Chris Cornell and the Early Years of Soundgarden

In the week since Chris Cornell died, there’s been a definite uptick when it comes to interest in Soundgarden. Billboard has this article on the early days of the band.

Evan Schiller didn’t know Chris Cornell very well — when it came down to it, few people really did — but the drummer for the ’90s Seattle band Sadhappy cherishes one particular memory of the late Soundgarden frontman. It was December 1991, and their mutual friend Soozy Bridges was throwing a party at her beachfront house in West Seattle. On what was perhaps the coldest day of the year — “19 degrees out, snowing,” in Schiller’s recollection — he and about 10 others gathered outside around a roaring bonfire. Around midnight, Cornell showed up.

“He didn’t make a big production of it, but he proceeded to rip off his shirt and pants and jump into the pitch-black Puget Sound,” says Schiller. Cornell quickly swam out so far that no one could see or hear him. “We were all freaking out, going, ‘Holy shit! What do we do? Call 911?’ ” recalls Schiller. “Then Soozy says, ‘Oh, he always goes out swimming in the Sound at night.’ But he was out there for five minutes, then 10, then 15 or 20 — it could have been as long as half an hour.”

Schiller couldn’t imagine how anyone survived that long in those frigid waters. “Finally, Chris emerges like Neptune,” he says. “And then he starts picking up people from the party — he was lifting 200-pound guys and carrying them down to the water and throwing them into the Sound, laughing maniacally the whole time.”

This was Chris Cornell in what Van Conner, guitarist for Cornell’s contemporaries Screaming Trees, calls “commando mode.”

If you’re a fan, you must keep reading. Thanks to Michael for the link.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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