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Survival & Comebacks: Chris Cornell

What for you has been the best thing about getting Soundgarden back together?

Us being in a room and just playing music again and having that feel natural. The first few times we got together in 2010, we were just talking about administrative stuff. That’s not exciting for any band. But once we started playing music, that’s different.

Did it feel like coming home?

It’s like losing something that’s really important to you and then suddenly getting it back. We’re older and wiser and more understanding that this band is something to value. It’s something that happens to anybody in any relationship at some point.

When the band split in 1997, was there any bad blood between you?

We didn’t hate each other – it wasn’t that way at all. But everyone seemed to be relieved that it was over. And that was followed by a sense of bewilderment for me. Not knowing what to do with myself. I knew I would always be making music – I never questioned that. But what to do, and what does it mean?

Were you depressed?

I was, in a sense, lost for a while. Much of that time I can’t remember, because that was the period in my life when I drank the most. I was anaesthetising myself with a heavy depressant while going through a period that would be depressing anyway. It was a dark, confused period.

In all the years that followed, solo and with Audioslave, did you always believe that Soundgarden would reunite eventually?

I looked at it a couple of different ways. I felt proud of Soundgarden. It didn’t seem to me that, artistically, we made any mistakes. And we put it away in a very healthy state. The last album, Down On The Upside, was one of my favourites, and we walked away then – how great is that? We had integrity, so why fuck with it? But there was another side to it – not knowing if all four of us would agree to do it again. I never felt that it couldn’t be done or that I didn’t want to do it. It just had to be unanimous.

As a Black Sabbath fan, did you like their reunion album, 13?

I loved it. The first time I heard it was when [producer] Rick Rubin played it for me in his living room, and I was completely knocked over. I bought Paranoid when I was fourteen, and Black Sabbath killed Kiss for me. I could never listen to Kiss after hearing Sabbath – it didn’t make any sense. And those emotions came back when I heard 13. The new Sabbath songs give me that same eerie feeling.

By contrast, the Led Zeppelin reunion only lasted for one gig. Were you disappointed?

No. It had to be something that everyone wanted to do, a natural thing. If they don’t feel that they can make a great Led Zeppelin record, or their hearts are not in it, I don’t want to hear a failed attempt at that.

So what’s the difference with Soundgarden?

Something happens when all four of us are playing. It’s that chemistry – we’re the only four people who can create that sound. I’ve been through some of the most amazing periods in my life with these guys – the ups and downs and the crazy, surreal nature of what it means to be some rock band that starts out in this dusty attic and ends up playing Wembley. It’s something that you can’t create with other people, and you can’t replace it. So for us to get back together, it’s an incredible feeling.

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”