Chris Cornell doesn’t know how these rumors get started.
On Tuesday, a trade magazine reported that Audioslave’s forthcoming, Brendan O’Brien-produced album Revelations would be the singer’s last with the band, as he has been working on material for his first solo album in more than seven years. The report, which helped to further fuel rumors that began circulating online three weeks ago, suggested Cornell would like to focus all his attention on the yet-untitled follow-up to 1999’s Euphoria Morning.
Oh, and according to the same report, the rest of Audioslave — bassist Tim Commerford, drummer Brad Wilk and guitarist Tom Morello — turned down a seven-figure offer from some concert promoter to reunite Rage Against the Machine with former frontman Zack de la Rocha.
Now, while Cornell has written about a dozen tunes for a solo LP he intends to record before summer’s end, he said Tuesday that everything in Audioslave’s universe is just peachy. And later that same afternoon, in an e-mail, Morello confirmed that, “a while back,” the members of the now-defunct Rage did turn down just such an offer, which was to reunite for a single concert. Morello, too, said the breakup rumors are rubbish.
“We hear rumors that Audioslave is breaking up all the time,” Cornell explained. “Even in the beginning, when we were having business problems, and we weren’t necessarily going to be a band, we were still going to put out a record. We made a record and we loved it. I think that’s where it starts — the idea that we sort of started on shaky ground. You would hope that by now, putting out our third record, people wouldn’t be thinking that way or be worried about it. But it comes up. I always just ignore it.”
What Cornell didn’t ignore was an offer from the producers of the forthcoming James Bond film “Casino Royale” to pen the movie’s theme song. But he admits that, at first, he wasn’t so sure it was a gig he wanted.
“I wasn’t really sure about doing a Bond theme, because I wasn’t really a big fan of the last several movies,” he said. “And then I heard that there was going to be a new guy — Daniel Craig — who was going to play Bond (see “British Actor Daniel Craig Steps Into James Bond’s Tux” ). And he’s so different. I have seen him in several movies, and I was kind of intrigued. So I went to Prague, where they were shooting the movie, and they showed me a rough edit of it. I was just completely blown away by it, because it’s unlike any Bond film ever, really. [Craig] is an actor’s actor, and there’s emotional content to [the movie]. He’s not like the swaggering, winking sort of super-agent guy. He’s like a human being in this movie, and it’s going to completely readjust the way people think of the character.”
Cornell co-wrote the theme track, “You Know My Name,” with David Arnold, who’s scoring the music for “Casino Royale,” his fourth Bond film.
Since March, when Audioslave wrapped the recording and mixing sessions for Revelations (a process that took all of five weeks), Cornell’s had a lot of spare time on his hands (see “New Audioslave LP: ’Led Zeppelin Meets Earth, Wind & Fire’ “ ).
“And I spent that time writing,” he said. “There are a couple of songs that I’d written over the last year and a half. And the rest of [the solo LP] has been in the last couple of months. I do it more or less for fun — it’s kind of like my hobby. I have a lot of songs now that, I mean, some of them probably could be Audioslave songs, but as a whole, with that many songs that are completely different than anything we’ve been doing as Audioslave, I just decided it was time to do another record.”
Cornell said the LP will be more or less an acoustic effort and “not so much straight-up guitar, bass, drums and vocals — just kind of layerings of acoustic guitar and sounds.” He said Audioslave have no immediate plans to hit the road, despite the fact that Revelations is slated for release September 5. But he does “want to go play solo shows,” promising that “it will happen — I will fit it in.”
The singer’s solo material has benefited tremendously from his work with Audioslave, he said. “It’s helped me approach songwriting with more of a fearlessness, and less, like, constant thought and intellectual input into what it means,” Cornell said. “We don’t question an idea until it’s a completely finished song and we’ve recorded it. We almost treat our songs like human beings, and each one has as much of a right to exist as the next one. What that’s done for me and the band is keep the creative process very open and not daunting and intimidating. There’s been more of a freedom and playfulness in writing the songs, and rarely have we scrapped a song because, at the end of the day, we don’t like it.”
Audioslave plan on recording and releasing as much new material as possible in the future, because, as Cornell says O’Brien once told him, “[we] can — not to make a lot of money, but because not every band can show up once a year with an album, or material for it.” “The reason why the third album has come out so fast is because, with the writing for the second record [last year’s Out of Exile], we had to cut it down to a reasonable amount of songs and we were cutting out songs we loved just as much as anything that made the record. We went out on tour, and it was obvious right away that it would be nice to cut out the cycle of a year and a half of touring, a year of writing and recording, and have it be so spaced out so sometimes it’s a year since you’ve written a song or been in the studio. We didn’t need to go back and write enough songs for an entire new record, because we had so many — we still ended up writing another 10 songs. We ended up re-recording some of the ones we’d written for Out of Exile, too.”
Cornell was moved to write one song on the new album, “Wide Awake,” after watching the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, he said.
“We were on tour at the time that the aftermath footage started to be shown on CNN, which tends to be a 45-minute loop of the most horrible things that they can show you, and then you see it all day long, over and over,” he said. “I had written the melody to that song and we recorded it, with no lyrics really. I just started seeing those images, and knew I wanted to write something. The subject was not obviously to teach anybody about anything, or change anyone’s mind. I don’t think it’s a controversial song, and I don’t think anyone’s going to disagree with the content of the song at all. It will stand as a reminder, when people listen to this record — next year, five years from now, 10 years from now — that that happened, and be reminded of the victims, both dead and living. When they hear the song, they should be reminded that the disaster’s still there, that it’s not repaired already. The fear that I have is that it will get forgotten, and as soon as it does, it has the potential to happen again, and obviously has the potential to happen again there.”
The lyrics to several of the songs on Revelations, including “The Shape of Things to Come” and “Sound of a Gun,” were inspired by Cornell’s inherent desire to shield his offspring from the world’s dangers.
“[These songs] reflect me being a father and a family man now at this point in my life and having a rekindled anxiety, but with new facets to it,” he said. “Rather than just worry about my own future and my own mortality, the future and mortality of my children, and the feelings I’ve had lately with the state of the world remind me of the Cold War feelings I had as a teenager. Like so many young Americans, I felt a lot of helplessness, and to a degree, a sense that the world could end at any time. I think a lot of the angst in punk music came from that tension that just wouldn’t go away.
“I feel those feelings now again,” he continued. “Having a wife and children that I see every day, and wanting these children to have a shot at a happy life and a future. … I just have a sense of helplessness, and that anxiousness shows up in a number of songs. They’re about sort of, ’What’s the state of the world and why.’ And I don’t like it.”