Feature: Artists Talk Soundgarden
Tue, 09 Oct 2012 07:06:00
Soundgarden have undeniably influenced an entire generation.
Louder Than Love, Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, and Down on the Upside remain in the canon of rock's greatest albums of all-time, and you'd be hard pressed to find a band from the past two decades whose life wasn't changed by them. Who can forget the first time they heard "Black Hole Sun", "Rusty Cage", or "Pretty Noose"? You can feel palpable strains of Soundgarden everywhere, and their legacy only grows with each passing year.
That legacy will be further fortified when their long-awaited new album King Animal drops on November 13, 2012 via Seven Four Ent. and Republic Records. It's another staggering and timeless effort that's bound to change the game forever. Soundgarden raise the bar for rock music again.
Given their influence, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to a myriad of musicians and actors ranging from Metallica, Korn, Mastodon, System of a Down, The Pretty Reckless, and Pantera to Ethan Hawke, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and more.
In this feature, all of these musicians share their thoughts on Soundgarden answering one or all of the questions below.
Can you share your thoughts on Soundgarden? Do you have a seminal Soundgarden experience or memory? When did you first hear them? What do they mean to you? What's your favorite record or song by the band?
James "Munky" Shaffer of Korn & Fear and the Nervous System
James "Munky" Shaffer: Chris Cornell has a really distinctive and memorable voice. His tone is really unique, and the melodies are incredible. Kim Thayil has an unusual way of tuning too. I like that they can be genuinely heavy and melodic as well. Superunknown would be my favorite record. I know a lot of people love that one. Front to back, it's a perfect album.
Kirk Hammett of Metallica
Kirk Hammett: I was actually listening to a lot of Soundgarden around when I was writing "Enter Sandman". It was Louder Than Love. "Enter Sandman" is a pretty scary and dark song when you think about it [Laughs].
Bill Kelliher of Mastodon & Primate
Bil Kelliher: When I first heard Soundgarden what struck me was the LOWEST tuned guitars with super high-pitched Ozzy Osbourne-style vocals. They were like a modern day Black Sabbath. It was a virtual musical renaissance for my guitar playing and style.
Serj Tankian of System of a Down
Serj Tankian: I'm an absolutely huge Soundgarden fan! I saw Chris Cornell a couple of months ago in L.A. I heard them for the first time in my mid-twenties. I had heard Badmotorfinger before Louder Than Love though. I went back and got Louder Than Love, and then I went forward obviously. I love Chris's solo material as well. I think it's great. The acoustic record he did is fantastic. I saw one of the live shows at The Roxy, and I'm looking forward to hearing the new Soundgarden record, King Animal.
Rex Brown of Pantera & Kill Devil Hill
Rex Brown: When I first got turned on to Soundgarden, it felt like home. It was "Loud Love" that opened my eyes and ears to this explosive monster that I'd been looking for. I eventually went back and listened to Fopp and the other Sub-Pop era recordings. When Pantera got signed, we auditioned a lot of producers but, in the end, I threw in Terry Date's name because he produced Louder Than Love. The rest, as we say, is history!
Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless
Taylor Momsen: The first Soundgarden song I heard was "Black Hole Sun", so I got Superunknown and became a huge fan of that record, but it wasn't until i got Badmotorfinger that I would realize this was one of the greatest bands of all-time. Every song is its own adventure. From songs like "Slaves and Bulldozers" and "Jesus Christ Pose" all the way to "Ty Cobb" and "Burden in My Hand", they just amaze me at every turn. The voice, the guitar, the drums—I just wished I could be in that fucking band. Being born in 1993, I never really got the chance to hear a new Soundgarden record upon release since they were pretty much done by the time I could talk, so I'm psyched that they're back together and I'm able to experience it.
Chris Carrabba of Dashbord Confessional & Further Seems Forever
Chris Carrabba: Believe it or not, what got me into Soundgarden were those few Chris Cornell solo songs on the soundtrack for Reality Bites. I'm really into Nick Drake and a handful of these singer-songwriters who use these crazy open-tunings. I heard Chris Cornell do that. When I experienced those songs from the compilation, I just lost it. I became obsessed. That's how I got into Soundgarden.
