Chris Cornell
Interview with Chris Cornell, by Gabriella
Over the course of the last decade, Seattle has emerged as something of a Mecca for late twentieth-century rock and roll, producing heavyweights such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. Although the latter three of these grunge legends have officially disbanded, the creative energy of some of the bands’ former members continues to thrive. In particular, former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell has recently resurfaced with a stellar album of vintage-sounding pop rock.

    NYROCK:

One question that I'm sure everyone asks: Why did Soundgarden break up? You seemed to have such a bright future ahead of you.

         CHRIS:

It wasn't because we had no future. It wasn't because we had no perspectives, but because of the way we handled things in the past. We always did things our own way, as a band and because we liked it that way. It was how Soundgarden worked. I think we're in a phase now where we just don't have enough enthusiasm to record another Soundgarden album and to tour. I think it's all very natural, just like everything that Soundgarden ever did. We always did what was best for the band. So if it's best not to record an album and to stop being a band, then that be it. It's not a problem for us.

    NYROCK:

And the rumors that are flying around about a reunion or a possible new album?

         CHRIS:

Yes, it is possible. It's always a possibility but only if we all want to record another album, only if we all feel that the time is right and we want to play together as Soundgarden. We won't force anything.

    NYROCK:

Is it true that you're already planning a greatest hits album?

         CHRIS:

Our record company wanted us to do a greatest hits album. Well, we thought it would be really funny to put out an album and call it B-sides instead of A-sides. We were never a band who tried to produce hit singles. I don't even think we've got something like 12 top-20 singles. That's one of the reasons why we all think the compilation should consist of rare recordings.

    NYROCK:

I'm sure a lot of fans would love a collection of rare recordings. After all, Soundgarden are something of a grunge legend, part of the foundation of the whole Seattle scene.

         CHRIS:

It's quite funny; Soundgarden were always part of a certain scene but now two years after our split, things seem to have changed. They're playing our songs on the radio, but they label us as classic rock. I'm really proud. After all, it means that they regard us as an important band. I didn't think it would happen so quickly.

    NYROCK:

But it was obvious that it was bound to happen.

         CHRIS:

It's funny; it really takes a while until you find out if a certain scene, and style or band had any influence. In the '90s I couldn't have told you, because it would have been too early and because I was in the middle of it all. Now I know that the Seattle scene changed a lot. I think we changed a lot more than most of the new wave bands or the mainstream rock bands of the '80s. All of a sudden we're accepted as a band, a timeless band and not just a band you could listen to as long as it was part of a scene that used to be hip.

    NYROCK:

The whole grunge movement originated from Seattle and almost took the world by storm.

         CHRIS:

The Seattle scene came from out of nowhere and replaced the commercial hard rock of the '80s. A couple of years later we got replaced and almost everybody in America thought that electronic music is the future of music, but it didn't happen.

    NYROCK:

I must admit, like a lot of fans, I'm fascinated by what you did with Soundgarden, but I can't help but wonder if it bugs you to talk about it.

         CHRIS:

The story of Soundgarden is my own story in a way, so why should I be afraid to talk about it? There's always a question that leads back to Soundgarden and I'm proud that I was part of the band, so why should I mind talking about it? After all, it was a great time for the most part of it.

    NYROCK:

Was it a shock? All of a sudden you're not in a band anymore. I imagine it would be like parting from a family.

         CHRIS:

It took some while getting used to it; that much is clear. Suddenly, being in an environment where you can do anything you want is something that I've never really done before, especially not on a whole album, and that's appealing. It's great being in a band, but it's also great to wake up one morning and have a crazy idea and know that you can do it. That was really the whole point of not getting into another band or a situation where it's just another collaboration.

    NYROCK:

I imagine that a lot of bands tried to persuade you to join them....

         CHRIS:

I had offers from at least 20 different bands. It wouldn't be fair to mention names, but some bands were really known, some were not, and there were countless calls from musicians who wanted to be on my album.

    NYROCK:

Euphoria Morning is entirely different from anything you did with Soundgarden, far more quiet, subdued, melancholic. Why did you call it Euphoria Morning? It doesn't seem so euphoric....

         CHRIS:

It was the process, the whole process I was in. It was euphoric in a lot of ways. Being able to record an album is a pretty great position to be in. Most people who consider themselves artists don't have situations where all they do is concentrate on an album, nothing else. There was no time pressure, nothing. I could take my time and write. That changed a lot for me.

    NYROCK:

You've been in a successful band. It looks like you're going to have a successful solo career. Is there pressure that comes with success?

         CHRIS:

Some people worry about it too much. I don't really understand it. If you're a successful musician, you're in a situation where you can allow yourself to do nothing else but write and record music and perform. You don't have to worry about a shitty job just to pay the rent. It's a pretty amazing situation to be in.

    NYROCK:

How do you think your fans will react? Do you think the Soundgarden fans will accept Euphoria Morning or do you think you'll find a completely new audience?

         CHRIS:

Of course, there are hard rock fans who only like hard rock and that's OK, but I think the majority of the people out there are rather open minded. I always liked a lot of different styles and hard rock was just one of them.

I think Euphoria Morning is an album you can always listen to, even in a couple of years; it isn't dated. That's what I was striving for with every Soundgarden album, something lasting, something you want to listen to, again and again. Since it was always part of my approach it wasn't too difficult to record an album like Euphoria Morning. I didn't have to re-invent myself.


    NYROCK:

That all sounds quite positive. Why is Euphoria Morning so sad then? I love melancholic music, but when you talk about things you sound so positive.

         CHRIS:

I think we all carry a depressive streak in us but most people just hide it. A lot of people think that entertainment has to be something loud, cheerful and happy. I don't buy into it. Depression can be very inspiring. At least for me it can be. The quiet aspects of life are very important, because let's face it, life is pretty difficult.

    NYROCK:

You mean depression is the thing everyone has in common?

         CHRIS:

I think everybody, no matter how rich or poor, how young or old, has a phase in his life when he's depressive. It's reality. Not a lot of people want to talk about it. Most people rather hide that fact, but it's just one of the facts of life that absolutely fascinates me.

    NYROCK:

But to look back at the 20 million albums you have sold must cheer you up....

         CHRIS:

I used to work in jobs I hated because I needed the money to buy a guitar. I know what it feels like to be depressed. On the other hand, I also know what it feels like to have money, to be successful, to be independent, but I can tell you that money and success never solve your problems.

    NYROCK:

How do you solve your problems?

         CHRIS:

I try to solve my problems by writing music and recording albums, but you know what's really funny about that? Once the album becomes a success, it doesn't solve your problems. It just gets harder to write the next album.

More Chris Cornell on NY Rock

October 1999


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