Soundgarden The Ups and Downs of Screaming Life

Soundgarden The Ups and Downs of Screaming Life
Kim Thayil never expected he would play with Soundgarden again after the group's on-stage meltdown in Honolulu in early 1997. "I think everybody had resolved that this was done and we were all going off in our own directions," the 52-year-old guitarist says. "But in retrospect, it wasn't a huge, contentious break-up. It was pretty un-dramatic." The real drama was instead reserved for almost every other band that emerged alongside Soundgarden during the late '80s Seattle insurgence, the ones that had to deal with overdoses and suicides. As the first from the scene to sign to a major label, Soundgarden were perhaps best positioned to handle the pressure of the mainstream marketplace. But that still couldn't prevent the collapse, not long after they had reached both a creative and commercial peak.

"We weren't saying no enough," Thayil admits. "People were telling us, 'The door's open now, here's your opportunity to walk through.' But if you try to do it all, you'll burn yourself out. I think in any band there are varying degrees of ambition and careerism. It's like trying to walk four dogs. At some point, everyone's smelling something different and wanting to chase after it." Surely, that's the most accurate metaphor to describe Soundgarden's initial split, but after over a decade of chasing those individual goals, the quartet have found their way back to each other, and made a new album, King Animal, that re-establishes Soundgarden as one of the most original and compelling hard rock bands of the past 30 years. Thayil, for one, is thankful it's ended up this way. "I think there was a recreational attraction [to reuniting]," he says. "We weren't obligated to do anything other than be Soundgarden. We didn't have to be entertainers and diplomats at the same time, we could just be songwriters and musicians."

1981 to 1984
Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto move to Seattle in 1981 from Park Forest, IL, a suburb of Chicago. Thayil's parents are immigrants from India, first landing in Seattle where Kim is born in 1960, then moving east five years later to obtain college educations. Thayil meets Yamamoto while at Rich East High School, and they share an interest in underground rock, following an early infatuation with Kiss and other '70s bands. Teaching himself to play guitar, Thayil forms Zippy and His Vast Army of Pinheads with Yamamoto on bass. After graduation, the pair plan on heading to Olympia, WA to attend the progressive Evergreen State College, although they end up in Thayil's birthplace, where he studies philosophy at the University of Washington and Yamamoto pursues a degree in chemistry. Thayil's roommate, Matt Dentino, plays guitar in a cover band called the Shemps, which Yamamoto joins. Dentino places an ad for a lead singer, which turns up 19-year-old Chris Cornell. Born Christopher John Boyle in 1964, he has drummed for various bands while working in a fish plant since his early teens. He sees an opportunity with the Shemps to lead a band for the first time. Yamamoto quits shortly after Cornell's arrival and is replaced by Thayil. The Shemps soon dissolve as Cornell and Thayil grow frustrated with the band's repertoire. Cornell and his drum kit move in with Yamamoto, and Thayil is invited to play guitar at their jam sessions. They officially form a trio, christened Soundgarden, a name borrowed from a large pipe sculpture located near Seattle's Magnuson Park. Their second gig is opening a Hüsker Dü/Melvins show. "We wanted to be a band that we would listen to, the band whose records we would buy," Thayil says. "We wanted to create an allegiance with an audience that would have included us when we were younger ― the way I felt about, say, the Ramones or Black Sabbath. We all had an idea about who was worthy of respect from an artistic standpoint, whether that was Pink Floyd or Captain Beefheart, or later on, the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, the Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., the Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Sonic Youth. We had to be that band that we would have sat around arguing about."

