a solo project of some kind?
Soundgarden was my project!

Is there a specific memory of Chris you have that captures a side to him fans may not have heard in the music? 
He was a playful guy, with a pretty good sense of humor. He was fun to horse around with. He was pretty knowledgeable about gastronomy, too.

Videos: "Concert Matrix Reloaded" Posts Rare Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, and Audioslave Shows

UPDATE:
Just Added:
Soundgarden @ Poughkeepsie, NY
January 25th 1990
Download

Original Post:


YouTube channel Concert Matrix Reloaded posts tons of rare Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, and Audioslave videos, including some full show bootlegs that have not been previously posted.

Watch/Download the YouTube videos below in [mostly] chronological order. We will also be incorporating the clips and shows into our Toy Box and Shows pages.


Temple of the Dog
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium - San Francisco, CA 11.11.2016
Download


Soundgarden
Sleep Country Amphitheater - Ridgefield, WA 08.29.2014
Download


Soundgarden
Guitar Center Sessions - 2014
Download


Soundgarden
Jones Beach - Wantagh, NY 07.09.2011
Download
We were at this show and have photos posted here


Audioslave
Fiddler’s Green - Lollapalooza - Greenwood Village, CO 08.13.2003
Download


Chris Cornell
The Paramount - Seattle, WA 02.07.2000
Download


Chris Cornell performs “Can’t Change Me” on The Late Show with David Letterman in 1999
Download



Soundgarden
”Searching With My Good Eye Closed” - MUCH Music 1992
Download


Temple of the Dog
Irvine Meadows - Irvine, CA 09.13.1992


Soundgarden
Hippodrome de Vincennes | France 06.06.1992
Download


Soundgarden
Trocadero | Philadelphia, PA 05.10.1992
Download First Version | Download Second Version


Soundgarden
The Warfield | San Francisco, CA 04.19.1992
Download This YouTube Video
Download Video We Had From This Show


Soundgarden
Capitol Theater - Olympia, WA 09.1991
Download


Soundgarden
Philipshalle Düsseldorf - 04.16.1990
Download


Soundgarden
Vallerano - Bologna, Italy 06.08.1989
Download


Soundgarden
Club Lingerie - Los Angeles, CA 02.11.1988
Download


Music Video: Chris Cornell - When Bad Does Good

For me this video represents my dad and all the art he created throughout his life and what his music meant then and what it means now
— Christopher Cornell

Music Video Directed By Kevin Kerslake



A new music video for Chris Cornell’s “When Bad Does Good” featuring Chris Cornell Jr. will be released this Friday, November 16th. We will post the video here once it is out on VEVO.

RollingStone: Kim Thayil on New Chris Cornell Box: ‘The Main Thing Is to Represent His Versatility’

Kim Thayil on New Chris Cornell Box: ‘The Main Thing Is to Represent His Versatility’

With the release of a new career-spanning Cornell box set, the Soundgarden guitarist explains how the track list came together and shares memories of his late friend

Article: RollingStone.com
Author: CORBIN REIFF
Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

“There’s a lot of things about Chris [Cornell] that people don’t know,” Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil tells Rolling Stone. “He didn’t bring a lot of baggage. Meaning, he didn’t carry a lot of things or materials or relationships within his life. He was a little bit independent of that. He traveled lightly.”

It’s late October, and Thayil is slumped on a black leather couch in the green room of the Metro club in Chicago, gamely sharing memories of his longtime friend and bandmate. He’s just come offstage after running through a tight soundcheck with the MC50, Wayne Kramer’s all-star MC5 tribute band, ahead of a barnburner of a show a few hours from now. Almost 29 years ago to the day, he was in this exact same room along with Cornell, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Hiro Yamamoto while Soundgarden were touring in support of their album Louder Than Love.

The reason Thayil is opening up is because of a new four-disc, career-spanning box set simply titled Chris Cornell that the singer’s estate will issue on November 16th. Now available for preorder, the set features 88 songs that show off the full breadth of Cornell’s incredible musical life from his earliest beginnings with his iconic band Soundgarden to the one-off supergroup Temple of the Dog, his heady years with Audioslave in the early 2000s, and the whole span of an eclectic solo career that saw him writing James Bond theme songs and collaborating with hip-hop producer Timbaland. There’s also a bevy of unreleased live cuts, including a touching duet with his daughter Toni on Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” recorded at the Beacon Theater in New York.

