The band wasn’t exactly thrilled to receive such unsparing criticism so early on this process, but as they would come to learn, Beinhorn was adamant about achieving the best results. “This record came at a time when you could really tell who the next big band was gonna be, and at that point in time, it was clearly Soundgarden,” Beinhorn said. “The entire music community was aware that if their next record had all the right ingredients it was gonna be humongous, and I had to do everything in my power to push it over the edge.”
Over the next few months, Soundgarden worked to create demos they hoped sounded good enough to everyone’s ears to make it onto the final tracklist. Chris traded the solitude of his basement for a week-long writing session at his best friend Eric Garcia’s small, octagon-shaped cabin across the water from Seattle in Port Townsend to get some more writing done. Superunknown wouldn’t suffer for a lack of preparation.
From the outset, Beinhorn was impressed by Chris’s skills as a DIY engineer. “Chris was an absolute first-rate demo-maker,” the producer noted. “He was one of those guys who could do everything. Write the music, record all the instruments, play everything himself; he had an enviable set of abilities.” Still, he got the sense that the singer was pushing himself too much. “He was kinda going off the rails a little bit,” Beinhorn said. “He was sending me a tremendous volume of music, but I noticed they were all cut from the same cloth. There was a sameness to them, and they didn’t have much purpose. They didn’t demonstrate his skills as a songwriter or a performer.”
At one point, Chris sent his producer a tape filled with eleven new songs, none of which made it onto Superunknown. “It’s so funny, but there was a point where I actually started to dread getting tapes from him in the mail,” Beinhorn said. After that episode, the two men had a conversation where Chris explained that he felt pressure to write songs that appealed to Soundgarden fans, a notion that the producer felt was counterproductive. To get him back on track, Beinhorn started talking about his musical roots and his general taste. “I was like, ‘What are you listening to? What’s inspiring to you?’ And he said, ‘The Beatles and Cream.’ And I said, ‘Write a song that’s like The Beatles and Cream.’ That was basically what precipitated the next tape I got from him, which was a home run.”
The new tape was anchored by a song that had come to Chris late one night while driving home. As the lines on the highway glided past, a dark and ephemeral melody popped into his head. It was entrancing. Once he made it back to his house, he raced to a tape recorder and whistled the part into the tiny machine so that he wouldn’t forget it.
“The first song on the tape was ‘Fell On Black Days,’” Beinhorn said. “The next song was a song called ‘Anxious,’ which didn’t get used, but it had Jerry Cantrell on guitar. It wasn’t appropriate for Superunknown, but it was great. More of a bluesy type thing. The song after that was called ‘Tighter & Tighter,’ which we did record, but never finished and they did after [on Down On The Upside]. And the last song on the tape was ‘Black Hole Sun.’”
The next day after his late-night moment of inspiration, Chris went down to the basement and started to transpose the music he’d whistled into the recorder onto the frets of his guitar. Once he nailed that part, he thought about a phrase he’d misheard recently during a television newscast that sparked his imagination. “I heard ‘blah blah blah Black Hole Sun blah blah blah,’” he told Uncut. Those three words were an intoxicating bit of imagery. “A black hole is a billion times bigger than a sun, it’s a void, a giant circle of nothing, and then you have the sun, the giver of all life,” Chris explained. “It was this combination of bright and dark, this sense of hope and an underlying moodiness.”