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KIM THAYIL Explains Why CHRIS CORNELL Played Guitar On The Verses Of “Black Hole Sun”

Soundgarden‘s “Black Hole Sun” has long been hailed as a timeless classic, but did you know the intriguing backstory behind one of its key guitar parts? In an exclusive reveal from a print issue of Guitar Player magazine, lead guitarist Kim Thayil disclosed how the arpeggios penned by frontman Chris Cornell posed a unique challenge. Thayil admitted that the stylistic intricacies of the composition initially perplexed him, leading to an unexpected turn of events during the recording session.

“I love playing arpeggios when you have delay or chorus on them, maybe some sustain or distortion. We would double them with high stringing from a 12-string guitar. Producer Terry Date introduced us to that on Louder Than Love. But the “Black Hole Sun” arpeggios were stylistically unusual for me.”

Despite his efforts to master the part, technical hurdles loomed large, exacerbated by the unconventional setup of the recording equipment.

“I’ve described it as sounding like the right side of a piano, or little fairies dancing on the head of a pin like ballerinas. It was very delicate, and I thought, this is not me. Chris said, ‘You’re good at arpeggios. Go ahead and do it.’ I’d start to do it, but halfway through I’d fuck up. I was like, ‘All right, punch me in.’ But they said they couldn’t punch me in because I was going through a Leslie cabinet.”

Thayil recounted his frustration, remembering how hard he tried, unsuccessfully: “You can’t punch in if the speaker is rotating because it’s always going to be in a different position. So it was like, ‘Kim, you have to play the whole thing straight through, or else the difference in the sweep will be noticeable.’ Every time I tried it, I would fuck up.”

Faced with mounting pressure, Thayil made a bold decision, relinquishing the responsibility to Cornell himself: “‘You wrote the part – you track it!’ I thought he would do it better than me,”

Surprisingly, Cornell rose to the occasion, demonstrating a prowess that surpassed Thayil’s expectations: “He started tracking it, and I went out in the lobby and had some tea. After 20 minutes, I went back in and looked at Chris. He shook his head and said, ‘Let’s try it again.’ In the end, he was less likely to be psyched out than me. He did the part, and I was like, ‘Whew! I’ll play on the next part.'”

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