Ethan Hawke of Daybreakers, Training Day, and Sinister
Ethan Hawke: I like all different kinds of music, but I'm of the generation of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam! I do come back to that stuff. I also grew up on country music too though!
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden
Steve Harris: I'm obviously a lot older than those guys in Soundgarden [Laughs]. I think their influences came from the influences I had—which is '70s music. Some of Soundgarden's music is obviously influenced by The Beatles too. I grew up with all of that, of course. Soundgarden is a really good band, and our influences are both from earlier stuff.
Aaron Lewis of Staind
Aaron Lewis: I first heard them on Badmotorfinger. I was really into that music at the time. Then, I went back and got Louder Than Love as well. I loved "Rusty Cage" and all that stuff. I liked how brutally heavy they were compared to the others '80s-type vocal stuff that was petering off at that point. The vocals were still high, but there was so much more grit. It was a whole new wave. There was no makeup. Everybody wore black. There were no neon colors. There was no spandex. They kind of picked up where Judas Priest left off. They were darker. The lyrics were more poetic. It wasn't about chicks or heads rolling [Laughs]. My favorite record would probably be Badmotorfinger.
Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace
Adam Gontier: I was probably 14-years-old when I first heard them. It was at a pretty big house party. My cousin was throwing it because my aunt had left for the weekend. We partied all weekend [Laughs]. Somebody threw on Badmotorfinger. I heard "Rusty Cage", and it blew me away. I had one of my cousins who's a great guitar player teach me that song because he knew how to play it. When I was initially learning how to play guitar, that was one of the first riffs I tried to learn. It's a tough one. I still have a hard time playing it [Laughs].
Charlie Scene of Hollywood Undead
Charlie Scene: "Black Hole Sun" was the first time I heard them. When MTV played videos, Soundgarden had that trippy fucking video with their faces melting [Laughs]. Chris Cornell is a bitching singer. He's so good and a legend of our day. He's a true rock and roller, and he's a very good looking man. "Black Hole Sun" is my favorite song of course!
Thomas Ian Nicholas of American Pie, American Pie 2, American Wedding, and American Reunion
Thomas Ian Nicholas: The first Soundgarden song I remember hearing was "Spoonman" back in the mid-90s. That was on Superunknown, which is seriously still a CD that I have in my car to this day. It's one of those albums that I can listen to from front to back a few times through and never get tired of it.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan of The Possession & Watchmen
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: I actually listened to a lot of Seattle grunge when I was doing The Losers for some reason. I listened to a lot of Soundgarden. That's what I was doing. It was cool. I don't know why, it must be the whole '80s thing with the movie [Laughs].
Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch
Ivan Moody: I love listening to bands that dig deep. Soundgarden is one of them that went further than most. That's the kind of stuff that really inspires me. I still go back to Badmotorfinger and Superunknown. It was big for American Capitalist.
Stephen Christian of Anberlin
Stephen Christian: I think Chris Cornell is an incredible vocalist. We're both inspired by the same guy, Jeff Buckley. I have a ton of respect for them. My friend played me "Black Hole Sun". Then, I remember watching the video for "Spoonman" and thinking, "There's an old guy playing spoons in this video. How random!?"
Pat Seals of Flyleaf
Pat Seals: I first heard Soundgarden in the early '90s on my parents' TV set, while watching the "Black Hole Sun" video. I instantly loved how this band seemed so different from anything else I had heard, or seen, as videos were concerned, and Chris Cornell's singing was so earnest and distinct, not to mention mind-blowingly high. The melting faces and strange scenes set against such an eerie song had quite an effect on my ten-year-old brain; "Black Hole Sun" has made me a fan ever since. Superunknown is my favorite album and "The Day I Tried To Live" is my favorite song, most definitely. I used to listen to this one on tour over and over. The staggering groove during the verse, the brilliantly infectious melody, and one of my favorite performances by Cornell make it a song I usually hit "repeat" on at least once.
