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Chris Cornell Dead: Soundgarden Rocker Reflects On 'Black Hole Sun' And Choosing Singing Over Drumming

Chris Cornell has died suddenly, aged 52.

18/05/2017 10:56 BST

Chris Cornell, who has died suddenly aged 52, was one of the most popular figures in rock. 

As the drummer and later frontman of Soundgarden, Chris was one of the pioneers of grunge in Seattle, alongside musical peers Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains

In an interview with BBC Music’s Matt Everitt, Chris reflected on how he first made the move from drums to microphone, and the day he first realised he’d become a familiar face far beyond Seattle’s music scene. 

“We became very popular in the Seattle underground scene right away, it was really exciting it was all original music, a bit quirky. We had riffs and odd time signatures, but we were kind of quicky. It was post-punk indy.

“We started writing songs that were more aggressive, starting to become heavier, and I had to either play the drums or sing. I had to choose one because I was n’t doing either one as good as I thought I should be doing for this band that was so important to me.

Paul R. Giunta via Getty Images
Chris started out as the band's drummer before heading up front

“In 1985 we couldn’t find a singer, I was totally open to the idea of playing drums, I loved it, so then that second period was when I became a lead singer, I wasn’t playing guitar, and I didn’t really know what to do or how to do it, and I think I dealt with that, the crazy anxiety of being in front of people by just going berserk.

“The first show I had a fever of 103 (degrees), I somehow got sick so I was delirious, I don’t remember much of it, but I spent a lot of time crawling around on the stage and jumping on people, very little just standing and singing normally.”

On suddenly discovering he was famous, with ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Bad Motorfinger’...

“MTV did the fame thing. The first day they started playing [’Bad Motorfinger’], we were in the US, I went into a grocery store at 4am, and the butcher recognised me. I thought, this is going to change everything.”

On the surprise success of ‘Black Hole Sun’, which went on to win the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance... 

“I remember finishing the demo and being really happy with how it turned out. It wasn’t an arduous process, but I wasn’t sure the band would like it. Everybody liked it straight away, but I didn’t get the sense everybody thought it would work on a record.

“We all wanted it to be on the album but it wasn’t any of us who thought it would be a single. I didn’t think, lyrically, it would be anything that would be popular. I guess the repetitive chorus and the moodiness of it, but lyrically it’s pretty dark. To think it was going to be an international hit is strange. But I guess we have to feel lucky.”

Chris Cornell died on Wednesday night in Detroit, with a representative confirming news of the rocker’s death to the Associated Press on Thursday (18 May). 

Spokesperson Brian Bumbery called the news “sudden and unexpected”.

He also said Chris’s wife Vicky and family were shocked by his death, adding they would be working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause.

“They would like to thank his fans for their continuous love and loyalty and ask that their privacy be respected at this time,” he added. 

Chris was in the middle of a US tour with Soundgarden, and the grunge band were due to play in Columbus, Ohio on Friday. 

Click here to listen to the interview with Chris Cornell in full.

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