Two of my favorite musicians got together recently for a little chat in Guitar World Magazine: Dillinger Escape Plan's Ben Weinman and Soundgarden's Kim Thayil.
Why is this such an interesting piece? Beyond the fact that the two men are extremely talented as guitar players go, the discussion sheds light in many topics including musical influences and the distinction between bands that took the spirit of "The Seattle Sound" to make great, original music- and those who simply take all the most accessible elements of that re-hash them over and over again:
WEINMAN: We have talked at length about the difference between bands using your music as inspiration (like the Dillinger Escape Plan) and bands who have just tried to sound like Soundgarden. Why do you think all these bands are just horrible? Do they just not realize the true spirit of what you guys do?
THAYIL: I'm very proud of the bands I like and listen to that have cited Soundgarden as an inspiration. I'm a bit embarrassed by those who attempt to imitate us. The forward-thinking bands I listen to don't sound anything like us, but are willing to work with odd timings, tunings, noise, feedback, harmonics, etc., within the context of the song. The imitators sound like bad impressionists who grasp onto the most pedestrian and commercial aspects of what we do without any of the risk. Of course, Soundgarden is a bit more difficult to imitate than, say, Nirvana, Alice in Chains or Pearl Jam.
Thayil makes a good point here, and he goes on to point out how Nirvana has probably been the biggest victim of the "grave robbing" that he references. Though there has been much of that, I would argue that most of the post-post-post-grunge that you hear today is a mix of Ten-era Pearl Jam, Dirt-era AIC, Core-era STP, and layers and layers of imitators caked on top of it: an awful, generic mess. But there is hope! Kim Thayil also points to some of the bands that were positively influenced by Soundgarden: "Sunn0))), Boris, Storm of Light, Om, High on Fire, Oneida, Eagle Twin, Lichens, Mastodon, Neurosis, Ghost and, of course, the Dillinger Escape Plan!"
As for the bands who influenced Soundgarden:
As a band, Soundgarden listened to a lot of music before and after our practices/jams while drinking beer and discussing the merits of the artists and their material. Bands we collectively loved included dark, melancholic and angular British bands from the late '70s and early '80s such as Joy Division, Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Gang of Four, Wire, PIL and Young Marble Giants. These bands tended to build songs around the bass. We were equally enthralled with American progressive post-hardcore bands from SST, Touch & Go and Homestead records like the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Big Boys, Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, Husker Du and, of course, Black Flag. All these bands were very guitar-centric!
The entire interview is fascinating, not just for the insightful answers Thayil gives, but for the (very well-written) preface that Ben Weinman provides at the beginning of the article about how he found his way into underground music:
Grunge had become a household name, and attached to every popular grunge band was a handful of influences that would lead me down a rabbit hole of musical wonderment.
Of all the amazing music that was hitting me during this time, Soundgarden was, without a doubt, the band that influenced me the most in terms of the way I think about and write music.
Funny, this is basically the same path I took into punk and hardcore, albeit 10 years later than Ben. And the fact that Soundgarden was Ben's biggest influence goes to show how valuable and influence Soundgarden has had beyond the imitators and into realm of innovative and exciting artists. Good music begets good music! As it happens, I had the pleasure of finally seeing both bands for the first time this year: Soundgarden at Terminal 5 and Dillinger at New England Metal and Hardcore Fest. If you haven't taken the time to see either band yourself, I cannot recommend them enough (perhaps for different reasons…one being more bloody than the other). In fact, I think a Soungarden/Dillinger Escape Plan tour would be an incredible sight to see…hold on let me write this down.
The interview can be read at the Guitar World Website.
When he's not infuriating people with his album reviews, Drew Zalucky is busy writing for his political website, For the Sake of Argument