As Thayil explains, the goal going in was to capture, “the breadth of his career, and the large spectrum of stylistic approaches to songwriting and the growth that was shown.” He added, “Obviously Chris isn’t there to put in his two cents, so we have to try to appraise what his feelings and sentiments will be. There are some cases where I remember distinctly that Chris didn’t like this song, or he didn’t like this record, or he didn’t like this particular version, so it’s like, ‘Let’s don’t use it.’”

Opening with “Hunted Down,” the very first Soundgarden single released by Sub Pop Records back in 1987, the collection winds through the many twists and turns Cornell took through his artistic life in a largely chronological format. You can listen in real time as his skills as a songwriter refine and develop. “The lyrics get a little bit more sophisticated, I think maybe a little more poetic,” Thayil notes of Cornell’s progression. “Maybe in the early days it was a lot of songs about dogs and the sun, you know?”

Though Cornell wrote most of Soundgarden’s lyrics — “It makes sense for the singer to write the lyrics, especially if you’ve got a great singer,” Thayil says — and a lion’s share of the songs, they were always a collaborative band. Even as Cornell became more confident in his own abilities as a songwriter and would compose fully realized demos on his own — his early, home-recorded version of “Black Hole Sun,” for instance, sounds shockingly similar to the final version on Superunknown — he typically left room for the other members of the band to add their own spin.

“He liked to be a completist, and be a complete author, but he left the solos and the color parts [open] ’cause he always knew that maybe there’s something that’s missing there,” Thayil says. “I would come up with something or [bassist] Ben [Shepherd] would come up with something or Hiro, or Matt.”

Just like anyone, Thayil has his favorite Cornell songs, like the Ultramega OK cut “Beyond the Wheel,” which sadly didn’t make it onto this set. “I think it’s pretty brilliant,” he says. “Psychedelic, heavy, a little sprinkle of evil.” He’s also very partial to “Rusty Cage,” which did make the cut. “There’s something about the guitar riff there that’s really imaginative, and the arrangement is not a verse, chorus, verse, chorus arrangement. It’s kind of like this A chorus and then this B section and it ends with this other entirely different riff.”

Beyond his songwriting, one of the most mesmerizing aspects of Cornell’s artistry was his ability to adapt his otherworldly voice to fit different moods on different songs. From the banshee wails on Audioslave’s barnburner “Cochise” to the subdued and sulky Singles-soundtrack solo cut “Seasons,” he knew exactly how to use his instrument to wring the most amount of emotion from a given piece. For instance, not many rock or metal singers are capable of pulling off something as gorgeous and understated as the rendition of Schubert’s immortal “Ave Maria” included on Chris Cornell. “I think the main thing is to represent his versatility,” Thayil says.

Cornell was also a natural at creating compelling re-interpretations of other people’s songs. There’s his husky take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Sun),” the simmering version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” the soaring rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and of course Soundgarden’s inspired spin on the Black Sabbath classic “Into the Void,” where Cornell substituted Ozzy’s lines for a speech written by 19th-century Native American leader Sealth that fit the same meter.

For Thayil, a huge consideration when picking out the tracks for the box is how they might be viewed now given the nature of Cornell’s death. “One of my concerns was just making sure there weren’t any difficult lyric or themes. Just keep that off,” Thayil says. “There’s lyrics, or titles that may not be appropriate in this context. That might be difficult for friends, family.” That presumably meant that Superunknown cuts like “The Day I Tried to Live,” “Like Suicide” and Down on the Upside standout “Pretty Noose” were left out of the discussion entirely.

Because of the darker content of a lot of Cornell’s writing, many people got a sense of him as a brooding loner, but that’s not exactly the guy that Thayil remembers. “He was like a normal kid,” the guitarist says. “Very funny and very fucking goofy.”

Another consideration was to make sure that the contents of the comp stayed out of the way of some future projects that might eventually see release, including some new, unheard Soundgarden songs the band was refining at the time Chris died. “We were working on an album before everything came to a head, so we have some pretty strong demo material that we’re still trying to finish developing and accessing some of the recording material, to be able to flesh it out,” Thayil says.

If “When Bad Does Good,” the one unreleased studio song included on this set, is any indication, Cornell’s songwriting chops were only growing sharper as he grew older. You can thank Cornell’s friend Josh Brolin for the song’s inclusion here. The actor reminded Cornell’s widow Vicky of the song and his love for it after the singer had sent it to him to get his take on it. Written, recorded, produced and mixed by the singer himself, it again demonstrates the completist tendencies that Thayil alludes to. It’s a particularly powerful final statement from the singer-songwriter, with a clear message of hope.

