SOUNDGARDEN Guitarist Talks About Songwriting Process For New Album

Alex Woodward of Gambit recently conducted an interview with guitarist Kim Thayil of reunited grunge legends SOUNDGARDEN. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Gambit: It’s interesting hearing you go from more song-oriented stuff to a heavier realm. Now you guys are writing again, are you coming from that background?

Kim: We’re definitely putting on the shoes that fit, the four of us. It’s interesting you bring that up, because over the past decade or so I’ve certainly gone in the direction of more heavy and also freer — elements of chaos of wildness I’ve always liked in music. It’s amazing I never outgrew it, more so now than when I was in college or high school, more so now than in SOUNDGARDEN‘s heyday. But that’s me. I’m a guitarist. I think singers are going to orient things toward their voice and lyrics, you know. I might’ve brought some of that element to the new material, but that element is going to be limited by the format of a song.

Gambit: Are you writing together?

Kim: Yeah. There’s individual compositions, certainly. Chris [Cornell, vocals] has done very well over the years writing solo compositions, where he’s writing the music and lyrics. He brings it to the band, and we twist it around and add our flavor to it. But there’s also collaborative songs on this. I think probably one of the earliest… I can’t really speculate, but if things are going the way we’ve been talking, one of the earliest songs we release will be a collaboration where we all wrote. It came about out of an idea of Matt‘s [Cameron, drums]. We all contributed some music, Chris came up with the lyrics afterwards. It’s funny you should bring up that ambient, psychedelic stuff. That goes back to the conversation about THE BEATLES, where I liked the heavy and fast, and that sort of psychedelic element, that dark psychedelia is certainly present in some of the early records of BORIS, and SUNN O))), and bands like OM. You get the heavy, you get the trippy. It’s excellent.

Gambit: So what spurred the reunion?

Kim: You know it’s just a matter of time. I think the initial thing was tending to a neglected catalog and merchandising. We had some records that had gone out of print, we had lots of fans and friends of friends who had kids that said, “Hey man, we were at the store and we couldn’t find any SOUNDGARDEN T-shirts or posters.” And we had no e-presence, or Internet presence. We didn’t have a MySpace page or Facebook. There’s a Wikipedia entry for us. We didn’t have a website. “Let’s take care of these things, guys.” But that was not anything we really considered before. Matt‘s busy with PEARL JAM, Chris is doing his solo stuff. These guys had time available to them.

Gambit: So as a posterity kind of thing?

Kim: No, not posterity. It was neglect. Would’ve been decades of neglect. The band’s legacy has always been very, very important to me. It’s a paramount issue since we were younger. It’s, like, well look… I’d always look at how the records would be perceived. It’s like, my record collection. You want to make sure the record company would treat them with a degree of regard or reverence as you would, as one would. What had happened was — without getting too much into detail about the financial, management, legal things — there’s a decades-long neglect. After the band broke up, no one was… I was the guy who would oversee the catalog. But a lot of things happened. The band broke up, a few years later, the record company AM dissolved … and everyone we worked with there either quit or was fired, everyone was almost gone from AM. That made it really difficult because the record label no longer existed. And then management — our manager, that would be Chris‘ wife at the time, ex-wife now of many years — she managed ALICE IN CHAINS as well, and ALICE IN CHAINS went on hiatus and was no longer, and she became a mom. The management company went from being this vital thing dealing with a few prominent bands to being a post office box and a voicemail. So the maintenance of SOUNDGARDEN‘s catalog… look, even THE BEATLES have been broken up for 40 years. They still have T-shirts and posters and records and books out there, they still have a catalog and shared interest and properties. Jimi Hendrix, man, he’s been dead just as long, they’re still making records and everything. So nobody is minding that store. I like to think it as a museum than as a store, because I don’t want to be cynical about it. That’s the way I see it. I see these things as valuable, as something we accomplished by recording these albums, writing these records, overseeing the design of these album covers and shirts. So, that was it. Band was gone, record company was gone, management was gone. There was nobody looking after the fact that we don’t have DVDs out or a website. These were the things bringing us back to the table. There’s some little more time available, there’s some management interest, saying “Hey guys, look what you haven’t been paying attention to.” We’re like, “Yes, we know, let’s get this going.” That really was the impetuous to get us working and talking, to pay attention to that. Unreleased things — some which is still yet to come out. Unreleased songs, unreleased tapes, compilations. We definitely want to get these things out there. We will. At first we were probably a little eager — “We’ll get this stuff out in five years!” I imagine it’ll take a little bit longer, ‘cause now we’re making new records (laughs).

Read the entire interview at Gambit.