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18/3 KROCK Interview Transcript

Transcribed from an MP3 of the interview downloaded from

Booker interviews CHRIS CORNELL, 18th March 2005

It's Chris Cornell with us in the studio, from Audioslave. Just popped in mid-conversation, last hour we had a very compelling conversation on custodians walking in on high-school students having sex, this hour, unfortunately, you happen to be here for the rock and roll hall of fame discussion, I'm sorry about that, you're an hour late.

C: Yeah, yeah, now we're honestly more boring: the rock and roll of fame.

B: Yeah, we've moved on to the more boring subject.

C: Yeah.

B: You musicians... I can't believe that you wouldn't go today if your band was in [the rock and roll hall of fame]. That kinda shocks me.

C: Nah, you know, I just have like a Woody Allen attitude toward things like that. I don't think it's bad if you're into it and if you love it and it's exciting for you then that's great but to me that's more like something that happens with sports and sports teams and if you're a musician usually you don't grow up that way, you know, it's not like a fraternal experience, you're kinda on your own and if you're lucky you find some people to play music with, but...

We make records for fans, I write songs for fans, you know people who will go buy the records, join in and have a good time and how it is appreciated in other ways or by the industry by people who you would consider you peers... it's nice but I really don't care.

B: Mm, well. The Audioslave CD, you were looking at May 24th, no title, or do you have a title? How about that, boy, I'd get some news here, for once.

C: We've got like, 45 minutes, maybe we could come up with one?

B: Really?

C: Yeah, we don't have a title.

B: 'The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Sucks', how about that for an album?

C: That's too wordy, it would be hard to say drunk.

B: Yeah it would be, it would be. So, there's no title, you got Rick Rubin doing this one. He's an interesting guy.

C: Yeah he is.

B: I've met Rick a couple of times. He's like an evil genius kinda dude. What's it like working with him?

C: Is he? I haven't really been able to work out if he's evil, or like really positive new-agey. Because he seems to be... both. I'm not really sure. But he's the star, or one of the featured stars of the Jay-Z video, so if you haven't seen that you're gonna see Rick Rubin in a floor-length fur coat and a cowboy hat.

B: He's the unkempt gentleman - he doesn't shave, or do anything that has to do with grooming himself, cut his hair... there's nothing going on there.

C: I think he's clean though.

B: Oh, he's definitely clean. Just a little unruly looking at times. What have you been doing between albums, in your time down? Writing, all the time, or, you know, what takes up your life? I know you just had a kid, another kid.

C: No, the writing part went pretty quickly. But this is actually my first anniversary, my one year anniversary with my wife Vicky here.

B: And thankyou for bringing her into the studio, it's something nice to look at, I've gotta look at this dude with a bald head all day long and I see this lovely looking lady across from me, thankyou very much Mr. Cornell.

C: My pleasure. It's the least that I could do. We have an almost six month old daughter and we do a lot of travelling. When we go to L.A. I work with the band and when I'm not working with the band we're either in Paris or travelling or doing something.

B: What's the band's writing process? Do you write and present it to the band, do you do everything together... how does that come down?

C: Pretty much do everything together. Each of us seperately might bring in an idea, but usually not an entire song, or the frame-work of one. Occasionally, but most of the time not. And then we just kind of ad-lib parts and work out arrangements together, or we will work on something that is pre-existing: we tend to not leave until we write at least one song per day, so this record was like 22 songs in something like 20 days and the last record was 21 songs in 19 days. So it's the same thing.

B: Are lyrics solely your responsibility or is that once again a band thing?

C: No, I kinda came into it with the 'if you want me to sing and be the lyricist', then... you know, I'm not that comfortable with doing somebody else's lyrics. Mainly because I don't want to be in the position of 'I hate these and they're awful, take them away'. That, I could never sing. That's usually not a problem because if it's something that you want to do and you're talented at it then you're doing it all the time, and if it's not, then you don't. It's a difficult thing for a lot of people.

B: Does Morello take the same kind of thing with his guitar playing? Is it something where he doesn't come to you and say 'hey, what do you think?' is it his word goes down because he is kind of another 'evil genius', you know?

