Kim Thayil explains how buying a Guild S-100 as a teenager influenced Soundgarden's sound

Kim Thayil
(Image credit: Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images)

There's something refreshing about players who work with what they have to create a signature sound, without heading out on an endless gear acquisition quest. Tom Morello is one such guitarist who simply stopped buying and began creating with what he owned as his sore sound, and Kim Thayil is another. Coincidentally, both guitarists played alongside the late Chris Cornell, in Audioslave and Soundgarden, respectively. And Thayil recently told Total Guitar how buying a Guild S-100 early on in his playing life actually shaped the latter band's sound.

”The S-100 is the guitar I bought when I was 18, and ultimately was the one I could afford to buy," he explains. "I had started playing a few years before that, when I was 15. So at that stage I was learning new techniques and getting better gradually, as I was self-taught. But I had to buy a guitar that I could afford.

He chose well, following his own advice to "get something that feels good to play"…

”The Guild S-100, which I bought in ’77 or ’78, was pretty affordable. It only cost me $250, which was way less than a Les Paul or Strat. I think friends would have directed me to those other guitars, but this one looked good – it was black – and it was in good condition with great action. When I picked it up, I found that it was easy to play and had a fast neck.”

I would get this weird feedback and hum – which I would probably discourage, because the people you play with might not want to hear your guitar screaming or humming away. But I did!

The S-100 became Thayil's go-to guitar. It still is to this day. But it's simply a spin on a Gibson SG blueprint - it has its own facets.

“There were things about the S-100 that I didn’t fully understand," he explains. "I didn’t really know what distinguished it from a Les Paul or a Strat. By learning on that guitar, my style developed. It was how it made me play and what it allowed me to do. 

“Weirdly it had a microphonic pickup – I could blow on the strings or talk into it and that would get picked up. Consequently, I would get this weird feedback and hum – which I would probably discourage, because the people you play with might not want to hear your guitar screaming or humming away. But I did! So eventually that would become a component of what I’d do in Soundgarden

“It seemed to voice really loudly beneath the bridge," adds Thayil. "There’s this good space between the bridge and tailpiece where I can hit the strings and strum it to get this ‘krring’. I noticed I could do that on the headstock, though some of my friends’ guitars didn’t do that. 

“I liked the fact I could make these weird noises with my guitar and my fretting hand adapted to that guitar, with a slightly thinner neck and lower action. I felt familiar and comfortable with it. That’s how it came to be my main guitar." 

With such loyalty to the model, fans have been waiting for a Thayil signature S-100 for years. Guild reissued the S-100 after Soundgarden's popularity soared in the early '90s and though it was allegedly in discussion after the band's 2010 reunion, it hasn't yet come to fruition. 

Check out the whole chat with Kim Thayil over at Guitar World.  

Classic interview: Soundgarden's Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil talk guitar

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.