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On “Physical Grafitti’s” 40th Anniversary, Soundgarden Guitarist Kim Thayil Reflects on Led Zeppelin Influence

Image Courtesy of Universal/Republic RecordsOn the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin‘s landmark album Physical Graffiti, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil has written an essay for Rolling Stone explaining how that album, and Led Zeppelin in general, has affected his life, and his band.

“When we first got together, we were listening to a lot of post-punk and progressive hardcore, stuff like Bauhaus and Black Flag, after practice,” Thayil remembers. “Yet our friends are pointing out how our music has elements that remind them of [Black] Sabbath, Zeppelin and the Doors, and we started getting that a lot: ‘Zeppelin, Zeppelin, Zeppelin,’ and we were like, OK, let’s check some of this out.'”

More so than any of their grunge contemporaries, Soundgarden has always drawn those comparisons to Led Zeppelin. Their riffs were heavier and bluesier than those of Nirvana or Pearl Jam, and frontman Chris Cornell‘s voice sounded like it came from the same mystical, snowy mountain that Robert Plant‘s did.

“We were all very acquainted with it individually, but collectively we weren’t sitting around the table listening them,” Thayil continues. “So initially we would deny that influence.”

However, Thayil says that as Soundgarden began to dig deeper into Led Zeppelin’s music, he discovered an appreciation for the band that had eluded him during his childhood. One example was Zeppelin’s eight-minute epic, “Kashmir.”

“I think the reason why it took so long [to appreciate ‘Kashmir’] was there’s this amazing heaviness about it and this cool guitar riff, but then there’s these other elements that, when I was a young punk-rock guy, I saw as superfluous or unnecessary ornateness, sort of an art-nouveau thrills-and-stuff that perhaps I didn’t understand because I just wanted to get down to the power chords and play it really fast,” Thayil writes.

Led Zeppelin’s deluxe remastered reissue of Physical Graffiti is out now.

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