Chris Cornell, singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave, died on Wednesday night in Detroit. Jane’s Addition frontman Perry Farrell spoke to Variety contributor Steve Baltin about his longtime friend and contemporary.
I first met Chris Cornell in 1992. It was the first time Soundgarden played Lollapalooza, and at that time, I was in Porno for Pyros and they didn’t know who I was. The band was walking to their hotel room, they were about to get into their elevator and just to f— with them, I bumrushed the elevator, going, “Oh, man, it’s Soundgarden.” And I jumped into their elevator just to freak them out and Chris goes, “Oh, I thought you were one of them.” We had a good laugh about that.
Chris was one of the most talented singers of my life, and f—ing good looking. I was envious as hell of his nose, what a great nose. [Laughs.] His eyes were great. His dad, I remember, was debonair — tall, handsome, had a cane, and wore a suit. I just thought, “Wow, what an incredible family.”
Chris Cornell’s Soundgarden, True Pioneers of the Seattle Scene, Paved the Way for Nirvana and Pearl Jam
Then we became friends later on. Soundgarden had done Lolla two or three times, but Audioslave toured with us. They brought Lollapalooza back in 2003, so we again toured together and I got to know him a lot better on that tour. He brought his family out, he was newly married. We’d watch him every night and I used to marvel. … You know me, I’m a wild man on the stage flying all over the place, just trying to impress people. He stood there and the girls’ jaws would all be dropped, including my wife and the dancers we were traveling with.
I used to laugh, my wife would be like, “Oh, I really just want to hear this one song.” I’d kid around with her, like, “Oh, I think they are about to play your song, you better get out there.”
Chris Cornell: Watch 12 Incredible Performances From Across His Career
But the funniest memory I have of Chris goes back to Christmas time, maybe seven years ago. I’m in Culver City, [Calif.], of all places. It’s almost Christmas Eve, and I’m walking through a Toys “R” Us. Everything had been picked through. Nobody was really shopping because it was two hours before Christmas Eve and I see this guy — tall, super-handsome dude and he’s over picking through the girls’ section. I got my shopping cart and all my toys are for boys and there’s Chris, and his shopping cart has dolls and princess outfits. He’s looking at my shopping cart with baseball bats and footballs and he says to me, “I got the very last Sleeping Beauty Castle. Sold out.” He was so proud, he was trying to brag to me he got the very last fairy princess castle.
It’s such a bummer. There weren’t — and there aren’t still — very many that could sing the way Chris can. Certainly very few rock performers, and even pop performers. People just don’t have it, that’s a God-given talent. In addition to that, he had this coolness about him, which made him even more compelling for women, but it was very natural.
I don’t know what did Chris in, but I hope he’s in a good place now. He was a super talent and the world should be happy they got to hear him. To anyone reading this: listen today to “Black Hole Sun,” a song that reached a level that few groups achieve. That was a song that I always loved.