Soundgarden Superunknown producer Michael Beinhorn discussed Soundgarden recording with Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell in a new Cobras and Fire interview.
“I asked Chris – because we were talking about doing something that would be more of an expression of him, I was saying to him, ‘Go inside, connect with yourself, make music, write songs that really come from you.’ And, you know, I was like, ‘What are you listening to right now? What music do you love?’ And he said, ‘The Beatles and Cream.’ And I was like, ‘OK, write a song that sounds like The Beatles and Cream.’
And he was like, ‘Well, what if it doesn’t sound like Soundgarden?’ And I said, ‘Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound like Soundgarden. When you guys get together and play the song, it will be Soundgarden because you are Soundgarden – it’s really simple.’ And he’s like, ‘OK, I got it.’ I was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, man, just roll with this, it’s going to be great.’
Two and a half, three weeks after the conversation, he sends me this cassette tape; it’s got four songs on it. The first song was ‘Fell on Black Days.’ The minute I heard it, I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, OK, this is really good.’ The next song was the song that I’m hearing [Alice in Chains guitarist] Jerry Cantrell coming in and playing guitar – we didn’t use it, it was too bluesy, but it’s still really good.
The third was a song called ‘Tighter & Tighter,’ which wound up on the record after the one that we did [1996’s ‘Down on the Upside’], and I was very sad about that because I actually liked that song very much, and I would’ve loved it to have it on ‘Superunknown.’ And we actually began to record it, but the band didn’t want to keep going with it. And the last song was ‘Black Hole Sun.’ And from the very moment I started listening to it, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know what this is, I’ve never heard anything like this before, but it is so good.’
I just waited for the thing to fall apart because usually when people start out a song with a really great intro it falls apart somewhere. So I’m always waiting for this point where the song is gonna dissolve. And I’m gonna be like, ‘OK, this is where my heavy-lifting part comes in, I have to find a way to make this thing work…’ And it never happened. That moment never came for me.
I just kept listening to it, waiting for something to fall apart, and it didn’t. And I wound up listening to the song 15 times in a row, and I was like each time I listened to it, I was more into it, and I was more captivated and engaged with it. And I called Chris up and I said, ‘You know something? You’re a fucking genius. You’ve written an amazing song.’ He was like, ‘Really? Why?’
I was like, ‘The song.’ And he’s like, ‘Which one?’ And that’s where I started to realize that he didn’t even know what he had. Some know what they’ve got, and sometimes people are like, ‘Eh…’ I called the rest of the guys in the band the next day, and I was like ‘Do you believe this song?’ And they were like, ‘Which song?’ ‘That ‘Black Hole Sun’ song he wrote, of course.’
And they’re all, ‘It’s OK, we’ll see if we record it.’ I was like, ‘What?! We can’t be talking about the same song here – you got to be kidding me! The thing I heard is amazing…’ ‘Eh, we’ll see…'” A fan named BurdenInMyHand1996 posted on Reddit about the power of Chris Cornell’s voice, “He beats Robert Plant & Freddie Mercury. He was very intimate and very emotional. He is very underappreciated and unrecognized. Rest easy, a legend forever.”
VeddieEdder10 responded, “Man… I read that sentence a couple times but I just have to agree with you on that! Chris could do anything with his voice with so much ease and still rock you to the core with emotion. He could even go absolutely nuclear with it whenever he wanted to, like in Cochise and Beyond The Wheel.”
Ultimate-Guitar transcribed Beinhorn’s comments.