‘One of the nicest rock stars you could ever meet’ Chris Cornell remembered
The world is in mourning over the loss of one of the most revered vocalists in modern rock, Chris Cornell.
As soon as news of the Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman’s passing became public knowledge, there was an immense outpouring of grief from his shocked fans and friends.
Along with that grief came the tributes that attest to what a noble person Cornell was, which, for a rockstar of his stature, isn’t necessarily a common trait.
“He was one of the nicest rock stars you could ever meet,” he said.
Soundgarden took a young You Am I on the road in the United States as the opening act on their mammoth Superunknown tour in 1994. At the time, they were one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. So their humility initially came as a surprise to their Australian guests.
They would move the drum kit for the support bands. They would let us use their tour bus... It made us a better band. We saw how a bigger band should operate.Rusty Hopkinson
“They came from a scene that was very similar to the scenes that I came from,” Hopkinson said.
“It was just about bands you like and doing the right thing by the people around you. It was very inspiring. They inspired us to be a better band in a lot of ways.”
Hopkinson remembers the band being completely unpretentious, straying away from the headline act behaviour that remains common among many large acts.
“They would move the drumkit for the support bands,” he said. “They would let us use their tour bus. We were in the crew tour bus, when that broke down they said ‘Come on our tour bus’.
“So, we spent a week on the tour bus with Soundgarden, playing Minutemen and Albert Ayler records. We turned them on to early Blur records, it was a wonderful time and a great introduction to touring in America.”
Cornell and his band set a strong example for a young You Am I, showing them that hard work and levelheadedness was a valuable trait.
“It made us a better band,” Hopkinson said. “We saw how a bigger band should operate. Without being arseholes. Without having a million groupies around. Without having hangers on and drug problems. They were just this solid band who were all about the show. You have a little bit of fun after and then think about tomorrow. It was very inspiring."
There are plenty of cherished memories of the two bands’ time together, but it was those simple times that Rusty recalls most fondly.
“Things like sitting in the back of the tour bus playing video games – I think we were playing this game called Road Rash, which was a very new game at the time,” he remembered. “We were making up inventive ways of playing it that broke all the rules.”
And, like just about anyone who ever saw Soundgarden perform live, Hopkinson was blown away by the power of their stage show.
“It was very inspiring, because they were fabulous every night,” he said. “They played their hearts out.
“There’s a venue called the Olympic Auditorium in LA, which was very famous for a lot of famous punk rock shows.
"The show they did there was probably one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen by any band. That includes the Rolling Stones and The Who and a lot of other bands we’ve played with.
But beyond their power as a musical unit, it was Cornell and his band’s personable nature that stuck with Hopkinson most.
“They were a big, major act, but still retained that level-headedness,” he said. “They were just really good guys who weren’t arseholes. That’s very hard to do for a lot of other bands. For them it was just kind of natural.”
They were a big, major act, but still retained that level-headedness. They were just really good guys who weren’t arseholes.Rusty Hopkinson
It’s a tough time for fans of Cornell and his many musical projects. Hopkinson shares some tips for dealing with the grief.
“Remember those records, those great shows and that great person, who was unaffected by being a really big rockstar,” he said.
“They took us under their wing and gave us a lot of love. I have nothing but fond memories of him over the years. I’m glad to have been in his orbit.”
Also today, Gang Of Youths frontman Dave Le’aupepe told triple j about the impact Cornell had on him both musically and personally, after spending time as Cornell's support act on his final ever Australian tour in 2015.
"He seemed really interested in my career, interested in what I was doing…. He was always the one to say 'hi' first… He sat by the stage in Adelaide and listened to every song; he clapped and applauded. He closed his eyes."
Read the full interview here.
Celebrities from across the musical spectrum have paid tribute to Cornell, many of them acknowledging what an enormous influence his songs and voice had on their own work.