Merging the mammoth riffs of Black Sabbath with the straightforward attack of the Ramones, guitarist Kim Thayil created his own original style that helped propel Soundgarden to the top of the Seattle rock heap in the '90s. Born on September 4, 1960, in Seattle, WA (but raised in Park Forest, Il), Thayil picked up the guitar in the mid-'70s for the same reason that countless other teenagers did at the time -- theatrical heavy metallists Kiss. Upon further investigation into the masked quartet, Thayil decided to check out their influences, namely the New York Dolls. Via the Dolls, Thayil discovered punk rock -- the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, MC5, the Ramones, and others. It was around this time that he bought a Guild S-100 guitar (similar to a Gibson SG in design), which would become his trademark instrument throughout his career. In high school, he formed his first band, Zippy and His Vast Army of Pinheads, which specialized in Sex Pistols and Devo covers.
Thayil decided to attend Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, along with friend Hiro Yamamoto. Thayil worked as a DJ for KCMU while forming another band, the Shemps, with Yamamoto on bass and his roommate, Chris Cornell, on drums. Cornell would eventually leave the drums behind and become the lead singer, resulting in a name change, Soundgarden. With drummer Matt Cameron on board, the newly formed quartet built up a following around the Seattle area with their murky metallic punk, signing on with the Sub Pop label and issuing two EP's -- 1987's Screaming Life and 1988's FOPP. A switch to Greg Ginn's SST label resulted in another album in 1988, Ultramega OK, which resulted in the quartet signing on with the major label A&M. Shortly after the release of 1989's Louder Than Love, Yamamoto was replaced briefly with ex-Nirvana member Jason Everman, then permanently with Ben Shepherd. The new lineup issued its commercial breakthrough in 1991, Badmotorfinger, with further releases solidifying their standing as one of hard rock/alternative' s top bands -- 1994's exceptional Superunknown and 1996's Down on the Upside, before Soundgarden called it a day in 1997.
In addition to his work with Soundgarden, Thayil has also lent his guitar skills to recordings by other artists -- Pigeonhed's self-titled debut and The Full Sentence, the Presidents of the United States' self-titled debut, Wellwater Conspiracy's The Scroll and its Combinations, and as part of the band Dark Load on the compilation Guitars That Rule the World, Vol. 2. Thayil also performed alongside Johnny Cash on the Willie Nelson tribute album Twisted Willie, and teamed up with ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra and ex-Nirvana bassist Chris Novoselic for a 1999 protest show in Seattle against the World Trade Organization -- resulting in the 2000 release Live From the Battle in Seattle, credited to the No WTO Combo. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi