Soundgarden Demo (not cover)

MikeM

Platinum Member
I’ve been reluctant to post this, but now that initial shock and weirdness has subsided, I’ve decided what the hell – time to post!

Here’s the backstory:

Chris Cornell and I had some mutual friends back in the early ‘90s and had several jam sessions together. He liked my playing (bombast and all) and would often ask if I was around for some of these jam sessions. It was all just screwing around and having fun in our mutual friend’s “rock” basement with lots of beer, BBQ, etc.

Then one day in the summer of ‘93 he called and explained that they were in the process of getting setup in the studio (to record what would be Superunknown) and that he had a couple more songs he wanted to demo before they started tracking. Since Matt Cameron and Gregg Keplinger were already busy getting drum sounds, could I come over and help him out.

Like who’s going to say no to that!

So I head over to his place, which has a studio in the basement (complete with Matt’s gold DW from the Badmotorfinger tour), and he shows me two songs (Superunknown and 4th of July). Since it’s just the two of us, all I’m hearing is just one guitar part and no vocals. Once I figured out the gist of the parts and the general roadmap (with visual cues to indicate changes), he hits the record button. The first take without egregious mistakes gets kept. Both songs were learned and recorded in an afternoon.

After I left, he put down bass, more guitar, and vocals, but I never got to hear what any of it sounded like until the Superunknown 20th anniversary box set was released last month. Now I know. Wow.

Do I wish my playing was better, without the obvious timing issues, and more representative of the way I play? Sure. Of course. But given the quick nature of it, the fact that it was over 20 years ago, and keeping in mind that I had no idea what these songs would later sound like, which had me sounding more tentative and conservative than usual, I guess I can cut myself a little slack. At this point, at least in my mind, the novelty of it is way cooler than the actual playing - and I'm okay with that!

Plus, since I’m not credited (the proverbial “ghost drummer”) nobody needs to know! Ha ha!

Here it is:
Superunknown - Original Demo Version

I haven’t found a streaming source for the 4th of July demo, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

BTW, these demos are only on the 5-CD box set version of the Superunknown re-rerelease. Still, my major label debut is on a friggin' Soundgarden record - who cares if nobody ever hears it!!
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Wow this is an awesome story. I follow many of your posts but never knew how close you were to such famous people. Very impressed, and great drumming too.

I think Chris cornell has THE penultimate hard rock voice. I mean he can really wail. I'd place him above Grohl, Kurt even Eddy for that.

Am curious, I watch 'Band in Seattle" a 30 min TV show about up and comings. how would you describe the current Seattle music scene, sort of in the post-grunge era? Just as flourishing?
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Out of the shadows and into the light.......finally!! Was beginning to think you were never gonna cop to it.

Better late than never, mate. Glad you finally decided to throw it out there.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Wow this is an awesome story. I follow many of your posts but never knew how close you were to such famous people. Very impressed, and great drumming too.

I think Chris cornell has THE penultimate hard rock voice. I mean he can really wail. I'd place him above Grohl, Kurt even Eddy for that.

Am curious, I watch 'Band in Seattle" a 30 min TV show about up and comings. how would you describe the current Seattle music scene, sort of in the post-grunge era? Just as flourishing?
Thanks - I think it's a cool story, too! I feel pretty far removed from all that by now, and long since wrote off ever getting the chance to hear these demos, so it was a nice surprise to finally get to hear them.

I was still in the Navy stationed in Japan when I first heard Soundgarden (Louder Than Love in '89) and Cornell instantly became my favorite singer - and Matt's drumming really resonated with me since we seemed to have very similar approaches. I also really liked the creative use of alternate tunings, odd time signatures, and memorable songwriting, so the whole band quickly became one of my absolute favorites. It probably goes without saying that I was completely freaked out the first time I met Cornell, though I settled down once we got to playing together and it became clear he thought I was good. That guy really liked to play and was perfectly happy to just jam for hours on end. And you're right; his pipes are amazing. He doesn't need to process them at all and hearing his scream in a dinky little rock basement is like nothing I'd heard before or since. Unbelievable.

I've never seen that TV show before (and didn't know it existed), but my sense of the scene now is that it's probably like most scenes. It's vibrant with tons of bands and all that, but it will never be like it was back in the early '90s. That was just surreal. Major labels were setting up permanent offices signing a dozen bands a week on the heels of a whole pack of bands hitting the global big time and creating a new paradigm in the process. I mean, how freakishly bizarre can you get? But it was also incredibly exciting and there was so much hope among so many bands at the time, including the bands I was in. We never got onto any majors but there were enough indie labels vying for their share that picked us up.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and this one came crashing down hard and all at once with the inevitable backlash, heavily and unmistakably punctuated by Cobain's unfortunate suicide.