Though Soundgarden has already put out a ton of unreleased archival material in recent years, as on the 25th-anniversary box set for Badmotorfinger, the 20th-anniversary box set for Superunknown and B side collection Echo of Miles, there’s still some tantalizing material left in the vaults. That might include the fabled 15-song cassette tape that comprises the earliest recordings the band made, even before their debut recorded appearance on the Deep Sixcompilation in 1986, when Cornell was still on drums.

“In terms of audio quality, that’s all 4-track stuff that we did in our basement,” Thayil says of that particular set of songs. “It’d be like bootleg-quality type stuff. But I think fans would appreciate that. At some point we’ll do that. That’s three-piece stuff, me and Chris and Hiro.”

“He was a really good drummer,” Thayil notes of Cornell. “He’s not like Matt [Cameron] but he wrote great as a drummer. I think so much so that Hiro and I entertained the idea of getting another singer so that Chris continued to write with us on drums. But Chris really want to get up from behind the drum kit, so he brought in a friend of ours, Scott Sundquist, on drums. It freed him up, and he got to do all the singing.”

Though there really isn’t a future for Soundgarden without Cornell, Thayil remains in touch with both of his other ex-bandmates on a pretty regular basis. In fact, he recently joined Cameron with Pearl Jam onstage at Safeco Field in Seattle, and the drummer has also played several gigs this year with MC50. The trio also memorably reunited in early October for the unveiling of a bronze statue of Cornell just outside the Museum of Popular Culture in Seattle along with the singer’s wife and three children.

“I talk to Matt all the time. We text, we’ll go out to dinner together with family,” Thayil says. “Ben and I will text out of the blue. We have so many mutual friends in common that we tend to cross over and see each other.”

Whatever may become of the recordings Cornell left behind, Thayil is determined to remain involved to help oversee them. “I’m gonna do the stuff that I’ve always done which is basically oversee the catalog, and the whole band would participate in that to some degree,” he explains. “But a lot of the time it’s kind of been my focus and concern from day one.”

In the meantime, he’ll keep playing with the MC50. A few days from now, he’ll actually be back in Detroit, the same city where he performed his final gig with Cornell. “I know that on paper it seems like something that’d offer closure, but I doubt that’s gonna happen,” he says. “Poetic irony too, that, playing with the Motor City Five.”

Chris Cornell Statue Unveiling At MoPOP

Photo: Jenny Gruber Twitter | Tumblr

Now Streaming: Chris Cornell - When Bad Does Good

Stream the new Chris Cornell single now, and pre-order the box set

ChrisCornell.com

Apple Music | iTunes

Spotify | YouTube | Amazon | Google Play Music

Lyrics:

Standing beside an open grave
Your fate decided, your life erased
Your final hour
Has come today
Lit by the fire of your temples burning

You are a child
And so was I
Now you’re a hunter
But I am a lion

And I will cut you down
Like I’ve done so many times

Sometimes bad can do some good,
Sometimes bad can do some good

And I heard you say that
Flesh sells by the pound

When blood is raining down
It cuts a deep river

And I’m diving

Now shine a light down
On to the earth
And shake this gold dust out
Out of the dirt

No saints beside me
And no prayers to guide me

Sometimes bad can do some good,
bad can do some good

Sometimes bad can do some good

(Rain down, heaven is falling)


I’ve chosen a side
And I will show no pity
And spare no lives
For those who try me
Let it be understood

Sometimes bad can do some good,
Sometimes bad can do some good

 

#tbt Chris Cornell's 2013 Reddit.com AMA (Ask Me Anything) Session

(Photo: Chris Cornell @ Las Vegas Hard Rock Grand Opening 10.15.2009, Jeffgarden.com)

Chris Cornell’s Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) Session From 2013

 

secondcityrocker
Hey Chris, so what's your opinion on people using their smartphones to record video at concerts?
ChrisCornellSG
I’m fine with it

chark311
Which tour was better: your first official tour, where you first realized people were actually coming to see you guys, or your reunion tour
ChrisCornellSG
definitely the reunion tour

