Kim Thayil (born September 4, 1960 in Seattle, Washington) is best known as the guitarist for Seattle-based grunge band Soundgarden, which he founded with Chris Cornell and Hiro Yamamoto in 1984. He was named 100th best guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Although he was born in Seattle in 1960, Thayil grew up in the Chicago suburb of Park Forest. Thayil's parents are from the south Indian state of Kerala.
Thayil met Hiro Yamamoto at Rich East High School in Park Forest. After graduation, they moved to Washington, where Thayil studied philosophy at the University of Washington. There they met Chris Cornell, a roommate, and the three formed Soundgarden in 1984.
Soundgarden became the first of Seattle's grunge bands to sign with a major label (A&M Records). They went on to release five albums, including three which went platinum at least once, and win two Grammys.
Thayil became acclaimed for his guitar work, which was typically characterized by heavy riffing, and was cited among other grunge guitarists as an influence and a pioneer of the "Seattle Sound." In 1994, Thayil commented, "I think Soundgarden is a pretty good band and I'm a fine guitarist. I'm not God, but I'm certainly not average. I feel very comfortable with the fact that not many other people can do what I do on guitar. I think my guitar is happy with the way I play it."
While living in Seattle, he was known to associate with Rob Morgan of the Seattle band The Squirrels. He was also known to frequent The Cold Mountain Juice Company, a fresh juice company which was located in Seattle. A UPS Store now stands where The Cold Mountain Juice Company once was.
During the recording sessions for Soundgarden's final album, Down on the Upside, Thayil clashed with Cornell over the vocalist's desire to shift away from Soundgarden's traditional heavy riffing. In the midst of these tensions, which increased on the subsequent tour and came to climax at a show in Hawaii (where Ben Shepherd flung his bass into the air in frustration after suffering from several technical failures), Soundgarden announced that it was disbanding in April 1997.
Originally one of Soundgarden's main songwriters, Thayil's contributions as a writer eventually dwindled to just one song on Down on the Upside, "Never the Machine Forever." While a member of Soundgarden, he wrote the following songs for the band: