The Ultimate Jam Night Interviews – Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum
Ultimate Jam Night #109 presented A Tribute To Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave – and what an absolutely wonderful night of music and memories this would be – all in honor of a truly gifted artist who meant the world to his friends and fans. The special guest of the evening was Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, a long time friend of Chris Cornell, who flew in to Los Angeles to participate in the tribute. The three songs Pirner would perform with the Ultimate Jam Night crew included Outshined, Like A Stone, and a wondrously devastating rendition of Black Hole Sun. Onstage with Dave Pirner were Mitch Perry (MSG, Edgar Winter, The Sweet), Matt Starr (Mr. Big/Ace Frehley), Walter Ino (Survivor), Dug Pinnick (King’s X), Matt Fuller (Puddle Of Mudd), Koko Powell (Edgar Winter), and drummer extraordinaire Christopher Allis – all bringing the Chris Cornell compositions to life with a thrilling sense of intensity and passion. Prior to the event, we caught up with Dave Pirner backstage at the world famous Whisky to discuss this friendship with Chris Cornell as well as various happenings within his own band Soul Asylum. Read on…
When was the first time you heard of Chris Cornell and what were your first impressions of him?
I think the first time I met Chris, Soundgarden opened for Soul Asylum the first time we played in Seattle. So it was – I don’t know, 1985 or something? We immediately kind of bonded. Chris was singing through headphones which was a trick that I learned from him. Both bands were just in their infant stage at the time, so, feels like we kind of came up together a little bit.
What do you think it was about Chris that made everybody feel so passionate and connected to his music?
Probably because he was passionate and connected to his music, I think. It’s pretty raw. It’s definitely not easy to sing like that, trust me I’m trying. [laughs]
When was the last time you saw Chris?
Gosh it’s been a while. Probably in Minneapolis, it was that long ago. I think they were opening for Guns N’ Roses and I think we hung out for a little bit when he was in Minneapolis.
Any favorite memory of you and Chris that you can share?
It seemed like every time we were talking we were both struggling with the same thing, which was just our bands starting to get more attention. But I have a very distinct memory of him playing at the Troubadour and he was wearing a Soul Asylum t shirt and I felt that was kind of a nice thing
What can one expect from your performance here at Ultimate Jam Night?
Hopefully I’ll be able to pull it off because it’s way at the top of my range. I mean, I don’t know very many people who can sing like that and I’m one of them. [laughs]
Is this your first time playing Ultimate Jam Night?
Yes it is.
Let’s talk about your current album, Change Of Fortune – any overall message or theme behind that title?
Well it’s the name of a song – it was one of the pieces of music that I think was sort of inspired by the environment in New Orleans. I’ve been in New Orleans for 15 years now and it just worked. It was actually the bass player’s idea. He said, you know what? Let’s just name this album Change of Fortune and put it out! I said, fine Winston that sounds like a good idea.
Select any other song from the LP – what inspired the lyrics?
The first song is called “Supersonic” and just one of those things where I found myself kind of picking apart the sound of the band and trying to understand what it was all about. It just kind of came out that way – kind of obnoxious, melodic and loud.
Do you still enjoy playing Runaway Train after all of this time?
Yeah, I like playing it. It was a while where we stopped playing it because people liked it too much and it was kind of punk rock to not play it, I guess. But nowadays I’m just thankful that anyone knows any of my material. [laughs]
What do you think of Shinedown and Busted version of Runaway Train?
I haven’t heard it. Are they good? I’ve heard some weird versions, like Italian dance versions but I was not aware that they were covering that.
How did you wind up on the Within Temptation album?
They called me and they were fans, I guess. It’s actually the singer’s husband – I think it was his idea. I think they just wanted to have a few guest singers and they had a song that needed a male vocal and they thought of me, I was flattered and we recorded it in New Orleans. So I recorded the song on the album before I ever met the band. Then they decided to make a video for the song and that’s when I met the band. I I hadn’t really performed the song with them other than doing the video. Hopefully someday we’ll get to do it live together.
What’s up net for Soul Asylum and do you have any solo albums in the works?
We’re working on a new record and we’re going out on tour this summer with a couple of other bands – Cracker is one of them. So we’ll be touring all summer. We got a record in the works right now.
Any solo albums?
DP: Eh, it was kind of just an OK experience. I like being in a band. I like being part of a band, being solo was just kind of eh – too much about me I guess.
Any messages for your fans who are reading this right now?
Keep the faith, ya know. [laughs]
Be sure to check out Ultimate Jam Night, every Tuesday at the world famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip!
(Interview by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)