Nevertoogrungy
Will you acknowledge my existence ?
ChrisCornellSG
no

cosne18
What is the one song that is personally the hardest for you to sing and why?
ChrisCornellSG
Every single song is different. Its not about range. Sometimes the highest ones are easy. The ones that are the hardest sometimes are the easiest because I focus on it so much. For example: The Day I Tried To Live.

tishaneverminds
is it hard to ride a Segway ?
ChrisCornellSG
Much easier than I thought. They should make a high performance one.

courtmcc
What's the first song you learned on guitar?
ChrisCornellSG
sunshine on my shoulders by John Denver http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrI_VXLUcFk

gelmottshall
Have you or are you planning on seeing Jurassic Park 3D?
ChrisCornellSG
I actually think 3D is ruining cinema.

themac10
What is your favorite song from Badmotorfinger?
ChrisCornellSG
Rusty Cage has the best mix.
Slaves and Bulldozers is definitely the most fun to play live.


ClownSuitCowboy
Did your vocal style come naturally at first, or was it something you had to work at to refine when you began making music? And what was it like the first time you heard yourself recorded singing with a band, did you hear it and think you could someday helm a world-famous outfit like Soundgarden?
ChrisCornellSG
Singing to me was just about having fun. It’s always evolving.

Oidisco
What was it like performing Black Hole Sun with an orchestra at E3 a few years ago?ChrisCornellSG
hard because I couldn't see the conductor

[User since deleted account]
What is your first memory of music?
ChrisCornellSG
a children's record that included the song "she'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes" when I was two and a half.


AverageCommentary
Can you pleasepleaseplease sing Right Turn when you headline festivals in May with Alice in Chains?
ChrisCornellSG
Sorry, don’t know the song

MidgetCommander
Hey Chris, if you could be in any other band, who would you be in?
ChrisCornellSG
The Tubes

 

suddengroan
what do you like to eat for breakfast?
ChrisCornellSG
don’t eat breakfast

Nevertoogrungy
What are your favorite things to do on your day off ?
ChrisCornellSG
being with my family

MissTweedy
What songs do your wife and kids like to hear you sing ?
ChrisCornellSG
The ones that are about them 

QueenJames
Can you please bring back Audioslave? Please???
ChrisCornellSG
Sure

deaddogseye81
Hey Chris. Over the years, Kim Thayil has mentioned a possible album of Soundgarden b-sides. Are you still going to put that out? Also, what are the chances of remastering Temple of the Dog?
ChrisCornellSG
for sure, don't know when, but its likely the next release we do.

 

imaac
Can you start playing Blind Dogs live ?
ChrisCornellSG
We did it at the PBS Artists Den performance at the Wiltern for the first time in 15 years. Our friend Ross Halfin asked us to do it.

imaac
Is Beast ever going to be released ?
ChrisCornellSG
yeah, It probably will be


[Question deleted, but obviously asking about dream collaboration]
ChrisCornellSG
Its a catch 22, because the ones I would want to collaborate the most with I would be too afraid to collaborate with. For example John Lennon, how would you sit in a room and collaborate with him? I'd feel unworthy. 

chang-ed
Over the years, what is the best venue you’ve played at ?
ChrisCornellSG
Sydney Opera House

haihappen2
What are your favourite sports teams? And to which music do you listen in your free time?
ChrisCornellSG
My son's favorite team is the Miami Heat and since he is the coolest person I know, I'm going with The Heat.

 

ethereyes
What is your favorite perfume/fragrance ?
ChrisCornellSG
lysol (and you can drink it)

leonard_cohens_pants
Favorite super hero ?
ChrisCornellSG
incredible hulk, he’s just like my dad

 

Haluminescence
Hey there Chris, do you have a favorite kind of guitar? Either electric or acoustic?
ChrisCornellSG
I mostly play acoustics when song writing.
When I plug in I play my [Gibson 335 Cornell Model] (http://cms.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/ES/Gibson-Custom/Chris-Cornell-ES-335.aspx)

 

ShaelRiley
You've been covered many times, by many different artists. Out of all those covers of your work, do you have a favorite or two that come to mind?

PS: I've done a cover of Preaching the End of the World myself. I'd be extremely gratified to know you heard it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs3IyJ2tRBo

PPS: Thanks for the decades of excellent music. You've been one of my favorite singer-songwriters for more than half my life.
ChrisCornellSG
billie jean http://youtu.be/c2MgwAJrfXo

 

ThePotatoWizard
Hi Chris, me and my friend are huge fans and we were wondering if you have a cat or like cats?
ChrisCornellSG
I like cats, I have a lamp made out of one


Zrk2
What album that you have worked on is your favourite?

