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Background information
OriginSeattle, Washington USA
GenresGrunge, alternative metal, alternative rock, heavy metal
Years active1984 - 1997, 2010-present
LabelsSub Pop Records
SST Records
A&M Records
Associated actsSkin Yard, Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Hater, Wellwater Conspiracy, Chris Cornell, Audioslave, Nirvana
WebsiteSoundgarden Homepage
MembersChris Cornell
Kim Thayil
Matt Cameron
Ben Shepherd
Past membersHiro Yamamoto
Scott Sundquist
Jason Everman

Soundgarden is an American rock band. The band started in 1984 in Seattle, Washington. The state of Washington has been a theme in many of their songs. The members before the break-up was singer Chris Cornell, bass guitarist Ben Shepherd, guitarist Kim Thayil, and drummer Matt Cameron. As of 2010, Soundgarden had sold over nine million records in the United States,and an estimated twenty-one million worldwide.

Soundgarden have released a total of five studio albums. Their two first albums were not very successful. The band's members changed several times during the 1980s and early 1990s, but Cornell and Thayil would be with the band until their break up in 1997. When Shepherd joined in 1990, Soundgarden's next album, Badmotorfinger, became a mainstream success. It was the band's first album to appear on the top 100 on the Billboard music chart and chart outside the United States. Their fourth album, Superunknown, was even more popular and made them celebrities. It sold over five million copies in the United States. Released in 1996, Down on the Upside was their fifth and final studio album and was unable to meet the sales of their two previous albums in the United States and Canada. Soundgarden broke up in 1997 after they released the compilation album A-Sides. Soundgarden is remembered as one of the big four of Seattle with Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. As of 2010, Soundgarden had sold over nine million records in the United States, and an estimated twenty-one million worldwide.


Early years: 1984–1989

Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by Chris Cornell (drums and vocals) and Hiro Yamamoto (bass); they were later joined by Kim Thayil (guitar). Thayil had moved to Seattle from Park Forest, Illinois[1] with Yamamoto and Bruce Pavitt, who would later start Sub Pop Records. The band named themselves after a wind-channeling pipe sculpture, "The Sound Garden," located in Magnuson Park, Seattle.[2]

Cornell originally played drums while singing, but in 1985 the band enlisted Scott Sundquist to allow Cornell to concentrate on vocals.[3] The band's first recordings were three songs that appeared on a compilation for C/Z Records called Deep Six. It also featured songs by fellow grunge pioneers Green River, Skin Yard, Malfunkshun, The U-Men and the Melvins. In 1986, Sundquist left the band and was replaced by Matt Cameron, who was the drummer for Skin Yard.

KCMU-FM DJ Jonathan Poneman was impressed after seeing Soundgarden perform one night, later saying, "I saw this band that was everything rock music should be."[4] Poneman offered to fund a release by the band, so Thayil told him to team up with Bruce Pavitt. Poneman offered to contribute $20,000 in funding for Sub Pop, effectively turning it into a full-fledged record label.[5] The band signed to Sub Pop, releasing the Screaming Life EP in 1987, and the Fopp EP in 1988. A combination of the two was issued as Screaming Life/Fopp in 1990.

Though the band was being courted by major labels, in 1988 it signed to the lesser known SST Records to release its debut album, Ultramega OK, for which the band earned a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1990. The band's first music video, "Flower", was directed by Mark Miremont, and aired regularly on MTV's 120 Minutes. Soundgarden supported Ultramega OK with a tour of the United States in the spring of 1989 and a tour of Europe which began in May 1989 and which was the band's first overseas tour.[6]

In 1989, the band released their first album for a major label, Louder Than Love, through A&M Records. The signing caused a bad relations between Soundgarden and its traditional audience. Thayil said, "In the beginning, our fans came from the punk rock crowd. They abandoned us when they thought we had sold out the punk tenets, getting on a major label and touring with Guns N' Roses. There were fashion issues and social issues, and people thought we no longer belonged to their scene, to their particular sub-culture."[7] Louder Than Love became the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 108 on the chart in 1990. Because of some of the song lyrics, most notably on "Hands All Over" and "Big Dumb Sex", the band faced various retail and distribution problems upon the album's release.[8]

