Smash Mouth drummer Jason Sutter wasn’t looking to jump ship when he was asked to sit in on a third-call audition for vocalist Chris Cornell. Cornell, who left Audioslave earlier this year, needed a band to tour with in support of his new album, Carry On, but he had already decided on a drummer. He changed his mind, however, once he heard Sutter play.
When Cornell’s management offered Jason the gig, they basically refused to take no for an answer. “I was told that what set me apart from the other drummers who auditioned was that I had a slinkier swing of a backbeat,” Jason recalls. “That’s a great compliment, because it’s something that you either have or you don’t. Chris has played with incredible drummers like Matt Cameron and Brad Wilk, and they have that quality as well.”
Jason, who is primarily known for his tenure in pop bands like American Hi-Fi and Jack Drag, admits that playing the heavier music of Cornell’s former bands presented him with a formidable challenge. “For the audition I had to learn ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Spoonman,’ which are not easy songs,” he offers. “They have these weird intangibles, including odd bars and odd meters. Anyone can count it out eventually, but I only had a few hours to learn this stuff. The guys in Soundgarden never counted anything, they just felt it.
“When learning songs with odd measures,” Jason continues, “rather than worry about counting, you have to learn to feel it and learn it that way. Besides having to swing at all times, it’s also very important to make five, seven, nine, or combinations of all beats feel as simple as walking down the street. I’ve learned to think of this music as something that’s alive.”