- 15 Sep 05
What happens when the lead singer of Soundgarden gets together with three quarters of Rage Against The Machine? Answer: the high-IQ post-grunge of Audioslave.
In terms of rock currency, the two men sitting across the table from Hot Press are probably worth their weight in gold, if not platinum.
They’ve sold millions of records between them, first as part of Rage Against The Machine (Tim Commerford) and Soundgarden (Chris Cornell) and, latterly, as Audioslave, the group that rose somewhat surprisingly out of the ashes of those two acts.
That was three years and two albums ago. The second of those, Out Of Exile, sees Audioslave sounding far more cohesive than on their debut.
Does Cornell think there’s been a marked change in how they operate?
“Not a huge difference. I mean, if I was in 2002 looking into the future, I’d feel like where we are now wasn’t an unpredictable course. We’ve done everything we can to be the band we are now."
Commerford feels that the main reason is quite simple.
“We didn’t know each other that well and that’s a big part of music – the relationships. We’ve worked hard at that and we’re a band now.”
Eyebrows raised when Cornell was first linked with Commerford, Brad Wilk and Tom Morello.
“Even during Soundgarden I was getting every kind of telephone call and email and message from so many different types of musician who wanted to collaborate,” he recalls. “Then, when Soundgarden broke up, I didn’t want to do any of it. I wanted to do my own record. But then I got a call from Rick Rubin (Def Jam records supremo) about working with these guys, not in the capacity of replacing someone in Rage Against The Machine but in starting something different. It took me five minutes to think about it.”
His inspiration was Temple Of The Dog, a hardcore ‘supergroup’ comprising members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
Cornell: “Temple Of The Dog had proved to me that you can have a weird combination of people and it still be great. It’s so rare that you know it’s the right people and I just knew it.”
The secret of Audioslave’s success, he proffers, is that, "We keep it simple. Most bands fuck themselves up because they complicate things and create problems."
Part of what makes Out Of Exile such a fine record is the way it combines melody and aggression.
Commerford concurs: “We’ve been at this a long time and at some point in your career as a musician you want to be able to play your song as best you can and get props for it, nothing else. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Audioslave try to interact with their audience in an honest fashion, he says.
“I spent a career in one band where it was just about trying to hype a crowd and we have that in Audioslave but we also have Chris Cornell singing and playing acoustic guitar and I’m just as blown away by that."
The general perception of Audioslave is that, in contrast to Rage, they’re apolitical.
“Music is more powerful than that,” Commerford disagrees. “We’ve been to Cuba and played to 70,000 people, which we talked about with Rage but never did. If we’d done it, then everybody would have been, ‘Oh aren’t Rage great, they’re so political’. But here we are with Audioslave, not talking about it so much but doing it."
This, inevitably, leads to the subject of US politics. Was Cornell surprised by Bush’s re-election last year?
“No, he was in a very good position to play the fear card on the American public. Whatever way you slice it, we were at war during the election. Every couple of months, they would go to a terrorist alert without having to explain why. They did it two days before the election and that had everybody scared of making a change."
The reason? America, it seems, is populated by idiots.
“If you travel across America”, Commerford ventures, “once you get out of California and go through 90% of the country, you see the people that put George Bush in office. They don’t have teeth, they don’t know how to fucking write. They’re just knuckleheads. The majority of the people in the US are knuckleheads."
Not surprisingly Audioslaves are proud Europhiles.
“I love it”, gushes Cornell. “I live in Paris. People from every country in the world live in Paris.”
This, he says, contrasts sharply with the situation in the United States.
“One of the obstacles of growing up in the US is that it’s so geographically confined. The US is suspended in its own fluid and isn’t forced to become aware of what’s around it,” he concludes. “In Europe you know who’s to the north, south, east and west. It’s not because American kids are stupid, it’s because they’re raised that way."