That was the period of massive flourishing, and anything since then barely registers a pulse in comparison. I don't personally feel like there's much flourishing here now, at least in terms of feeling a real possibility of hitting the big time, and there isn't really anyone trying to hang on to grunge or fit the image of that. At least not outside of just wanting to write and rock out to whatever's amusing or interesting. If there's any legacy of grunge left, it's that nobody's chasing the fame & fortune dream - kinda like it was before it all blew up. The bands I know are mostly into the personal fulfillment angle, happy enough to work their day jobs, which allows them to make whatever music moves them in the evenings.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Sounds good to me. Glad you get a little more joy out of the experience.
Me too - thanks!
Out of the shadows and into the light.......finally!! Was beginning to think you were never gonna cop to it.

Better late than never, mate. Glad you finally decided to throw it out there.
Ha ha! Just for the record, Jules, you're the only one on the forum I let on to this when I was still too rattled by it to know what to think. Cheers!
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
awesome

my favorite rock drum album of all time .... and you are on the demos

good shit
Thanks, Tony. Yeah, pretty weird stuff.

Holy *&%^ Mike! Just... wow. I was listening to 'The 4th of July' not two days ago... I had no idea that you would be on the demo.
I think that song is my favorite of the bunch and it stays in my head for days. This easily bumped playing in TAD (early Sub Pop band) as the most high-profile thing I've done.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
Mike.... did Chris tell you what to play ?... because those demos seem to be pretty strict guidelines to what ended up on the record
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Mike.... did Chris tell you what to play ?... because those demos seem to be pretty strict guidelines to what ended up on the record
Not really. When we first played Superunknown, my first instinct was to play it half time so we jammed on it like that for a bit but it didn't work though the changes, so Chris told me to play it common time. On 4th of July, the only thing he wanted (that I forgot that take) was to choke the cymbal before dropping out before the last verse. Good thing Matt remembered lol. He also asked for the quarters on the hats during the parts that wouldn't have drums.

Next time I saw him he said that Matt liked what I did and basically did the same thing. I don't think I can take too much credit for that though; those songs pretty well tell you what to play. The other thing is that they went in with 26 songs (26!) so probably Matt wasn't trying to reinvent any wheels.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Funny, I listened to Matts version right after your demo and he definitely followed you, but embelished a little more! lol
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Funny, I listened to Matts version right after your demo and he definitely followed you, but embelished a little more! lol
He also had the luxury of knowing where the vocals were going to be and what they were going to sound like. First time I heard these songs completed was when the record came out, and I was like, "Ah, so that's how that song goes!" I should also mention that in the same breath, I was also like, "Damn, that's some badass drumming!" Despite that he may have loosely followed what I laid down, he's still the dude with the amazing pocket and feel that made those songs pop out. I wish I could take credit for that!

And just to clarify - I didn't decide where to play and when to stop. Those were part of the general roadmap established by Chris, so the stops / sitting out the intros / etc weren't my doing. But inside of those boundaries was me, though as I said, just hearing the one guitar part in isolation, it was pretty clear what was supposed to go there - except the dragging all over the place bit; that was me over-compensating for fear of rushing. Shoulda been spending more time with a click back then (and now, too perhaps) haha.

I've mentioned in other technique threads how open-handed playing helps me straighten out my time when things start to feel like they're dragging or otherwise getting weak. This would have been an excellent opportunity to use that trick.
 

DsDrummer

Senior Member
Holy crap man!!! This is awesome! What a thrill this must be to you. Soundgarden's one of my favorite bands and its pretty cool to speak to the dude who wrote the "original" drum parts for Superunknown and 4th of July. Anyways, what was it like working with Chris and are you still in touch with him?
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Holy crap man!!! This is awesome! What a thrill this must be to you. Soundgarden's one of my favorite bands and its pretty cool to speak to the dude who wrote the "original" drum parts for Superunknown and 4th of July. Anyways, what was it like working with Chris and are you still in touch with him?
I agree it's pretty cool, and I was really kind of overwhelmed at first about it, but eventually came to see it more like I was the guy lucky enough to get to play on these first, as opposed to the guy who wrote the drum parts, because the drum parts were already written - they were embedded in the riffs. Seriously, just listen to those guitar parts and, just as an exercise, try to find another drum part that could have gone in either song that actually fit. I think you'll find that your options are very limited.

