Soundgarden Clarify Reasons for ’90s Split
It’s a familiar story — band rises to fame, band enjoys excesses, tensions from said excesses cause a split. But that story is not one that applies to Soundgarden. The group famously called it a career at the height of their fame in 1997 with little explanation as to why they were going their separate ways. The sudden split left many wondering what wasn’t being said publicly, and the now reunited rockers are clearing up the most popular rumored scenarios that have gained strength over the past decade-plus.
In a new interview in Revolver‘s latest issue, bassist Ben Shepherd says it’s unfortunate that their end came close to an onstage meltdown he had in Hawaii. During said show he stormed offstage, and a popular suggestion laid the blame for the split on him. He explained, “I’d had it up to here with my equipment dying [during that show], so I wasn’t going to stand onstage and fake what I was playing. People assumed that because I left the stage, I was the reason why we broke up, blah blah, blah, so that pissed me off.” Shepherd recalls even hearing a local DJ on the radio discussing how he’d quit the band after the performance.
Guitarist Kim Thayil also addressed the popular theory that alcohol and drug use played a role, explaining, “That was a particular aspect of Nirvana, that was a particular aspect of Alice in Chains. That wasn’t our thing.” He added, “You could see that people were getting a little bit stressed. I don’t think it was with each other, as much as it was just burnout and fatigue from collectively having to attend to something that is emotionally draining, that requires your attention and investment. That was it, more than anything else.” Thayil concludes with a laugh, “There was absolutely no substance abuse problem there — other than maybe drinking more than a six-pack and smashing things.”
Frontman Chris Cornell concludes, “I think that what caused us to split apart, rather than take a hiatus, was just that Soundgarden had become a business and that business had somehow, in a sense, started to be able to dictate to us what, where and how we were going to do things, whether we were into it or comfortable with it or not.”
Soundgarden have been careful not to repeat the things that led to their split, taking more control of their music and business affairs with their reunion. They continue to promote their new ‘King Animal’ album. To read more of Soundgarden’s interview with Revolver, pick up the latest issue here.