Song Writing

Dark Black and Blue: The Soundgarden Story - An Excerpt

by Greg Prato

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There have been countless books penned about the leading grunge bands - namely, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Surprisingly, few have been assembled about the mighty Soundgarden. But this is about to change, with the arrival of my 28th book overall, Dark Black and Blue: The Soundgarden Story.

The book tells the Seattle band's complete story - beginning with its members' pre-SG days, all the way to today. Also featured are all-new interviews for the book, including chats with Matt Pinfield, Phil Anselmo, and Marky Ramone, among others, as well as rarely-seen photos from throughout the band's history.

In addition to dissecting and analyzing all of their albums (including such classics as 1991's Badmotorfinger, 1994's Superunknown, 1996's Down on the Upside, etc.), readers will learn about the stories behind many of their classic songs ("Black Hole Sun," "Jesus Christ Pose," "Outshined," "Hands All Over," "Flower," etc.), as well as recollections of tours (Lollapalooza, Guns N' Roses, Neil Young, Faith No More, Blind Melon, Nine Inch Nails, etc.), goings on behind the scenes, and singer Chris Cornell's surprising and tragic death in 2017.

Below are excerpts from some of the all-new interviews conducted exclusively for the book...


Phil Anselmo
Pantera and Down singer, toured with Soundgarden in 1992

In an interview with Loudwire in 2013, you called Chris "The Best Modern-Day Rock Vocalist."

If the man was still alive, I would probably feel the same way. He's got all of the earmarks of a classic rock vocalist. He's got it all. Put it this way - when I first started listening to Soundgarden in 1989, he reminded me at times of a very young, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath-era Ozzy Osbourne. He also reminded me of Robert Plant. And then later, to my ears, he sounded like John Fogerty. That's a great mixture of rock voices that are staples. He had all of that going for him.

It's a pronunciation thing, it's absolutely a range thing. I would think he was a tenor, and he utilized it greatly. And another thing - and this is coming from a singer - he could switch from full-out voice, and slip directly into falsetto pretty seamlessly. And that is not as easy as it seems. It's actually pretty tough. It's tough for me - it was always tough, because I never had a falsetto. Back in the day when I was hitting high notes, I was doing like, Rob Halford - and that was full-out, singing full-voice. I talked to Terry Date about Chris, and how he used his voice - especially when we were recording Cowboys from Hell. And I was surprised that he did use the falsetto as much as he did, but still, it's evident to me - his ability to slip between the full-voice and falsetto-voice was pretty uncanny.


Dave Wyndorf
Monster Magnet singer/guitarist, toured with Soundgarden in 1992

When did you first discover and hear Soundgarden?

In the late '80s. I think probably the first record I heard from them was a single I think, and I remember Ultramega OK in my head very strongly - because it had some great songs on it. They were just amazing. And I saw them in '89 - they co-billed with Mudhoney at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, and it was fuckin' great. I was like, "ROCK IS BACK!"

Both of those guys, they were firing on all cylinders that night. That show, the minute it got me was Soundgarden was good on record, but it wasn't anything like they were live. They needed the volume. The whole show itself was amazing, because Mudhoney was one of my favorites, so it was just like, this is so much rock in one room, when there hadn't been any fuckin' rock around. In '89, there was plain old punk rock, grown up punk rock, and we didn't get much of the stuff that was coming out of England—some of the cooler stuff. So, this was just amazing. This was like, the real deal.

Soundgarden came on, and I think they opened. And the first thing they played was "Working Man" by Rush... and then went into "Communication Breakdown" [by Led Zeppelin]! It was like a split song - they went right into it. It just completely freaked me out. It's exactly what they wanted. I think they were playing it as a goof - trying to make fun of old rock. And those guys were pretty much from a punk rock pedigree - at least their attitude was. Long-haired punk rock, but punk rock anyway - and very "indie scene-y." So, they were doing it as, "As a 'wink,' we're going to do the dumbest song in the world, 'Working Man.'" But the way they did it was fuckin' great. I was just like, "Yeah. This is exactly what I want. I want to see a band do 'Working Man' and 'Communication Breakdown.'" And with Cornell singing it, you can just imagine how great it was.

Gillian Gaar
Journalist, author (Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana, She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll, World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story)

How would you compare Andy Wood as a performer to Chris?

A totally different kind. It was like the difference between Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury - and you know who the Freddie Mercury is in this one. Andy was flamboyant, and he just had such fun with it. And that's what made you love him - he was having such a good time. I remember seeing him at the Vogue - it was one of his last performances. I think it must have been that they could just do a show that night, because there weren't that many people there. And they were already signed with PolyGram, so they were on the way up. And you'd think Andy was playing an arena - the way he was out there. He was joyful... and playful. Chris... well, none of Soundgarden really came off as "playful."

Marky Ramone
Ramones drummer, toured with Soundgarden on Lollapalooza '96

Soundgarden were big Ramones fans.

We met them on the tour [Lollapalooza 1996], and they were always fans. So were the other grunge bands - Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etcetera. But Soundgarden - to me - was the more forceful, with a singer that definitely had more of an operatic voice. He was a real singer - he wasn't just a screamer. I thought Chris was great. And he looked great. And Matt Cameron was definitely a great drummer, and Kim, what a guitar player.

It's funny - they all wanted to come into the van. [Laughs] They had this great tour bus, and we had a 15-passenger Ford Econoline, and they wanted to drive with us in the van. That was one thing I remembered on the Lollapalooza tour. They were one of the headliners. And at that moment, they were huge. They kept humming songs when they were around us that they knew of the Ramones - as if to let us know that they really were fans. We always waited for them to play. A lot of the times, we would just leave, but most of the times, we would wait until they came on stage - and they kicked ass. For their genre, they were the best band.

Matt Pinfield
DJ and VJ, former host of MTV's 120 Minutes

What do you recall about Soundgarden's music videos, and which are your favorites?

The thing that was really cool about Soundgarden videos was when they would do alternate versions - like "Fell on Black Days," where the vocal is a different vocal, completely. But I think "Black Hole Sun" remains one of the best, because it was creepy, dark, it was innovative - especially for its time. When you think about what they were doing, and the animated effects. I don't think anybody who saw "Black Hole Sun" ever forgot that video... no one would ever forget it. I'm sure it gives nightmares to some people. [Laughs] I think it was freaky, but beautiful at the same time. So, that's my favorite of them all. And I do love the "Rusty Cage" video. Those were some of my favorites.

They were honestly one of my favorite bands of all-time. I love those guys. I'm so glad I had a great relationship with them. Just them being such great guys... it was like a lot of Seattle bands, I was trusted by them, so a lot of those guys wouldn't let a lot of people in their circle. But I was really happy that Soundgarden did, and that just added to the fact that I was already such an incredible fan, and they were one of my favorite bands. That's one of the things I look back on and it's a great memory. And I wrote some of the liner notes in the Telephantasm box set. There are three versions - the short version, the deluxe edition, and the super deluxe edition. I was honored to do that for the super deluxe edition.

Losing Chris was truly one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. I can be honest with you and say that. Even one of the last times I saw the band live - on the Nine Inch Nails tour - Chris wasn't really seeing a lot of people. It was when there was a stalker after him, and she was nuts - this woman was breaking into his properties. He was a little freaked out. But I went backstage, sat, and talked. We talked about movies and we talked about life. I loved him for a lot reasons. Losing him was devastating. And we were close - even through the Audioslave years. And I love Ben, Kim, and Matt, too.

September 20, 2019
Here is the ordering info for Dark Black and Blue: The Soundgarden Story.
photos: Kurt Christensen
Soundgarden Songfacts

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