1985 to 1986
After writing some original material, Soundgarden recruit Scott Sundquist to play drums, allowing Cornell to fully embrace the front-man role. They are among the groups approached by fledgling Seattle label C/Z Records to appear on its first release, a compilation LP entitled Deep Six, released in September 1985. Others on the compilation include the Melvins, Green River, Malfunkshun, and Skin Yard. The album contains the seeds of what is eventually dubbed the "Seattle sound," a blend of punk snottiness and classic rock excess. Long hair and Northwestern thrift store clothes become the look, effectively captured by Charles Peterson, the scene's de facto photographer. Cornell is one of Peterson's ideal subjects, with his bare-chested on-stage persona evoking a modern-day Robert Plant. Sundquist leaves Soundgarden in 1986, needing to tend to his family, and the others persuade Skin Yard drummer Matt Cameron to replace him. Meanwhile, Jonathan Poneman, a Kinko's manager and, along with Thayil, a DJ at UW's KCMU, takes over booking a local Tuesday night band showcase at Seattle bar the Fabulous Rainbow. Not knowing Thayil, he books Soundgarden solely on another DJ's glowing recommendation and after the show immediately offers to finance a Soundgarden recording. "I thought the singer was some white trash jock ― the sort that would have a field day kicking effete college students' asses," Poneman wrote in Spin in 1992. "The twee psychedelia of the Paisley Underground was ruling college radio at the time. Soundgarden was more like PCP'n'Steroids Underground. It singlehandedly transformed my understanding of what rock'n'roll was, and what it should be." Thayil introduces Poneman to Bruce Pavitt, a friend from Chicago who launched his fanzine Subterranean Pop in 1982 while attending Evergreen State College. Shortening the name to Sub Pop with issue #4, Pavitt produces compilation cassettes to sell with the next five issues. Pavitt's "Sub Pop" column becomes a regular feature in Seattle music magazine The Rocket, and in 1986 Pavitt releases the Sub Pop 100 compilation LP, featuring Sonic Youth, the Wipers, and others. Later that year Pavitt agrees to help Green River record its second EP, Dry As A Bone, although he doesn't have enough money for a proper release until Poneman enters the picture.

1987 to 1988
Soundgarden sign with Pavitt and Poneman's Sub Pop Records for a $3,000 advance. The band records with local producer Jack Endino and first single "Hunted Down" / "Nothing To Say" is released in June 1987, followed by the Screaming Life EP in October. Two thousand copies are pressed, and reviews vary depending on allegiances to punk or hard rock. The band's set list includes covers of Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown" and Rush's "Working Man." On an early visit to Vancouver in February 1988, they open for Canadian punk legends NoMeansNo and D.O.A. "Being a fan of punk music at that time, you had a proper perspective on what was overblown and ridiculous about classic rock," Thayil says. "You understood that some of those songs are cool and sexy as hell and inspiring, but you also had a sense that the bands took it too far or were too indulgent, whether it was the limos or the drugs or the chicks. I wanted to be on stage with a Marshall stack, saying fuck off to the whole world, not because I wanted to party with some strippers, but because that was the perspective we had. That was there with nearly all of the bands that came out of the Seattle scene." "Hunted Down" is included on a KCMU compilation cassette entitled Bands That Will Make Money, sent out to major labels, and some in L.A. start sending scouts to Seattle specifically to check out Soundgarden. Sub Pop releases the Fopp EP in August 1988, produced by Steve Fisk, which displays an unexpected, irreverent side of the band. The title track is a testosterone-fuelled cover of '70s funksters the Ohio Players, alongside a dub version of the song and a cover of Green River's "Swallow My Pride." Fisk comes from the Olympia, WA scene and helped Screaming Trees sign to L.A.'s pre-eminent indie label SST Records. He helps broker a one-album deal between Soundgarden and the label, which temporarily defuses some of the growing hype surrounding them. SST assigns Soundgarden to producer Drew Canulette as a cost-saving measure to make their first full-length LP, Ultramega OK, and the results leave the band dissatisfied. However, critics respond positively to the album's mix of punk, metal and psychedelia ― promoted as "grunge" by Bruce Pavitt ― a sound increasingly becoming identified with Seattle. Only a month after Ultramega OK's release, Soundgarden sign with A&M Records, one of the more persistent major labels that had been courting them, and return to the studio with Seattle producer Terry Date.

