Chris Cornell: 'I Just Prefer To Be A Solo Artist'

Vocalist Chris Cornell recently talked with UG writer Amy Kelly to reveal the actual motivations behind the Audioslave split.

Chris Cornell: 'I Just Prefer To Be A Solo Artist'
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It seems as quickly as Audioslave's last album Revelations came out, the band combining the musical talents of Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine also sent the message that it was splitting up. While there has been plenty of talk that money was the reason behind the band dissolving, vocalist Chris Cornell recently talked with UG writer Amy Kelly to reveal the actual motivations behind it all. According to Cornell, the business aspect did come into play along the way, but essentially he just wanted to concentrate on doing what a band should be doing: writing, recording, and performing. The more those activities were pushed to the backburner, the more Cornell realized that a solo career was a logical next step. Although the US release date of his solo record Carry On has been pushed back to June 5, Cornell is already making a huge impression upon audiences with his latest tour. His setlist covers his entire career, including songs that Cornell admits he never played much with his previous bands. And while some fans out there might be waiting to find out about a reconciliation with Audioslave or Soundgarden, Cornell told Ultimate Guitar that he will be flying solo indefinitely. UG: You recorded your last solo record Euphoria Morning back in 1999. What was it about the present time that inspired you to make another solo album? Chris: I guess that question will come up a lot lately, where there kind of has been the distinction made between me making a solo record and then working with a band. I don't make a distinction so much. To me, it's my next record. Whatever circumstance, situation I'm in, whoever I'm working with when I'm making a record, it's all kind of the same to me. When I'm making a record, I'm trying to make it the best that I can and write the best songs that I can so that I can make an interesting record that I'm inspired by. Doing a solo, it obviously removed for the most part anyone that I'm collaborating with. It has its up sides and it has some down sides. It's always kind of one thing or the other, with the upsides, which for me at this time on my life, clearly outweighing the downsides. I just have to move in any direction musically. My pace tends to be pretty focused and pretty fast. I guess I'm sort of moving in the opposite direction that people move in after they've had 20 years of doing this, going in the direction where I'm trying to and have been trying to develop a way to play in front of more people. To be able to tour more, to be able to put out records more readily. I also enjoy that whole process more. I think everybody wants their job to be as fulfilling as it can be, and I'm lucky to be in a situation where I get to do what I do for a living. Performing night after night is one of the most satisfying things I've ever been able to do. To be able to wake up in the morning, go into the spare bedroom and like write a song and make a demo that's going to be on my next record, and that's kind of my job. I get to do that for several weeks before I go make a record. That's a pretty great job! To me, that is living. That's the excitement of life. So to be on my own, I think it's just the best thing for me now. It wasn't a situation where it's like, Okay, I'm making a solo record. It's 1999. Now it's a completely different world and now the years have gone by and I want to have that experience again. It's just another record.
"After 3 albums in my opinion a band kind of needs to go back to the creative well."
Was there a turning point in Audioslave that you realized the band just was not working anymore? Well, there are 2 for me, neither of which were like insurmountable. But putting the 2 together, combined with the fact that I can make great records on my own and have a great time doing it - putting the 2 together made it, for me, not worth it to continue. One of them was that there were certain aspects of how we conducted business that were still in tact that those 3 guys brought in from their history with Rage Against The Machine that I didn't necessarily like, wasn't agreeing with, and things weren't changing. Probably more than most bands, I actually made a concerted effort to resolve those issues. We came to an agreement and yet things didn't change. That becomes time consuming. It takes away from what it is that we were supposed to be doing, which is writing music, making records, and touring. From the very beginning, the agreement was - and I was outspoken about it - as long as this is fun and it's not complicated and we're having a good time and it's not like a clash, then I'm happy to do it and we'll make great records. Otherwise, I'm having a perfectly good time doing a solo career. So that kind of crept in again for the second time. The other thing is, that after 3 albums, especially during a period of time that was that short, in my opinion a band kind of needs to go back to the creative well. Just go bring some new way of writing, a new identity that they can achieve as a band. My experiences with Soundgarden were clearly that, going from Louder Than Love to Badmotorfinger to Superunknown, we made great musical strides. It wasn't easy, but to keep myself happy and interested at an artistic level, it's something that has to be done. I felt that the only way it's going to happen for me is I'm going to have to put a lot of effort into making that change. I would rather do that alone. I think it's the best for me. Three records was a great amount of records to do. I think the third record was something that wasn't any less than the first one. They were all different and they were all great. We had a great time doing them. We got along great doing them. We put it to bed without putting out an embarrassing record or do some long hiatus that keeps me from making records or be onstage. Your new solo record definitely shows the diversity you're exploring now, with everything from R&B to grooving rock riffs showing up on it. Do you usually begin each song idea on an acoustic guitar or are they abstract ideas? Usually my fingers don't have much to do with it, as far as the mental process. There are a couple songs that I literally kind of just sat and made noise, just like I used to do Soundgarden until some inspiration hit me. I would try to kind of just fly with the song and put it together. Most of the songs kind of happened more in my head, where it's just melodies and changes and ideas and lyrics and lyrical melodies. Then once that's pretty concrete