Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil discussed he, Chris Cornell, and Matt Cameron’s thoughts on Queen and Freddie Mercury in a new excerpt from Greg Prato’s new book about Queen. Thayil also wrote about his own process of learning to love Queen. Long Live Queen: Rock Royalty Discuss Freddie, Brian, John & Roger is out now, and is available from Amazon in the UK or the US.
Thayil said, “Despite the fact that Freddie Mercury is amongst one of the greatest rock singers ever, it didn’t seem wild and heavy – which were the elements I liked in my rock. Y’know, the MC5, the Stooges, or Zeppelin. I think it was because of the harmonies – the guitar harmonies, the vocal harmonies, and his voice is so crystalline, and at times dramatic and operatic. And didn’t seem as dangerous or heavy or wild. It seemed very organised and musical.”
He later wrote, “When you get older, you get a stereo, and you flip it over to the FM station, which are more album-oriented rock, and you start hearing these deeper tracks off of Queen albums, like Stone Cold Crazy and stuff like that. And I would like individual songs.
But when I started finding bands that I could identify with – where if you liked a song or two, you probably liked everything on the album – I was probably getting into Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and then later, Stooges, MC5, Ramones. Because I conveniently turned 17 in 1977 – which was when punk rock was breaking, and I’m learning how to play guitar. It was just perfect. So, that age just happened that punk rock comes out during this arena rock period in the late ‘70s.
News of the World came out in ’77, and there’s the Sex Pistols – there’s my choice. But I’ve only got five bucks, and Never Mind the Bollocks is out there, and I want to check out that, because it sounds heavy and aggressive. And I’m at that age where I’m learning guitar, and you can’t get more aggressive than that to a 17-year-old, right? So, it just fit. Not only that, it’s not that 17-year-olds are just young and aggressive – they also tend to be going through puberty and the hormones are raging, you’re lost, you’re starting a new job, you’re learning how to drive, you’ll be starting college soon… and there’s the Sex Pistols.
So, there was a lot of stuff that I skipped in that transition for me. And there are a lot of bands, like Queen, Budgie, and even some Sabbath, that I had to go back and re-learn later on in the early to mid ‘80s, once Soundgarden got going. And Queen was one of them. Matt Cameron is a huge Queen fan. Being a couple of years younger than me, had a few more years to embrace Queen. Matt really liked everything about Queen – he loves the drumming, the guitar playing, the vocals. And Chris held Queen in very high regard – obviously because of the vocals.
It’s all so good, technically. And the songwriting: everything about it is crisp and solid.
It’s all beyond criticism.”