In a statement to the press announcing the imminent release of his sophomore solo album, Carry On, on Thursday (February 15) Chris Cornell confirmed months of rumors by announcing that he has left Audioslave.
"Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave," he said in a statement. "I wish the other three members" — guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk — "nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors."
That was the extent of Cornell's statement regarding his departure. But this afternoon, when MTV News spoke with Cornell about his decision to leave Audioslave, he said he had been thinking about leaving since the band finished recording its last effort, Revelations.
"It was clear to all of us we needed some time apart, and what that produces is anybody's guess," he said. "In my case, it produced a very prolific writing period, and getting back into writing songs on my own, liking what that means — which is sort of a freedom and time to just experiment with music to a degree I kind of like more — and making records that have everything I like about music in them. Audioslave was a very fresh collaboration because it was very much like a young band, where you all write together in a room. But my experience, in terms of songwriting and record-creating, is not like a 19-year-old guy in a rock band. For me to be satisfied, I think I need to be able to be on my own, in the long run."
The announcement comes just two weeks after Rage Against the Machine revealed they would be reuniting for this year's Coachella festival in Indio, California, on April 29, ending seven years of dormancy (see "Rage Against The Machine To Reunite For Coachella Festival"). It also raises speculation as to what the future holds for Rage — and whether a Soundgarden reunion could be in the works.
Rumors of Cornell's departure began last fall, when Audioslave elected not to tour behind last year's Revelations LP.
Earlier this month, Morello told MTV News that, for now, the Rage reunion would be a one-off, adding that his principal focus at the moment is his solo project, the Nightwatchman (see "Nightwatchman, Rage Reunion Have Morello Fired Up For Political Fights").
Morello said at the time that he wasn't sure what would become of Audioslave, saying that "Audioslave is currently not touring on the record" because "Chris [Cornell] did not want to tour. To me, it seems that the world needs songs of rebellion and revolution right now."
Just weeks before Rage were named one of Coachella's headlining acts, Morello demurred when asked by MTV News whether Audioslave was over, saying "[people] have been telling me Audioslave was breaking up for some time now. No new news there." He would not officially describe the band's status.
Cornell's album, which was helmed by producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones) and is the follow-up to 1999's Euphoria Morning, will be in stores May 1. The LP will contain 14 tracks, including "Safe and Sound," "Scar on the Sky" and a slow-grind cover of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean."
In July, Cornell denied Audioslave-split rumors, months before the band issued Revelations (see "Chris Cornell Working On Solo LP — But Dismisses Rumors Of Audioslave Split").
"We hear rumors that Audioslave is breaking up all the time," he said. "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."
Of course, Cornell's since had a serious change of heart. "It hadn't really crossed my mind until a few days ago that I really have no intention of being in this band," he said. "It's been asked before, but it wasn't ever clear in my mind before, and I didn't really see any reason why we couldn't be a band at some point. But now, my feelings are what they are, and I just wanted to get things out on the table and be clear about it."
Cornell said the split was amicable and that, as far as he's concerned, Audioslave is finished, "Unless they want to go find another singer and go make other Audioslave records — then maybe they can have two bands, with a different singer for Rage and a different singer for Audioslave, and they could go on tour and open for each other.
"I certainly don't have any animosity toward them, and I don't think anyone hates me," he continued. "And to be honest, I think those guys getting back and doing some Rage shows is great. I think one of the main reasons why I ever wanted a band like Audioslave was because of seeing Rage in 1996, and I thought they were one of the best live bands I had ever seen. That's why I wanted to do it. The thought of those guys playing shows and maybe becoming a band again I think is a great thing. There were times in Audioslave where I wondered whether those guys missed the visceral nature of the audience response that Rage would get. We had a different experience and a different crowd, but it was so specific to Rage, that kind of world that they were in, that I often wondered if they missed it."
Cornell said that Audioslave will issue a greatest-hits collection with some unreleased material at some point, "because whoever it is we owe it to will say, 'OK, we're going to put that out now,' because that's what labels do." He said he wasn't sure which label the best-of was owed to; the band released records through a partnership between Epic and Interscope.
And when asked about Soundgarden possibly reuniting, Cornell said it was doubtful. "I haven't received any phone calls from anyone in Soundgarden about a reunion since we broke up, nor have I called anyone," he said. "We were happy with how it ended. There was no unfinished business. Soundgarden wasn't a band where we broke up and everyone was like, 'I'm never f---ing talking to you again.' It wasn't like that. We've all talked to each other many times since then. Its something we don't feel we need to do."
[This story was originally published at 4:36 p.m. ET on 02.15.2007]
For more on Audioslave's historic gig in Cuba, see "History Made and Audio Saved — John Norris Reports From Cuba."