Soundgarden bassist Ben Shepherd has recalled how he learned to play guitar before he even had one.
All four members of the iconic outfit have spoken in a Guitar Center video to mark the 20th anniversary of groundbreaking album Superunknown. View it below.
Shepherd tells how, as a boy, he told his stepfather he wanted to be a musician, and was presented with a large book of chords. And all he had to work with was a disconnected guitar neck.
The bassist explains: “My stepdad said, ‘Okay, if you can learn every chord in this book I’ll get you a guitar.’ So I did; I sat down with a neck – no strings, nothing, just a neck – and I learned every chord possible out of that book. And I got a guitar.”
His passion for just playing has never diminished, he admits. “It took me until we reunited to find that Kim Thayill wrote Superunknown with Chris Cornell,” Shepherd says. “I thought that was just a Chris riff. I never paid any attention; I was just like, blaring guitars, ‘Alright, let’s play!’”
Bandmate Thayill recalls his own parents thought his response to music was strange. “At a young age I’d have strong emotive responses to pop songs,” he says. “A certain song would come on the radio and I’d start crying; another song would come on and I’d start getting more excitable.”
And frontman Cornell remembers the idea of aspiring to rock stardom wasn’t even considered. “If you were a kid in Seattle growing up you didn’t have a hope of ever being a famous musician,” he says. “We didn’t know any. It wasn’t until I was in my first band, in the first week, I realised: this is what I want to do.”
Soundgarden are currently touring without drummer Matt Cameron, who’s busy with Pearl Jam. He’s been replaced by Matt Chamberlain, who was also once a member of Eddie Vedder’s band. They return to the UK in July to play the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park with Black Sabbath, Faith No More, Motorhead and others.