Soundgarden was an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington in 1984 by lead singer and drummer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band’s permanent drummer in 1986 while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990.
Soundgarden was one of the key bands in the creation of grunge, a style of alternative rock that developed in Seattle and was based around the band’s record label Sub Pop. Soundgarden was the first grunge band to sign to a major label, though the band did not achieve commercial success until Seattle contemporaries Nirvana and Pearl Jam popularized grunge in the early 1990s.
Soundgarden achieved its biggest success with the 1994 album Superunknown which debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and yielded the Grammy Award–winning singles “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman“. In 1997, the band broke up due to internal strife over its creative direction. Soundgarden has sold eight million records in the U.S., and an estimated twenty million albums worldwide.
The band took a slot on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour with Metallica, who had insisted on Soundgarden’s appearance on the tour. After Lollapalooza, the band embarked on a world-wide tour. Tensions continued to increase during the band’s ensuing tour in support of the album. When asked if the band hated touring, Cornell said, “We really enjoy it to a point and then it gets tedious, because it becomes repetitious. You feel like fans have paid their money and they expect you to come out and play them your songs like the first time you ever played them. That’s the point where we hate touring.” At the tour’s final stop in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 9, 1997, Shepherd threw his bass into the air in frustration after suffering equipment failure, and subsequently stormed off the stage. The band retreated, with Cornell returning to conclude the show with a solo encore. On April 9, 1997, the band announced its disbanding. Thayil said, “It was pretty obvious from everybody’s general attitude over the course of the previous half year that there was some dissatisfaction.” Soundgarden’s final release, a greatest-hits compilation titled A-Sides, was released the following fall.