Feature: Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, The Pretty Reckless and more talk Soundgarden's "Superunknown"
Tue, 27 May 2014 07:14:35
Soundgarden defined a generation with Superunknown.
Singles like "Fell On Black Days", "The Day I Tried To Live", and the ubiquitous "Black Hole Sun" served as anthems for "alt nation" in 1994, elegantly striking a balance between marvelous melody and metallic malevolence. However, upon really diving into the album, it's clear that it exceeds even the omnipresent nineties zeitgeist and extends into the pantheon of the greatest records ever made. Whether it's the swirling psychedelia of "Head Down" or the apocalyptic hum of "4th of July", Soundgarden unlocked something pummeling, poetic, and powerful. In honor of the album's twentieth anniversary, the band is releasing a very special commemorative edition on June 3, 2014. Available in "deluxe" and "super deluxe" iterations, it features this classic and so much more. You can get it here!
In honor of the album's anniversary and re-release, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino spoke to members of Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, Pantera, The Pretty Reckless, and more about its immortal impact.
Can you share your thoughts on Superunknown and Soundgarden?
Corey Taylor of Slipknot & Stone Sour
Corey Taylor: The songcraft on Superunknown is just incredible. It's not even about the singles. It's about the deep cuts and other songs like the title track. God, that's heavy. Then, there's "Let Me Drown" and "Head Down". I could go on. It's a great album for sure.
Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage & Times of Grace
Jesse Leach: I first heard Superunknown when I was at a house party in High School. I remember stopping dead in my conversation upon hearing "Mailman" and asking who it was. I was already a fan but that song took me off guard; it starts so smooth and bluesy and builds to such a massive crescendo! I went out the next day and bought the record and when I heard "Fell on Black Days," I was taken back, to this day that's one of my favorite Soundgarden songs. I love Soundgarden, and I've been a fan since the early 90s. Superunknown is one of their best records hands down.
Rex Brown of Pantera & Kill Devil Hill
Rex Brown:Soundgarden were one of the most well-rounded bands to emerge in the early '90s. To me, they were Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and late The Beatles all smashed into one. The reason Pantera used Terry Date on all of our records was because he had done Louder Than Love—Philip Anselmo's and my favorite record of '89. They were a phenomenal band to come out of at a time when the world needed a break from the fake fucking hair bands. I own every piece of music they’ve recorded, and Superunknown was their call-to-arms. It was a definite departure from the riff-oriented “Jesus Christ Pose” of Badmotorfinger to the Beatles-esque "Black Hole Sun." They were maturing at an alarming rate, and despite their commercial appeal, they made a dent in their genre that few can question. They were that good. It was about the tones and passion, not getting on the cover of People Magazine because of the way they dressed.
Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless
Taylor Momsen: My introduction to the band was actually "Black Hole Sun". That's the very first thing I heard from Soundgarden. I picked up Superunknown, and I was immediately a massive fan. It's like each track is a journey. It's fucking awesome and so badass.
Joe Rogan: Soundgarden is one of all-time favorites. Outside of bands from the sixties and seventies, they probably are my favorite. Superunknown is a classic. When you're all by yourself, driving down the highway, and you crank that bitch…are you fucking kidding me? The music just talks to you. You want to hit repeat and play it three or four times in a row. "The Day I Tried To Live" just screams. It's fucking perfect.