C: We've all sort of taken the attitude of 'let's all let each individual guy do what it is they do'. And definitely he's asked a lot of times 'what do you think of this?', or 'what would you change with that?', and there are a lot of times when I don't like what I'm doing lyrically or melodically, you know, I'll say it, the song sounds great but what I'm doing, I can't stand it. I get nothing but support, 'we love you, we think it's great', and it's that kind of atmosphere every day, it hasn't changed since we started.

B: I've got the iPod, on shuffle, here, and I was listening to Sunshower on the way here. Do you ache to do anything solo, take it in a different direction just for yourself?

C: My feelings are that if I get a collections of songs either that Audioslave wouldn't be interested in, or just would not work with Audioslave then for sure I would want to do that. But that hasn't happened with one song, yet, so doing a solo album... I don't see that happening in the near future. Doing something here or there, you know, it would depend on what comes up.

B: Has the band been through any growing-pains? It was kind of interesting how it was put together, Zack being the lead singer of the other band, you coming into this band, what's been the most difficult part of the transition for you?

C: The business aspect of it. Which we kind of expected.

B: How so?

C: We'd done kind of a similar thing that was only a one off, well it was only meant to be a one-off, with Temple of the Dog, with three members of Pearl Jam and then Matt and I from Soundgarden. But it came at a time when Motherlove had broken up because Andy Wood died, and they were not yet Pearl Jam signed to a record label, so they were free and clear of any obligation. So we made the record, so it was released on A&M records and there was no conflict. Sony was about to sign, Pearl Jam was of course thrilled with it, because they were going to get some free exposure for their band before they put out the first Pearl Jam record. This time we were both under contract to seperate labels where we weren't in that situation; there was no way anyone was going to say 'yeah, you guys can just go do whatever you want'.

So, there was a lot that had to be worked out. We also came with seperate management companies, which ended up being the most difficult thing. Seperate legal teams, seperate everything.

B: Do you even like being involved in the business aspect of what's going on? Would you prefer to just say 'somebody take care of this please and I just want to play music', or do you feel that you have to be involved in how the music is done and the way you get paid and the touring?

C: Well, yeah, anyone has to be involved in that. It's not why I do it, but you have to be involved. It's not that complicated, but in the situation where we came together as one band there are other people complicating it. And for the first time ever I was in a band situation where we were all getting along so well and doing everything that you could ever expect from a band and then coming up with what was fantastic record: showing up for meetings, showing up for everything, and doing everything bands have a difficult time doing, because musicians are kind of flaky, and on the business side of things, with two existing management companies, that was kind of falling apart, and they were leaving it on the shoulders of the band to figure out what to do. So, it was rough for a while... and eventually we just replaced them with one management company that represented everybody. And after that it got easier.

But that was it really. It was really by our own team being received as one band rather than two seperate entities coming together to do something for a while. Once we had one company representing us and we were interviewing them and decided to choose them and it was our way and we were just a band and have been ever since.

B: When the album comes out... I think it's been 45 minutes since I last asked you has the album been titled yet, it's been 45 minutes. Do we have a title yet?

C: Any ideas?

B: I wish I could name it, I wish I could think of something cool but I'm so uncreative.

C: What's really lame is that I could totally use this situation to manipulate it... If I had a title the band might not like, and I loved it...

B: You could slide a piece of paper to me and say 'Ah, Booker...'

C: Yeah. I could say it, and then it would get around and they would have to fight the rumour in interviews and they wouldn't want to do that. But I don't have one.

B: There's always next week. You've got to eventually stumble upon a name and you could maybe pick up the phone and call in, 'you know we're kinda thinking blah blah', and I could utter it a couple of times and I'd look like a hero, it would like we were great friends and I could build my credibility and oh my god it would be great for me.

C: I could just fax it and not even be involved...

B: He's trying not to be involved with me - and that's not a bad move by the way, I've destroyed many careers.

C: Audioslave... it was reported we were going to be called Civilian, all over the place.

B: I remember that.

C: People telling us!

