KIM THAYIL TALKS ABOUT SOUNDGARDEN’S CHEMISTRY

Here is an excerpt from Offbeat.com‘s interview with Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil from last month:

I gather that dealing with business was part of what brought you back together.

Business is always going to be a part of it.

[In this case, business was a big part of it. In the Internet Age, nothing goes away. The band realized it needed to put its library on iTunes. It had to deal with merchandise issues. It had music out of print, and all of that gave the members occasions to reconnect.]

A lot of it is personal. It’s everything. It’s complicated. There’s sentiment, there’s desire for creative satisfaction. Having a band succeed is a function of a lot of different things. There really is an intangible sort of—I guess some people say there’s just a “magic” or “energy” to use some goofy metaphor to describe how things click. They just work. Most bands out there that have been together for any period of time, if there’s a collaborative nature to what they’re doing, it’s a pretty good bet that they have a very rare situation. They probably played with lots of people when they were younger, and they just found one or two partners where you realize, “Wow, we’re on the same page. We’re similar in abilities and interests, we communicate well musically, we support each other and inspire each other creatively.” I suppose one’s best muse is the people you’re working with.

I’ve been in a lot of bands when I was a teenager, and I’ve played with a lot of people since Soundgarden, and though I’ve had a lot of great situations, nothing was as immediately obvious as when we formed—the first few days we played back in the early to mid-’80s.

Was there a point when you weren’t together that you realized you missed it?

Yeah, probably immediately. We knew that there were other things that we wanted to do, but we also knew that there was a risk in that situation. In a band like this, everyone is a songwriter. You want to try out different ideas, go in different directions. We grow together, we listen to the same music, but at the same time you might be drawing from other influences and you want to spread your wings creatively. I think in any risk like that, when you choose to try new situations, you understand that you might succeed, you might fail, you may be losing a great situation.

I imagine someone like Cliff Lee probably had to think about that when he left the Mariners and went to Texas. But he didn’t want to be in Texas; he really wanted to be in Philadelphia, and now Texas is in the World Series and Philadelphia is not. You have to weigh those things: what kind of team are they building here? Do I like these guys? Yes I do, and I think I might perform well. I hate to make sports metaphors, but here we are in the World Series and a couple of unlikely teams are facing each other.

I think immediately you have some degree of appreciation for what it is you’re leaving behind. You know what ways your team works for you and what ways it doesn’t. But over time, playing with other people you might realize the creative benefits of working with other people and their novel ideas. At the same time, it’s hard to replace people that clicked immediately, and have 13 years of experience and growth together. It’s hard to replace that.