Bill Kelliher of Mastodon & Primate
Bill Kelliher: Kim Thayil's genius. When I was a kid, I used to listen to a lot of Mudhoney and Soundgarden. With Soundgarden, it was Ultramega OK. Holy shit! I fucking love that record. My favorite music is super heavy low-tuned guitars with a beautiful poppy singing voice over it like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. I grew up on Soundgarden. I grew my hair long not because I was a metal head but because I was really into the whole grunge thing in the mid-to-late eighties. Chris Cornell was my new James Hetfield. I was like, "Look at this dude! He's fucking hip. He sings amazing and plays the guitar". I saw them and Primus back in 1988, and they fucking blew my mind. I thought, "Fuck yeah! This is the new wave. Music is changing right before my eyes. No more of those fucking rock dinosaurs". These guys have Zeppelin riffs in there, but they're playing with a new twist. Kim Thayil's got his off-time signature stuff. The records sounded well-produced. To me, Soundgarden were always a little more savvy and math-y. It wasn't straight-up three-chord music. Soundgarden were the Led Zeppelin of the nineties. To me Louder Than Love was the record. It was their best shit in my opinion. That was the tour I saw them on. That song "Gun" was tuned so low. I couldn't get enough of that. Badmotorfinger was a great record with "Jesus Christ Pose". We did some shows with them, and we got to meet them all and hang out. They're great guys. It was honor meeting Kim Thayil. It was like we were best friends and hadn't seen each other in years. He's one of my guitar heroes. I really respect them and look up to them as being ahead of the curve when it came to that whole grunge thing. Soundgarden were very prog-y for what they were doing, but they kept it poppy and simple.
Travis Stever of Coheed and Cambria
Travis Stever: Superunknown is my favorite Soundgarden record. It's the one that instantly comes to mind if anybody asks. Of course, all of their albums are incredible, but there's something about that one. You can't put your finger on it like all great records. It's mysterious and powerful.
Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth
Fredrik Åkesson: Soundgarden is one of my favorite bands out of the grunge era. They were a bit heavier than the other bands. I'd listen to them all of the time. Superunknown was one of those records. On our new record, we did some psychedelic things. We experimented with analog echoes. I was having some fun with the oscillating feedback. I think Superunknown has some of those elements. Maybe it's the guitar sounds as well. It's an influence.
John Connolly of Sevendust & Projected
John Connolly: I'm a huge Soundgarden fan. Clint Lowery and I are both massive fans of the band and Chris Cornell. There are a million great singers throughout history, but he was one of those guys who froze me like a dear in headlights. I thought, "I don't understand how and why this is so cool!" [Laughs] I can't say enough about the band. Superunknown was absolutely huge for me. Badmotorfinger and Superunknown were the two biggest influences. The first time I heard "Hands All Over" from Louder Than Love though, the hands on my arm stood up and I was like, "What is this? I have to see it. I have to know something about it". It was a cool time in music. Literally in three weeks, there was a 600-seat club in Atlanta called The Cotton Club. I saw Alice In Chains, Faith No More, and Soundgarden. They were all touring on seminal records back-to-back. I left there going, "You know what? I'm selling my drums. I'm never going to touch a stick or an instrument ever again because there's nothing that can compete with what I just witnessed!"
Jeff Kendrick of DevilDriver & Co-Founder AllAxess.com
Jeff Kendrick: I don't know if it was possible to turn on MTV in 1994 or 1995 without seeing the video for "Black Hole Sun" on. Man, Soundgarden was just everywhere then. I feel like with this record they not only solidified themselves with a cult following but showed the world that they could write songs that were undeniably spectacular and captivating. Beyond that, Superunknown includes some of their lesser-known but completely ass-kicking material. Who doesn't like Soundgarden?
John Boecklin of DevilDriver
John Boecklin: It's a solid ass rig. I don't remember the first time I heard it, and I'm not sure I ever owned it. I'm a fan though. The best track is "Fell On Black Days".
Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch
Ivan Moody: Holy fuck, Superunknown is a classic. It's one of those albums that you can dig into from start-to-finish. Chris Cornell sounds insane, and his lyrics are pure poetry. I definitely always come back to this record in their catalog.
Brent Smith of Shinedown
Brent Smith: Wow, talk about an album that changed my life. It was Superunknown. I can listen to every single track on that record over and over again. To this day, I still haven't heard anybody sing the way Chris Cornell sings on "4th of July". It's supernatural is what it is. Of course the singles are great, but that one is all about the album tracks. It's a massive influence and always will be.
What's your favorite song from Superunknown?