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Soundgarden's Chris Cornell
July 20, 1962 (age 48)

Soundgarden is "ready to kick it up a notch, sonically" as it heads into the studio next week to start work on its first new studio album in a decade and a half.

Drummer Matt Cameron tells Billboard.com that "there's a little bit of evolution going on with some of this new music, but we're not straying too far from the formula. It has all our signature elements -- and more. I think people are going to really love it."

Cameron says that after reuniting in 2010 for a few shows, including Lollapalooza, and the release of the "Telephantasm" compilation, Soundgarden got together in early December to "see if we could actually get the old juices flowing again. Lo and behold, we were able to write a bunch of really cool songs, and I think we're at the stage now where we want to just put them onto tape, or ProTools, and take it from there."

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The writing session generated 12-14 songs that Cameron says "are kind of ready to go," but he also expects that "once we get into a studio environment, we'll come up with new ideas and rearrange what we have." The existing songs, he says, are "about 90 percent new," but some draw on ideas that date as far back as 1996's "Down on the Upside," as well as some riffs he wrote around 2008. "We've tried to update the super-old stuff," he says. "It doesn't sound too old and dusty and crusty to my ears -- but maybe to someone else it will. I think guitar-based music is not really as popular as it has been in the past, so it might sound kind of out of date or out of tune with what's going on right now. Or it might be a breath of fresh air to have an unabashedly loud guitar band out there."

Well before a new album comes out, however, Soundgarden will deliver "Live on I5" on March 22, the group's first official concert album that was recorded during West Coast dates on its final tour in 1996. The set includes favorites such as "Spoonman," "Rusty Cage," "Fell on Black Days" and "Black Hole Sun," as well as covers of the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" and the Stooges' "Search & Destroy."

"Pretty soon after we got home from that tour we broke up," Cameron says, "so those tapes were just collecting dust. Once we got them out and we listened to them, we realized we had a pretty cool record that we could certainly include in our relaunching of the catalog."

"Live on I5" will give the group a bit of a buffer for making its new album, and Cameron says Soundgarden has no desire to rush anything into the world. The group does hope "to do some (live) playing this summer, for sure," but no dates are in place yet. And Soundgarden will also be competing with frontman Chris Cornell's solo tour, which kicks off April 1 in Austin, Texas, and Cameron's obligations to Pearl Jam as it celebrates its 20th anniversary with some expected festival-style performances in the fall and continues work on its own new album.

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"We just have to take (Soundgarden) one step at a time," Cameron says. "I think we just naturally decided to play music together again because that's what we enjoyed the most. It's still kind of a natural band. To lock up in a room together and write music together and play together that is uniquely our own thing feels very right again."