Rip Magazine 10/91
by Katherine Turman
"I'm sure he'd be blown away by the whole thing. I'm sure he is. If there's anyone's spirit who'd be hanging around to check things out, it would definitely be Andy Wood's." -- Stone Gossard
Seattle's music scene has been living under a microscope of late, with names like Alice In Chains, Green River, Mudhoney and Soundgarden rolling off the tongues of music hipsters everywhere. One of the most anticipated bands to emerge from that scene was Mother Love Bone, whose major-label debut, Apple, was released in July 1990. But one member didn't get to see that release. For Love Bone singer Andrew Wood, the album came out posthumously. Wood died of a heroin overdose on March 19, 1990, at the age of 24.
He left behind a wealth of material, memories, fans and friends from his work with Love Bone, Malfunkshun, and just by being Andy. Diverse adjectives used to describe Wood include "brilliant," "scared," "humorous," and "unusual." Some of those friends (who doubled as fans and bandmates of the prolific young singer/songwriter) got together to honor Wood in the most appropriate way possible -- musically. Thus Temple Of The Dog was born. A one-time grouping of former Love Bone (and current Pearl Jam) guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament, singer Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron (both of Soundgarden), guitarist Mike McCready and Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder, Temple Of The Dog's ten-song effort was hardly that -- an effort. Recorded in 15 days, Temple of the Dog is not a record for or about Wood, per se, though the heavy, sometimes mournful vibe appears to be somewhat of a lament. Actually, it's more of a fluid outpouring of emotion arising from a shared affection, experience and inspiration. Certainly a once-in-a-lifetime creation. As the band-penned Temple Of The Dog bio concludes, "10 songs. Spontaneous. Creation. Emotion. Very Pleasing. Real Music. No Analyzation. No Pressure. No Hype. Just music to make music. Friends and a reason. Chemistry. Beauty. Life Rules!"
Those close to Wood remember him fondly and have reassessed their lives in light of his death, which still haunts them. "Sometimes it makes me sad, and we talk about Andy every day," relates Gossard. "We still laugh about him; his jokes and what he would do. Not like, 'I really miss him.' We talk about Andy-isms. A lot of times I catch myself thinking I see him. It made me totally refocus, as far as my priorities. It had a lot to do with why Mother Love Bone broke up, and going with our gut feelings. Learning to not be afraid to communicate to somebody, even if it's going to piss them off... not allowing yourself to be unhappy in a situation if you can do something about it."
Cornell recalls how the initial seeds for the Temple Of The Dog project were sown. "Right after Andy died, we [Soundgarden] went to Europe, and it was horrible, because I couldn't talk about it, and there was no one who had loved him around. I wrote two songs, 'Reach Down' and 'Say Hello 2 Heaven.' That was pretty much how I dealt with it. When we came back, I recorded them right away. They seemed different from what Soundgarden naturally does, and they seemed to fit together. They seemed like music he would like. I got the idea to release them as a single, and to get at least Stone and Jeff, or all of Love Bone, to play on it. I had the idea for a couple days, then, with an artist's lack of self-confidence, I decided it was a stupid idea. Somehow those guys heard the tape, and they were really, really excited. Stone and Jeff and our drummer, Matt, had been working on a demo for what ended up being Pearl Jam, so we had the idea that we would make an EP or a record, and maybe even do some of Andy's solo songs."
Though business-wise, with the members being on different labels, there was resistance, Temple Of The Dog (the name came from a Wood song, "Man of Golden Words") took on a life of its own -- but not without a bit of introspection on the part of the TOD-ers.
"A few of Andy's friends and family, and his girlfriend, started grumbling, being a little concerned about our motives for doing Andy's music," explains Cornell, "which is totally fair. But it wasn't something that any of us felt like having to explain or worry about, so we decided we would make our own album, let the Andrew thing go, and have fun collaborating as a band, because we were really having a good time working together. The rest of the material came within a few weeks."
Cornell, who was a roommate of Wood's believes his former cohort "would love the record. He had no prejudices musically at all. He was a really unusual guy." Though a year has passed since Wood's death, the Soundgarden vocalist finds it difficult to listen to Wood's work with Mother Love Bone. "I knew him in some pretty crucial years of his developing his songwriting and talent. When I first started living with him, he was writing a lot of material, and tons of solo material. He was the opposite of me. He would just record any idea he had. He was so fluid in his creativity. He never edited anything; he was never self-critical. He just went for it, so some of the many songs were just totally brilliant -- maybe one or two out of ten. He grew so incredibly in the year they made that record. It's just mind- blowing, the idea that that was robbed from everybody, including him. That was just the beginning for him. He could have done anything."
No one really blames themselves for the death of their friend, and Cornell notes that Wood's drug use was a symptom of something deeply internalized. Initially, he believes, Wood was drawn to heroin because he saw it as a romantic side of rock. He totally created his own personality as a rock star. He was a total rock star before anybody knew who he was. There was no denying that. He just was. To him, that was part of the whole thing. Eventually, it became a really efficient escape, because he was really scared. Anyone who's a musician or a songwriter and/or a performer can be pretty insecure. Everybody has to battle with that when it comes to being creative. I don't think anybody is born believing that what they do creatively is great. Sometimes you just do it and let other people convince you. And it was moving really fast for him. It was an easy way to forget about it. He was probably a lot more scared about simple things -- living socially and working. He was probably just more afraid of being alive than anybody would realize, because he was so outgoing that you never saw that side of him. He was guarded. He was always on. At his worst times, he was laughing about it. He was like a game-show host.
Though Cornell's Temple Of The Dog lyrics are open to interpretation, he addresses the topic of the fear and pressure that come with being a frontman -- a topic close to his own heart -- on the moving "Reach Down," where he sings about reaching down "to pick the crowd up."
While Cornell and Wood both felt artistic insecurities, there was also a competition between the housemates. "When he was around, there was an unspoken competition, for sure, between our band and Mother Love Bone -- a healthy kind, but it was always there. We were watching what each other was doing. It would motivate you. When he died, I felt really hollow, really lonely. When he was alive, I felt I was part of something that was really vital and really cool and really different. When he was gone, it was like, 'It was my responsibility.' It was a real serious absence. A lot of people helped bring me out of that, like Layne from Alice In Chains, and Eddie, Pearl Jam's singer -- he's a great guy. That really helped. As much as I like to be completely separate from the music industry or trends, it definitely feels good to be part of something that's vital and inspiring."
And, like Gossard, he took inspiration from Wood's death that will certainly make its presence felt on the forthcoming Soundgarden record, which was recorded earlier this year with producer Terry Date.
"We had lots of plans for future collaborations, and I realize that there's no reason, artistically, to surround myself with people who are mediocre, when there are brilliant people around," states Cornell. "As far as Soundgarden screwing around with our bass player and having to deal with finding a new one -- our first choice didn't work out -- Andy dying made me realize that a band working efficiently -- and messes being kept neat in my life -- is as important as surrounding myself with creative people. That helped to make that decision. That helped us find someone who is totally inspiring."
Again, Cornell muses on aspects of the artistic temperament he shared with Wood.
"I was scared to death when I was considering going on tour for a year and having to be on every night. When you're a singer -- he might have been really good at it -- you have to get up in front of these people and create some kind of a rapport."
He deals with that fear not with drugs, but by psyching himself out. "Sometimes I'm really unhappy. Sometimes it's a real battle," he admits. "I'm pretty introverted, and if it wasn't for what I'd chosen to do with my life, I'd probably be, more or less, a shut-in. It's kinda fortunate that I'm doing this. Sometimes it's real easy for the extroverted side to happen. Sometimes my quiet side doesn't want to give in, and I just want to go into a room and be by myself. That's when I almost feel physical pain. Andy definitely had to do a psych-out thing for himself. That's what makes people do really insane things on-stage. I'm sure that's what made Iggy Pop pick fights and roll around in glass. It was his way of dealing with being in front of hundreds of thousands of people and having to hold their attention."
Wood, however, was always striving for the spotlight. "He worked right next door to Kim [Thayil, Soundgarden's guitar player]. One day we had a show, and we asked him to be the emcee, because he was so outrageous. That was when he would dress up in full makeup and wear totally outrageous clothes and sing to a tape. That was the first time I met him. Then he went through drug treatment. When he came out, I'd rented a little house and renovated it, and I was looking for a roommate. He was gonna live with his parents, and it seemed it would be a really depressing thing. I thought it would be really cool for him to get back into life. I never had any experiences, when he lived with me, of him doing drugs. He wasn't someone who had to cop every day, and who would steal your stuff. He wasn't that way at all. The only thing he was dishonest about was when he would actually do it, he would try and hide it."
At present, Temple Of The Dog has no plans for shows, as both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden are looking at early fall releases. A lucky few saw the Temple Of The Dog incarnation at Seattle's Off Ramp club, and caught Cornell and Cameron when they played some TOD material at a Pearl Jam gig. Temple Of The Dog shot a video for their first single, "Hunger Strike," and the album, thanks to the moody, Hendrix-y "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and the more up-front, raw "Pushin' Forward Back," penned by Gossard, is garnering rave reviews. But for now, the heavy, swirling wonder that is Temple Of The Dog remains something pure, rare and precious, like the musician who was the initial spark.
"We actually had a chance to make a record where there were no expectations from anybody," says Cornell. "And it came out great."
Though none of the Temple Of The Doggers waxes too superstitious, sometimes they get the feeling a part of their friend is still around, enjoying all the good music and hoopla he inspired. "Sometimes I think I can feel a certain presence," concludes Gossard, "but I'm sure that has to do with how strong Andy's life force was when he was on Earth."