Which side project did you find the most rewarding?

Finally, a local radio DJ claims you could sing the phonebook and still sound amazing. Would you be willing to try it? For science?
ChrisCornellSG
done it

 

azapuk
Cats, dogs, or other ?
ChrisCornellSG
dogs or falcons

LovededYouPiggy

Hi Chris! Thank you so much for doing this AMA.

  1. What are some of your non-musical hobbies?
  2. What would you want to do if being a musician didn't pan out?
    ChrisCornellSG

fuck, I don’t have any

 

 

OhhStargazer
Hey Chris…what’s your favorite Jeff Buckley Song ?
ChrisCornellSG
I love the cover he did of the Big Star song [Kangaroo] (http://youtu.be/KrprtydmcNk)


 

Frajer
What is a Spoonman and what inspired that song ?
ChrisCornellSG
spoonman is a real guy that is a virtuoso spoon player and brilliant entertainer, as well as a super unique and great person. he's in the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0_zzCLLRvE



CherryRedSixtySeven
Any chance of another Temple Of The Dog album?

I was at the Soundgarden show in Hyde Park last year. It was an amazing gig. When it started to hammer down with rain in the middle of Black Hole Sun the whole thing jumped up several notches vibe-wise, and stayed there for the rest of the show. Did you notice that, and what was it about the bleak weather that added so much to the performance and atmosphere?

I missed my chance to see you on the Down On The Upside tour back when I was a teenager. I just couldn't make the gig. Figured I'd catch you the next time around. It took longer than I expected. So glad you're back together.
ChrisCornellSG
YES !

Stubbula
Will you and Eddie Vedder make some more music, please? I love both of your voices.
ChrisCornellSG
Sure.

newdawnrising
Hey Chris,

What do you do to warm up your voice before a performance?

ChrisCornellSG
soundcheck, sometimes vocal exercises, sometimes nothing. the best warm up for me is singing the songs. or a quality cigar.



bfisher91
How does it feel to be one of the only people Ringo Starr is following on twitter?! (Have you ever met him?)
ChrisCornellSG
Yes, I have met him. He is an inspiring individual.



[User account has since been deleted]
When is Soundgarden going to tour India? You have heaps of fans here!
ChrisCornellSG
I would love to tour India, we'll meditate on it



MannOfDiversity
What is your favorite Beatles song ?
ChrisCornellSG
they’re all my favorites

 

[Question deleted but obviously referring to Matt Cameron]

ChrisCornellSG
He’s one of the best drummers/musicians ever

 

Billboard: Soundgarden's Kim Thayil Says MC5 Anniversary Tour Helped Him 'Come Out of the Fetal Position'

Article (Billboard)
9/5/2018 by Gary Graff
Photo: Marc Broussely/Redferns via Getty Images | Kim Thayil of Soundgarden performs on stage at Brixton Academy on Sept. 18, 2013 in London. 


Kim Thayil acknowledges that he "wasn't sure" if he was ready to get out and play in public again when Wayne Kramer called him earlier this year to be part of MC50, his new band celebrating the 50th anniversary of the recording of the MC5's debut album. But as the group prepares to start a North American tour on Sept. 5 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Soundgarden guitarist says it's been just what the proverbial doctor ordered.

"(Kramer) asked if I wanted to play, and my jaw dropped," Thayil, who had been largely out of sight since Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell died by suicide last May in Detroit, tells Billboard. "I thought two things -- 'Am I ready to come out of the fetal position?' and then 'How could I be any more ready than this opportunity to play with what I consider to be my favorite band.'

"So I made myself ready. It was like, 'Fix your head. This is The One!' When I mentioned it to friends of mine they didn't hesitate; They said, 'Omigod, jeez, this is your dream. You should do this!' The timing was pretty good, I think. I was allowing myself to be ready."

Thayil has been an MC5 fan since he was a teenager and began reading references to the MC5 and the 1969 Kick Out the Jams album in periodicals and interviews with other artists he liked. "At some point I started getting into some heavier music than I was hearing on AM radio and kinda learned to switch the dial from AM to FM and find significantly heavier and trippier music than what I was hearing before, and it was right up my alley," Thayil recalls. "I think I really connected with the MC5 because there was so much to that music. Obviously a band like the MC5 has the influence and appeal across a number of genres -- the obvious ones like acid rock and heavy metal and, later, punk rock, but I would draw a line from the song 'Shakin' Street' to (Bruce) Springsteen's work. And there was the free jazz (the MC5) drew from. So there was a lot there."

