Michael Lavine For their upcoming video "By Crooked Steps," Soundgarden…
- Posted on Nov 29th 2012 4:30PM by Ian Gormely
Cindy Ord, Getty
Yet guitarist Kim Thayil remained out of the limelight, even as legions of imitators made bank on his trademark bottom-heavy riffs.
With the OG grunge stars back in action, via a successful run of reunion gigs in 2010 and now, their new album King Animal, Thayil, his guitar and his thoughtful, yet casual wit are a welcome sight amongst an army of imitators.
Sitting in the bowels of Toronto's swanky Hazleton Hotel to promote said album and Soundgarden's ongoing tour behind it, the guitarist -- who was sporting a black-leather fanny pack -- revealed that he had no interest in playing "hired gun" in someone else's band.
"I declined participation in a lot of projects and collaborations," Thayil tells Spinner. "I didn't want to be part of someone else's band or part of a collaborative effort that wasn't something I started."
Instead, he would pick and choose sessions he'd sit in on, mostly opting to play with fellow survivors from Seattle's early '90s music boom. Dave Grohl's Probot project made the cut as did pretty much anything his good friend and producer Steve Fisk worked on. He even delivered some guitar work for next gen doom-rockers the Sunn0))) on their 2006 split with Japanese metallers Boris.
"I avoided playing in another heavy rock band," he says. "Which, if I'd pursued that, would have been a B-grade Soundgarden. I was perfectly comfortable denying the expected ambition of a successful pop culture participant."
He did form something of a supergroup with Nirvana's Krist Novoselic (another personality who's remained mostly absent from the spotlight), Bubba Dupree from Void and Alfredo Hernandez, probably best known for his work with Queens of the Stone Age.
"We were jamming on and off for a couple years but there was no singer. A lot of instrumental stuff and beer drinking."
Thayil, of course, is in a unique position to have been able to operate in the relative shadows. Soundgarden were one of the first bands from what would become known as the Seattle scene to get signed to a major label, enjoying a four album run with A&M records before calling it quits in 1997. Their massive success during that period gave Thayil the freedom to call his own shots without needing to cash in on his past. It's a position that in many ways is a continuation of the ethos he and many of his grunge-alternative peers learned coming up with punk rock.
"No one was ever trying to become rich and famous," he says of Seattle in the late-'80s. "It was always somewhat supportive and collaborative and not that competitive."
In fact, it's almost shocking how few public beefs have trickled out of the Pacific northwest city's tight-knit music community over the years -- anything related to Courtney Love exempted -- especially given how bright the glare from the media spotlight shown on the city during the first half of the '90s.
"There really was very little friction," he says. "It might have something to do with that particularly subculture. All these people worked together growing up, went to school together or know each other from not just musical projects.
"It was always really tight knit."
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