Chris Cornell has a very practical approach to Soundgarden these days. He does what he does because he and his band like it, not because a record company says they have to.
You’ve been doing a lot of solo touring. How different is the mindset for doing that from the mindset you have to have for these Soundgarden shows?
Lately I’ve been doing what I call the Songbook tour, which is pretty much just me and an acoustic guitar, so it’s about as opposite as you can get. … The only way to get any further away is if it was just me and a puppet. Then it would be a completely different genre of entertainment. And in that way, you don’t really have to strive for balance. One kind of takes care of the other.
After touring around for a month and a half, doing that [acoustic tour], I was really looking forward to getting in the studio with Soundgarden and playing loud, aggressive rock music and then after doing that for a while it will feel great to just sit alone and play an acoustic guitar, so in that way I think I’m pretty fortunate to be able to have such dramatic extremes happening.
On these new dates are you guys doing any of the new stuff you’ve been recording?
I’m not sure if we will do that now mainly because we haven’t toured in 12 years or whatever it’s been. It’s hard to actually come up with a set list that’s inclusive of all the stuff that we would play even if we weren’t working on new material. We felt like we haven’t played in so long, haven’t toured and haven’t played in front of these different people in so long. How are we going to really make everyone happy? We don’t want people to show up and be like “It was great, but they didn’t play this or that.” So to throw in new material, we don’t know if it’s something we want to do right now.
From the new songs, is there anything you’re really psyched about that’s almost ready to go, that you would love to play?
The whole album is close enough that I kind of get a sense of the overall feeling of it and I’m pretty happy with that. It’s pretty great. It’s very different. But then again, they all were, so it’s not like we completely changed. Musically, at some point, I think we were always kind of doing that. And there’s always familiar elements going on but it’s also new.
Is there any feeling of proceeding with caution as far as hoping you don’t get involved in any of the pitfalls that caused the tension that led to the breakup?
Well, I think the main one is avoiding concerns about scheduling. I suppose there was always a factor of record companies worrying about competition, other record labels and what they’re releasing by what bands that would be in direct competition with our band. And that’s concerned with a lot of different things — with touring, with radio airplay, with TV airplay and all the things that go along with it. And we’re not really in that position anymore. We’re just Soundgarden and we’re just in that stage of being a band that there isn’t really competition. There isn’t really another band that can rush in and take our place if we’re not ready.