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Joshua Bottomley of Hails & Horns recently conducted an interview with guitarist Kim Thayil of reunited grunge legends SOUNDGARDEN. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Hails & Horns: How crucial was it for SOUNDGARDEN to go out and play live before getting back into the studio?
Kim: It wasn’t, because we had no plans to write a new album. The sequence of events was: attending to shared properties, our catalog, not having strong iTunes presences, web site, Facebook, we didn’t even have a MySpace account. Our web site from the ’90s was kind of rudimentary and they had lapsed, there was nobody maintaining them. Friends of ours had kids who were in junior high, who wereSOUNDGARDEN fans, and they’d go into a record store and there weren’t any SOUNDGARDEN shirts or posters, but they could find plenty of ALICE IN CHAINS and NIRVANA crap. Then there were offers to play live that came in and we had to consider them. Playing live is a totally different aspect of being a band than attending to the partnership side of things. Then we become a performing band by playing shows, but I don’t think you can consider us reunited until we became a creative entity and communicated musically with each other, which led to writing, which led to recording. A lot of bands reunite just so they can play a casino or county fairs, they’re not really reunited; they’re just attending to the entertainment aspect of being in a band. There are some bands that are simply that, entertainers and performers. We are a creative enterprise. Since Day One when SOUNDGARDEN started it was me, Hiro[Yamamoto, original bassist], and Chris [Cornell, vocals] in a room writing songs. Gradually, over time, we had to emphasize playing live and then the business aspects, the legal and financial and stuff you have to pay attention to, management and record company and all that stuff. So that’s the way the band grew, from creative, to performing to business concerns. Then the band breaks up. Then when we got back together we did things in reverse order.
Hails & Horns: How did the songs for “King Animal” come about?
Kim: Whenever we go and rehearse the old songs, we naturally jam and improvise and make stuff up. That’s what we’ve always done. That’s our first love, coming up with songs. About two years ago was when we started to do that. Matt [Cameron, drums] wanted us to come in the studio and learn a few of his songs. That’s what turned into “King Animal”. We learned a couple of Matt‘s songs then Chris had some songs and I had some and Ben [Shepherd, bass] had some. Next thing you know, we’re recording.
Hails & Horns: What about the album title itself?
Kim: I was coming up with titles that I thought fit with the graphics that the artist Josh Graham did, and a title that would fit with our catalog. The titles we’ve had like “Badmotorfinger” or “Superunknown”, or“Ultramega OK”, there’s sort of a colorful hyperbole to the titles, being big and super. I wanted to keep with that, but finding the right adjective combination that is evocative visually, and has meanings on various levels. It’s hard to come up with great album titles like “Superunknown” or“Badmotorfinger”. They don’t just fall in your lap all the time. Of the many titles that we were working with “King Animal” was the one I liked the best. I sent off a few e-mails and Chris sent an email back saying, “I LOVE IT!!!!” Matt said the same thing and management loved it. The more we thought about it, the more we loved the title. “Superunknown” was the same way. When Chris came up with the title for that, we thought it was cool, but didn’t know if it was “the one.” Within the next week, it kept growing on us ’till we were like, “Fuck, we gotta call it ‘Superunknown’.”“King Animal”, the amazing thing was, we Googled it and it hadn’t been used. No title, no album, no song, no book. We thought, “You’re kidding me?! ‘King Animal’, it seems so obvious and so cool!” We wouldn’t have used it if some other band had an album with that title. We like the fact that our albums titles are original.
Read the entire interview from Hails & Horns.