Soundgarden

Biography

Members: Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd

Active: 1984-1997

HISTORY

Soundgarden was a seminal Seattle rock band who helped to define the sound that came to be called grunge. They are often considered one of the "big four" Seattle bands of the era, along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam.

Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by Chris Cornell (drums & vocals) and Hiro Yamamoto (bass), and was later joined by Kim Thayil (guitar). (Thayil had moved to Seattle from Illinois with Yamamoto and Bruce Pavitt, who would later start Sub Pop Records.) The band was named after an outdoor art/sound installation called "The Sound Garden" located on NOAA property near Seattle's Magnuson Park which makes eerie sounds when the wind blows.

Cornell originally played drums while singing, but the band enlisted Scott Sundquist to free Cornell up to concentrate on vocals. The band recorded two songs which appeared on a compilation for C/Z Records called Deep Six which also featured songs by Green River, Skin Yard, and The Melvins.

In 1986 Sundquist left the band, to be replaced by Matt Cameron, who had been the drummer in Skin Yard. The band signed to Sub Pop, releasing the Screaming Life EP in 1987, and the Fopp EP in 1988. A compilation was issued as Screaming Life/Fopp in 1990.

Though the band was being courted by major labels, in 1988 they signed to SST Records to release their debut album, Ultramega OK, for which they earned a Grammy nomination. In 1989 the band released their first album for a major label, Louder Than Love, released through A&M Records. After the release of the album Yamamoto left to go back to college. He was briefly replaced by Jason Everman, formerly of Nirvana, who appeared on the Louder Than Live video, but Ben Shepherd ended up in the band as a permanent replacement.

The new line up recorded Badmotorfinger in 1991. Though successful, the album was overshadowed by the sudden popularity of Nirvana's Nevermind. At the same time, the focus of attention brought by Nevermind to the Seattle scene brought the band wider attention, allowing "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" to find an audience at alternative radio and MTV. The band toured with Guns N' Roses to support the album, and later released the video Motorvision which was filmed on that tour. The band also took a slot on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Ministry, among others.

The band made an appearance in the movie Singles playing "Birth Ritual". The song appeared on the soundtrack album, as did a solo Cornell song, "Seasons". The film also featured a clip from the demo version of "Spoonman", a song from the band's 1994 album, Superunknown.

Superunknown was the band's breakout, driven by the singles "Black Hole Sun", "Spoonman", "The Day I Tried to Live", and "Fell on Black Days". The songs on Superunknown captured the creativity of their earlier works, while showcasing the more radio-friendly aspects of the group. Lyrically the album was quite dark and mysterious, as many of the songs dealt with substance abuse, suicide, and depression. Many songs had a Middle-Eastern or Indian flavor, such as "Fell on Black Days" and "Half", the latter featuring the vocals of bassist Ben Shepherd.

The band's final album was 1996's self-produced Down on the Upside. The album was notably less heavy than the group's preceding albums. This album spawned several singles, including "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World", and "Burden in My Hand". Soundgarden explained at the time that they wanted to branch out and explore other sounds. However, tensions within the group arose during the sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell's desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become their trademark. Despite strong reviews, the album did not top its predecessor's sales.

Tensions continued to increase during the band's ensuing tour in support of the album. At the tour's final stop in Honolulu, Hawaii in February of 1997, Shepherd threw his bass into the air in frustration after suffering equipment failure, and subsequently stormed off the stage. The band retreated, with Cornell returning to conclude the show with a solo encore. On April 9, 1997, the band announced its disbanding. The band's final release, a greatest-hits compilation titled A-Sides, was released the following fall.

Cornell went on to make a solo album in 1999, Euphoria Morning, and later formed the group Audioslave with former members of Rage Against the Machine. Cameron turned his efforts to his side-project Wellwater Conspiracy, and later toured with Pearl Jam for their 1998 Yield Tour, subsequently joining the band as a permanent member. Thayil joined forces with ex-Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra, former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Gina Mainwal for one show, performing as the No WTO Combo during the WTO ministerial conference in Seattle on December 1, 1999. Thayil later contributed guitar tracks to Steve Fisk's 2001 album 999 Levels of Undo, as well as Dave Grohl's side-project album PROBOT, released in 2004. Shepherd toured with Mark Lanegan and released the long overdue second Hater album in 2005, while also occasionally appearing on the Wellwater Conspiracy albums.

Regarding a future Soundgarden reunion, Chris Cornell stated in an October 2005 interview that it would "probably not happen". "It's almost like we sealed the lid and said this is Soundgarden and this is its lifespan and put it out there. And it looks really great to me. I think getting back together would take the lid off that and then could possibly change what ... to me seems like the perfect lifespan of the band. I can't think of any reason to mess with that."

STUDIO ALBUMS

1988 - Ultramega OK
1989 - Louder than Love
1991 - Badmotorfinger
1994 - Superunknown
1996 - Down on the Upside

EP'S

1987 - Screaming Life EP (Sub Pop)
1988 - Fopp EP (Sub Pop)
1989 - Flower EP (SST)
1989 - Loud Love (A&M)
1990 - Loudest Love (A&M)
1992 - SOMMS (A&M)
1995 - Songs from the Superunknown (A&M)
1995 - Alive in the Superunknown CD+ (A&M)

LIVE RELEASES AND COMPILATIONS

1990 - Screaming Life/Fopp (Sub Pop)
1990 - Louder Than Live (A&M)
1992 - Motorvision (A&M)
1997 - A-Sides (A&M) #63 US

SINGLES

1987 - "Hunted Down"
1989 - "Flower"
1990 - "Loud Love"
1990 - "Get on the Snake"
1990 - "Hands All Over"
1990 - "Room a Thousand Years Wide"
1991 - "Jesus Christ Pose"
1991 - "Outshined"
1992 - "Rusty Cage"
1994 - "Spoonman"
1994 - "Black Hole Sun"
1994 - "My Wave" (Australia)
1994 - "Fell on Black Days"
1995 - "The Day I Tried to Live"
1995 - "Superunknown"
1996 - "Pretty Noose"
1996 - "Burden in My Hand"
1996 - "Blow Up the Outside World"
1997 - "Ty Cobb"
1997 - "Bleed Together"

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OptimusPrime

Submitted by OptimusPrime at Thu 17 Aug, 2006 6:50 am

OptimusPrime

Last updated by OptimusPrime at Thu 17 Aug, 2006 6:50 am

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