The Pretty Reckless leader Taylor Momsen told Shinedown‘s Brent Smith that she suffered depression and substance abuse following the 2017 death of Chris Cornell, her friend and mentor who sang in Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.
Her grief compounded when Pretty Reckless producer Kato Khandwala, who worked closely with the rock band, died in a motorcycle accident the next year.
The distress Momsen experienced formed the basis of Death by Rock and Roll, her group’s 2021 album. It features “Only Love Can Save Me Now,” a collaboration with surviving Soundgarden members.
Asked for the story behind Death by Rock and Roll, Momsen told Smith in Interview, “I don’t want to get too heavy, but there’s kind of no way to talk about it without going into the losses that we experienced. We lost a lot of people very close to us.”
The Pretty Reckless opened for Soundgarden at Cornell’s final show on May 17, 2017, in Detroit. Last year, she described her final encounter with him.
Momsen continued to Interview, “We were on tour with Soundgarden, which was such a peak for me. I’m the biggest Soundgarden fan in the world. Chris Cornell passed away on the night of our last show. That was crushing to me. I was not mentally prepared to handle that, and it really took me down.”
She recalled, “We were in the middle of a tour, and I very quickly realized that I couldn’t get on stage every night and be OK. I couldn’t fake it. So I canceled the tour and went home. Then, I learned that our producer Kato, my best friend in the whole world and practically a member of the band, died.”
Momsen admitted, “That was the nail in the coffin for me. I spiraled real fast: depression, substance abuse. I fell into this hole that I couldn’t get out of — I didn’t even know if I wanted to. I finally got to a place where I felt like I really needed music again ��� I was depriving myself of it during that time, and I’d never done that.”
Death by Rock and Roll is “an homage to those loved and lost, and it’s very hopeful,” she explained. “It captures the arc of grief — at the end, it does get better. The phrase ‘Death by Rock and Roll’ is very important, because it was something Kato used to say.”
It’s a “motto that we lived our lives by,” Momsen said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug and/or alcohol dependence, help is available through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Dial 1-800-622-HELP (1-800-622-4357) or send a text message to 1-800-487-4889.
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