Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soundgarden's Other Guy Speaks!

Lest Chris Cornell, who drifts further and further away from the non-ridiculous aspects of his legacy every time he opens his mouth to sing, be the lone voice holding forth in the wilderness, guitarist Kim Thayil, one of the undersung heroes of '90s heavy music, has broken his silence of about the state of affairs on the good ship Soundgarden. In this interview with Rolling Stone, Thayil discusses reunion rumors, the forthcoming box set full of unreleased goodies, the reason Soundgarden's presence in hesher America seems to have diminished so dramatically in the past 10 years, and generally what the hell he has been up to. Legitimate guitar heroes don't get much better spoken than Kim Thayil, so enjoy.

How did the recent "3/4 Soundgarden reunion" performance come together?

Tom Morello was coming through with the Justice Tour, and he had asked Susan Silver [Soundgarden's manager] — Tom wanted to get some notorious rock locals. Ben Shepherd and I were asked separately — we were going to be on the bill separately. As things worked out, it was getting close to the gig date, and Ben had not put together any project, and the guys that I was jamming with, our ideas were not gelling. We were going to do some old punk rock covers, and have [Mudhoney's] Mark Arm sing. That fell through. And Tom called, and said, "Would Ben and Kim like to join me on stage to do 'Spoonman'?" And we said, "Sure. But we heard Matt is coming down to the show, and I'm not going to play it in front of Matt — I would play it with Matt." So I called Matt, and he said sure. Ben said, "Let's do the first single, 'Hunted Down'/'Nothing to Say,' and then we'll do 'Spoonman.'"

And then this left a problem with who we would get to sing with us. A lot of people that I asked were real hesitant — they didn't want to replicate Chris' performance. So it had to be Tad [Doyle], right? It had to be the guy with God's Balls to say, "Fuck yeah, I'll do it!" We went down to the Pearl Jam rehearsal space and had one practice on a Monday and rehearsed for an hour and a half. The next day, we went over them at soundcheck, and then we busted out those three songs [at the Crocodile Cafe].

Looking back, what's your favorite Soundgarden album and why? I think I have three albums that stand out for different reasons. Screaming Life is distinctly different with Jack Endino's production and our original songs from that period that Hiro [Yamamoto, original bassist] played on. I just like those songs, and the sound of the production — the ambience and the feel. Just the way the room sounds. We recorded that at Reciprocal Studios, which a lot of early Sub Pop records were recorded at, including Nirvana, Mudhoney and Tad.

And Superunknown. Once again, it's the ambience — the implied and created room. And I like the material and the performances very much. There's a dark feel to it that is powerful, and is great with headphones on. Badmotorfinger I love because it sounds great in a car. 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.

What exactly is the status of the much talked about Soundgarden box set of B sides and unreleased material? It's a matter of just working with the record company. Y'know, a year or two after we disbanded, A&M Records disbanded — it got bought, and all of our friends there got fired. The record company dissolving and our management company dissolving put a big hit on Soundgarden's catalog and merchandise. I think our merchandising catalog suffered quite a bit due to neglect from the record company and management. Which wasn't intentional, it's just the record company was gone and the management company wound up being a P.O. Box and a voicemail.

Basically, a box set slowly and surely will happen. We need communication with the band, our record label and management. I really cannot emphasis my apologies to all our fans worldwide — it pisses me off to no end that you can't walk into a mall, go to the local head shop or record store, and find a Soundgarden T-shirt or poster. It bugs the hell out of me, and everyone in the band. Just be patient — nobody's more bugged about it than I am. It's all inertia, if it's a big giant stone wheel, it comes down a hill really fast. But it goes up a hill very slow. Right now, it's at the bottom of the hill, and we've got to push it back up.

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