A month before touring for Louder Than Love was released, bassist Hiro Yamamoto left to go back to college.[9] He was replaced by former Nirvana bassist Jason Everman. Soundgarden went on a North American tour that startet in December 1989 and ended in March 1990. On this tour the band served as the opening act for Voivod on the band's Nothingface tour, with Faith No More also serving as an opening act at the beginning and end of the tour.[9] The band then went on to tour Europe. Bassist Jason Everman was fired immediately after Soundgarden completed its promotional tour for Louder Than Love in mid-1990. Louder Than Love spawned the EP Loudest Love and the video compilation Louder Than Live, both released in 1990.

Badmotorfinger: 1990–1993

Bassist Ben Shepherd joined Soundgarden in 1990. Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger in 1991. Although overshadowed at the time of its release by the sudden popularity of Nirvana's Nevermind, the focus of attention brought by Nevermind to the Seattle scene helped Soundgarden gain attention. The singles "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" were able to find an audience at alternative radio and MTV. The first single from Badmotorfinger, "Jesus Christ Pose", garnered attention when MTV decided to ban its music video in 1991.[10] Many listeners were outraged by the song and its video, calling it anti-Christian. The band received death threats while on tour in the United Kingdom in support of the album.[11] Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1992.

Following the release of Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden went on a North America tour that startet in October 1991 and ended in November 1991.[12] Afterward, the band took a slot opening for Guns N' Roses in North America on the band's Use Your Illusion Tour. Soundgarden was personally selected by Guns N' Roses as its opening band.[13] The band took a slot opening for Skid Row in North America in February 1992 on the band's Slave to the Grind tour,[14] and then headed to Europe for a month-long headlining theater tour.[15] The band returned for a tour of the United States and subsequently rejoined Guns N' Roses in the summer of 1992 in Europe as part of the Use Your Illusion Tour along with fellow opening act Faith No More.[15] Regarding the time spent opening for Guns N' Roses, Cornell said, "It was not a whole lot of fun going out in front of 40,000 people for 35 minutes every day. Most of them had not heard our songs and did not care about them. It was a bizarre thing."[11] The band would go on to play the 1992 Lollapalooza tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Ministry, among others. The band later released the video compilation Motorvision, which was filmed at the Paramount Theatre in 1992. The band also made an appearance in the movie Singles performing "Birth Ritual". The song appeared on the soundtrack, as did a Chris Cornell solo song, "Seasons".

Superunknown: 1994–1995

Soundgarden released Superunknown in 1994 and became the band's best-selling album, driven by the singles "Black Hole Sun", "Spoonman", "My Wave", and "Fell on Black Days". Upon its release in March 1994, Superunknown debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart.[16] The songs on Superunknown captured the creativity and heaviness of the band's earlier works, while showcasing the group's newly evolving style. Lyrically, the album was quite dark and mysterious, as much of it is often interpreted to be dealing with substance abuse, suicide, and depression. The album was also more experimental than previous releases, with some songs incorporating Middle-Eastern or Indian music. Reviewer J.D. Considine of Rolling Stone said Superunknown "demonstrates far greater range than many bands manage in an entire career." He also stated, "At its best, Superunknown offers a more harrowing depiction of alienation and despair than anything on In Utero."[17] The music video for "Black Hole Sun" became a hit on MTV and received the award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. Soundgarden won two Grammy Awards in 1995; "Black Hole Sun" received the award for Best Hard Rock Performance and "Spoonman" received the award for Best Metal Performance.

