Chris Cornell says he was “offended” when critics expressed surprise at his vocal range on 1991's Temple Of The Dog album.
The Soundgarden frontman says the album – on which he sings alongside Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder as part of a grunge supergroup – eventually led to him changing up his style for Soundgarden’s seminal fourth album Superunknown.
Cornell tells Radio.com: “When Temple Of The Dog came out, and I was getting a reaction from people…‘wow, we didn’t know you could sing’, I was a little bit offended. How did you not know – are you stupid? And then I had to stop and think, ‘wow I’m doing a lot of screaming and I’m avoiding singing.
“But that was based on the music. I was careful from the very first song that we wrote together, Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto and I, to support the music. Ultramega OK, Louder Than Love and Badmotorfinger was not music that was asking for that kind of singing.”
Cornell says Superunknown marked his progression as a lyricist. He adds: “I think I was changing my focus a little bit. I wasn’t a lyricist when the band formed, it kind of happened out of default because I was singing. I don’t think that I had a lot of confidence as a lyricist, and I don’t think that I really wanted to tell my story.
“To me, Soundgarden was its own entity, this weird, gloomy, psychedelic creature. My lyrics, early on, were more atmospheric and were there to support the atmosphere that the music created. As time went on, I think I yearned to do more with it, and that’s when I started opening the door into who I am. Had that not worked, I would have slammed that door. But it worked.
“I think at some point you have to do that to really connect with your audience, that’s a very powerful thing as well. By the same token, always wanting it to be something not so specifically about me or what I think about things, so that whoever is listening to it can adapt it to their life.”
Soundgarden release a deluxe 20th anniversary edition of Superunknown on June 2.