The following story was written by Doug Wenrich and ran in the Lancaster New Era on Feb. 22, 1990.

Soundgarden performed at the Chameleon Club that March.

Frontman Chris Cornell died last week.


Chris Cornell knew that sooner or later he and his band mates would figure out how to get their awesome live sound onto a record.

"We always knew what we wanted to sound like, we knew what we liked to hear. It took us several years to get that sound in the studio though," said Cornell, lead singer for Soundgarden, the Seattle-based rock band with a new album, "Louder Than Love," that has critics gushing superlatives and fans rushing to buy records.

"We always were considered one of the best live bands around, but it took awhile for our studio prowess to catch up. The studio can take the life out of a band," said Cornell during a recent phone interview from San Franciso, the band’s latest stop on a tour that has taken them all over the United States and soon to Europe.

But before they fly to Europe, Soundgarden will make a stop at the Chameleon Club at 223 N. Water St.

Three weeks from tonight, on March 15, music fans who crave decibels and distortion can partake of Soundgarden’s molten stew of punk power and bruising blues.

Opening for Soundgarden will be VoiVod, a Canadian band that has grafted together the precision of art rock and the punch of speed metal. The band’s series of ominous conceptual albums, including the recent "Nothingface," describe the impact of technological overkill and societal collapse.

Also appearing with Soundgarden will be Faith No More, a diverse band that uses keyboards to polish the attack of its latest LP, "The Real Thing."

Doors open at 8 p.m., the show starts at 9.

Tickets, which go on sale within the week, are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Tickets will be available at the Chameleon, Web of Sound Records, Stan’s Record Bar, and BBC Records.

"This is one of the biggest names in rock right now," says Rich Ruoff, Chameleon owner. "We’re starting to get bigger acts like this."

In addition to Cornell, who writes most of the band’s lyrics, Soundgarden features Kim Thayil on guitar, Matt Cameron on drums and Jason Everman, late of Nirvana, on bass.

Formed in 1984, Soundgarden sprang from the same Seattle scene that spawned hard rock brethren Mudhoney, Nirvana and Tad _ bands that thrive on feedback and volume like pre-fab glam bands in LA thrive on mascara and mousse.

Critics raved about the band since its first EP, "Screaming Life," was released in 1987 on independent label SubPop.

"It’s pretty strange. Ever since the first release we got a lot of critical acclaim, except for a few hardcore purist fanzines," said Cornell. "We haven’t sold all that many albums, although that is increasing, but we always were popular with critics."

Maintaining control over its major label debut was vital to the band’s integrity when it signed with A&M records to record the LP.

"It sometimes irritates me when people suggest we’ll change or whatever because we’re on a major label," said Cornell. "I guess I can understand it, because it’s happened before.

"But for us, we’d never be here doing what we’re doing now if we would have changed anything."

What Soundgarden does is fuse brutally potent music _ as potent as any metal band _ with lyrics that avoid, or make fun of, metal cliches. "Louder Than Love" is as heavy as almost anything in the record racks, but Cornell’s ironic wordplay distinguishes Soundgarden from bands that typify the metal and hard rock genre.

A Rolling Stone review said the band "pushes the envelope" established by hard rock originals Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Musician magazine said the "Louder Than Love" album "might have caused the final fissure in the San Andreas fault."

But Spin Magazine, noting the band’s fresh approach, called Soundgarden "the metal band for people who hate metal." And Soundgarden is one of just four bands to appear on both the MTV Headbanger’s Ball _ a heavy metal muscle match _ and the same channel’s "120 Minutes," devoted to so-called alternative music.

Writing intelligent, challenging lyrics isn’t easy, but it is important, Cornell said.

"It’s difficult; you can’t force it. The music comes quicker (than lyrics). It just comes when it comes," he said. "Sure, some guys say it just pours out. But if you’re writing junk like `I got a gun now I want to have fun,’ of course it’s easy."

Cornell said Metallica and a few other metal bands paved the way for Soundgarden by writing songs that dealt with weighty issues.

"Some of the bands in the begining of the decade, like Metallica, started saying things that were important," he said. "So now there are more bands, and rap artists, that are intense but have intelligent views and something to say about political and social issues. That makes it easier for us.

"There will always be kids who just want to pound their heads and pound down beer," said Cornell. "There will always be some who miss it and some who won’t. But that’s OK too."

Despite the critical acclaim, live shows _ which one reviewer compared to "seeing God in concert" _ remain the key to the band’s success.

"We don’t get a whole lot of radio play. Our method of getting through to listeners is the live performance," said Cornell. "The more we’re on the road, the more our sales increase.

"We have to work harder, but that’s OK."

Other upcoming Chameleon shows featuring major-label acts are the Feelies and the Mighty Lemon Drops in April and the Cramps in May.

 

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