Kim Thayil reflected on his support for the late Van Halen frontman Eddie Van Halen’s guitar technique in a recent interview with Guitar World.
When grunge music took off in Seattle, drop-D tuning became a key element in creating heavier riffs, and Thayil helped popularize it with songs like ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ and ‘Outshined.’ However, some guitarists didn’t welcome drop-D tuning, as they thought it was cheating. According to the musician, it wasn’t an entirely new technique, as he said:
“It was such a crazy thing to say: ‘Those Seattle grunge guys are cheating because it’s easier playing in drop D!’ I’d be thinking, ‘Thank you, and you’re right, more people should be experimenting and having fun! Oh, and by the way, we’re doing this because Black Sabbath did it. Neil Young did it. Van Halen did it. How far back are we going? Are you going to tell Eddie Van Halen he wasn’t playing guitar properly?'”
He then revealed how the use of drop D tuning had a significant impact on him:
“I went home from Mark’s that night and wrote ‘Nothing to Say.’ I brought it to practice with Soundgarden the next day, saying, ‘Buzz [Osborne] showed me a Sabbath tuning, and I came up with this!'”
Elsewhere in the conversation, Thayil explained that he learned about the drop-D tuning from Buzz Osborne, and he was amazed by how it made guitar chords sound darker and heavier. It simplified playing power chords, allowing them to be easily played quickly up and down the guitar neck.
Eddie was such a fan of drop-D tuning that he created a device known as the D-Tuna, which allowed guitarists to quickly switch their lowest string to D2 without manually adjusting the tuning pegs. The Van Halen songs like ‘Unchained,’ ‘Mean Streeet’ and ‘Intruder/Oh Pretty Woman’ used this technique.