For at least two months after Chris Cornell died a year ago, I didn’t listen to any Soundgarden music or any other Cornell music at all.
And I avoided all videos or Cornell-related content.
I wrote something here right after his death was announced: and something a few months later when Cornell’s friend Chester Bennington committed suicide on Cornell’s birthday.
But, aside from that, I went cold-turkey. I was too upset, too emotional, about Cornell to carry on business as usual: and business as usual, for me, would’ve been to be listening to Soundgarden or Audioslave tracks or albums at least once or twice a week.
Within a couple of months, however, I started to come back: and was eventually listening to Down on the Upside or Badmotorfinger two or three times a week. And watching old Soundgarden shows or Cornell interviews. I was even digging out old music magazines and press from the 90s (I’m a bit of a hoarder of stuff) and finding old Cornell or Soundgarden interviews.
Of various Chris Cornell interviews I’ve watched or read over many years, I have to say that the one I’ve been compelled to rewatch a number of times is an interview he did with Pakistani reporter Imran Siddiqui (Urdu VOA).
The interviewer, who clearly approaches Cornell with great respect (for his intelligence and not just his rock star credentials), asks really good questions, guides the Soundgarden frontman into interesting areas, and gets the best out of a relaxed, friendly and talkative Cornell right before a show.
While they obviously talk a lot about music, Siddiqui gets Cornell talking openly and eloquently about death itself, as well as even talking about the nature of reality and dreams. There are not many interviews around (not with rock stars anyway) that elicit such high-quality conversation.
Cornell, it is obvious, feels relaxed and comfortable here, and he takes on every question – even potentially awkward ones – with great openess and consideration.
It really displays what an intelligent, contemplative and eloquent individual Cornell was: and makes me think about how bored he must’ve been doing countless middle-of-the-road, cliche-riddled ‘rock star’ interviews where he answered the same questions over and over again, when – as this interview shows – he had so much more he could talk about.
Talking about ‘death’ itself, Cornell talks about the lack of evidence for an afterlife – but counters this with his sense that there must be something else after death. This also takes him into talking about the nature of reality, and its relationship with the dream world (something that actually I’ve touched on here before too).
One of the most poignant and fascinating things here is Cornell mentioning the dream he had of his friend, the Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley (who, aside from being one of Cornell’s contemporaries, also dueted with Cornell and Mark Arm on the brilliant track ‘Right Turn’), after Staley’s tragic death in 2002.
It isn’t clear how soon after Staley’s passing this dream occurred, but Cornell talks about lucidly encountering Staley in a dream – and getting the impression, from that dream, that Staley – wherever ‘he’ was now – was in a good place and doing okay.
Watching this interview, as I did, only months after Cornell’s own death in 2017, I found it incredibly poignant. I think about Layne all the time: and now about Cornell all the time too. One of the things I’ve found so irritating and offensive in recent years is seeing videos pop up on YouTube, purporting to be ‘seances’ or psychic readings channelling the spirit of Layne Staley.
No doubt it’s just cheap tricks: and people trying to get likes or views for their bullshit channels. But it’s pretty offensive.
I hope to God we don’t start getting the Cornell versions of those any time soon.
By comparison, hearing Cornell just speak simply and honestly about his dream feels like a perfect, innocent antidote to all that other nonsense.
The way the interview ends is also more than poignant: with Siddiqui saying (for some reason) “I hope you don’t go anywhere”. To which Cornell replies, “I’m too busy to go anywhere”.
Siddqiqui was fortunate to have the chance to not only meet Cornell, but to sit and chat with him in such depth. But, unlike a lot of other interviewers and interviews I’ve seen, he made the most and the best of it.
A year on, I’m just as emotional and dismayed about Chris Cornell’s departure as I was before. And probably always will be. I had thought and thought about writing another ‘tribute’ or personal reflection on Cornell to mark the one-year anniversary of his death: but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and actually couldn’t find anything to say that I hadn’t said already.
Instead, just sharing this interview – for anyone who’s never seen it – felt like the best medicine. Let the man speak for himself.
Read More: ‘Are We Living in a Dream Reality…?‘
More: ‘CHRIS CORNELL: An Ode to His Gift & and Our Good Fortune‘, ‘How Did Chris Cornell Really Die?‘, ‘Layne Staley: Still in Mourning’, ‘Scott Weiland: A Confused Ode to a Rock God‘, ‘Remembering Shannon Hoon’, ‘A 20-Year Reflection on the Last (Layne) Alice in Chains Album‘…