Kim Thayil on Soundgarden’s commercial success: “We did end up being radio-friendly, even with our weird tunings”

“Well, we brought the music that was no fun at parties to your party!”

Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil has spoken about Soundgarden’s achievement of mainstream success despite the band’s tendency to write and play in “weird tunings”.

The guitarist was speaking to Guitar World in a new interview where he discussed the band’s unexpected rise to fame, saying “When it comes to Soundgarden, we didn’t bend too far towards radio-friendly. [Though] we did end up being radio-friendly, even with our weird tunings.”

Explaining that it wasn’t just the drop D his band relied on, Thayil said: “I think it’s well-established how Soundgarden used alternate guitar tunings. But primarily, when people write about our alternate guitar tunings, they focus on the drop D, because the drop D thing that we started doing spread to Nirvana and Alice in Chains and Skin Yard and other bands. But we used a lot of tunings other than drop D.”

“One thing I think is super-interesting is the tuning Chris used for My Wave which I think is EEBBBE, and which is also used on The Day I Tried to Live. I used that tuning to write all of my color parts on those songs as well. And both of those songs were singles and videos from Superunknown.”

He added that the success of The Day I Tried to Live and My Wave pretty much sums up Soundgarden’s musical journey, saying “To me, I think that establishing radio hits and MTV videos with two songs, presumably pop songs, one in 7/4 timing that I think maybe even goes to another non-danceable time signature, I think that is paradigmatic of what Soundgarden was about, and a little bit iconic of how we would precede and ultimately incorporate ourselves into the marketplace.”

“I mean, what right does something like The Day I Tried to Live have to be on anyone’s radio playlist? You can’t dance to it. It’s no fun at parties. [laughs] Well, we brought the music that was no fun at parties to your party!”

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