ﬂowers In the dirt
Everything’s coming up roses for Soundgarden. Alastair Mabbott pins down their sinuous bassist Ben Shepherd for a quick
lesson in playing eleven to the bar.
Sub POp Records founder Jonathan Poneman thinks they‘re ‘the deﬁning band ofthe Seattle sound‘; Kurt Cobain wanted his band to be on Sub Pop because of the ﬁrst two EPs the band released for that label; when they ﬁrst started, their guitarist, Kim Thayil, envisioned them playing ‘like, Black Sabbath songs, without the parts that suck‘; and A&M Records tried to sell them as a mainstream metal band though their primary inﬂuences included Killing Joke and Bauhaus.
While you‘re unlikely to find Tad and Pearl Jam T-shirts sharing drawer space, Soundgarden are a Seattle band who have managed to maintain an audience of grungers and metalheads. In fact, their appeal is even broader — they can tour with both Guns N‘ Roses and Neil Young without blinking. And if it‘s hard to tell the difference between alternative and mainstream any more, then it‘s not just Nevermind we have to thank; Soundgarden were right behind them with their platinum- selling third album, Badmotorﬁnger.
Their arena-ﬁlling sound, their habit of slipping into uneven, lurching time signatures and singer Chris Comell‘s mighty larynx all give the metal fraternity something to latch on to, while the ‘altemative' crowd are given succour by Soundgarden’s down-to- eanh unpretentiousness — and, of course, that vital Seattle cred.
‘The focus was on Seattle, not so much the grunge thing. But that stuff doesn‘t matter,‘ says Ben Shepherd,
ma:- Radio- friendly unit shifters
The horror, the horror: Sebadoh’s new single starts oil with 45 seconds of extreme noise terror. Seems that new recruit, drummer Bob Fay, used to work in a record shop. To pass the tine he would tape records as they skipped. As you do. ‘Then he layered then on top oi each other,’ chuckles lead Sebadohan Lou Barlow. “In the studio we put some more effects on it to wake it sound even more horrifying. it was Bob’s idea to call it ’thIi Backlash’. I think it’s an excellent title . . .’
This lou adults with a sanguine shrug as he acknowledges that ‘Bebound’, the single’s Inlghty stand-
who livens up Soundgarden shows with his impression of a snake-wrestler who‘s been handed a bass guitar by mistake. He denies that the ten-year-old Soundgarden invented the aforementioned ‘Seattle sound‘, or even that there is one.
‘Each band on its own. Mudhoney and Tad sound totally different from each other, Pearl Jam and Nirvana sound totally different from each other. And we sound different from those bands. Alice in Chains, all those bands . . . It‘s not like we have a Seattle accent or, like, strumming the guitar this way has a southern drawl, none of that.‘
Their new album, Superunknown, seems to be infused with an awareness of the need to stress the band‘s individuality all the more. Clocking in at 70 minutes, it includes all the bits that would have been left off previous albums because, in one way or another, they didn‘t ﬁt. The concept ofthe band has been put to one side to allow ideas to flow unedited from the different members. In an already unconventional album, Shepherd is responsible for some of the more off-the-wall tracks.
Superunknown is still pretty dark and sometimes gloomy listening. But, bucking current hi-tech trends it was recorded analogue and the performances cook, mainly as a result of the band going off on a Neil Young tour and kicking the unrecorded songs around live for a couple of weeks before committing them to tape. It‘s too
out, is ‘pretty rnlddle ot the road ltsell!’ Said single is called ‘4 Song 00’ and it has ten tracks. laterally. The band recs-bar tans being burned by the tull alburn price tacked onto the nrultl-track EPs ‘liock In The Forest’ and ‘Sebadoh Vs lleiuet’. ‘iVe
early to say whether it will repeat the success of Badmotorﬁnger, which earned them Grammy nominations for, uh, what was it again, Ben?
