With its just-announced summer tour with Nine Inch Nails and Death Grips, Soundgarden will be significantly busier than it planned to be this year.
“Initially it was going to be nothing, and now it’s pretty full — so that’s good,” frontman Chris Cornell told Billboard last week before Soundgarden played its landmark “Superunknown” album in its entirety for the iTunes Festival at South By Southwest. “I think it’s good, too, because when I’m comparing it to previous years of us being Soundgarden, it’s on par with that. We’re out together, playing music.” To which bassist Ben Shepherd added, “It’s a good pace.”
The tour kicks off July 19 in Las Vegas and will play 23 dates across North America, with tickets going on sale March 21. Soundgarden will also play three Lollapalooza festivals in South America and has European dates with Black Sabbath, as well as Hellfest in France and a headlining show of its own in Tel Aviv and a spot on the Sasquatch! Music Festival on July 4 at the Gorge Amphitheatre near Seattle.
There was no great drama or intricate strategizing to come up with the Nine Inch Nails tour, Cornell said. “It was the way most tours probably come about, which is the tour guys think, ‘Well, what tours should we put together?’ I don’t remember when the idea came up, but it was definitely a while ago — and that was good because I think starting early usually means that you put together a good package and it can be something somewhat eventful that people might remember.”
Cornell and Shepherd said they’ve “never met or hung out with the guys in Nine Inch Nails,” including leader Trent Reznor (although NIN’s tour manager previously worked with Soundgarden), but they’ve been admirers since the days of “Pretty Hate Machine” during the early 90s. “It seemed cool, like this new sort of wrinkle of aggressive rock, but closer to Killing Joke than Metallica, which appealed to me,” Cornell recalled. “And it just seemed like everything about it was cool and aggressive.” He added that Soundgarden even liked NIN’s video for “Head Like a Hole” so much that it hired the same production company to make the clip for “Jesus Christ Pose” in 1991. “We were kind of influenced by their visual image for a second,” Cornell acknowledged.
The idea of the two bands collaborating in any way hasn’t been discussed yet. “We tend to be really open,” Cornell said, “and we’ve toured with bands that are and we’ve toured with bands that aren’t, and there’s some bands that totally aren’t set up for that. Some bands have a thing that they have to do, and the idea of a collaboration might open the curtain so people can see behind it. So you never know.”
Soundgarden will, however, be making the trek without drummer Matt Cameron, who has obligations with Pearl Jam, and will be using his hand-picked fill-in Matt Chamberlain. “Whenever (Cameron) wants to come out, he’s coming out,” Cornell noted, while Shepherd pointed out that, “We’ve got another guy with the same initials playing drums for us. That makes it real easy.” But Cameron added that Cameron will “definitely” be on board when Soundgarden starts working on a follow-up to its 2012 anniversary album “King Animal” — which the frontman expects to be hastened by the unexpected amount of work the band is doing this year. “When we’re rehearsing, going over songs, we’re always progressing as a band, beyond where we ever were, going to new places, somehow, as a group and understanding who we are and changing things in a natural way as we go,” Cornell explained. “The songs are evolving, we’re evolving, so it’s all very good. (New music) is the easiest thing to say ‘yes’ to, because that’s always happening.”
Prior to the tour, on June 3, Soundgarden will release several “Superunknown” anniversary editions, including a 5-CD Super Deluxe set. Cornell and Shepherd are certain the group will play “Superunknown” in is entirety again this year but have not determined firm plans yet.