On losing Chris Cornell
I missed the first wave of Soundgarden. In junior high I was more into Pearl Jam, Moist and Nirvana. I liked what was on the radio, but the albums were just something I saw in my best friend Keith's car or at my cousin Troy's house. They were HUGE fans. Like Tool, I wasn't ready emotionally or musically yet.
I got into Chris Cornell's music by hearing "Can't change me" on the radio. I bought the album right away and was hooked on his voice and lyrics. "When I'm down" blew me away, it's such an expertly crafted song and yet is so stripped down. I have gone back to that album over and over again, every song is fun to sing along with. But, I wouldn't say I was the fan I am now yet.
Everyday after school I would come home, go to the basement, noodle on the guitar and watch Much Music. Even on weekends, if it wasn't Sunday at 8:00 and a new Simpsons was on (or re-run for that matter) I was watching Much Music and noodling on the guitar. Then "Cochise" came on and my jaw dropped. The build up of the drums and guitar and then his epic voice redlining right from the start blasting out of my CRT speakers... the stage, the fireworks... it was the return of rock.
You gotta remember, after Kurt Cobain died everything on the radio and Much Music was super cheesy poppy dance music (N'sync, Brittany Spears, Back Street Boys). There was still new Pearl Jam albums ever so sparingly and I was getting more into Tool, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin etc. But nothing was new. Audioslave was here to save rock.
I couldn't get enough of Audioslave, I bought every album the day it came out and memorized all the lyrics within a month of having it. When I was singing for Nowieser I would warm up by singing the first 4 songs of 'Revelations' driving to Spruce Grove every rehearsal. I remember being so excited to see Audioslave when they came to Edmonton, I was going to see the best singer in the World play all my favorite songs. But then I got super super sick. I had to be on my death bed to miss that show, and I was. I had to give away my ticket to my friend Daniel, at least he was kind enough to come home and say "You didn't miss much, only the best show I have ever seen". Then they broke up and I missed my chance to see them but I always thought they might get back together one day to perform and I wasn't going to miss that one!
The first time I actually got to see and hear Chris live was at the River Cree Casino in 2007 about 5 minutes away from my house with my soon to be wife, Michele, and Keith. I had seen lots of live performances on youtube and thought he must push his voice to hard or he was singing too much because his voice just didn't sound right. I was expecting him to sound like that, scratchy and blown out. But I was dead wrong, his voice transcended the limitations I thought were possible at a live performance. It all looked effortless and I couldn't get enough that night. It gave me a new plateau to reach for and was a catalyst for looking for a band to sing in, I joined Noweiser shortly after that show. We didn't have fancy phones with camera's back then so I had to sneak in a little canon digital that was awesome in daylight but was blurry in low light. This was the vantage point I had that night and closest I ever got to my idol.
His Scream album with Timbaland came out in 2009, Michele and I were planning the wedding so when he was coming to town we weren't financially in the right place to splurge on tickets. I really wanted to go because I really liked the album. It was soo cool how each song was the same tempo but had a totally different feel and sound. I had my day spinning trance records and went to a lot of raves so having one continuous mix for a whole album was fascinating to me. And once again it was fun to sing along to. Keith and I were scheming out plans on the phone to find a way to go but we both had financial duties at home. I used all my Sonic 102.9 points that I had been collecting for years to win tickets to their online giveaway. We thought about just putting it on the ever growing credit cards, and not tell our girlfriends. But, ultimately we decided we were going to miss this one.
Then, I got a call from Sonic! Either the day of, or the day before I got a call saying I won. It is literally the only time I have won something on the radio, and I have been calling in quite frequently my whole life. I also thought I would be on the radio when I won, but some office worker just called and said "come pick up your tickets". I called Keith right away and told him we won! Then I went home and told Michele we won! She was quite sad to hear "we" meant Keith and I. So, we bought her a ticket as well. I can't find pictures from that show, his voice once again was amazing. I wanted to see him play Audioslave and Soundgarden songs but the majority was from the scream album, which was still pretty unique looking back at it.
We got to see Chris stripped down for the 'Song Book' tour with just an acoustic at the best venue for sound in Edmonton, The Winspear. Hearing his catalog in the simplest form was so cool to see. I was shocked at how well he played the guitar all by himself up there. The pictures I had from that night were corrupted but I did record the audio with my phone on my lap. It sounds like it was recorded on a phone in someones pocket down the street from a concert... just go get the 'Song Book' album.
I got into Soundgarden because Audioslave albums weren't coming out fast enough and I needed more. But, I was even more blown away by Soundgarden's music than anything else I have heard. 'Down on the Upside' and 'Superunknown' quickly climbed my charts of favorite albums. Why didn't I listen to them 10 years earlier? It was "fun" to sing along with Audioslave albums, it was IMPOSSIBLE to sing to a Soundgarden album. When I could get through a song without breaking up, that was all I could get through, just 1 song. That's why it was so cool to have them play the whole 'Superunknown' album at South by Southwest, I wasn't there but I watched it live online and it is amazing.
The day I saw this tweet was a very exciting day;
They were back! And even cooler was the most recent drummer for Pearl Jam was going to be with them. Oh, Matt Cameron was in Soundgarden?! We drove down to Calgary to see them in 2011. They talked the talk and rocked the rock. Such an exciting thing to see something that was just a dream at one point. I would have never dreamed of Soundgarden getting back together and getting to see them live. I am fine with the tradeoff of missing Audioslave to see Soundgarden. Calgary show:
May 17, 2017
Keith sent me a message at 4:30 in the morning about the news, I saw an alert but went back to sleep until 6:00. I was shocked when I read he was gone and took my dog, Solo, for a walk to get out of the house. I have been practising and preparing to stream my performances for a year. Things get in the way so I have been making excuses on why I can't go live, but I frantically worked for 3 hours on making it work. I had choppy video and no lights on my pedal board. The sound was delayed but I played the songs I knew to an audience of 1, and eventually 4. But I did it because I needed to pay tribute to what he has done for me. His music is a big part of what I play everyday because it really resonates with me. The first comment I get from most people after a show is "You sound like Chris Cornell" and that it the biggest compliment I could get.
I am sad he is gone. I am sad for his kids. I am sad there won't be anymore shows. I am sad there won't be new music. I am sad I won't get to meet him. But, I am happy I got to see him and he left me with so much music, inspiration and memories. Chris Cornell moulded a huge part of me and he is the shape of the hole inside my heart.