A massive crowd gathered on a misty Sunday to honor the late grunge pioneer Chris Cornell. The Seattle Museum of Pop Culture unveiled a life-size bronze statue of the late Soundgarden singer, which was commissioned by his widow, Vicky Cornell. She was there with their children Lily, Toni and Christopher, as well as Cornell’s former bandmates Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd.
“It’s a reflection of his light, a light that shone through his music and touched millions,” Cornell said during the ceremony. “A light that he used to illuminate our lives, and a light that will continue to inspire those in the future. This statue represents that light — a beautiful, powerful, incomparable presence in a hometown worthy of someone as special as Chris.”
— Kara Kostanich (@KaraKostanich) October 8, 2018
Thayil, Cameron, and Shepherd told Rolling Stone that it was “a lot to take in” seeing Soundgarden fans turn out nearly a year and a half after Cornell was found dead in a Detroit hotel room on May 18, 2017, hours after a Soundgarden concert.
“There were so many moments [with Chris] that impacted my development as a musician and later on, just as friends,” Cameron said. “I remember so much of when I first joined the band in ‘86. The band was still formulating a sound, but it didn’t take long to get to the sound that it eventually would become and to stay that path. As a guy who’s played in bands forever and ever, it’s really hard to get that so early on in the life of a band, so that’s still significant to me.”
Shepherd, who joined the band in 1990 following Jason Everman’s exit, added, “One thing about Chris, speaking specifically about him, [was] he had the spirit of ‘go for it’ all the time. Just go for it. Push, find out where we can go. And all three of those guys for me when I joined — I was thrown in the fire — they were already rollin’. And they’re all so adventurous and so strong that they made it a totally natural thing to just see where we can go. … It was all about moving forward. What’s next. Onward. Let’s go find out.”
Cornell’s lack of ego, they added, helped the group to stay together through numerous tours, which wasn’t always the case for their peers. (“You guys were one of the first bands out of this town that actually toured and then came back and stayed a band and then kept doing it,” Shepherd said to Cameron. “Soundgarden was focused from day one. You could just tell that they were stable and ready to go.”)
“I think Chris was always encouraging us to bring in material and contribute creatively,” Cameron said. “He didn’t have the type of fragile ego that required feeding it at all times. He wanted to be fed as an artist, not as a star.”
Two of the three band members — Cameron and Thayil — reunited in June for Denmark’s Northside Festival as part of a supergroup called MC50, joining the likes of original MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Zen Guerrilla’s Marcus Durant, Fugazi’s Brendan Canty and King’s X’s Dug Pinnick to pay tribute to the Detroit-based rock group, but plans for future reunions will have to wait as they continue to process Chris’s death.
“We’re just still taking our time and giving ourselves space to process everything,” Cameron said. “We would certainly love to try to continue to do something, figure out something to do together.”
“On a personal level,” Shepherd said, “We haven’t even gotten a chance to hang out, just us three, yet. … We’re going through natural healing, then thinking about the natural next step.”