Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil Says Grunge Was Missed Out On Because Of The Beatles

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Former Soundgarden lead guitarist Kim Thayil reflected on the early days of grunge during a conversation with Lifeminute. According to the musician, major record labels were so busy searching for the next Beatles that they missed out on a new generation of music fans who were into grunge already.

Seattle-based grunge music has several prominent representatives, including Soundgarden. Even though many people credit Nirvana for making the genre popular with their iconic second studio album entitled ‘Nevermind,’ other bands and releases contributed to grunge’s commercial success early-to-mid-1990s.

One of those releases was Pearl Jam‘s debut studio album named ‘Ten,’ on August 27, 1991. This record has a reputation as a quintessential grunge album and is generally considered essential in the rise of alternative rock. The rise and popularity of grunge cannot be mentioned without Alice in Chains‘ second album named ‘Dirt’ and Stone Temple Pilots‘ debut ‘Core.’

In addition to all mentioned above, Soundgarden also contributed to the genre immensely. The band’s 1994 release of their fourth album named ‘Superunknown‘ marked their breakthrough and is considered one of the greatest grunge albums of all time by numerous music critics and fans.

As a co-founder of Soundgarden, Kim Thayil was asked about the early days and rise of grunge during a recent interview. The guitarist said the Seattle bands were already popular among fans before Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ blew the music industry. However, their record, Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten,’ and Allice in Chains’ tour took the genre off eventually.

Thayil also said that many record companies were looking for the new Beatles, which is why they missed the opportunity of signing grunge bands before the genre’s commercial success. While fans were already buying grunge records and enjoying the new genre, record labels ignored a whole new generation until songs like ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ proved how popular grunge music was among teenagers.

When asked about grunge’s formation, Thayil said:

“A whole series of accidents and intentionalities saw like, ‘Nevermind’ gets played on radio and people go crazy for it, you know, they love the video and the song. There already was a buzz about Seattle because of stuff that we’ve done, and Green River had done, and Nirvana. Eventually, Sub Pop Records had was generating a lot of buzz as an outcome. Really, it was ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Ten’ by Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains have been touring around, so there’s a pretty good buzz about Seattle, to begin with, and it was just bubbling under.

You know, a generation of music fans are kind of being ignored because the record companies are focusing on the baby boomer generation, looking for new Beatles or new Aerosmith or whatever. They’re kind of ignoring the fact that millions and millions of records are being sold to fans of rap, indie rap labels were selling records. And labels like SST and Sub Pop and Touch and Go, were selling indie punk rock, post-punk, alternative music, and then you had these Indie labels selling metal bands, you know, like Metallica on Megaforce.”

He continued:

“So the major labels weren’t paying attention to what the kids were listening to. It just took something like the Beastie Boys and then Faith No More, and eventually ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to address that audience. And then the music world was all surprised because they didn’t realize that there was gold in them thar hills there that there was whole music-buying populace that had been ignored by the older baby boomer record company people.

So again, there are people who like music that isn’t the music you grew up with, you know, and that’s what happened and Nirvana, that song, their success, really opened the doors for all the other bands that people were aware of and were listening to, but now they reach a broader audience by getting on MTV and commercial radio bands like Alice in Chains, and us, and Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Rage Against the Machine eventually, you know.”

You can watch the interview below.