Getting a stack of video treatments to read through is akin to being handed a prison sentence when you're Audioslave's Tom Morello. Hell, most of the ideas his band is forced to wade through — put to paper by ambitious but derivative directors — are shot down three sentences in. Then it's on to the next stale, clichéd treatment. "Most of them involve rainy phone booths," the guitarist said with a knowing smile.
Other treatments, as frontman Chris Cornell explained, read like a circa-1987 Aerosmith clip: "The band Audioslave seen bathed in shadows and light, and then a beautiful but slutty girl walks in with a switchblade ..."
You see, if the guys in Audioslave are going to take the time to make a video, they're not going to just settle for the same tired concept that's been recycled a hundred times over, but with a different cast of brooding and sordid characters. There needs to be something unique — and whenever possible, something germane. "Most of the time, reading through treatments, it's like it could be any band, any song — it doesn't matter that it's you or your song," Cornell said. "The ideas are completely disconnected from the music and the image of the band."
But then there are directors like Chris Milk (Courtney Love, Kanye West, Modest Mouse), who helmed the clip for Audioslave's third Out of Exile single, "Doesn't Remind Me." "[Milk's] video treatment was one of the most comprehensive I've ever read," Cornell said. "He described the entire video as you'll see it. It gave us such an incredible feeling of what the video would be like. As soon as we read it that was the video we wanted to have made. It's brilliant."
"Doesn't Remind Me," the first video of the bandmembers' careers in which none of them makes an appearance, looks innocent enough, at first glance. But at its heart, the video is a commentary on the war in Iraq.
"We were all against the war from the very beginning," Morello said. "But now, I think you're seeing more and more that Middle America is turning against the war for reasons that are described in this video. The real human cost, the human tally of this awful war is shown in a very subtle, very real and very humanistic way. That's why it has such a great weight to it, because it personalizes this tragedy that's happening halfway around the world."
The video, which starts off with a blurred image of Uncle Sam, follows a young boy (played by 6-year-old boxer Vinny Intrieri, the son of Philadelphia boxing promoter Joey Eye) from his bedroom, where we see him playing innocently with a toy military plane, into the boxing ring; much of the footage of Vinny was shot during an April fight at Philly's Legendary Blue Horizon. Toward the end of the clip, it's revealed that the child's father, who we only see in pictures sporting military garb, is killed when his plane's shot down over Iraq.
"The video tells a very simple story and a very real story," Morello explained. "It's a story of a woman who loses her husband and a child who loses his father. That's the simple story. The bigger picture is that the culture of violence at home breeds a culture of violence abroad, and there's a price to be paid for that. And that price is the loss of lives and families destroyed and to sum that up in a three-and-a-half-minute video is something that was pretty incredible."
The band's absence from the clip was deliberate. "It wouldn't [have been] a plus, it would [have been] a minus," Cornell explained. "That story is that story, and the members of Audioslave appearing in whatever form would only take away from how amazing the story is."
Not only did bassist Tim Commerford weep when he first saw the finished video ("I think a lot of other people will cry when they see it," he said. "There aren't many videos that can do that to you — and still have a blistering guitar solo and a killer, kick-ass beat."), he learned a few things. "I didn't know Little League boxing existed, and it's real," he said. "Little kids actually go box and people love it. It makes sense, but it's barbaric."
"Doesn't Remind Me" is one of the 17 tracks featured on Audioslave's Live in Cuba album, which hits stores next week. Other tracks include "Your Time Has Come," "Like a Stone," Soundgarden's "Spoonman" and Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade." The LP was recorded during Audioslave's historic trip to Havana in May (see "Audioslave Slay Havana With Historic Show"), a trip that's still fresh in Morello's mind.
"Going to Cuba was exploring the unknown for us," he said. "It ended up being 70,000 people [packing into] the Antimperialista Plaza to hear Audioslave rock. But we didn't count on the rest of the experience. The three or four days beforehand, when we got to experience the culture of Cuba, the people of Cuba, and the amazing transcendent spirit of the people we met ... it was really moving. We just wanted to go down there and rock a bunch of kids, and what we were surprised to find was how much we took away from that trip."