Soundgarden are getting set for their month-long North American summer tour, which kicks off July 2 in Toronto.
The live dates give the band a break from the studio, as the reunited unit continues work on new music.
“Well, our interest is in being a vital band,” said guitarist Kim Thayil.
“We want to write songs and record them. We’re still like kids in a candy shop when it comes to writing songs and hearing them recorded. It’s funny; once again [drummer] Matt [Cameron] is really the person who seems to be driving us forward with all this. He’s very enthusiastic and eager, which really motivates all of us. We’re all really excited. Being creative is far more satisfying than just playing the old songs. It’s been very natural. We just started jamming and it very gradually and naturally progressed.”
Thayil reports that the recording sessions are going really well:
“We’re recording. We’re kind of doing it in stages.
“We have about 14 songs in various stages of completion. Previously, we’d just block out a bunch of time and go and track everything at once, but we can’t really do that right now. Matt has commitments to Pearl Jam, Chris [Cornell] has a solo tour happening and Soundgarden is touring in July.
“So we do the studio thing around those other engagements, which actually is turning out to be a lot better for us. It takes the pressure off in some ways. It’s not like, OK you’ve got three weeks and everything needs to get done in those three weeks. We can work at our own pace and take things one step at a time. We’re really enjoying it. We don’t have a record company or management pressuring us to hurry up, so we can really savor the process this time.”
It’s still early in the project, but Thayil shares his thoughts on the new material.
“The vibe of the songs is definitely very heavy,” says the guitarist.
“We’ve always tried to explore how to make this really heavy, aggressive music without sounding like a bunch of knuckle-dragging meatheads. I think these songs are kind of exploring that idea. Ways of emoting aggression and anger and hostility in ways that feel new.
“You know, we never were really chipper guys. We were never the party band, or even a particularly social band. We were always really just hard workers and a kind of musician’s band. That’s what we wanted to be that. We wanted to play for an audience that reminded us of ourselves back when we were young, I always liked the idea that our fans were that guy or girl who collected records and wanted to start a band of their own and play good music.
“I always imagined we were the band that made the party end. Like, ok guys it’s time to leave now, someone just put on Superunknown! I always felt like we made music that was good for driving, good for listening to really loud. The new songs sound really heavy. I’ll just say that.”
And Soundgarden aren’t letting the grass grow beneath their feet
“Touring next month, finishing our record sooner rather than later,” Kim explains. “You know, it just feels good to be doing this stuff. I like the idea that we’ve all come back together to tie up the loose ends and sort of attend to our legacy, such as it is. We want to see that our back catalog is treated with care, that our fans aren’t ripped off, and we want to make really vital, creative, excellent new music together.”
“Also, as the sort of unofficial custodian of the Soundgarden archives, I want to make sure that our unreleased material is handled in the right way,” adds Thayil.
“It really bums me out to think about all the material that never got released by Nirvana. They were one of my favorite bands ever — a band that felt like our little brothers and were simultaneously our peers and also an incredible influence on us. To think that there was all this unfinished work that can’t be shared and people will never hear, it’s just a shame.
“It really makes me want to do the right thing with Soundgarden. It makes me thankful to be in a band. For a long time I just didn’t want to think about record contracts and managers and publishing—I just wanted to jam with my friends and drink some beer and enjoy my life. But it feels good to be doing this again. I think we all feel that way.”