The all-star MC50 played a few dates in Europe earlier in the summer, during which Thayil reunited with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. The group -- which also includes Zen Guerilla's Marcus Durant on vocals, Faith No More bassist Billy Gould, Fugazi's Brendan Canty on drums -- wraps the North American tour during late October with two shows in the MC5's home turf of Detroit (where the MC5 recorded Kick Out The Jams live during Halloween weekend of 1968), then returns to Europe during November. MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson, the only other surviving member of the band, may participate in some shows, but on an ad hoc basis.

For Thayil, the immersion has been not only a welcome return to music but a chance to learn even more about his favorite band. "It kind of appeals to the Soundgarden aesthetic," Thayil explains. "There's a combination of those same elements -- a progressive element but also a heavy rock thing and a loose, wild thing -- that I see in MC5. Some of the songs have some really curious, interesting parts, little time changes that can throw the drummers for a loop. Learning as Wayne showed us, there's a lot of stuff that wasn't as readily obvious as you would think by listening to the records, and that was kind of a surprise. And it was cool."

As for the future of MC50, Thayil says he's "getting that vibe" that the group could become a going concern and even make its own music. "I think everyone enjoys each other's company and makes each other laugh and has a similar sort of social and cultural sense about them," he notes. "It does tend to be an open-minded, progressive, forward-thinking group, which I think is probably appropriate for the MC5."

Thayil says that prior to getting the MC50 call he'd been "up and down, in and out" in the wake of Cornell's death. "Everything has improved day by day," he says. "Obviously there's still emotional shadows and ghosts. Like anything else it's something that improves with time." He says he, Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd "still talk to each other frequently and text and call and check in on each other and see how we’re doing. I imagine we will do more things in the future, one of which will be Matt sitting in on a few more MC50 shows. I'm sure I'll do stuff with Ben as well." Thayil does, however, dismiss notions that anything was visibly amiss with Cornell during Soundgarden's May 17, 2017 concert at the Fillmore Detroit prior to his suicide.

"I thought the show was good," Thayil says. "I remember Chris had just gotten in (to town) and was a little tired and his voice was a little rough, but by about the fourth or fifth song it kicked in and then it was just, like, super amazing -- beautiful, clear and strong and, I thought, particularly emotive." Thayil adds that a moment of the show when Cornell was absent from the stage for a protracted period when the guitar he'd be playing was out of tune and a backup wasn't immediately ready. "He had to leave the stage, I remember, and he just kind of poked his head around and said, 'Go ahead, start without me,' at which point Ben started jamming on something and we all fell in until Chris was ready," Thayil says.

"People speculate, and they get causality in reverse," he adds. "I guess it's natural to try to fill in the blanks to explain a particular mystery," he adds. "I think it's natural to say that, 'We know something terrible happened, so we know there must have been some sort of problem. Let’s see what that problem might be. Well, come to think of it, the show was kind of messy....'"

Soundgarden has been in the midst of archival projects in recent years, with expanded editions of albums such as Badmotorfinger and Superunknown and others. No future releases have been planned yet, and Thayil says he, Cameron and Shepherd are still grappling with how they want to proceed.

"We often reference rock history and we've often commented on what other bands in similar situations have done," Thayil says, "not as a plan or anything but just commenting on how bands have handled situations like this and what bands seem to have been graceful and dignified in how they manage their future musical endeavors and how some maybe were clumsy and callous. We think about those things. We try not to go too deep into these conversations, but stuff comes up after a few beers."

Pearl Jam's 2nd Seattle Show Features Kim Thayil, Mark Arm, & "Missing" Chris Cornell Cover

Pearl Jam covered Chris Cornell's "Missing" at their 2nd Seattle show on Friday (August 10th).  Kim Thayil also came out to perform MC5's Kick Out The Jam's, and later returned to join Mark Arm of Mudhoney for "Search & Destroy" and "Sonic Reducer". 

Below are some of our video clips of the Missing and Kick Out The Jams performances.  We will also add photos to this post soon.

Sonic Reducer with Kim Thayil and Mark Arm of Mudhoney. Video by North South Central Live

All video clips are ours except for Sonic Reducer which is from  North South Central Live

Hollywood Forever

We are in Seattle today, thinking of Chris and his legacy.  The impact he had on this town is immeasurable, and the love it has for him can be seen everywhere.  

