NEW YORK — You may not have realized it, but you got a sneak peek of Chris CornellChris Cornell's upcoming solo LP Scream on Thursday night — so long as you caught the series premiere of "Life on Mars," ABC's Americanized remake of the popular British cop drama, which stars Jason O'Mara, Michael Imperioli of "The Sopranos," Gretchen Mol and Harvey Keitel.
Cornell's tune, "Ground Zero," was not only featured in all the commercials leading up to Thursday night's premiere, but was also played over the pilot's action-packed opening sequence.
A few weeks ago, Cornell was in Brooklyn to shoot a video for the song, which, when finished, will feature tons of footage from "Life on Mars."
"We shot it on the street there, and we didn't have any extras or anything," Cornell told MTV News of the video for the September 11-inspired track. "It was really just a small crew and me, and a lot of it's just me on the streets of Brooklyn, intercut with footage from 'Life on Mars.' So it's kind of like I'm in the same neighborhood, and the footage was shot in a way so it can be intercut with footage from the show, which will have a vintage '70s feel to it. And I interacted with people on the street during the shoot, unbeknownst to them, so it was pretty funny. I'd just walk up to people and shake their hand or start talking to them. Everyone was really polite and didn't know what to do. Most of them were just trying to figure out what the hell we were doing down there."
But don't feel bad if you didn't recognize the former SoundgardenSoundgarden/AudioslaveAudioslave frontman's work. In fact, when fans actually get their hands on the Timbaland-helmed Scream they're going to immediately notice that the album sounds nothing like Cornell's past material. Beat-driven and sprinkled with elements of hip-hop, the album is a drastic departure for Chris — but to his ears, the record is just the next logical step in his ever-evolving career.
"For me, it was sort of a natural thing, to go out and make a record I hadn't made before," Cornell said. "It wasn't a situation where I sat for a long time and thought about what my next move should be. It was quick, and the idea came to me after TimbalandTimbaland had done a couple of remixes from the Carry On album. It got back to me that he was actually a fan and was interested in doing original material, and I got on the phone with him, and I suggested we go make a whole album. He was interested in that idea, and before I knew it, we were in the studio."
Six weeks later, Cornell and Timbaland were finished writing Scream, and six months later, the record was completely tracked. Unlike Cornell's previous offerings, the disc is one "piece of music with orchestration that ties all the songs together and turns it into this album-oriented piece that, in some ways, I think is similar to albums of the '70s, where people still played an entire album at once."
While several tracks from the record are available for preview on sites like YouTube, Cornell said he's puzzled by the perception that Scream is a complete shift away from the sound his fans expect from him.
"It makes me happy that there's this perception that I have a group of fans that I'm now sort of throwing a curve at and what their reaction will be," he said. "But I've been in this situation so many times already that, to me, it doesn't really seem any different. When I put out [1999's] Euphoria Morning, my main goal was to create an album that sounded like nothing I'd done in Soundgarden, and I did that. And I got the same questions then. I also had that with Temple of the Dog, where I showed up with songs that weren't necessarily riff-based. And then, of course, the pairing of me and other members of Rage Against the Machine to do a band and everyone sort of speculating about what that would sound like — what Soundgarden and Rage fans would think. It feels like I've done this so many times that, when it's presented to me as being a departure and as being a new concept, I feel that's a misconception. I feel like that's my theme at this point."
According to Cornell, he wanted to be able to do things differently and learn a completely new style of songwriting. The idea of working with Tim excited him and helped him achieve the goal he's always strived toward: not repeating his past.
"It's the most prolific I've been in such a short period of time, because I was working with someone who does nothing but create music," Cornell explained. "I was told by other people to be prepared. I actually felt like they were concerned that I would be some rock guy who would come in and lag behind, because Tim is a workaholic. I knew that was the right partner to make an album with when I heard that, because I've always been that way and rarely have I been in a position where I worked with somebody else who had that type of focus. And when I listen to this album, it sounds nothing at all to me like other Timbaland productions."
Cornell said Scream is a record that combines various influences that "I don't think have ever been put together before." Working with Timbaland helped shape his lyrics as well, because the "mood of the music is so different from anything I've written, so it brought stories and characters out of me that never really had a voice before."
Before judging, Cornell challenges fans to listen to Scream in its entirety, because the album was designed to be an experience.
"It's a musical journey — like watching a great movie — where you sort of forget about the normal format and get lost in the experience of the album," he said, adding that he's already conceived another album's worth of material during his sessions with Timbaland. "We have a lot more songs than are on this record, and he's already talking about doing more. Every time we sat down to write a song, we'd come up with something we both really liked."