Excerpt: Soundgarden on Their Past, Present and Future
In the new issue of Revolver, grunge kings Soundgarden go in-deep about their history, their reunion and their first new album in 15 years, King Animal. In this excerpt, the band detail the events leading to their breakup in 1997. For the full interview — as well as features on Deftones, Coheed and Cambira, Dethklok and more — pick up the issue on newsstands now, or in our online store right now.
By Dan Epstein, Photo by Justin Borucki
It was during the tour for Down on the Upside, the group’s most musically diverse album yet, that the Soundgarden saga suddenly ground to a burned-out halt. On February 9, 1997, over an hour into a show at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Arena that had been conspicuously marked by bad vibes and technical glitches, Shepherd slammed down his bass and stormed off the stage, followed closely by Thayil, Cameron, and Cornell. As Cornell and Cameron returned to the stage to play a brief encore, and Shepherd and Thayil argued in the dressing room, the end was drawing near.
Shepherd still fumes today when the subject of that fateful evening arises, though his ire has nothing to do with his bandmates. “I’d had it up to here with my equipment dying,” he explains, “so I wasn’t going to stand onstage and fake what I was playing. But people assumed that because I left the stage, I was the reason why we broke up, blah blah blah, and that pissed me off. Even when we were in the van driving home to the hotel from the show, some radio station that the driver was listening to was already lying about it: ‘Yeah, Ben Shepherd quit the band—his brother died and he’s really mad!’”
“I’ve read all kinds of things in the past few years that ‘substance abuse’ was the problem,” chuckles Thayil. “And it’s like, no, that was a particular aspect of Nirvana, that was a particular aspect of Alice in Chains. That wasn’t our thing.
“You could see that people were getting a little bit stressed,” he continues. “I don’t think it was with each other, as much as it was just burnout and fatigue from collectively having to attend to something that is emotionally draining, that requires your personal attention and investment. That’s what it was, more than anything else. There was absolutely no substance abuse problem there—other than maybe drinking more than a six-pack and smashing things.” He laughs.
Cornell agrees. “I think that what caused us to split apart, rather than just take a hiatus, was just that Soundgarden had become a business,” he says, “and that business had somehow, in a sense, started to be able to dictate to us what, where, and how we were going to do things, whether we were into it or comfortable with it or not.”
For the full story, pick up the November/December issue of Revolver here.