Intrusive fans reinforce Soundgarden guitarist's dark perspective

June 17, 1994|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil is sitting in a hotel room in Ogden, Utah, discussing the connection between alternative comics and alternative rock back home in Seattle, when there's a knock at the door. "Oh, just a second," he says, then shouts to the door, "Hold on, hold on."

A few moments pass before Thayil returns to the phone, resuming the conversation with an annoyed expletive.

"That was someone from housekeeping, knocking at the door," he says, sounding peeved. "I have got to talk to our tour manager about this."

No sooner are the words out of his mouth than there's another knock at the door. "Hold on a sec'," he says, his mood obviously darkening.

"Sorry about that," he says, sounding calmer. "That was my tour manager. I just gave him, I told him what was going on, and that I was really sick of this."

Well, what is going on?

"Last night around 11, these two girls came, dressed in housekeeping garb," he explains, lighting a cigarette. "They say, 'Would you like your room cleaned?'

"And I go, 'No.' Like I really want my room cleaned at 11 o'clock at night. There was two of them. One was talking to me, and the other was peering around the corner."

In a sense, that shouldn't come as too great a surprise. Thanks to the band's best-selling new album, "Superunknown," Soundgarden is one of the hottest acts in the country at the moment. Blessed with a sound that's equal parts alternative attitude and hard-rock muscle, the Seattle quartet has attracted an audience that includes tattooed moshers, flannel-shirted college kids, channel-surfing MTV viewers -- and, apparently, a few fake cleaning ladies.

"Then just now, an older housekeeping woman came and asked if I wanted my room cleaned," Thayil continues. "I said, 'No.' And as I looked through the peephole, I noticed those two girls, dressed in housekeeping garb, crouched down behind the cart. So my tour manager just came here, and I explained it to him.

"That kind of stuff really ticks me off."

It's not just the fact that such chicanery is an irritating intrusion on Thayil's privacy. "It's insulting to them to behave that way," he says. "It's insulting to me to have to be embarrassed by their embarrassing behavior. I can't stand it.

"On some level, I imagine, it's flattering to be recognized," he adds. "But it just doesn't make sense for them to do that."

So much for the allure of stardom.

"But even without stardom, it isn't very attractive sometimes, because anywhere you go, people are insincere and corrupt," he says, laughing. "They're all just Nazis waiting to happen.

"There are very few decent people out there anymore," he continues, warming to the subject. "I've met a lot of people, and I could probably count the number of people who are worthy of respect and trust on one hand. I mean, of the ones whom I actually have relationships with.

"I'm sure there are others out there. But they're not easy to meet. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Maybe that's why so much of the material on "Superunknown" is so dark. From the revenge-obsessed lyrics of "Mailman" to the all-consuming depression chronicled in "Fell on Black Days," little of what turns up on the album would be considered light listening.

Not that Thayil minds. "That's why we generally don't write happy, skippy songs," he says. "Not that to be morose or macabre is somehow truthful or sincere, but it is an aspect of life that is covered up. It's sort of swept under the rug a lot.

"But why lie to people any more than they're already being lied to?"

"Super" sound

To hear excerpts from Soundgarden's "Superunknown," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6185 after you hear the greeting.


When: Wednesday, June 22, 8 p.m.

Where: Bender Arena, American University

Tickets: $18

Call: (410) 481-7328

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