Soundgarden are back (and Pearl Jam are pretty busy): the Matt Cameron interview

Soundgarden are back (and Pearl Jam are pretty busy): the Matt Cameron interview

Soundgarden are ready to return on the stage: after announcing their long awaited reunion in 2010, and after playing spare shows in 2010 an a tour 2011, the Seattle music legend are about to embark on their first european tour, eleven dates, starting may 25 in Madrid, and arriving in Italy on June 4th, a the the Arena Fiera Milano Live. Rockol.com interviewed drummer Matt Cameron, a music icon that has also been holding the sticks for Pearl Jam in the last decade. Reached on the phone in Seattle, Cameron spoke about what’s it is like to back with old mates Chris Cornell, Kim Tahyil and Ben Sheperd. He told us about his multitasking between Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, and revelead some plans of this other band.

So, how does it feel to be back in Soundgarden?
It feels great. We’re all enjoying playing together. We made a really cool new record we’re really proud of. So it feels good.

You announced the reunion in 2010, but you took it quite slow. A few concerts in 2010, real tours in 2011 and 2012. But the new album won't be out until this fall.
It just took a little time to get it going, because of scheduling. Chris and I have pretty busy schedules and tours outside of Soundgarden. So it has just taken a long time to get everyone on the same page and make sure we’re not double-booking ourselves.

When you first got together again, was the chemistry in Soundgarden still there?
I think the chemystry was good when we split up. We didn’t disband as enemies, we always remained friends. When we did decide to get back together as a band, it was pretty easy.  I think our favorite part of the band was we four getting together and playing music, writing songs. And that aspect was still great.

What can people expect from your shows, in 2012?
I think that people will come which great expectations when they come to see Soundgarden shows, and I think that hopefully we can live up to that expectations. We’re a playing a lot of material from all of our records, we’re probably gonna stick with older material that people are very familiar with. It’s gonna be a very cool hard rocking show. We’re gonna do the song we recorded for "The avengers" movie, "Live To Rise", and we might try one or two off of the new record. But we’ll keep them as a surprise.

Was there any Soundgarden music you absolutely wanted to play and was there any music you absolutely didn't want to perform?
My original idea was to do a lot of the original music from the ‘80s up towards “Badmotorfinger”. I wanted the band to play that weird crazy stuff, and we did that for a while. But once we started playing larger shows, and once we got bigger offers, we shifted towards our more classic repertoire. But some of my favourite Soundgarden music was that stuff from the ‘80s. We now have a core of 40-50 songs ready; maybe we’ll learn a few more songs while on tour, and we’ll add them to the setlist. But we won’t change much our setlists, maybe a little depending on how long we have to play and the audience.  We did a tour last July in the states. There was a lot of people of our ages, late thirties and middle forties. And there was younger people, in their 20s and teenagers. Our music still resonates with young people.

Soundgarden will release a new album in the fall. What can we expect from your new music?
Well, I guess what we wanted to try to do with this reunion is try to make a new album and write new music. That was always one of the top goals for us. We started in January 2011 and it has taken a lot of time, but mostly because of scheduling. But once we got into the studio, we had really good time together and everything came together very easily. It was very good to record new Soundgarden. I think people we’ll enjoy what we did in 2012: it’s a nice evolution of familiar element of our sounds

You played for Pearl Jam in the last decade. Did you miss Soundgarden?
The most important thing is to stay focused on what I’m doing now. I have such a great work that I don’t have time to be nostalgic. Once Soundgarden got together and played some shows, I got back to some of the old stuff we did in the past years. Everything sounded really good.

You are playing at the same time in Soundgarden and in Pearl Jam, that will go on tour immediately after SG. Is it difficult to keep this all together?
It’s more difficult to sit down and think about it, actually. I can sort of mentally wrap my mind around it but... As a musician, it’s not hard for me to do it. But the scheduling can be sometime tough. Both bands will be pretty active in the next couple of years. Sometime my family gets a little upset that I'’m gone so much, and I certainly don’t want to be gone that much. But the opportunities are really fantastic right now: both groups are in demand for live concerts, new music and there’s no reason not to do it. I’m enjoying it.

Chris Cornell is still pursuing his solo career: he will be touring in Europe with his acoustic tour, right after Soundgarden.
We put no restriction on anyone in the group. There’s no rule on what one can or cannot to. Chris is doing great and I think he’s having a good time doing it. 

Looking back to golden years of Seattle music, was everything really "overblown", as Mudhoney once sang?
There was a lot of work to do in the early ‘90s, and since the late ‘80s, Soundgarden was on the road pretty much of the time. I never really realized all the hype that surrounded our city, the hysteria that was going on with our city because I was so busy. But it was a very exciting time when Nirvana and Pearl Jam got very popular, and that happened to Soundgarden as well, a little bit later. It was very fun to see crowds getting bigger, see how many people were turned to our type of music. It was a very good time to be in a band. Now it’s not a healty place for rock bands anymore. I think people are curious to know what a rock band sounds like, these days. And it sounds like Soundgarden!

Speaking of Pearl Jam: how is Eddie Vedder? He had to cancel some shows because of injury to his arm.
Eddie’s getting better. He’s doing physiotherapy. He’s getting better all the time.

Why did Pearl Jam leave out Italy in this summer tour?
I think it was a scheduling problem. We came 2 years ago, we played in Venice, it was the Hurricane festival, right? We love playing Italy, Italian fans are some of the best in the world. We can’t wait to come back.

What about the new Pearl Jam Album? When can we expect it?
We’re going to finish recording this fall. We had half of it done, and then we decided to go back and do some more writing. We’re going to do publish it at some point in 2013, but I can’t look that far into the future.

Beside playing, you write songs. Have you ever considered recording a solo album?
Yes, I would like to do my solo record at some point, but I’m really busy being a drummer right now. I’ve been talking with my buddy Adam Kasper and with a bunch of people I’d like to record with. It’s definitely on the backburner.

(Gianni Sibilla)

All about

Soundgarden is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band's full-time drummer in 1986, while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990. Soundgarden was one of the seminal bands in the creation of grunge, a style of…
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