When Temple Of The Dog released their sole album in 1991, nobody expected it to be one of the most iconic albums of the 90s. However, now reissued in a super deluxe-edition box set, it’s clear that that’s exactly what it has become.
“I think that’s partly because it was done for the right reasons,” says rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard. “We didn’t do it to have a big seller with lots of huge hit singles. Chris Cornell had written some songs in memory of Andy [vocalist Andrew Wood, who had died from a heroin overdose in March the previous year], and Jeff and I felt this was a great way to celebrate him.”
The “Jeff” in question is bassist Jeff Ament, who, along with Gossard, had been in Mother Love Bone with Wood. Together with vocalist Cornell, lead guitarist Mike McCready and drummer Matt Cameron, they went into the studio and recorded their self-titled album very quickly.
“We must have rehearsed for about a week, and then had most of the recording – well, all the basic tracks – done in three or four days,” recalls Gossard. “And we all knew at the time this was something special. It was one of those occasions when art took on a spirit of its own, and was greater than the sum of the parts.”
For the deluxe reissue, the band have unearthed alternate takes and new mixes of some of the songs from the album, along with a DVD’s worth of live material and two songs that never saw the light of day: “Two demos done by Chris, for the songs ‘Black Cat’ plus ‘Angel Of Fire’.”
Looking back at the sessions, Gossard remembers that Cornell’s arrangements were “bulletproof”. “Jeff and I had done some recording before with Mother Love Bone and [previous band] Green River, but Chris and Matt were on a different level,” he says. “They inspired the rest of us to reach new heights. We did two or three takes for every song, no more. But each of these was great. That’s not something I would usually say. I am very choosy, and always believe that there’s something wrong with each take of a song. But here… Well, we were in the zone all the way through.”
The fact that the album has now become so immortalised means the band’s upcoming American live dates – the first time they have properly toured – could have put everyone involved under intense scrutiny and pressure. But Gossard doesn’t feel this is the case.
“We can play these songs really well. That’s not a problem. All of them are very straightforward, because when we did them in 1991 it was in a spontaneous and natural fashion. There’s nothing complicated here – we’re not trying to recreate Pet Sounds live! Besides, we are all better musicians now than we were all those years ago, so when it comes to standing onstage and performing… well, that’s not going to be difficult.”
Gossard also admits the idea for this tour has seemingly happened without any prompting from outside sources.
“No one person made the decision, or even came up with the idea. I have always said that with Temple Of The Dog, it’s like we’re working with a ouija board. We all have a finger on the glass, but none of us are pushing it around. Things just click into place.”
But the guitarist is very cagey as to whether this will lead to further shows in 2017.
“Right now we are taking it step by step. Let’s see how these dates go, before we think about anything else. I’d be lying if I said that we haven’t thought about it, and I would like to believe we’ll be so good that we’d want to take the tour further afield next year. But at the moment, all we’re doing is concentrating on rehearsing and getting things together for the set.”
As for what fans can expect when Temple Of The Dog play these eight shows in November… that’s still being partially kept under wraps.
“We know we’ll do about an hour. Now, obviously the album isn’t close to being long enough. So, what we’ll do is bolster it with covers. Right now, I can’t tell you what these might be, because we haven’t fully decided. But we are looking at doing one or more songs from Mother Love Bone, and we are also working up songs from classic 70s bands who inspired us, and also more contemporary stuff. People will just have to come along to see what ends up being played!”
Of course, it can be taken for granted that there will be a live release from these dates… or can it?
“That’s not been discussed as yet,” insists Gossard. “Personally, I hope it doesn’t happen. Things are never quite the same when you’ve got film cameras trained on you at a gig. I want people to come to along knowing it will be a unique experience, and not something to be played over and over again on your TV.
“There will probably now be one special show that I wish we’d filmed! But the chances are we’d film or record one gig, and all we’ll want to do is use Pro Tools to correct the mistakes!”
For Gossard, Temple Of The Dog are a remarkable band, one that transcends both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, who provide its members with their day jobs. “These are both fantastic bands, he says, “But when the five of us get together as Temple Of The Dog, it has its own brand of magic. I feel that everyone who buys the new version of our album, and comes to see us live, will understand just what I mean.”