Lead Producer Brendan O’Brien Behind Making The Final “Bitter” Chris Cornell LB

Producer Brendan O’Brien has just started packing Pearl Jam’s second album against. when he first met Chris Cornell in the summer of 1993. Cornell and his colleagues at Soundgarden were about to finish recording what would become their remarkable album. SuperrunknowOn the recommendation of Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, he invited O’Brien to Seattle to discuss the project’s synthesizer.

As O’Brien recalls, “We went out to dinner to talk about what we were going to do, and five minutes later, it was like, ‘Are we really going to talk about mingling?'” We’ll put the songs up and make them sound good. What then? What do you want to talk about now? We all laughed, and then dumped for the next hour and a half.” Released the following March, Superrunknow It became Soundgarden’s most successful album, selling 5 million copies in the United States and spawning all-rock hits such as “Spoonman”, “Fell on Black Days” and “Black Hole Sun”.

Having established their intuitive collaborative approach, O’Brien and Cornell continued to work closely over the next twenty years, culminating in the Nobody sings like you anymore, a 10-track album cover that was among Cornell’s last records before his death in 2017.

Composed of material originally recorded by John Lennon, Electric Light Orchestra, Sinead O’Connor, Janis Joplin, and Justland Observatory, among others, Nobody sings like you anymore He found that Cornell and O’Brien play almost all the same instruments. Cornell has a good voice all the time and shines in his role as the song’s translator, helping the album earn two Grammy nominations next month – Best Rock Album and Best Rock Performance for the artist’s performance of the artist’s song “Patience.” Talk to O’Brien wraps About the bittersweet experience of completing a project without Cornell’s presence and the enduring power of his music.

Chris Cornell Henson Studios

(credit: Andrew Stewart)

Spin: Can you remember what it was like to meet Chris and Soundgarden for the first time in Seattle in 1993?
Brendan O’Brien: I think they finished most of the “Superunknown” recording at that point. So when I got there, we hit the ground and ran. I think they were a little exhausted at that point after they’d worked on the recording for so long, and were excited to hear it sound organized, put together and it’s over. We had a great time

With Pearl Jam and other people, I’ve been producing records, so you’re there from the ground up. You go through the entire process. It is more cooperative and sometimes hostile. It’s not supposed to be that way, but part of your job is to present every angle. When you come to mingle, they’re ready for you to be the hero (laughs). They are ready for you to make it look great. Unless I set something on fire, I would have done well. It wouldn’t be bad for me unless you made it sound like crap. They were all smiling at that point. Especially with Chris, I think he was excited to see the finish line. I can tell they felt like they had something in there – a real and legitimate record. I was so happy to be a part of that

I’ve gone on to work with Chris on a lot of Post Soundgarden projects.
I mixed an Audioslave disc and then made another one with them. That was the first time I worked with Chris as a singer. He and I immediately got along very well. I think he appreciated my understanding of what he was doing. He seemed to respect that. Of course put it in front of a microphone and it was better. We got it great. He had a good sense of humor, because we had similar interests in lousy old movies and old cars. He was younger than me, but not by much, so we had a lot of the same effects. After Audioslave he did his own thing for a while but we got back together on the single that became supreme truth. I produced that with him, and he and I did most of it. At some point while creating this recording, we had an idea of ​​making a cover recording, and we even started coming up with some song ideas after that. In fact, it didn’t happen until about a year later. We had a good thing going. My hope was that we’d keep making more records this way, but things have changed.

Soundgarden didn’t tour in 2016, but Chris toured solo for a bit and then reunited with Temple Of The Dog. When did you guys score this?
I had to take a break mid-record to help Coldplay and Bruno Mars at the Super Bowl, so it could have been early 2016. We did a good part of it after that, and then came back to it later. The truth is that this is an incomplete record. We’re not really finished. We did a bunch of songs, and the idea was always to go back and pick three or four more things. We thought we needed some different picks for other songs. There was no rush to put it together, at least on his part. I’m glad people are getting Chris, and he’s gotten so much deserved recognition, but he’s bittersweet, for obvious reasons. For me, it is not complete.

