Soundgarden‘s Kim Thayil has pushed back against the grunge label, claiming the term was a “marketing thing” rather than something ‘90s bands embraced.
During a recent interview with Pete Thorn, the guitarist reflected on the Seattle music scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“We knew that this [sound] was something that was not necessarily going on in other scenes or other cities,” Thayil recalled, noting that he and his fellow musicians were very aware of what was happening musically in other parts of the country. “People were being very true and allegiant to the punk rock ethos, and Seattle was doing something different. We were very aware of that.”
Still, the guitarist insisted the Seattle sound’s now-famous label was not a term he and his contemporaries used.
“We didn’t think it was grunge,” Thayil explained. “That became some marketing thing later.”
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“The bands became more distinctly different with time,” he explained. “But I think that we came from a similar place initially. We were all at the same shows watching the same bands.”
‘None of Us Were Listening to Hair Metal’
The rise of grunge has often been credited with killing the bombastic rock styles of the ’80s. Thayil admitted Soundgarden and other Seattle artists were definitely going in a different direction than Sunset Strip acts, but it wasn’t a conscious choice.
“None of us were listening to hair metal,” the guitarist explained. “It’s not because we didn’t like it. I didn’t get MTV. I don’t even think I had a TV. Chris [Cornell] and Hiro [Yamamoto] didn’t have a TV. And when we did have a TV, it was just broadcast. You know how I got to see Soundgarden videos on TV? Was going on tour. If you were lucky you’d have a hotel that had ESPN and MTV. So you’d catch up on all the Mariners scores and then maybe if you were lucky you’d catch one of your friend’s videos. But I didn’t have a TV at home until like ‘95.”
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Without MTV to expose them to hair metal acts, Thayil and other Seattle rockers simply evolved their sounds in different ways. Still, there was one ‘80s group that the guitarist was turned onto.
“Motley Crue was a band that we were aware of,” Thayil admitted. “The first album, Too Fast For Love, we were totally aware of that. It was one of those bands that kind of fit in the punk rock cannon.”
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Gallery Credit: Corey Irwin