‘I think it was best heavy metal. Actually, I don’t think it was nominated. I think it was for a single that we did . . . I'm not sure, to tell you the truth, why I have a little metal thing to tell me I‘m a Grammy nominee. I think it was for a single we put out that had a cover of a Black Sabbath song. I think it was heavy metal.‘
After that, there‘s no point in asking if they actually attended the ceremony. (In best Woody Allen style, they were elsewhere, though you can bet that at least Woody knows which Oscars he‘s nominated for as he‘s blowing his clarinet at Michael‘s.) Yep, so far, Soundgarden have knocked back the more degrading glitz and backslapping of the music game. Regular dudes, okay? Even though Shepherd does admit that the longer life in a band goes on, the more they seem to be in a bubble, insulated from the outside world.
‘Oh, yeah, that‘s just how it happens. It‘s up to each individual to believe in the concept of the bubble, or not to believe in it. Or to get out of the bubble or to get in one. Touring is fairly conducive to that reaction. Yeah, it‘s a fairly accurate description of how I sometimes feel about it. But I think I‘d probably feel that way if I wasn‘t in a band too. ’Cause I lead the kind of lifestyle which is fairly conducive to that: read books; watch movies; go out to see other bands play; walk in the market. That‘s one of the fun things to do in a foreign country where they don‘t speak English. Go to a grocery store. ‘Cause they‘ll sell basically the same types of things except you don‘t know what they are. Culture shock. Or take a bus or a cab, that kind of thing.’
All this is beginning to sound very life—enhancing. What an interesting life to lead, ﬁnding heaven in a wild ﬂower and that kind of nonsense. Let‘s pretend that we never heard him follow that little spiel up with the pay-off: ‘I’m so lazy, though, I never do that kind of stuff.‘
Soundgarden play The Barrowland. Glasgow on Mon 11.
called it “4 Song Bil” so all the distributors and retailers would sell it as a tour song on and then people could get enough songs for their money.’ Such things ntdte lou Barlow happy, even in the wire of the on-oti liasco oi Sebadoh’s scheduled support slot on lirvana’s Ill dates (‘the history of that band would Indicate that there night he sorne llakey schedqu Impoukrg . . .’).
There's ruore important things to consider, like Sebadoh’s saver-due album, ’Bdresale’. ‘The title rulers to this American tradition - you bake cakes, cookies and Inuttins and sell thorn at a bakesale at a profit tor your church or school.’
Vlhat’sthlsgottodowithyour music? ‘Well, you know, we use litteen delicious cakes and we’re ready to sell then!’
So who protlts? The church oi rock ’n’ roll? “Your, yedl. We’ll mite It up as we go along.’ (Craig Mcleun)
Sebadoh play The 88890. BInsgow on Saturday 16.
' v CLASSICAL
Scottish Opera enjoyed one of their most conspicuous artistic successes of recent years with Graham Vick’s production of Benjamin Britten‘s opera Billy Budd. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that they should return to the Britten repertory twice in the current season. ﬁrstly with the innovative staging of The Turn Of The Screw at Tramway, and now in a more conventional proscenium arch setting with a new production of Peter Grimes.
Like Budd (Herman Melville) and The Screw (Henry James), Montagu Slater’s libretto is based on a literary source, George Crabbe‘s poem ‘The Borough‘ of 1810.
Its premiere in 1945 has come to be seen as a crucial step in the development of English opera, and it has lost none of its dramatic power in the intervening years. Anthony Rolfe-Johnson takes the role of the stubborn, tragically marked Grimes, who becomes an outcast in the village when suspected of murdering his apprentice. with Rita Cullis as Ellen Orford, his only defender. German professor Joachim Herz directs this eagerly-awaited production.
A new Grimes is not the only notable operatic occasion, however. Glasgow Grand Opera have unearthed Franco Leoni‘s L'Oracolo, a 'tale of romance and violent death‘ set during the Chinese New Year celebrations in San Francisco. Leoni (1864—1949) is an Italian contemporary of Puccini, and the production maintains the company‘s tradition of staging unusual or neglected operas. It will be accompanied on a contrasting double bill by Purcell‘s Dido And Aeneas. (Kenny Mathieson)
Peter Grimes opens at the Theatre Royal on Tue 12. L’Oracolo and Dido And Aeneas plays at the RSAMD on Sat 9 and Man 11—50: 16.
The List 8—21 April I994 27