It got me thinking about how Chris could help finish Jeff Buckley’s last record after Jeff’s death.
I met Jeff Buckley about a week before his death, and spoke to Chris right before that, because I knew they were friends. I told him, “I’m going to meet this guy even though I think he’s going to set the record with Andy Wallace.” I went to say hi and spend a day with him. He was a likable guy – very soft-spoken, he loved music. My interaction with Jeff was through Chris and I see the similarities. But with Chris recording, again, I feel like there’s still some work to do in terms of more songs, but that’s not how the world looks at it, and that’s all good. This is just my personal view.

Was the plan always for you both to just play the instruments?
I think it was the plan. We’ve done a lot of past history together like this. Chris is an excellent guitarist and obviously an excellent singer. I can play a bunch of things. He loved that the circle was small, and I loved that too. We had a good relationship about what we were trying to do. [Drummer] Matt Chamberlain plays two songs and there is a musical arrangement of some things. There are four or five songs, maybe more, that are not recorded and have a few other things. It was a bit of an open thing. We didn’t really think about it – we just did.

Who came up with the ideas for the song? Apparently he only played two of these songs live on his 2016 tour.
Two of them were songs he created live and wanted to make a different version of, like “Patience” and “Nothing Compared to 2 U.” We might want to come back later and do more things for them, but who knows? We’ve reached out to friends for suggestions. My old friend from Atlanta whom I have known since high school, Chris Stars, suggested our ELO song. We only tried it one day, and it was like, ‘Okay, looks good! Next! What did you get?’ My friend John Seidel from Los Angeles suggested “You know nothing of love.” We felt like we needed more stuff, and the idea was, let’s see what comes in the future. We didn’t get to that, unfortunately.

Is there an example of a song that was picked up quickly compared to a song that took longer to get to where you wanted it to be?
Honestly, they were all done pretty quickly. There was an idea to pull a song together in one day and really focus, then move on to the next thing. We wanted to trust our instincts. If we really like something, we’ll go back and finish it. There were probably half a dozen more that were sort of finished, maybe more. I can’t think of anything we’ve worked on that much. We spent a lot of time working on it, but the idea was to keep it fresh. It was just the two of us, so we didn’t have to confine a bunch of other people. When there are only two people involved, one of whom knows how to run a studio, it can happen very quickly.

Were there any conversations prior to Chris’ passing about how and when this album would be released?
Everyone’s idea was to put a few more songs together. I know Chris and I felt that way. Before his death, it may have been a year since our last recording. It wasn’t like we just did it and then he died. It’s already been around for a while at that point. His idea was to work on a new recording at Soundgarden and a few other things, and then come back to this at some point.

If that’s the last word on Chris’ solo studio recordings, what do we take away from it?
My first impression is that the post was left unfinished. That’s how I feel about it, and it is. unfinished business. I miss him here in general. I guess that’s how I feel about it all: working, being around it, everything. I can’t imagine feeling perfect, you know? Honestly, I hardly listened to him. I still find it hard to listen to music, because it evokes those memories. I think about the moment we did, and it’s usually pretty much a good memory. This is more mixed. It was fun to do, and I enjoyed everything about working with Chris, especially at the time. But there is also a feeling that there is a lot more to do.

I think part of the fun of the album is hearing how skilled Chris is as a translator for other people’s music.
I don’t know if he was ever in a cover band before Soundgarden. In my time, everyone was playing in cover bands and then started working on their own music. He might have come at a scene where everyone was starting to work on their own music, but he would have been a great singer in a cover band. Great all the time (laughs). I used to tease him that he could always have a grunge tribute band concert.

Do you have any idea what the condition of the Soundgarden material the band was working on prior to Chris’ death?
I haven’t heard of it before. Despite what may have been said or written, Chris and I never talked about it. We were focused on this record. Soundgarden seemed like a separate thing, which is pretty cool to me. I felt good about it. But I’d love to hear it at some point – I really will. I hope they find out.

Post-producer Brendan O’Brien behind making the final “Bittersweet” Chris Cornell LP debuted on SPIN.

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