Soundgarden Guitarist: 'Nirvana Originally Sounded Like Junior Soundgarden'

Kim Thayil also talks influencing Alice in Chains, dubbing their early work "a whole bunch of 'Nothing to Say's"

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Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil recently discussed the band's influence on other iconic Seattle rock acts as one of the very first groups to emerge on the grunge scene. Thayil specifically focused on Nirvana and Alice in Chains, pointing out the impact Soundgarden had on each of the bands. "I remember being at a DOA show in Seattle with Jerry and Ben Shepherd, who wasn't in the band yet," he told Radio.com. "And Jerry told me he was trying to figure out 'Nothing to Say.' He said, 'What do you do there? It sounds really heavy and low.' "And I said, 'Oh, I use a tuning called drop-D. You take the E string and drop it down a whole step.' And he goes, 'You’re kidding!' [laughs] And it's common knowledge that at the time, Alice in Chains were more of a boogie-slash-glam-pop band in the vein of what was going on in LA, like a Poison or early Bon Jovi or Motley Crue-ish thing. Our manager also managed them, and the next time she handed us a demo of theirs, it was highly different than what they had done half-a-year earlier." Kim continued, "Like, 'Holy s--t! This sounds like they wrote a whole bunch of 'Nothing to Say's!' Then they did 'Facelift,' and, God, there's some amazing songs on that." When it comes to Nirvana, the axeman noted that Kurt Cobain and co's early efforts basically sounded like "a junior Sundgarden." "Nirvana, later on they started doing more pop stuff like 'About a Girl,' but originally Nirvana kind of sounded like a junior Melvins or a junior Soundgarden," he said. "They were certainly fans of the Melvins and they were fans of us. Primarily because of the singing. Like, hey, you can have melodic lead vocals over these distorted, slowed-down punk rock grooves! So those were the primary influences. The drop-D thing and the melodic vocals." Soundgarden are currently planning to make a raw-sounding effort as a follow-up to their latest studio release, 2012's "King Animal."

22 comments sorted by best / new / date

    DickHardwood
    It sounds arrogant but I think he's right, actually. I know Staley was in a drag glam band called Alice N Chains, and when he got together with Jerry it was funk-centered, then shifted to a more metal sound. Early Nirvana was fricking awesome, Bleach is a killer record and there are similarities.
    SleepFan
    Haven't all the Seattle bands said they wanted to sound like the Melvins anyway? They were first in their scene. Of course influences happened in such a friendly, tight music community.
    lemmyisgod97
    You can definitely hear some GNR influence on "Put You Down" off of Facelift, great album, with Dirt and the acoustic EP's they really perfected their own sound though.
    dewitt
    You can hear a big GNR influence/style on some of the pre-Facelift demos that were released officially on Music Bank (I Can't Have You Blues, Whatcha Gonna Do, and even Social Parasite). Alice in Chains is one of my favorite bands ever, and I wouldn't want to give up anything they eventually evolved into, but I can't help but wonder how awesome it would have been if they'd kept making some music here and there in that style.
    Eifler121
    I think he's right, for sure. When you look at Pearl Jam's early career, it sounds way more like Temple of the Dog than Mother Love Bone. Cornell was the primary writer on that album. Cornell and Thayil were definitely the backbone of the early stages of the scene.
    jrodgers
    You know... it does sound kind of arrogant. But like you said he's pretty much right on, and yet somehow he managed to say all this without making a complete douche out of himself, which is pretty rare among famous rock musicians..... cough cough
    Anjohl
    I heard that AIC was originally put together by record label management, IE, a manufactured band, but I have never been able to find a source. Anyone ever hear this?
    AlexGreat123
    Well Soundgarden and The Melvins were going the longest in that scene to be fair. So obviously newer bands like Nirvana and Alice In Chains would be influenced by the people in the scene
    eljono123
    Kim is the man. When you can honestly say you've influenced such great other bands, you probably do feel a bit awesome... but like the guy above was saying, they all knew each other so it's not like he was jealous or anything. HE just laid it out. And that is why I love all these bands ^.^
    Dakkstar
    Bleach has a real celtic frost kind of vibe to it. Not a fan of Soundgarderp
    Harry Marsh
    I definitely hear The Melvins in Nirvana early work and a bit of Soundgarden but not as much. Dale Crover just completed the songs he was on with Bleach.. so heavy. I personally choose Soundgarden over all of them but they are all amazing.
    codyjt5150
    Nirvana is just terrible. Except for Come as You Are, good song, until you hear Kurt's guitar "solo". Totally ruined that song also.
    redisni
    because it didn't shred triplets by the thousands, at 220 bpm, right? Dumbass.
    theclassicrock
    People originally thought that Alice was a Soundgarden rip off. Nirvana reminds me more of Mudhoney though.
    KerNeL_KLuTcH
    Soundgarden and Alice have the metal edge to their music, where as Mudhoney and Nirvana have the hardcore punk edge.
    codyjt5150
    alice was never even close to sounding like sound garden, they're on two completely different sounds and they both sound amazing.
    Arr0wHead
    Now go back and listen to older material from both bands. Back then, when bands got together in person at shows instead of interweb forums, facebook, and youtube, it was not uncommon for bands in a scene to influence each other. And AIC, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana most definitely did influence each other. However, the melvins were doing it first. So I say that any similarity Thayil hears between his own music and Nirvana is because they BOTH worshipped Buzz.
    theclassicrock
    I wouldn't count Soundgarden's influence out entirely. They were one of the first in that scene as well.