B: We went on the air and the songs had been put on the internet, and that was the name, and everyone was saying it's going to be Civilian, and I do believe we played the songs for a couple of days as Civilian, then we got that call: 'ah, you know, the band's not called Civilian, they're called Audioslave'.

C: The Civilian name, it didn't stick.

B: It was the name at one point though?

C: No.

B: So there was no 'sticking', it was just a rumour.

C: Exactly, it was a rumour. Alice In Chain's record 'Facelift', it was a rumour. The name 'Facelift' was a rumour and they'd never heard the name or discussed it or had the idea but they liked it and that's how they titled it.

B: That's interesting. The sound of the record... is there any sort of departure from the sound of the last record? Anything that would shock your fans?

C: It goes further in a lot of different directions. It's more melodic, it's more chordal, more song oriented and not as much riff or groove oriented. Then there are songs that are sort of chordally involved, where there are songs... two-chord songs, simpler than anything we've ever done.

B: Overall with the last album where you kind of happy with how everything turned out? Would you do it differently? Did it feel good?

C: Yeah, it felt fantastic, with the exception of what we talked about: the business end. The crowning achievement was that you could take these guys that have a long history in two seperate bands that were ground-breaking and then we went out and made one record and then toured for nine or ten months playing only Audioslave music or cover songs from other bands, and were successful doing it, had a great time, the audiences were great - I didn't feel like they were missing anything, or leaving wanting anything - and that sort of really set the tone for how we wanted to be received: we're a new band, we're going to be making a lot of records and we're going to be doing this for a long time. We didn't know how that was going to work out, because you never do, and it was satisfying to be able to do that, and to be able to do it successfully.

B: One of the songs we got the most reaction out of was We Got The Whip. Where did this come out of? It just kind of showed up some day, no album, will it be included on the next album? Where will that go?

C: It's not going to be on the next album because it was a B-side, I think that's where you guys got it. Might have been an English B-Side, a UK B-side, because in the UK they sort of like buying singles more than they do entire albums, so you put out a single and you give them something they can't get on the album.

B: Do you care when you get, like, an import... I mean, this was a rather large song and we played the crap out of it, for this radio station because people wanted it so much. Do you go 'damn, I wish we'd put that on the first record', or is there any regret at all there?

C: A little bit. When I heard it on the radio, it sounded great. With Audioslave, there's a ton of objectivity because we work so quickly and it's suck a great experience, but still, that wasn't one of my favourite songs and that's partly why it wasn't on the record, and yet I heard it on the radio and I thought it sounded great.

B: That's got to upset you a little.

C: You know what upsets me is that the release format outside the US sometimes requires that they want something that we don't get here. My biggest fan-base has always been in the US, really I'm glad that you were playing it on the radio. I mean, why do they get that? From now I'm just going to give them cover songs and nothing else. We're going to keep everything else close.

B: Is that ever a bone of contention when you go to shows... are there people who want to hear Soundgarden stuff? Does that bother you or do you just kind of say, we're not going to do it, we're just going to wipe our hands clean of that.

C: It was a personal decision, and it was personal... none of us felt like we needed our history to be a new band. Of course, we all felt very proud of where we'd come from.

B: Of course, the great music that you did in the past. Will that thinking change, is my question.

C: I don't see why not. I think now we've laid it out - I don't think that there's anybody's going to accuse us of resting on our laurels if we go out and play a Soundgarden song or a Rage song. So now I think it would be stupid not to go back and visit some of the songs that I wrote or they wrote, why not?

B: May 24th 'To Be Announced' comes out, the name of the new record, the new Audioslave: they've got a show coming up, that would be April 30th, small show, Rosalin Ballroom, probably gearing up for a much larger tour, I would imagine. Which happens when?

C: We're going to do European festivals, starting in June I think, then Mexico City, and then later in the summer come back and do some bigger places, in the U.S.

B: Are they smaller shows? I mean, in some ways, they've got to be more fun.

C: Yeah. In some ways, in the Summer doing a big shed or a big festival, nothing beats it, but small shows are great, and I love to mix it up.

B: Awesome. It's great to talk to you and get to know you, and it's great to play some of your music, we're big fans here, thank you for stopping in.

C: Thank you.
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