James Corden Bandleader Reggie Watts on Idolizing Chris Cornell

Reggie Watts performs in the Comedy Tent on June 14, 2015 in Manchester, Tenn.
Erika Goldring/WireImage

Reggie Watts performs in the Comedy Tent on June 14, 2015 in Manchester, Tenn.

I was a fan since high school in Montana, when a friend of mine played me “Big Dumb Sex” and it just blew me away. I didn’t even know what I was listening to. And then I moved to Seattle in 1990, right out of high school, and was just a huge Soundgarden fan. I was too young to see them in clubs, and then by the time I turned 21, they had gotten so big. But I was a huge fan of their recorded music and was listening to them all the time.

Chris Cornell was a rare unicorn. He was a ridiculously handsome man, like, come on — that Jesus look, some kind of Messianic vibe. Similar to Jim Morrison, but more of a punk, underground energy, like he was supremely tapped into some kind of creativity that people were feeling but couldn’t channel the way he could. To me, Soundgarden was picking up where Led Zeppelin left off. Robert Plant’s voice is incredible, but technically, Chris Cornell has a much more powerful instrument; he had control over the whole range of his voice, with equal power at all ends of the spectrum, which is very rare. Like, opera people have that ability, but he had it as a rock singer.

As told to Rebecca Milzoff.

A version of this article appears in the June 3 issue of Billboard. 

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