Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell on ‘Superunknown’ 20th Anniversary, Summer Tour + More
Soundgarden‘s ‘Superunknown’ just turned 20 and to celebrate, the band is offering up a massive 20th Anniversary edition deluxe package on June 3. Plus, the group will venture out on co-headlining dates with Nine Inch Nails this summer.
Ahead of the release and tour, Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell took a few moments to speak with ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Full Metal Jackie about 20 years of ‘Superunknown’ and his thoughts on this summer’s tour. Check out the chat below:
Loudwire Nights, Full Metal Jackie, very happy to say, on the show with us this evening we have the one and only Chris Cornell. Thanks so much for joining us, Chris.
My pleasure, thank you.
This year, a big year for Soundgarden. You celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘Superunknown’ with a special re-issue coming out on June 3. A really important record to rock in general. Chris, musically, what did ‘Superunknown’ reveal about Soundgarden in 1994 and now 20 years later, what about it continues to define the band?
I think the main thing is, it’s sort of unquestionably Soundgarden in every way. I don’t think there are songs on it that could have or would have been written by anyone else, arranged that way, performed that way, whether it’s the music, lyrics, the sounds.
I think we had already come into our own and had our own sound, but ‘Superunknown’ cemented it as living in its own world. It created an autonomy for us that we could make albums that were strictly Soundgarden albums that no one else was going to sound like and no one else could write. We kind of lived in our own world. I think that was important for us. I think we started out as a band that way, and I think during the early ’90s we then sort of lost the autonomy being lumped into other Seattle bands. That wasn’t bad, that was a good thing. It was great that it was us and our friends kind of conquering the world. But, it took away some of that autonomy for all of us. And ‘Superunknown’ for us, in one fell swoop, immediately got that back.
There are songs on it that just, if you look at the history of rock, they’re just nothing like anything else. And that was the beginning of it. I think that was the seed that led to ‘Down on the Upside’ and ‘King Animal’ in terms of our process and in terms of us owning who we are. So it was a good period for us. I couldn’t say that we knew that we were doing that when we were making it. We were making that album just like any album. One song at a time. Just writing songs, but it became that.
Chris, the new five-disc super deluxe edition documents the album’s creative process through demos and rehearsals. Listening to those rare recordings now, are you able to re-live the energy? Can you still feel the creative rush that you felt during those sessions?
It takes you back to the moment. I think music and the performances of it can be a time machine. Whether it’s your record or listening to a song you really love and you heard a lot when you were younger, then you go back 20 years later and listen to it again. I’m not sure how that works but listening to the demos for example, I haven’t listened to them in 20 years. I’ve heard the songs off the album a few times in 20 years, but not the demos or the rehearsals or anything like that. So it does take you back to that moment.
Often when it comes to songs, it takes me back to the ups and downs I was going through while writing it. Those inner voices, and I always have two and one says, “This is amazing, this is the best song I’ve ever written.” The other voice is, “This is absolute crap, what the hell are you thinking?” Those demos bring me back to those moments. Now, those two voices have to shut up because the songs have existed for 20 years and have a life of it’s own. So there’s more perspective, and it’s interesting.
Two of the biggest albums of 1994 were ‘Superunknown’ and ‘The Downward Spiral’ — both released on the same day. Chris, do you anticipate this summer’s co-headlining tour with Nine Inch Nails to be something of a celebration of music that continues to resonate with people?
So far I feel like it has those two components. One of looking back and celebrating the records and these moments and history. And one is kind of looking at the fact that it’s happening now in a vital way. It doesn’t feel like a State Fair tour. It feels like something that’s as vital now as it ever was. I think that’s the bigger thing to celebrate. It doesn’t feel to me like we’re doing a retro tour going out with Nine Inch Nails, it feels the same way it felt when Soundgarden toured with Voivod and Faith No More, identically.
It feels like an eclectic bill of depth with Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails and a show people will remember because of the breadth of the music they see that day. Then the other aspect is, they’re hearing a lot of songs from a lot of years of rock history. That’s like going to see The Who [laughs]. So it has both those elements and that makes me really excited.
I know over the years there’s been a lot of bands that have been asked about Soundgarden tunes and what they mean to them, how they’ve inspired them. That has to be an amazing feeling for you these many years later with these records to know how many people they’ve influenced.
Yeah, and the different types of people. I always suppose I thought of fans as being rock fans and being different versions of me somewhere. Then as time goes on and you hear testimonials like that, it’s interesting to see all the different walks of life and all the different types of people that your music might have touched or influenced that you maybe never would have thought of.
I’ve met lots of different people over the years, whether it’s mothers or famous actors or some old guy in a jazz band that discovered Soundgarden and it became one of his favorite records. Me thinking, I’m not sure I expected that. I got the sort of, “I’m a young rock fan and I’m discovering new sounds, and a new type of rock music and I’ll listen to that,” but I remember seeing an interview with Judge Ito who was the judge on the OJ Simpson case and they’re asking him all the typical silly questions, and one of them was “What kind of music do you listen to?” and he said, “I really like Soundgarden.” That had to have been one of the weirder testimonials I’ve heard.
Loudwire Nights, Full Metal Jackie. The Soundgarden ‘Superunknown’ 20th anniversary re-issue will be out June 3. See them out with Nine Inch Nails this summer. Chris, really appreciate you being on the show. I’ll see you out on tour this summer.
Thanks to Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell for taking the time to chat. Soundgarden’s 20th Anniversary edition of ‘Superunknown’ is currently available to pre-order at Amazon and iTunes, plus you can enter below for a chance to win a ‘Superunknown’ prize pack. Catch Soundgarden on tour this summer with Nine Inch Nails at these locations. You can listen to ‘Loudwire Nights’ with host Full Metal Jackie Monday through Friday at 7PM through Midnight on more than 20 stations across America. To find out where you can hear ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.