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The Kim Thayil File

December 2010
The Kim Thayil File


Born in Seattle to immigrants from Kerala, Thayil grew up in Park Forest, a suburb of Chicago, but returned to Seattle for college, earning a degree in philosophy from the University of Washington.

Thayil has played guitar for a number of groups, but gained fame as the lead guitarist for the grunge band Soundgarden. He founded the group in 1984 with Hiro Yamamoto, a high school friend, and Chris Cornell, a college roommate.

The first grunge band in Seattle to sign with a major label, Soundgarden produced five albums, including three that went platinum. The group disbanded in April 1997, but reunited this year and released their first CD in more than a decade, “Telephantasm,” consisting mostly of old favorites. Bundled with the first million copies of the video game "Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock," the CD is guaranteed to be a big seller.

Thayil, who conceived the album’s name, explained its significance to Rolling Stone: “‘Tele’ is at a distance, or from afar. And 'Phantasm' is an illusion, or could be used to refer to a ghost. So I guess 'Telephantasm' would be an illusion at a distance, or a ghost from afar. Which I think would be an appropriate reference to what we have here—a retrospective of a band that had been inactive for thirteen years."


2 Grammy Awards as a member of Soundgarden
21 Songs he composed for Soundgarden
24 Age when he co-founded Soundgarden
50 His age (He was born Sept. 4, 1960, in Seattle, Wash.)
100 His ranking on Rolling Stone’s list of all-time best guitarists
20 million Soundgarden’s estimated record sales worldwide


"I play guitar because I like to make loud noises. And the guitar is the coolest way to make a loud noise."

“Your lack of technique can be part of your style. The thing about style is that it’s more entertaining, more important and hopefully more intellectual than technique.” (

“A lot of alternative people think we're like this macho metal thing 'cause we don't sing songs that are little whispers in the ear, and a lot of metal people think we're this wimpy alternative thing 'cause our name is Soundgarden ?” (


Thayil jams with Tom Morello and Mark Arm

Kim Thayil’s top 5 solos

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