Kim Thayil is an American guitarist. He should be best-known to most interested individuals for being one of the co-founders of Soundgarden, where he remained as the lead guitarist until 2018. Besides this, Thayil has been involved in a number of other projects as well, meaning that he is by no means retired.
1. Born in Seattle, WA But Raised in Chicago, IL
Thayil was born in Seattle, WA. This is perhaps unsurprising considering his membership in Soundgarden, which was a banner-bearer of the grunge movement that started up in said city. However, it is interesting to note that while Thayil was born in Seattle, WA, he was raised in a suburb of Chicago, IL.
2. His Parents Came from Kerala
Both of Thayil’s parents came from the Indian state of Kerala, which is situated on the southwestern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Thanks to this, it has played an important role in maritime trade since ancient times, seeing as how it connects Egypt and East Africa with East Asia and Southeast Asia. On top of this, Kerala was a major exporter of spices, which made it a place of enormous interest to the Mediterranean world.
3. Inspired By Kiss
Thayil was born in 1960. Due to this, he was a member of the generation that was inspired by Kiss, which came into existence in 1973 before proceeding to become prominent in the rest of the 1970s.
4. Became Interested in Punk Because of Kiss
It is interesting to note that Thayil became interested in punk because of Kiss. For those who are curious, what happened was that he started looking into the bands that had inspired Kiss. This led Thayil to the New York Dolls, which was one of the earliest punk bands to come into existence. The band was never successful in a commercial sense. Furthermore, the original line-up fell apart within a very short period of time. However, the New York Dolls have nonetheless managed to become very influential because both of their initial releases became cult classics. Regardless, once Thayil had become interested in the New York Dolls, it was natural for him to take an interest in the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and other punk bands.
5. Started Out in Punk
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thayil started out in a punk band. To be exact, when he was still a teenager, he formed a band called Bozo and the Pinheads. Some of the band’s material was penned by Thayil himself. The rest consisted of covers of songs from punk bands, with DEVO, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols making up the bulk of said material. Later, Thayil played in a post-punk band as well before forming the band that would go on to become Soundgarden.
6. Headed to Evergreen State College with Hiro Yamamoto
Interested individuals might know that Soundgarden was founded by three people – Chris Cornell, Hiro Yamamoto, and Kim Thayil. It is interesting to note that Yamamoto and Thayil were acquainted with one another when they were still in high school. Moreover, their relationship was quite good, as shown by how the two made the decision to attend Evergreen State College after graduating from high school. Said decision proved to be fateful because it put them on the path to forming a band with Cornell in 1984. Initially, the band was called the Shemps. However, when Cornell switched focus from the drums to the vocals, the band went through a name change. Naturally, the new name was Soundgarden.
7. His Band Was Named for an Artwork
Some people might be curious about where Thayil and the rest of Soundgarden got their name for their band. After all, it is simple but nonetheless unusual, thus making it quite memorable. If so, interested individuals should know that Soundgarden is named for an outdoor artwork that can be found on the NOAA campus in Seattle, WA. Said artwork consists of steel structures holding up organ pipes attached to weather vanes, thus enabling them to produce sound whenever there is enough wind to move them. Thanks to this, the artwork has turned into something of a makeshift memorial to Cornell after he passed away in 2017.
8. Humble But Not Too Humble About His Guitar Playing
Soundgarden was one of the biggest bands to emerge from the grunge movement. In part, the band’s success can be attributed to Thayil’s guitar-playing, which has proven to be influential in determining the so-called “Seattle Sound.” As for the man himself, he has been humble but not too humble about his skills in this regard. Thayil has stated that he isn’t “God.” However, he does see himself as a “fine guitarist” who is “certainly not average.” If anything, Thayil was understating things considering Soundgarden’s critical and commercial success.
9. Took a Break from Soundgarden from 1997 to 2010
Interested individuals might remember that Soundgarden broke up for the first time in 1997. There was preexisting issues within the band. However, being out on tour apparently aggravated those issues, with the result that the band broke up. Like every other band members, Thayil went off to do his own thing for more than a decade’s time. For example, he contributed guitar-work to both Pigeonhed and Presidents of the United States of America. Similarly, he formed a one-shot punk band called NO WTO Combo with other well-known musicians in 1999, which was involved in the protests of the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999. On top of this, he even showed up in a sketch comedy show from time to time.
10. Still Active
Soundgarden has broken up for the second and final time because of Cornell’s passing in 2017. However, Thayil is still active. To name an example, he played the guitar for a song called “Only Love Can Save Me Now” for The Pretty Reckless. Said band is headed up by Taylor Momsen, who started out as an actress but has long since retired from acting for the purpose of focusing on her music. As she tells it, music is apparently a much more personal thing for her than acting, thus making it a chance for her to be her.