"I think Soundgarden made the best records out of that scene. I think we were the most daring and experimental and genre pushing really and I'm really proud of it."
Soundgarden - From The NW Corner
Grunge, aka the Seattle Sound, from the mid 80’s is defined by the heavy distorted musical contrasts, ‘grungy’ appearance of the band members, and heavy intense, anxious, and strife filled lyrics that were particularly inspired by the subculture subscribing to hardcore, heavy metal, indie, and punk rock.
Original members Chris Cornell (vocal and drums) and Hiro Yamamoto (bass) played with the Seattle, Washington group, the Shemps until it disbanded in the early 1980’s. Cornell and Yamamoto continued jamming with Thayil (guitar), who moved to Seattle from Illinois with Kim, joining up. Thus, in early 1984, Soundgarden, named after a sculpture Seattle, was born. They were so popular with the Seattle grunge scene that by 1985, Scott Sundquist (drums) was brought in so that Cornell could concentrate on the vocals. Their first recordings were released on a compilation album, Deep Six (1986) with other grunge artists, which ultimately brought the major labels to Seattle. Sundquist lasted only about a year with Garden before Matt Cameron, hailing from San Diego, replaced him.
Soundgarden - The starting point
Signing with Sub-Pop in 1987, Garden’s first full fledged release was EP Screaming Life following up in 1988 with EP, Fopp. Their 1988 Grammy nomination Ultramega OK caused A&M Records to pursue them until they succumbed and signed. Soundgarden's debut for that A&M, Louder than Love was strategically renamed and released in 1989, heralding the departure of a discouraged Yamamoto and the arrival of Jason Everman, of Nirvana, for the already booked promotional tour of North America and Europe. Thayil said, “Jason just DIDN’T work out.”, and was fired immediately upon their return and was succeeded by Ben Shepherd, who had auditioned before the tour, and had he known the music – would’ve been the one hired.
Band members credit Shepherd’s creative approach, writing skills, and knowledge of music with the band’s ‘redefinition’ prior to Bad Motorfinger’s 1991 release. Jesus Christ Pose, the first single release of the album, caused a huge uproar from listeners, with the band even receiving death threats, and the video being banned from MTV. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award and was among the top selling for 1992.
Established and rising
A year long tour followed with several more releases, performances, Lollapalooza tour, another Grammy Award Nomination for Best Metal Performance of 1993, and a video compilation Motorvision, and performing Birth Ritual in the movie Singles.
Soundgarden’s biggest success to date was Superunknown in 1994, debuting at number one on the Billboard charts and bringing them a Grammy Award with singles "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman". They toured overseas from January until May and the US until late 1994 when Cornell was diagnosed with severe vocal chord strain, causing them to cancel several of their shows. They did make up all of the missed dates and released two ep’s from Superunknown in 1995.
Clashing over musical styles they managed to put together Down on the Upside for release in mid 1996 with the album's single Pretty Noose spawning another Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1997. Garden toured on the 1996 Lollapalooza with Metalica and headed out for another worldwide tour. At their final performance in Honolulu, in February, tensions finally broke loose with the band retreating off the stage and only Cornell returning to do a solo encore. The announcement of their disbanding came in April of 1997 with their final release, A-Sides, following in November.
Chatter has Soundgarden talking of a reunion tour, their website announcing "The 12 year break is over & school is back in session." With nothing concrete yet announced about the tour Sub-Pop Records is re-issuing a limited edition of Hunted Down (released 1987) on April 17 as part of Record Store Day.
Reunion after 12 years
Did you know that...
- ...Cornell suffered from agoraphobia in his early teens?
- ...Screaming Life’s first 600 copies were released on orange vinyl?
- ...Kim Thayil's intro on Flower has him blowing across this guitar strings?