Joe Duplantier of Gojira
Joe Duplantier: I'm a fan! I saw them live this summer in Germany. We were playing this festival. Metallica headlined. Before them, Tenacious D and Soundgarden played. I loved Soundgarden! They were simple and raw. They had a simple backdrop on this huge stage. There was no production or anything. It was just this old school super good band with an amazing singer. That was my first time seeing them, and it was really incredible.
Jacoby Shaddix and Jerry Horton of Papa Roach
Jacoby Shaddix: Our old drummer Dave Bruckner introduced me to Soundgarden. He was all about it. I was like, "Wow, these guys rip". Chris Cornell has a voice that's got a classic rock, heavy metal thing, but they weren't your traditional hard rock or metal band. They had their own complete, original sound. They came up in the grunge era, but they didn't sound like the other grunge bands to me. They were a unique beast, which I love.
Jerry Horton: My first encounter was MTV. I want to say it was "Jesus Christ Pose".
Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge & Creed
Mark Tremonti: I was a big fan when I saw the video for "Loud Love". I immediately went out and bought Louder Than Love. I fell in love with it. Then, I bought Ultramega OK and all of the records out at the time. Chris Cornell became my favorite singer for years and years. I've always loved Soundgarden and still do. My favorite record would probably still be Louder Than Love.
Oderus Urungus of GWAR
Oderus Urungus: The first Soundgarden song I ever heard was when they opened up for us at the Kennel Club in San Francisco about a million years ago. I have no idea what it was except that I liked it! I mean here we were, the mighty GWAR, playing at one of our biggest early shows in San Francisco, and these hippy-looking guys were there, and they didn't even seem to notice that we were from Hell. They were just really cool. I guess "Rusty Cage" is my favorite song, because I have no idea at all what it is about.
J.D. Cronise of The Sword
J.D. Cronise: I love Soundgarden! I'm a huge Soundgarden fan. The first thing I saw was the music video for "Jesus Christ Pose" from Badmotorfinger on MTV Headbangers Ball. I was like, "This is awesome!" I remember learning how to play that song on guitar and trying to cover it with my high school band. I was way into Soundgarden. Badmotorfinger was probably my favorite Soundgarden record. After I got that, I got their earlier albums too, and I liked Louder Than Love a lot. At the time, I listened to Badmotorfinger every day on the way to school. I think Superunknown is a killer album. It's their masterpiece in a lot of ways, but I probably listened to Badmotorfinger more than anything.
Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem
Brian Fallon: I went to see one of Chris Cornell's solo acoustic shows at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. I saw his name on the marquee, and I was like, "I've got to go!" I got in, and he was awesome. He was really on fire! He just killed it. When I got home, I was really buzzed on the whole vibe of his show. While writing "Too Much Blood", I used some Soundgarden-style weird chords I saw him play that I never really learned before. I watched his hands and thought, "Look at that chord! I wonder if it would sound good with these chords I normally use." It was a cool growing thing. That song came out really quickly in about 20 minutes. It was a good stride. Playing with Soundgarden on their European tour was sick. I heard Chris asked us to do the tour specifically. I was like, "How do you even know about my band?" That's awesome.
Matt Pike of High on Fire & Sleep
Matt Pike: The classic layers of Soundgarden innovations remain a timeless pillar in the Iommic temple.
Matt Tuck of Bullet For My Valentine & AxeWound
Matt Tuck: I heard them back in 1994 when I was totally overloaded with music. "Black Hole Sun" was the first Soundgarden song I ever heard. It was during a time in my early teens when music was infiltrating and taking over my life. I remember the music video for it. I saw it and thought, "What the fuck is going on?" [Laughs] It was the most bizarre video. Chris Cornell's vocals were so hypnotic. I'm a fan of them to this day.
Jesse Hasek of 10 Years
Jesse Hasek: I became a fan later on and went backwards through their catalog. After I dug into them, I was extremely pleased I did. I heard them during the Seattle wave that happened. That album that catapulted them into the mainstream was Superunknown. It's awesome. I thought "Black Hole Sun" was really great. It was like what Nirvana had done with Nevermind. If you can put substance into a hook, you really have created something special.
