King's X's Dug Pinnick Remembers Chris Cornell: 'He Was Just So Good for the Last Ten Years'
"Good friend," is how prog rock veteran Pinnick described Cornell -- who died May 17 of an apparent suicide after Soundgarden performed at Detroit's Fox Theatre -- in a phone call with Billboard. He explains their friendship was one where they would catch up on the phone every few years and hang out at venues when their paths crossed on the road. "I'm shocked. I'm dumbfounded. I don't know what to say or think or do. He was just doing so good for the last 10 years. It didn't seem like that was where he was heading."
Pinnick, who also plays in the supergroup KXM, says he hadn't seen or spoken to Cornell in about two years. "We stayed in contact, but every now and then he would lose his phone, and he would always find me," he recalls. "I'd see a number on my [caller] ID; it says, 'Hey, it's Cornell. Are you still there?' I go, 'Cornell who?' And he goes, 'Chris.' And we'd laugh."
Pinnick remembers Cornell as "a really, really cool person. He would always kiss me on the lips every time he saw me. It was so cool," he says, laughing. "Big old sloppy kiss on the lips." The men were also fans of each other's music, and Pinnick compared their singing styles as "real high. We just have nowhere to go when we start singing. We talked and laughed about it." He says that when King's X was making its Dogman album and Soundgarden was recording Superunknown, which both arrived in 1994, he and Cornell made a pact. "Chris said, 'Let's make a deal: We'll sing a little lower on these records and cruise a little bit.' Listen to those two records. Both of us are singing [low.]"
The last time Pinnick says he saw Cornell was a few years ago. "I think Soundgarden played in L.A. on [Cornell's] birthday, and me and [some] friends went. Everybody showed up: Dave Grohl and Jerry Cantrell and a guy from Tool. Everybody was backstage, and we hung out and had a great time, and he seemed happy." Pinnick found out about Cornell's passing when someone texted the news to Pinnick's roommate early on the morning of May 18. "I just kind of sat down," he says of his reaction. "That's all we could do just like everyone else." He spent the next day sitting around playing Soundgarden. "You just couldn't do anything else. I wanted to do something productive, but a friend of mine and I sat in my office and we just talked all day and listened to music."
Pinnick also watched the interview that Cornell did in 2007 on The Howard Stern Show. In an eerie and sad piece of irony, Cornell commented on the suicide of Nirvana singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain, who died in 1994. Paraphrasing Cornell's comments, Pinnick said that Cornell expressed that it was a shame for Cobain's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain. "He says, 'You know, it's just a terrible thing for someone to do that.' Am I'm sitting there watching that thinking, 'That's what you just did. What happened? What happened in your head?' "
Cornell's wife, Vicky Cornell, and Cornell family attorney Kirk Pasich released a statement on May 19, saying in part that Vicky became concerned for her husband after speaking to him following the Detroit show. "When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him," the statement said. "What happened is inexplicable, and I am hopeful that further medical reports will provide additional details. I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life."
The statement also noted that, "Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions."
When Billboard informed him of the statement, Pinnick recounted how when he himself was taking Wellbutrin for depression for about six months. "It made me kind of numb. It made me not right. I couldn't feel anything, and so I stopped taking it. And for probably a month, suicide made so much sense to me that I think I understand now a little bit more when [people] do it … Oh, my God. Poor guy."