It happens. Seemingly every generation with a wailing rock singer with incredible range draws a comparison to one of the greatest rock bands ever, Led Zeppelin and their frontman Robert Plant. It happened to Soundgarden‘s Chris Cornell quite frequently in the band’s early days, and Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf shares a piece of advice he once gave Cornell on one simple move he could make to help downplay those comparisons.
Speaking with Ultimate Guitar, the Monster Magnet recalls of Cornell in the early days, “What I remember was Chris was like a messianic frontman. Like, old school. Although he was doing it…not with a nod and a wink, but he was almost doing it begrudgingly. He was doing it athletically. He was like a ‘shirt’s off guy.’ And that’s why I couldn’t believe he would come and complain about, ‘Oh…these people look at me like I’m some sort of Robert Plant or something.'”
Wyndorf then offered up his suggestion. “I remember going, ‘Well dude, why don’t you put your fuckin’ shirt on? You’re sending out signals here!,'” said the singer to Cornell. “When you go out with a mic in your hand and you look at the ceiling with your shirt off, you look like you’re trying to be Robert Plant. They didn’t get it. But I think he was trying to play with it.”
Wyndorf continues about Cornell’s early struggles with the press and perception, “All I know is I remember having a conversation with him once — he was a super-nice guy — and he was talking about that. And I was like, ‘Just fuckin’ eat it up. Are you crazy? If I looked like you and sounded like you…I’d already have platforms built! Nobody cares as much as you think they do. They want you like that. They don’t mind. And the smart people will find out you’re having fun, the dumb people and the people who think they’re smart will go with the current press, which was like, ‘Fuck you if you make any money or if you have fun.'”
Further reflecting on the energy and presence of early Soundgarden, the Monster Magnet frontman explained, “Ben [Shepherd] was a maniac — he was like Spiderman on stage, jumping around, and he would drag his bass on the ground. And Chris just looked like a million bucks, and he would stage dive every night. The crowd was the most giving to a singer I’ve probably ever seen — they would float him around the crowd to the back of these theaters, up and down stairs. And he really looked like Jesus Christ. I was like, ‘This is amazing.’ And he sounded fantastic. And Kim [Thayil] was just doing his thing, just flying. And Matt [Cameron] is one of the best drummers I think I’ve ever seen. So, it was all there. It was real rock. They were going for it.”
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