We will post from Seattle all weekend. Before coming out here, we stopped by Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles yesterday, as the site was being set up for today’s vigil.  

Hollywood Forever, September 2017

SeattleTimes: Remembering Chris Cornell: The quiet cook at Ray’s Boathouse who became a rock god

Seattle Times

 Remembering Chris Cornell: The quiet cook at Ray’s Boathouse who became a rock god

 Michael Rietmulder Updated May 18, 2018 at 7:54 am

On the anniversary of Chris Cornell's death, his former co-workers at Ray's Boathouse remember those formative years together during the Seattle institution's heyday.

By 11 a.m. there was usually a line outside the door, but the ragtag kitchen crew didn’t care. They had traditions. The tight-knit band of back-of-house comrades had already finished prepping for the lunchtime rush that would hit Ray’s Boathouse during the early ’80s, and before the doors opened, they’d be in the parking lot, blowing off steam at a basketball hoop.

The youthful brigade of cooks and dishwashers played as hard as they worked, and they did it all together.

Among them was a quiet, longhaired teenager with a wry smile and wicked sense of humor, once you got to know him. Chris Cornell, who died one year ago today, was an alright ballplayer and an everyman in the kitchen, after working his way up from dishwasher. However, his true calling was impersonating rock stars while hosing off floor mats down by the dock.

“He could do that Billy Idol scowl — that kind of sideways smirk and his lips would purse,” recalls Wayne Ludvigsen, longtime Ray’s chef.

A decade later, a generation of wannabe rockers would be impersonating the kind, low-key Ray’s kitchen hand, who became one of the most distinct voices in modern rock history as the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave. But for a brief period during their formative years, the two Seattle icons had an intertwining history.

The voice from the dish pit

Back then, Ray’s was the kind of bustling joint you needed an in to get a job at, and Chris’ older brother Peter was his. The younger Cornell later paid it forward by getting his roommate Kevin Tissot a job there. The rebellious teens raised by single mothers met as sophomores at a North End alternative high school and bonded over a love of Elvis Costello and the Clash, and a disinterest in school. The two “momma’s boys” moved in together at 17, though they still regularly hung out in their mothers’ basements (Tissot and others say Soundgarden’s “Full On Kevin’s Mom” is about his mother).

After the two “trashed” a place on Lake City Way (“the garbage just proliferates,” Tissot says), they found another house in Ballard with other friends, having late-night existential conversations after work and competing to date the hostesses and waitresses that would get hired at Ray’s each summer. “I think girls liked Chris more than they liked me at the time, which was frustrating,” Tissot says.

Like Tissot, dishwasher Duane Ochs connected with Cornell through music. A few months before Cornell started at Ray’s, Peter noticed Ochs, who was about Cornell’s age, showing up for his shifts with a guitar slung over his shoulder. Soon Ochs, 14 or 15 at the time, was coming over to their house near Golden Gardens to jam with Cornell, who played drums. Apparently teenage Cornell wasn’t much of an interior decorator and, as Ochs recalls, his bedroom in the family’s converted garage had a bed, stereo, a dresser, his drum kit and little else. It was there that Cornell first started singing.

“His sisters were out in the driveway and they’re like, ‘Who was singing? Who was that?’” Ochs says. “I’m like, ‘It was Chris.’ … He was a very adequate drummer, but when he got behind the mic, you could tell, like his sisters, he had a very unique, powerful voice.”

It wasn’t long before the rest of their co-workers caught on to Cornell’s talent. The crew often had KISW blasting in the kitchen and occasionally Cornell would pick up a tune in the dish pit. “He’d sing very softly,” says Ernie Davis, another Ray’s alum. “We’d all be listening — ‘Oh, Chris is gonna sing. Let me turn this down.’”

Every year around the holidays, Ray’s brass would throw a big staff party on a Sunday night. A husband of one of the managers had a two-man band and was hired as the entertainment one year, recalls Dean Swanson, who also worked in the kitchen. Everybody was drinking, talking when all of a sudden Cornell — who Swanson says was 17 or 18 at the time — made a move.

“Chris, for some reason, got up from the table we were sitting at and went over and grabbed the microphone, and talked to the guys for a few minutes and he belted out ‘Twist and Shout,’” Swanson recalls. “He was a teenager. We’re all looking at him, going ‘Uh, what are you doing, dude?!’ I mean, his voice was so powerful and wonderful.”

