Soundgarden reunion fell into place by chance

LOS ANGELES Sat May 14, 2011 2:21am EDT

Members of the group 'Soundgarden' pose with the Grammy Award they received for Best Metal Performance for ''Spoonman'' at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards March 1 in Los Angeles. Reuters/handout

Members of the group 'Soundgarden' pose with the Grammy Award they received for Best Metal Performance for ''Spoonman'' at the 37th Annual Grammy Awards March 1 in Los Angeles. Reuters/handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As rock'n'roll reunions go, the current reemergence of Soundgarden after a 13-year split is sadly short of salacious intrigue.

The four members of the hard rock band, working on a new album and preparing to begin a monthlong North American tour in July, did not have to complete prison terms or rehab stints.

And, despite a report in the satirical newspaper The Onion, lead guitarist Kim Thayil was not working as a daytime supervisor at a Cinnabon baked-goods store.

Thayil, 50, who did indeed keep a low profile after the band fell apart in 1997 amid internal tensions, told Reuters on Friday that the foursome remained good friends.

They frequently saw each other socially in their Seattle hometown, including at bars, concerts and each others' homes.

"Any acrimony was toward the band as a collective, not toward any individual," he said. "We're just too interconnected, going back to the '80s with so many mutual friends and family in common."

Still, with singer Chris Cornell pursuing an intermittent solo career and drummer Matt Cameron firmly ensconced in Pearl Jam, any chance of a reunion by one of the biggest bands of the 1990s "grunge" era seemed remote.

Cornell inadvertently dropped the first hint on the first day of 2010 when his cryptic tweet about the relaunch of the band's website and merchandising efforts was misinterpreted as a reunion announcement. Thayil was inundated with calls from people who had read frenzied news reports on the Internet.

MOM, WE'RE NOT REUNITING!

"I spent a lot of time on the phone with my mom," Thayil recalled. "'Are you going to believe what someone told you they saw on the Internet? Or are you going to believe what your son told you? ... We're not back together.'"

Still, Soundgarden's belated move to fix its woefully neglected online presence generated interest from concert promoters. The band accepted some of their offers, and accordingly started dusting off its old songs in rehearsals around March 2010. It played a handful of shows last year including the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

"There never was a time when we said, 'Hey we're a band again'," Thayil said. "(But) I think some time last fall ... we realized we're doing all the things that a band does now, not just designing a website."

That was about the time that the band, at Cameron's behest, entered the studio to turn the new song fragments generated during rehearsals into material for its first new album since 1996's "Down on the Upside." Thayil said the songs are in various stages of completion, with all members contributing ideas. The lineup is rounded out by bassist Ben Shepherd.

Soundgarden has a deal with the successor company to its old A&M Records label, but it is unlikely the album will come out this year.

"If we were to say, 'Let's get this record out by the fall', I think it would put a lot of pressure on us and the quality would at some point suffer," Thayil said. "And the more we enjoy it, the more our fans should end up enjoying it."

Meanwhile, the North American tour kicks off in Toronto on July 2. A fall leg is probable, Thayil said, and the band is drawing up a "wish list" of international dates.

Beyond that, the future is uncertain especially since Cameron's commitments to Pearl Jam take priority, and Cornell also has solo interests, Thayil said. That's fine with him.

"The band is definitely handling its career situation in a lot freer way than it did before," he said. "The way we're doing it is diminished pressure for us. Probably consequently, maybe it's diminished expectation!"

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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