1989 to 1990
Completing sessions for Louder Than Love in January 1989, Soundgarden head out on their first national tour before going to Europe in May and June. Yamamoto doesn't adjust well to the touring lifestyle, and the bassist leaves the band in July to complete his chemistry degree. He is replaced by Jason Everman, the recently turfed Nirvana second guitarist who famously put up the $600 to pay for that band's debut album Bleach, on which he didn't appear. Louder Than Love is released in September 1989, again to mixed reviews from critics confounded by the group's knack for incorporating many conflicting ideas into their overall approach. While tracks such as "Hands All Over" and "Gun" address political issues, there are also "Full On Kevin's Mom," "Get On The Snake" and "Big Dumb Sex," which send up rock's most obvious macho clichés. Live shows also commonly include straight-faced covers of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" and Cheech & Chong's "Ear Ache My Eye." The album peaks just outside the Billboard Top 100 chart. At the start of 1990, Soundgarden embark on a run of dates with Faith No More and Voivod, with the Quebec metal gods headlining in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Cornell will later admit to being intimidated by Voivod's crowd, who barely acknowledge his band. Days after the conclusion of the Louder Than Love tour, Cornell's close friend Andrew Wood ― formerly of Malfunkshun before joining ex-Green River members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament to form Mother Love Bone ― dies from a heroin overdose. Wood had been trying to kick his habit in time for the release of Mother Love Bone's major label debut, Apple, and his death sends shockwaves through the close-knit Seattle scene. Cornell writes two songs, "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down," intending to release them as a tribute single to Wood. But as sessions unfold with a band comprised of Cameron, Gossard, Ament, and lead guitarist Mike McCready, formerly of Seattle band Shadow, enough material gets written to make a full album. The project is named Temple of the Dog after a lyric from Apple, and work on the eponymous album throughout the autumn of 1990 lays the foundation for the new band Gossard, Ament, and McCready are plotting, then known as Mookie Blaylock but ultimately called Pearl Jam. In trying to persuade former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons to join the group, the trio pass on a tape of instrumentals, which Irons gives to a surfer friend from San Diego, Eddie Vedder, who briefly roadied for RHCP. Vedder writes lyrics to the tracks and lays down vocals, sending the tape back as his audition. He's invited to Seattle in the midst of the Temple of the Dog sessions, and is asked to join in. "When we started doing Temple, Eddie was just hanging out at the basement studio that Jeff, Stone and Mike have," Matt Cameron told Goldmine in 1993. "He wasn't totally acclimatized yet, so he was just staying down there, hanging out, listening to the songs we were working on. And then he started singing."

When Cornell has trouble working out his vocal part for the track "Hunger Strike," Vedder jumps in and they record it as a duet. It becomes Vedder's first lead vocal on record and soon after these sessions, Pearl Jam make their debut album, Ten. By this time Jason Everman is out of Soundgarden, replaced on bass by Ben Shepherd. Shepherd's resume includes membership in Seattle punk outfit March of Crimes, and later working as a roadie for Nirvana. Soundgarden had previously considered hiring him to replace Yamamoto but felt he needed more practice with the material. But from the moment of Shepherd's arrival in August 1990, the others acknowledge the wealth of new ideas he brings to the band. Also that year, Cornell co-produces Screaming Trees' major-label debut, Uncle Anesthesia and marries Soundgarden's manager Susan Silver.

1991 to 1992
Soundgarden record Badmotorfinger with Terry Date throughout the spring of 1991; Temple of the Dog is released in April. TOTD fails to chart, but many begin seeking it out the following year as Pearl Jam's star begins to rise. TOTD eventually cracks the Top 5 on Billboard's album chart and sells over one million copies. Badmotorfinger is released in early October 1991 and critics immediately pick up on the album's increased level of musical sophistication. Pummelling first single "Jesus Christ Pose" is a collision of metal and avant-garde elements, with Cornell's lyrics taking pot-shots at the religious right and overzealous pop stars. This stirs some anger toward the band, leading MTV to ban the song's video. Soundgarden embark on a club and small theatre tour in the fall of 1991 before a run of opening dates on Guns 'N Roses' Use Your Illusion tour. Soundgarden continue touring heavily on their own into the spring of 1992, taking in Europe and North America and even opening some shows for Skid Row, before hooking up with G'NR again in Europe. Immediately after, they set out on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour, joining Pearl Jam, Ministry and headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers for what is widely considered a major milestone in "alternative" rock's movement into the mainstream. Badmotorfinger goes on to sell over two million copies. In September 1992, Cameron Crowe's film Singles is released. Filmed in Seattle in early 1991, it attempts to capture the current cultural climate of the city and features cameos by Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Tad's Tad Doyle. Although Paul Westerberg composes the score, Crowe asks Cornell to write some original material. Only one of these solo acoustic songs, "Seasons," makes it onto the soundtrack, although another, "Spoonman" ― inspired by well-known Seattle street performer Artis ― becomes a key track on Soundgarden's next album. Despite the timing and wealth of talent involved, Singles is major stumble for Crowe, adding to the misconceptions about Seattle in the media.

"We anticipated as we started getting bigger that, oh great, there's going to be a big gold rush now," Thayil says. "I thought that Seattle was going to be like San Francisco in the '60s after the Summer of Love. All of these people started moving to San Francisco and it made the city rich with talent and ideas, but also made parts of it a big fucking butthole. I think the same thing's happened with Seattle. There's just so many people ― young people ― who come here seeking their fortune, as if there's gold in them thar hills and there isn't. The gold is in your fingers and your heart, and that can be wherever you're at. But people have come here for their fortunes, and 99 percent of them are going to fail. Ultimately, you'll see them playing guitar on the street beside a German shepherd with a bandana tied around its neck."