I haven't seen or spoken to Chris in over 15 years, and as far as I know, he doesn't live in Seattle anymore. Obviously that was a huge record for them so they were gone most of the time, meanwhile I got married, started going to college, and played in Tad, and everyone (in our circle of mutual friends) got too busy to stay in touch nearly as much.

Only thing I can say about working with Cornell besides what everyone always says about him - that he's a monster talent - and this kind of goes along with that, is like the example I used a couple posts back where I describe when he was showing me the first part to Superunknown and I tried to play it half-time (cos what do I know, I've never heard it before), he could have stopped me right away and said no, play it straight, but he didn't do that; he let me keep going with it until it ran up against its fatal flaw - that the second part needed to be straight, causing the first part to feel out of place. I'm not sure why he didn't put the kibash on that attempt sooner, but my guess is that he probably hadn't considered half time as a possibility and wanted to hear where it would go just for his own curiosity/amusement. But it's that being open to unexpected possibilities and exploring/exploiting them where possible that really helped set them apart from so many other bands, and that general attitude is the key.

To me that makes him a total pro and I haven't seen that nearly as much in many of the bands I've been in where so often someone's trying to assert obscene amounts of control during the creative process such that the total creativity in the room isn't getting 'leveraged'. Anyway, that aspect of working with him really stood out to me - he's a sympathetic listener to what other players are doing to a degree you might not expect from someone of his caliber.

Probably also worth mentioning that this whole circle of players that were part of these jam sessions were all capable on guitar, bass, and drums, so there were always people rotating instruments - except me since I only played drums. That was a big eye-opener for me and was when I bought my first guitar and bass. To bring this back full-circle: if you're serious about writing your own drum parts, at some point you're gonna need to write the songs to go with them.
 
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WhoIsTony?

Member
I agree it's pretty cool, and I was really kind of overwhelmed at first about it, but eventually came to see it more like I was the guy lucky enough to get to play on these first, as opposed to the guy who wrote the drum parts, because the drum parts were already written - they were embedded in the riffs. Seriously, just listen to those guitar parts and, just as an exercise, try to find another drum part that could have gone in either song that actually fit. I think you'll find that your options are very limited.

I haven't seen or spoken to Chris in over 15 years, and as far as I know, he doesn't live in Seattle anymore. Obviously that was a huge record for them so they were gone most of the time, meanwhile I got married, started going to college, and played in Tad, and everyone (in our circle of mutual friends) got too busy to stay in touch nearly as much.

Wait!!!

you were in Tad ?

you are Mike Mongrain ??

ah.... it's all making sense now
 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
Only thing I can say about working with Cornell besides what everyone always says about him - that he's a monster talent - and this kind of goes along with that, is like the example I used a couple posts back where I describe when he was showing me the first part to Superunknown and I tried to play it half-time (cos what do I know, I've never heard it before), he could have stopped me right away and said no, play it straight, but he didn't do that; he let me keep going with it until it ran up against its fatal flaw - that the second part needed to be straight, causing the first part to feel out of place. I'm not sure why he didn't put the kibash on that attempt sooner, but my guess is that he probably hadn't considered half time as a possibility and wanted to hear where it would go just for his own curiosity/amusement. But it's that being open to unexpected possibilities and exploring/exploiting them where possible that really helped set them apart from so many other bands, and that general attitude is the key.
I think this is true of most supremely talented people. They tend to believe that other people are equally talented and are more willing to listen to others input. Kind of the inverse of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Wait!!!

you were in Tad ?

you are Mike Mongrain ??

ah.... it's all making sense now
Ha, yeah, that's me. I was only in Tad during the nosedive years, but it was fun (sometimes). Here's an AmRep single we did.

"My first show with TAD was August of ’96. At that point, it was a band in decline. I liken it to stepping on the Titanic about five minutes post-iceberg. And I rode that bitch to the bottom, yeah."
-former TAD drummer Mike Mongrain, in the forthcoming book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge


I think this is true of most supremely talented people. They tend to believe that other people are equally talented and are more willing to listen to others input. Kind of the inverse of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
I agree. I had to look up what that meant. Very cool. Could be a band name there ... :)
 
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