Kim Thayil channeled the loss of Chris Cornell in his solo on the new Mastodon album

Kim Thayil of Soundgarden performs on stage at Sleep Country Amphitheater on August 29, 2014 in Ridgefield, Washington.
(Image credit: Mat Hayward/Getty Images)

Mastodon’s new album, Hushed and Grim, is a staggering achievement: every second of its 86:30 runtime is crammed with arena-shaking riffs, haunting clean passages and sky-scraping solos, courtesy of ever-bankable guitarists Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds – but there are a few special guests onboard, too, including Kim Thayil, who lends his unmistakable leads to ethereal ballad Had It All.

Now, in a new interview with Total Guitar, Kelliher has detailed Thayil’s involvement in the track, and how the Soundgarden guitarist dialed his playing into its themes of loss, which deal with the death of longtime Mastodon manager Nick John.

“I’ve always looked up to Kim,” Kelliher says. “He started coming to our gigs in Seattle and we became friends.

“I knew there would be a lot of room for him to solo on Had It All. He wanted to get it right and asked, ‘Do you need something like this or that?’ I wanted to send him the whole album so he could get a feel for the sadness and emotion.

“I said to him, ‘You guys lost Chris [Cornell], just channel that!’ because that’s what the song is about. Losing our manager, someone who we were very close to. Kim did a great job – his solos are out there and nobody plays like him.”

In the years following Chris Cornell’s passing in May 2017, Thayil has toured with MC5 supergroup MC50, performed Soundgarden material with Brandi Carlile, and served up a sizeable lead on The Pretty Reckless single Only Love Can Save Me Now. Had It All marks his latest guest solo spot.

Elsewhere in the Total Guitar interview, Kelliher reveals how the record’s other guest soloist, Marcus King, ended up tackling The Beast.

“Brent’s been playing with Marcus a lot on the side, doing shows and covers,” he explains.

“He’s a young up-and-coming blues guitarist and to my ears, they sound very similar. Marcus did a stab at a couple of solos on the record and I couldn’t really tell who was playing!”

For more on the new Mastodon album, pick up a copy of the latest issue of Total Guitar magazine, which also features a rundown of the 50 greatest Beatles guitar songs, interviews with Santana and Trivium, plus tabs of songs by Free, Biffy Clyro, Extreme and Passenger.

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.