Austin Winkler & Cody Hanson of Hinder
Austin Winkler: I first heard "Black Hole Sun". The video was so monumental for that band. It really freaked me the fuck out when I was a kid, but it stuck with me forever. I can sit here right now and picture the song and the video together. I loved it. I really became a fan of the band when I heard "Pretty Noose" though. If you ever have the privilege of picking up our first demo, Far from Close, you can compare to the picture to some of the shit happening in the "Black Hole Sun" video [Laughs].
Cody Hanson: Who doesn't love "Black Hole Sun"? When I think about growing up, that's one of the songs I think about. It's so cool. It's one of those songs that will never go away.
Jason Null of Saving Abel
Jason Null: I first heard Soundgarden while auditioning for a band and, of course, "Outshined" was on their set list. So I actually heard pieces of a cover of the song, but I knew from hearing that it was something I would be in to. My initial attraction was the guitar riff since back in the day we mostly had a Mic plugged in ever who's amp had a double (hi/low z) input and vocals were basically just cues. Yeah that sludgy, ballsy riff that you didn't have to be studying Yngwie Malmsteen to play was very inspiring. What's my favorite Soundgarden record or song? Wow, that's like asking me what my favorite piece of pizza is sliced from the same pie? I would have to say "The Day I Tried To Live" stands out. I love the odd time signatures during the chorus as the music gradually steps down in halves and wholes—lower and lower. Of course, there are Chris's vocal melodies. I also love the poetry in the lyrics, although the guys may have been speaking of something very particular, for me the listener, it left it open for interpretation. Though I think some songs are great telling a story a literal standpoint, I also think it's important to have some tunes that people can listen to and find their own meaning in. I think that's when music really speaks. "Searching with My Good Eye Closed" gets an honorable mention. Intro is fun.
Sean Danielsen of Smile Empty Soul
Sean Danielsen: "Outshined" was the first Soundgarden song I ever heard, when I was around 11-years-old, and I was instantly drawn to their sound. Then, when Superunknown came out, it became of those records that didn't leave my CD player for months at a time. Superunknown is still one of my favorite records and always in my car disc changer. It's an incredible album from top to bottom, and it still amazes me that they found so much commercial success with such a dark and moody record.
John Allen of Charm City Devils
John Allen: I first heard Soundgarden on the "Loud Love" tour. I saw them live and was blown away. It was like seeing Jesus Christ fronting the most menacing Sabbath-y band on the planet. They have a killer rhythm section and soaring vocals. I was an instant fan.
Tom Huestis and Mike Mouris of SoulSwitch
Tom Huestis: I was never big into the grunge scene growing up but I remember hearing black hole sun on the radio for the first time. It wasn't the normal grunge sound and Chris Cornell has such a captivating voice I was definitely into them right from the start.Superunknown would be my favorite album with "Spoonman" being my favorite song.
Mike Mouris: The first time I heard Soundgarden was live in concert at Lollapalooza 1994! I fell in love with "Spoonman" based on the drum beat alone. Pearl Jam and Soundgarden performed "Hunger Strike" together as an encore to end Soundgarden's set. Amazing performance with such raw energy provided by Cornell and Eddie Vedder both belting out high notes in harmony!
Donald Carpenter of Eye Empire
Donald Carpenter: 1991 Badmotorfinger was the start for me. "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Rusty Cage" turned me into a full-blown addict. As a vocalist, I was immediately drawn to Chris's voice. I felt a kindred spirit in the emotion and raw power. It wasn't about being the prettiest or smoothest, it was about being real and passionate—something I reach for every night. It's tough to pick a favorite song. My favorite record would have to be Superunknown. Every on that record has had a direct influence on my career. I wouldn't be able to hear music the same way without it.
What's your favorite Soundgarden song and why? When did you first hear them?
See our review of "Been Away Too Long" here!