1993 to 1994
After a break from touring the previous autumn, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron form Hater with Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain at the start of 1993. The band is considered a side project for Shepherd, who uses it to reconnect with his garage-punk roots. A self-titled album is released by A&M in September. Soundgarden tide over fans that year with the home video Motorvision, and by contributing a new Shepherd-penned track, "Show Me," to the AIDS benefit album No Alternative. Their only 1993 live dates consist of accompanying Pearl Jam on a brief jaunt opening for Neil Young, before which Cornell shaves his head. Work on Superunknown has commenced by then with producer Michael Bienhorn, most recently credited on Soul Asylum's breakout album Grave Dancer's Union. Each member brings his own material to the sessions, leading to the band's most diverse and musically dense record to date. Cornell's contributions have a particularly sombre tone, with "Black Hole Sun," "The Day I Tried To Live" and "Fell On Black Days" emerging as standouts. The band preview the new album on their first tour of Australia and Japan at the start of 1994, and Superunknown debuts at number one on Billboard upon its release in March. It likewise receives overwhelming critical acceptance and sales eventually surpass the five million mark. Unfortunately, the heavy strain Cornell puts on his voice finally catches up with him by autumn 1994, and doctors order him to rest his vocal chords for at least a year.

1995 to 1997
During the downtime, Soundgarden earn Grammys for in the Best Hard Rock and Best Metal categories, while Thayil takes part in a session backing Johnny Cash for a track on the Willie Nelson tribute album, Twisted Willie. In 1996, Cash will gain many new young fans by covering Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage" on the Rick Rubin-produced Unchained. Soundgarden return to the stage in late summer 1995, making up for a previously cancelled European tour. Immediately after, they record Down On The Upside in Seattle with co-producer Adam Kasper. Once again writing individually, tensions arise between Cornell and Thayil as the singer's material has taken on a distinctly acoustic tone. Shepherd's contributions are equally eclectic on the six tracks bearing his name. "Collaboration was paramount in our early music, especially right at the beginning when it was me on guitar, Hiro on bass and Chris on drums," Thayil says. "Later on, it became four songwriters who played different instruments all writing guitar parts that I had to learn. That was basically the situation when we made Down On The Upside, and it kind of forced me to say, 'Well, if I'm going to have a song on this fucking record, I'm going to have to write lyrics.' So I wrote 'Never The Machine Forever.' I don't want anyone to think that that was the sum of my creative input. There are guitar things all over [the album] that I came up with, but that's unfortunately not the way we credit songwriting." Down On The Upside gets a more muted reception than its predecessor upon its release in May 1996, but still sells over one million copies. The stories of friction in the studio lead to rumours that the band are on the verge of breaking up, with their slot on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour serving as a last hurrah. By this point, Shepherd and Cameron are working with John McBain again under the name Wellwater Conspiracy, and their album Declaration of Conformity is released in June 1997. Soundgarden manage to follow up Lollapalooza with a world headlining tour, which ends on Feb. 9, 1997 in Honolulu. The show erupts into chaos when Shepherd smashes his bass during "Blow Up The Outside World," gives the audience the finger and nearly gets into a fistfight with Thayil backstage. Cornell and Cameron play a few more songs on their own, but this marks the last time Soundgarden will appear together for the next 12 years. The band officially announce their disollution on April 9, 1997, and in November, A&M releases the greatest hits collection A-Sides.

1998 to 1999
To no one's surprise, Cornell quickly launches a solo career, signing with Interscope Records and producing Euphoria Morning with future Queens of the Stone Age members Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider. The album shows Cornell's progression as a mature, introspective singer-songwriter, and is warmly received, despite modest sales. The song "Wave Goodbye" is a tribute to the recently deceased Jeff Buckley, and many hear echoes of Buckley's style throughout the album. Shepherd quits Wellwater Conspiracy in 1998, and later surfaces on Mark Lanegan's albums I'll Take Care Of You and Field Songs. Cameron is asked to replace Jack Irons in Pearl Jam for the band's Yield tour in 1998. Although it's supposed to be a temporary gig, Cameron settles into a full-time position and eventually becomes PJ's longest-serving drummer. In 2000, he has the honour of sitting in for Neil Peart on Geddy Lee's first solo album, My Favourite Headache, while also that year he and Shepherd play on Tony Iommi's self-titled debut solo effort. Thayil makes his first post-break-up appearance as part of a one-off band led by Jello Biafra and Nirvana's Krist Novaselic that play a five-song set on Dec. 1, 1999 at Seattle's Showbox Theatre as part of the massive WTO protests in the city.

