Soundgarden's 'Superunknown' Producer: How Cornell's Suicide Changed This Album for Me

"I was obsessed with his lyrics when we were making the record and always suspected that they revealed a great deal more than he wanted anyone to know."

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Soundgarden's 'Superunknown' Producer: How Cornell's Suicide Changed This Album for Me
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Michael Beinhorn - the producer of Soundgarden's 1994 classic "Superunknown" - talked about Chris Cornell's death, noting via Facebook (via Alternative Nation):

"Perhaps I'm late to the party, but Chris's suicide has put 'Superunknown' into a completely new context for me.

"I was listening to some of the project roughs today and for the first time, what he was singing about hit home with profound finality - so much so that it felt like some unseen, unstoppable force had begun drilling a hole straight through me.

"I was obsessed with his lyrics when we were making the record and always suspected that they revealed a great deal more than he wanted anyone to know.

"But every time I would ask him for insight into what he was trying to say, he would always look at me like I was from Mars and shine me on by saying, 'They don't mean anything - they're just words.'

"Yeah, right. So - those demons were real, after all."

Michael further noted:

"In a business where performers are increasingly de-incentivized to make an effort with regard to their own creations while becoming more lazy and content to conveniently rest upon their laurels (as meager as those laurels have become over recent years), everyone tends to forget the trials and the struggles of the artists who literally give their all for their art.

"Their offering often occurs initially as an act of personal salvation and purgation, but it eventually takes root and flowers into a singular creation of great beauty and inspiration for the rest of the world to marvel over.

"The fact is that human suffering is endemic to the human condition and, by direct lineage - to the arts. Suffering is as necessary to the process of art creation as are expressions of joy or triumph. When one makes a pledge to discover their deepest joy, they simultaneously enter into the same contract to allow in their deepest pain.

"None of which is to say that people need, deserve or even wish to suffer. But, being that suffering is impossible to outrun and unavoidable for all of us, we must recognize and accept it for what it is.

"And for those individuals who are so deeply sensitive and filled with the insurmountable urge and capability to transcribe (with such horrifically detailed, pinpoint accuracy) their own suffering, joy and all states of mind in between, their labors and their unending gifts must be acknowledged by us - the ultimate beneficiaries of those gifts - and seen for what they truly are.

"Chris Cornell was one man whose drive was absolutely unstoppable when we worked together. He pushed and jammed himself into every square inch of its creation and refused to stop pushing until he had freed his demons from their corporeal incarceration.

"Every day, he came to work utterly determined and prepared. He played his guitar parts with extraordinary precision and literally sang for hours until his head ached and he could no longer stand up. If any of his performances were substandard, he not only called them out, he was prepared to start again from scratch without any hesitation.

"He was a human machine - dynamic and powerful and one which bled and he did none of that bleeding and striving for anyone but himself. He was so intent on making the best recording possible and purging every ounce of poison that lay within him impeccably and completely, doing so became his sole mission in life.

"And that - that is the true wellspring - the place where all the finest and best works of art come from. Not from performers who unscrupulously avoid their demons- or their angels; who spend their lives in a protracted state of compromise and bend over backward in a series of futile attempts to please a large mass of people they don't know and will likely never meet.

"They come from people like Chris, who are striving - often desperately - to either purge themselves of unimaginable anguish or to slough off large chunks of their incredible joy that they crave desperately to share with the world that they have emanated from. As if their very lives depend on the doing of it.

"People like these generate greatness - it pours out of them in great waves and echoes into history for eons. They are utterly unwilling to settle when it comes to honing their expression exactly how it appears to them in their mind's eye. So should you be."

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    soundsabbath
    Never have I heard an album where every song is completly different yet works as a whole. Superunkown is a complete masterpiece. Miss you Chris, music has a gaping void.
    shwilly
    The one song I don't feel particularly attached to is Head Down. Perhaps they should've switched it up with She Likes Surprises, which apparently didn't appear on the American release. Then again, I only really got into "Mailman" about a month ago after binging on this album following the news of Chris's death (and I've been playing this album for ages) Talk about a record that makes you 'work': I can't think of any other collection of songs that outperforms Sumerunknown in terms of pulling you in, taking you on a journey and really forcing you to listen. You're never really 'done' with it, there's nothing that remotely sounds like it, not even within their own catalogue. Imagine being present when it was actually conceived... :o
    soundsabbath
    Mailman has always been one of my favorites but i get what you mean with Head Down. The one that took me a while to enjoy properly was Let Me Drown, the first track! It is and always will be my favorite album of all time. One of the best things i ever got to witness live was them performing the whole album at hyde park, that plus seeing Chris perform at Royal albert hall at his last ever UK visit. He was on another level that night and i still can't bring myself to watch it back yet. I digress...Superunkown = Perfect
    javdoc
    Wow, that was beautiful and inspiring.  Still so gutted by his death.  Chris was a once in a lifetime talent, all the way around.  All these tributes just reveal more and more how he inspired everyone around him.  Such a loss to the world.....
    HardAttack
    This guy should be a speech writer for a living. What he said here was insightful and inspiring, 'nuff said.
    GoToSleep
    The entirety of Superunknown seriously contains one of the greatest rock vocal performances ever.
    The_Crank3
    I personally prefer the earlier soundgarden albums but this album as a whole is almost flawless and I totally understand why most people would prefer it over their other albums. Even some of the lesser known tracks could be hit songs if they were given to another band even. Kickstand is actually my favourite song on that album... just wush it was longer!
    MessyNed
    Superunknown was, is & always will be a masterpiece. "My Wave" always stood out for me, for no particular reason!? The entire album rocks! But I haven't been able to listen to much of Soundgarden since his death, the lyrics give everything a whole new context now that he's gone... 
    Whizzwagon
    I was, and still am deeply connected to Limo Wreck. This album never stops giving