Soundgarden startet the tour in January 1994 in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand,[18] areas where the record came out early,[19] as well as regions where the band had never toured before.[20] This round of touring ended in February 1994, and then in March 1994 the band moved on to Europe.[18] The band began a theater tour of the United States on May 27, 1994,[21][18] with the opening acts Tad and Eleven.[19] In late 1994, after touring in support of Superunknown, doctors discovered that Cornell had severely strained his vocal cords. Soundgarden canceled several shows to avoid causing any permanent damage. Cornell said, "I think we kinda overdid it! We were playing five or six nights a week and my voice pretty much took a beating. Towards the end of the American tour I felt like I could still kinda sing, but I was not really giving the band a fair shake. You do not buy a ticket to see some guy croak for two hours! That seemed like kind of a rip off."[22] The band would make up the dates later in 1995.[23]

Down on the Upside: 1996–1997

The band's last studio album was Down on the Upside released in 1996. Four singles where released from the album: "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World", "Burden in My Hand", and "Ty Cobb". The album was notably less heavy than the group's previous albums, and marked a further departure from the band's grunge roots. Soundgarden explained at the time that it wanted to experiment with other sounds.[24] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly said, "Few bands since Led Zeppelin have so crisply mixed instruments both acoustic and electric."[25] However, tensions within the group startet during the sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell's desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become the band's trademark.[26] Despite favorable reviews, the album did not match the sales of Superunknown.[27]

The band took a slot on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour with Metallica, who had insisted on Soundgarden's appearance on the tour.[28] After Lollapalooza, the band embarked on a world tour.[29] Tensions continued to increase during the tour in support of the album. When asked if the band hated touring, Cornell said, "We really enjoy it to a point and then it gets tedious, because it becomes repetitious. You feel like fans have paid their money and they expect you to come out and play them your songs like the first time you ever played them. That's the point where we hate touring."[30] At the tour's final stop in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 9, 1997, Shepherd threw his bass into the air in frustration after suffering equipment failure, and subsequently stormed off the stage.[31] The band retreated, with Cornell returning to conclude the show with a solo encore.[32] On April 9, 1997, the band announced its disbanding. Thayil said, "It was pretty obvious from everybody's general attitude over the course of the previous half year that there was some dissatisfaction."[33] Soundgarden's final release, a greatest-hits compilation titled A-Sides, was released the following fall.


Chris Cornell released his debut album in September 1999, titled Euphoria Morning. Later, in 2001, he formed the supergroup Audioslave with the former members of Rage Against the Machine. Cornell recorded three albums as Audioslave's vocalist until the bands breakup in early 2007. His second solo album Carry On was released to mixed commercial success in June 2007.

Kim Thayil befriended ex-Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra, former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Gina Mainwal for one show, performing as the No WTO Combo during the WTO ministerial conference in Seattle on December 1, 1999. Thayil later contributed guitar tracks to Steve Fisk's 2001 album 999 Levels of Undo, as well as Dave Grohl's side-project album Probot, released in 2004. In 2006, Thayil performed guitar on the album Altar, the collaboration between the bands Sunn O))) and Boris.

Matt Cameron turned his efforts to his side-project Wellwater Conspiracy, to which both Shepherd and Thayil have contributed. He then worked briefly with The Smashing Pumpkins and was even rumoured as a replacement for Jimmy Chamberlin. In 1998, he stepped in on drums for Pearl Jam's Yield Tour, and subsequently joined the band as a permanent member.

Ben Shepherd was the vocalist on Wellwater Conspiracy's first studio album, Declaration of Conformity, released in 1997, however he left the band in 1998. He has toured with Mark Lanegan and released the second Hater album in 2005.

Regarding a future Soundgarden reunion, Cornell stated in an October 2005 interview that it would "probably not happen". He continued, "It's almost like we sealed the lid and said, this is Soundgarden and this is its lifespan, and put it out there. And it looks really great to me. I think getting back together would take the lid off that and then could possibly change what... to me seems like the perfect lifespan of the band. I can not think of any reason to mess with that."[34] In interviews following his departure from Audioslave in February 2007, Cornell reiterated that the members of Soundgarden had no interest in reuniting.[35] In an interview in early August 2007, Cornell mentioned that Thayil has wanted to release a box set or B-sides album of Soundgarden rarities, although no further information was given.[36]



Album US
1988 Ultramega OK
1989 Louder Than Love 108
1991 Badmotorfinger 39 39
1994 Superunknown 1 4
1996 Down on the Upside 1 7
1997 A-Sides 63 90
2010 Telephantasm.


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