Matt Chamberlain recalls "terror" of filling in on drums for Soundgarden

Publish Date
Saturday, 17 October 2020, 1:58PM

Matt Chamberlain has played drums onstage and in the studio for countless artists, but few gigs were as challenging as the 50 or so he played with Soundgarden in 2014.

In a recent conversation with Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke, Chamberlain and his Painted Shield bandmate Stone Gossard (also of Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dog) offered some fond memories of their dearly-departed friend Chris Cornell and the iconic grunge band he led.

Chamberlain was asked about the demanding nature of the Soundgarden gig. Beyond the band's six studio albums, diverse catalog and ever-changing setlist, he said there were other complexities that made it tough to stay on beat with Cornell, Kim Thayil and Ben Shepherd.

"The setlist was always changing, and they have how many records and how many versions of the songs?" he explained. "Is it the live version they did last tour or is it the version they did in 1990?..."

"And they don't remember which version they played!" Gossard added with a laugh.

Despite the "serious homework" Chamberlain had done prior to rehearsals, there were still plenty of surprises when it came to actually playing the shows.

"The very first gig I did with them, I think we rehearsed for two weeks and then we had a month off and then we showed up in South America for one of those Lollapalooza shows, and we had one day to rehearse and they were still trying to figure out the setlist," Chamberlain recalled. "The day of the gig, they're like, 'Hey, let's play 'Slaves and Bulldozers,' and I was like, 'Oh, great, I know that song.'

"So we're doing the gig and I count it off, and they're like, 'No, it's too slow. We do it really fast now. It's the new version of 'Slaves & Bulldozers!' And of course the gig was being filmed in high-definition. It's on YouTube, you can see the terror in my face."

Gossard empathized: "That's terrifying. Plus all their songs have so many time changes. It's not like you can just ride through a section and pick it back up..."

"Nothing is in 4/4!" Chamberlain added of Soundgarden's predilection for polyrhythms and odd-meter. "If you think it's in 4, it's in 6. And if there's like a break, it's like a bar of four with three 8th notes added or something. ...But it was good, I felt like I became a better musician at the end of it all, which is always a plus, even though my arms were about to fall off. Being in your late-40s and playing that music is not for the faint of heart."

Watch the full interview via the player above!

Skip to the section about Soundgarden at around the 15-minute mark or just click here.

Gosssard and Chamberlain are releasing the debut album with their new band Painted Shields on November 27.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission