From Songbook to digging the ’Garden
Chris Cornell’s touring the world solo and with Soundgarden, writes John Carucci
HRIS Cornell is just a man with his guitar – and for the time being, he absolutely loves it. The former Audioslave and Soundgarden frontman has been wowing audiences on tour with his highoctane, acoustic show, which played Brisbane earlier this year.
Last month, Cornell released Songbook, a live collection of his solo performances that represents a wide reserve of his own work, as well as some of his favourite cover tunes. They include Led Zeppelin’s Thank You and John Lennon’s Imagine. Another popular track, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, was not included on the album, but is performed regularly.
Although Cornell is relishing life as a solo artist, it won’t last long: he and the rest of Soundgarden are finishing up their new album, due out in the first half of 2012. Cornell speaks about his Soundgarden reunion, which brings the band to Australia in January to headline the 2012 Big Day Out, his Songbook album and his contribution to grunge. Tell us about the solo tour and the live album.
I did an acoustic tour called the Songbook Tour which started me doing a world tour of acoustic shows. Somewhere in the middle of it, it felt like a special thing. It has mostly to do with the room and the audience. I just had some really amazing experiences live and decided it would be great to pick some of those songs and put them out. And Soundgarden are back together . . .
Being able to have Soundgarden back together again at this point in my life is a hugely fulfilling thing, particularly with the things that I started to end up doing in a solo career, with moving more towards kind of fulfilling that promise of doing acoustic music . . . The contrast of doing my solo career that way and at the same time being in Soundgarden and all of what Soundgarden is is a pretty fulfilling feeling. Why did the band break up?
I don’t think we were really very good at the big version of band business. We were really good at the small one. We were very self-sufficient in the beginning and as an indie band, we were very capable that way of everything. As it became big business, I think, we really had kind of a disdain for dealing with the day-to-day nuts and bolts of keeping that all together and being in charge of it. As we became less in charge of it as a group, I think it became less fun as well. It wasn’t us at the helm necessarily anymore. That was the defining factor that caused us to be apart. Soundgarden and other Seattle bands were labelled as grunge. Was that offensive?
At the time it was. Not because of the actual name – it came from an organic place – but I didn’t feel that Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Nirvana never sounded much like each other. I feel we were all indie rock bands that were part of an evolution. Soundgarden was influential in bringing indie rock into a more commercially prominent environment. These days, I don’t mind because it makes it easier to communicate in soundbites. In the doco Pearl Jam 20, you made it seem as though there wasn’t any competition among the Seattle bands. Was there?
There was. I think it was competitive there, but maybe like a grown-up version. You wanted to one-up your buddies but they were still your buddies and if they came up with something that was great, you recognised it and you would use that as kind of a motivator. Sometimes (there) was tension and sometimes like talking behind each other’s backs – but also you were talking about a bunch of young guys that play rock music. What do you think it is about growing up in Seattle that leads to such a vital music scene?
Being a child growing up in Seattle, no one would ever guess that being from Seattle would mean that you had a good rock pedigree (laughs.) No one ever would have had that cross their mind.
Soundgarden, Kanye West, My Chemical Romance, Kasabian, Noel Gallagher, The Living End, Boy & Bear and more play the Big Day Out, at Parklands Showgrounds, on January 22. Tickets are $165 (+ booking fee) from www.bigdayout.com, via Ticketmaster and at Sunflower Pacific Fair.
Seattle indie rock pioneers Soundgarden headline the Big Day Out