By Hayden Wright
Soundgarden fans are trying to make sense of Chris Cornell’s sudden suicide. In a lengthy new feature on the Soundgarden frontman’s last days, some of his friends and peers remember meeting the musician—and their last encounters with him.
System of a Down singer Serj Tankian saw Cornell at Elton John’s 70th birthday on March 25. They had a “long chat” during which Tankian says he asked Cornell if touring was beginning to feel old hat.
“For myself, it’s fun but nothing new under the sun,” Tankian said. “[Cornell] was just the opposite: ‘I’m really excited. I’m doing this tour with Soundgarden. I’ve got these other ideas.’ He had plans, man,” Tankian told Rolling Stone.
Producer Brendan O’Brien mixed legendary Soundgarden material, including their 1994 breakthrough Superunknown, and produced Cornell’s final solo album Higher Truth in 2015. He saw the frontman on The Tonight Show, where they performed “The Promise” from the film of the same name.
“He didn’t seem any different to me,” O’Brien said. “I felt like we had a good time there. He was in good spirits. The next day I sent an e-mail: ‘You sang great. Sorry about being so loud.’ And he was, ‘All great. Love you. No worries.’ “
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine last saw Cornell in January, when they played an anti-inauguration concert protesting Donald Trump. At the gig, Morello said Cornell was “shining.”
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘I had such a great time. I would love to do this again. You just let me know.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s figure it out!’ It’s unbelievable,” Morello said. “I don’t know what the phases of mourning are, but I’m in the first one. I still expect this to be some kind of mistake.”
Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell says Cornell was “the last guy in the world I thought that would happen to. That’s not the way that book was supposed to end. And it was not the way that book was going.”
Fellow grunge pioneer Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) remembered meeting Cornell in the early ’90s at Nirvana bandmate Krist Nosvoselic’s house.
“There was a bunch of the Seattle gang there,” Grohl said, “and Chris just seemed so quiet and mellow compared to the rest of the maniacs.”
Writer-director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) echoed Cornell’s friends’ shock at his passing.
“I never thought Chris – given family and a certain sunniness, the humor and soulfulness in the way he talked about his life privately – would go all the way into the dark place,” he said. “I thought he would access it, write about it and mock it too well.”