2000 to 2003
After the departure of Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine in late 2000, that band's remaining three members decide to carry on with a new vocalist. Not wishing to have another rapper try to fill de la Rocha's shoes, they follow producer Rick Rubin's suggestion to approach Cornell. Cornell accept and the line-up is temporarily dubbed Civilian. Anticipation steadily builds over the coming year and in March 2002 it's announced that the group will debut on that summer's Ozzfest tour. A few days later, it's reported that Cornell has quit the project over what is later said to be a dispute between the former Rage members' manager and Cornell's new representative ― he and Susan Silver have split and file for divorce in 2003. Unfinished demos are soon leaked online, adding to the turmoil. Differences are ironed out by September 2002 when the band officially announce their name, Audioslave, and a November 19 release date for their eponymous debut, even though Cornell is in the midst of a two-month rehab stint to overcome alcohol addiction. Cornell tells Mojo in 2007 that when making the video for the album's first single, "Cochise," "They came and put me in a van with a guy who was there to make sure I wasn't given anything. I got my hair and make-up done in there, and then I was parachuted into the middle of this $850,000 video set. The shoot's over, they drive [me] back to rehab!" Reviews of the album are decidedly mixed; most who call the music uninspired lay blame squarely on Rubin's production. Audioslave goes on to sell over three million copies worldwide. The group tour steadily throughout 2003, with set lists padded with both Soundgarden and Rage material. On Oct. 28, 2003, Cornell turns up at a Pearl Jam show in Santa Barbara, prompting a Temple of the Dog reunion. They perform "Hunger Strike" and "Reach Down," with a recording of the latter released as part of Pearl Jam's Christmas fan club single.

2004 to 2006
Cornell marries for a second time, to Vicky Karayiannis, one of Audioslave's European publicists and moves to Paris where he opens a restaurant called Black Calavados in partnership with his wife and brother-in-law. Audioslave get back to work later in 2004, recording their second album, Out of Exile, again with Rubin at the helm. Released in May 2005, it debuts at number one on Billboard and reviewers note a better chemistry within the band and a stronger overall contribution from Cornell. To mark the release, Audioslave become the first American rock band to play in Cuba, a free show in front of 70,000 fans in Havana. The show is captured on the DVD Live In Cuba, released in October. On the ensuing world trek, the group deliberately drop any material by their old bands from the set, and announce that they will head back into the studio at the conclusion of the tour. Revelations, produced by Brendan O'Brien, is released in September 2006, amid new rumours that the band are splitting. There are already strong hints of Cornell's desire to return to a solo career, as his song "You Know My Name" is chosen as the theme for the latest James Bond film, Casino Royale. Tom Morello has likewise been dabbling in solo work as the Nightwatchman, and there is a strong push to have Rage reunite for the 2007 Coachella Festival.

2007 to 2009
The Rage reunion is confirmed on Jan. 22, 2007, and on Feb. 15, Cornell issues a statement that he is permanently severing ties with Audioslave. During this period, Ben Shepherd and Kim Thayil remain rooted in the Seattle scene, with Shepherd releasing a second Hater album in 2005 and Thayil turning up on projects by SunnO))) and Dave Grohl's Probot. Cornell releases his second solo album, the Steve Lillywhite-produced Carry On, on June 5, 2007. More fleshed-out than Euphoria Morning, the album is closer in spirit to Soundgarden than Audioslave. Cornell assembles a new touring band, including Edmonton-born guitarist Pete Thorn, and hits the road for the bulk of the next two years playing material spanning his entire career. Some stretches involve opening for Aerosmith and Linkin Park, and dates with the latter invariably feature Chester Bennington taking Eddie Vedder's part on "Hunger Strike." On March 24, 2009, Tom Morello plays Seattle's Crocodile Café and convinces Thayil, Cameron, Shepherd and Tad Doyle to take a stab at playing Soundgarden's first single "Hunted Down" and "Nothing To Say," with Morello later joining in for a version of "Spoonman." A few weeks prior to that, Cornell releases his third solo album, Scream, produced by Timbaland. The unlikely partnership was instigated by Cornell calling on Timbaland to remix tracks from Carry On, leading to a full-on venture into the modern pop world. Fans and critics alike are savage in their assessment, and Cornell declines to tour the album. On Oct. 6, 2009, all four members of Soundgarden congregate at a Pearl Jam show in L.A. for the first time since the 1997 split. It culminates in another Temple of the Dog reunion and leads to rampant speculation of a Soundgarden reformation.

