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A 'striking character': The day I shared a stage with Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

Guitarist Aaron Passmore will spend the next few days brushing up on his Audioslave and Soundgarden covers. 

He'll do so in expectation of requests at his next few gigs after the death of the lead singer of those bands, Chris Cornell, who died on Thursday at the age of 52.

The 90s rock icon was a hero to Passmore, who these days plays in Wellington covers band The Satisfactions, but who once shared a stadium stage with Cornell - a moment that remains a career highlight for the guitarist.

Crumb in 2003. Drummer Jon Davidson, singer Carter Nixon and guitarists, Aaron Passmore and Vinnie Menon.

It was 2003 and Lower Hutt band Crumb were booked to open for Audioslave at Wellington's TSB Arena. It was the experience of a lifetime for Passmore and band mates Carter Nixon, Vinnie Menon and John Davidson. 

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"We got a really stern word just before Chris came in that 'we'll rush him through here, there's no booze, no drugs, keep him away from everything, he's been to rehab, his wife will be really p..... off'," recalls Passmore.

"Then he came wandering through: this really tall, striking character came in with this big long jacket on, hands stuffed in his pockets and he shuffled up and said 'hey man, how's it going?'

"He shook our hands, thanked us for coming and playing with them. He was pretty low-key and the tour manager came and grabbed him and ushered him away into the darkness and we kind of never saw him again until he was on stage."

Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden has died aged 52.

It was a brief but memorable encounter. "I was just blown away, yeah it was really cool," says Passmore. "When he walked in, it was a bit of an entrance for us. We were like, 'oh my god it's Chris Cornell'. But there was no arrogance or ego or anything like that.


"I remember me and my drummer standing backstage after Chris walked through and he says to me, 'wow, he's a bloody handsome fulla isn't he'.

"Because he was in rehab, we were expecting a more livelier character. The other guys from Audioslave were really full on guys and really keen to talk about our songs and our gear...but I guess it was just the place he was in, he looked a little bit beaten up. He looked like, 's... I want to go and enjoy myself but I can't because I have a tour manager and they're being really strict on me'; that was the impression I got anyway."

Soundgarden Vocals Chris Cornell performing at the Big Day Out at Auckland's Mt.Smart Stadium.

Passmore said Audioslave's performance also left an impression. "He had complete control over the crowd, his voice was just outstanding.

"As a band, Audioslave were incredible to watch - they had so much energy, but Chris had a heap of energy on stage he was running around, pulled his guitar out played a few songs as well, on guitar. The whole energy was just incredible, the arena - I don't know how many thousands of people were in it - but it was just shaking, it was incredible."

It wasn't the only time Passmore had seen Chris Cornell perform. He saw Soundgarden when he was younger, and eagerly bought tickets to watch Cornell's solo act at the Michael Fowler Centre in 2015.

"He's got such an amazing range in his voice. It was a lot more stripped back and just seemed a lot more emotional. He's got a voice that can do rock, a voice for metal, a voice for bluesy soul songs, a very versatile singer. I'm so glad I got to see him again and play - we have lost a fair few over the last year and a half."

An upset Passmore will now go and finetune his own versions of Cornell's classics. "I'm real beat up by it.

"He was one of my idols as a kid who I got the pleasure of meeting briefly ... it was just a real shock to me and I'm just genuinely really sad. I'll call it out, my first man-crush was on Chris Cornell."


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