At the time, Swanson joked that Cornell should form a band.

One of Seattle’s hottest restaurants

Besides parking lot pick-up games, another Ray’s pastime was giving their boss hell. Not much older than his young staff, Ludvigsen was the recipient of endless pranks: hidden knives, changed delivery dates — “Just mean stuff that would throw the day off,” says Tissot, Cornell’s former roommate. A particular favorite was trying to get Ludvigsen, who was notorious for reducing food waste, to puke by sun-baking spoiled food in a bucket and getting their unsuspecting chef to take a whiff. One day Cornell and another co-worker went a step further, convincing Ludvigsen to taste test a sauce that had obviously gone bad.

“As soon as I stuck it in my mouth, (I realized) it was a bet between those two guys,” Ludvigsen says. “They had a pretty good chuckle. They made me eat something totally rancid.”

In the early ’80s, Ray’s was in its prime. Ludvigsen took over as head chef in 1979 and is often credited with making Ray’s a local fine-dining institution, sourcing the best and freshest local seafood. In 1983, Ray’s was among the first Seattle restaurants to serve Copper River salmon.

Despite the grind of working in one of Seattle’s hottest restaurants at that time — “It was Studio 54 on the West Coast,” Swanson says — many of the cooks described it as the most fun job they ever had. “Auto brew” was another kitchen ritual Ochs remembers fondly. When the dining room was rocking and they hit 300 dinners, a pitcher of beer would appear through the dish window.

From the sounds of it, the occasional pitcher wasn’t the only thing available during an era Ludvigsen describes as “the golden years — pre-AIDS, mid-coke.”

“There used to be cocaine from all the fishermen that’d come back from Ballard and they would do coke right on the bar,” recalls former employee Mike Shanks, who later became perennial political candidate Mike The Mover. “There was coke everywhere.”

According to most of the people we spoke with, Cornell didn’t really participate in such extracurriculars then. In 1994, he told “Rolling Stone” that he was a “daily drug user” at 13, but quit by the time he turned 14.

Soundgarden takes shape

As Soundgarden took shape in the mid-’80s, with Ray’s maintenance worker Scott Sundquist briefly on drums, Cornell and his brother left Ray’s and worked at Rain City Grill on Capitol Hill, owned by former Ray’s kitchen boss Mike Brown. Peter Cornell was also a musician, leading the band Inflatable Soule with two of their sisters to local acclaim in the early ’90s. The Cornell brothers used to practice guitar licks out on the back stairwell where Chris and Davis, another Ray’s carry-over, would have pull-up competitions on the awning.

One night in 1986, Brown recalls coming into the kitchen and Davis and the crew were excitedly playing what Brown thinks was an early recording of Soundgarden’s “Big Dumb Sex” — its chorus marked by a string of f-bombs. Cornell was shy about asking for favors, Brown says, and later that night Peter asked him to give his little brother a ride home. On the way, Brown also gave him some unsolicited advice.

“I said ‘Chris, don’t you think you should tone it down a little bit? You can’t say that on the radio,’” Brown recalls. “His response was, ‘We have our following.’ I mean, I was his boss, so he couldn’t tell me (expletive) you. But yeah, basically … ‘We’ll be fine’ — that classic cool.”

As Soundgarden gained steam, Cornell eventually hung up his chef’s knives. By the time the world tours commenced and the band became a fixture on MTV, he’d lost regular contact with most of his apron-wearing brethren who came of age at the Boathouse. But whenever they’d meet during a chance backstage run-in or sporadic phone call, friends say he was the same guy who used to cruise Ballard in an old Volkswagen Thing that couldn’t drive in reverse.

In March 1997 — a month before Soundgarden broke up at the height of their popularity — Cornell made a surprise return to Ray’s. After 22 years, Ludvigsen was leaving the restaurant and the staff threw him a going away party. He doesn’t remember much of their conversations (hey, it was a party), but Cornell “stayed till the bitter end.”

“He was just a real guy,” Ludvigsen says, “and he always came across that way.”

Even though it had been nearly 20 years since Swanson had spoken with Cornell, it felt “like losing a family member” when he died last year. Ludvigsen’s party was the last time they saw each other.

“I told him how proud we all were for his success,” Swanson says, with a long pause. “And how I missed him. Of course we could believe how well he did, because we knew the talent was there. But we were so proud of what he became.”