2010 to 2011
On Jan. 1, 2010 Cornell tweets that Soundgarden are working together again. On April 16, they're booked at the Showbox in Seattle under the name Nude Dragons (an anagram of Soundgarden), and perform an 18-song set. It's a warm-up for the large-scale return on Aug. 8 at Lollapalooza in Chicago. On Sept. 28, a new best-of compilation entitled Telephantasm is released, with the previously unreleased track "Black Rain" serving as a single. The package is sold in conjunction with the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, resulting in initial sales of over one million units. The band confirm in February 2011 that they have started work on a new all-original album, and the following month they put out Live On I-5, recorded at several West coast venues during their 1996 tour, which they had planned to release after Down On The Upside. In April, they announce a month-long North American trek, kicking off in Toronto on July 2. "We were kind of clamouring for that," Thayil says. "We played a couple of shows, Seattle and Lollapalooza, and people started saying, 'Why don't you come and play in New York? Why don't you come to L.A.?' It was also a good way for us to get our chops back up and go out and address our fans, see what kind of response we'd get, gauge the audience that we still have. I'd say we were very pleasantly surprised that the fans we'd developed in the '80s and '90s were not so committed to homes and kids that they couldn't come out to see a show, or pay attention to music like they did when they were younger. Then there were all of these young fans, kids with guitars that are just starting their own bands, whose big brothers wouldn't take them to see us the first time around because they were going with their buddies instead." Cornell bookends the Soundgarden tour with a worldwide solo tour, while Cameron keeps up his commitment to Pearl Jam. In early September, Cornell turns up at Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary shows in East Troy, WI and takes part in a four-song Temple of the Dog set each night.

The first new Soundgarden song since 1996, "Live To Rise," is heard on the Avengers soundtrack. It provides a tease of the new full-length album, King Animal, due on November 13. The trademark riffs are still the band's backbone, but there is also a clear sense of maturity to what each member brings to the overall sound, particularly in the soulful edge to Cornell's voice. The album appropriately kicks off with a song called "Been Away Too Long," with Cornell asserting that "You can't go home, no I swear you never can." However, what most long-time fans will get from the album is the satisfying feeling that Soundgarden have never been gone. "I wouldn't want to use maturity as a euphemism for age, I would interpret maturity more as a different focus or a tension that we have," Thayil says. "Chris is older and he's a father now, and if I were him I wouldn't want to be screaming all the time. Would you believe him if he was doing that? You might start thinking it's a gimmick. But this is Soundgarden, so he's going to have to yell and scream, although I wouldn't expect that of him for a whole record." The guitarist adds, "We're old enough that we don't have to mince words. It's been 30 years that we've basically known each other, and all the pluses and minuses that go with that. I think everybody is really happy, or else we wouldn't be doing it."

The Essential Soundgarden

Badmotorfinger (A&M, 1991)
The first album with Ben Shepherd on bass, and the addition of his uncompromising punk rock attitude immediately changes the band's personality. Gone are the arena rock send-ups, replaced with the fearlessness of "Jesus Christ Pose" and "Rusty Cage," along with the irresistible psych-metal of "Outshined" and "Mind Riot."

Superunknown (A&M, 1994)
Some have called this their Led Zeppelin IV, and if so, "Black Hole Sun" is their "Stairway To Heaven." Indeed, there are few dull moments on these 15 tracks, with each member attempting to bend the group's overall sound to their own will. Thayil gets his best licks in on the title track, while Cameron and Shepherd push each other to ridiculous rhythmic lengths on "My Wave" and "Spoonman."

King Animal (Mercury/Universal, 2012)
They're older, and definitely wiser. Some may not yet be ready to give Cornell a shot at redemption after a dodgy decade, but what's immediately evident on chunky rockers such as "Non-State Actor" and "By Crooked Steps" is that Cornell wasn't a natural fit in Audioslave. More importantly, he's thoroughly convincing on tracks like "Halfway There," on which he asks, "Should a good life be so hard?"