in my imagination, then I would pick up the guitar and figure out what those chords are. That amounted for a really, really enormous tap to draw from to even create the song. Like the song Safe And Sound, which ended up becoming the soul ballad. My brain was more of like a moody, melodic Pink Floyd song, an old school one. But once I started translating it to guitar and then singing over it and playing the parts, when I started singing it especially, what came out naturally was more of what's on the record. I just go with whatever feels most natural. The other thing I think that I've had a lot of luck with - and I truly kind of believe in this and I always have - is that the first inspiration is probably the most honest one. It may not technically necessarily be the best thing, but I think in terms of relating it and in terms of making honest music, it's the most honest thing and the most relatable. I think that's part of why I've been able to make 4 records in the last 5 years. It's trusting that ability and that instinct. It's that, Here's an inspiration, rather than do what I would have done 15 years ago and kind of questioned it and compare it and think about it. Is this really a great idea or am I wasting my time here? That amount of thought can take days. Whereas I could be done with 3 songs in that amount of time, and then listen back and make my decision on it later. That initial inspiration is the most honest. It might not be the story I want to tell. It may not be the way I want to be perceived because I would like people to think of my in some other light. The honesty part I think is ultimately is the most exciting. Your setlists from recent concerts seem to cover your entire career thoroughly. When you're performing older songs like Loud Love, is it easy to go back to the mindset you had when you originally wrote it? Yeah, I think of it more as like a playlist on my IPod. You've got all the subcategories. One of them is Artist, one of them is Playlist. To me, it's putting all those songs together in a way that makes sense in a live context. But the other is I've always been kind of a forward looker, thinker in my career. I've always been thinking about the next step. Obviously, the amount of time between Revelations and my solo record is not a lot of time, but I'm already putting out my own record. I still am that way. But there are songs that we're playing on this tour that I either have not done in years or were never done very much or never at all. That's the 50-50. It's 50 percent for the fans and 50 percent for me, to be able to get up these songs and have it feel fresh and just have a good time.
"The first inspiration is probably the most honest one."
Is there any one song you have written during your career that you consider a defining moment in terms of songwriting? I think lyrically Outshined is one of those. That's a song musically that I messed around with for a long time. Back then, it was pretty typical that I'd spend a long time on the music for a song. But that was just that my proficiency as a guitar player to get what I heard in my head out on the guitar wasn't very easy because I never played the instrument for any other reason than to write songs. Lyrically, I was in sort of a self-imposed isolation so that I could really focus on writing lyrics. I was working on a bunch of songs I wrote musically and also songs that the other guys in the band wrote. When I got on to Outshined, I was really just kind of in a flow and I wrote that line Looking California and feeling Minnesota. I remember specifically thinking that it was pretty confessional and autobiographical, but also sounded really stupid to me. I just had a moment of panic thinking, What the hell am I doing? You can really sort of have freak-outs like that. I just chose to keep that in there. Then for some reason, as odd as it sounds, we started playing the song live in front of people, who were keyed in on that one specific line that freaked me out! That was a big lesson. That kind of broke things open lyrically. Still to this day, people look at that line and part of it became the title to a film, where the director said that's where he got it. That was a big lesson. The one thing that really I thought might be over-confessional or stupid was something that was immediately cued in on and still is. Musically, was there a defining song? Musically there were a lot of them, but I guess Black Hole Sun would be one. I remember finishing the demo in my basement, where I recorded all the parts to the music. So it was basically like a really lo-fi version of what's on the record. I'm listening back to it, and sonically it was a really difficult song to listen to because the recording was bad. But I just knew that there was something about that song that I had tapped into. It was all done in my head and done really quickly, and yet it had components to it unlike anything I had heard. I didn't know that other people would want to hear it. The fact that it was a song like that with lyrics like that and they play it on rock radio - it ended up being like the hit of that summer! Looking to the future, do you think you'll be sticking with the solo career? I really don't see the point of doing anything else. I've done some interesting collaborations. I definitely have messed around and done that, really more than I have done my own projects. I think I just prefer to be a solo artist from now on. Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2007

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    scottishmob
    Dr. No wrote: "I can make great records on my own " haha yeah right
    Yeah, it IS right. Euphoria Morning is way better than any Audioslave album/
    shwilly
    The last time I saw Audioslave perform live there were: -quite a few people who sported an audioslave bandshirt, -a large number of guys between the age of 16 & 20something with Rage shirts and, -like 10-20 dudes with soundgarden shirts, all of which seemed to be at least 25 years old conclusion: the hardcore RATM fanbase usually consists of dudes who are younger than Soundgarden fanboys for obvious reasons. And because neither band was a lot louder than the other (true, Rage was more consistent in playing kick ass riff-based rock, but then again Soundgarden had stuff like Jesus Christ Pose) the main reason for the difference in age is that soundgarden started off and broke up like 5 years before rage did. And as we all know: the younger the audience, the bigger the possibility of them being comfortable with the internet and websites which offer guitar instrucitonals/tabs such as this one. Add to this the assumption that Rage fans tend to show more radical behaviour than the average grunge-worshipping dinosaur (I for one have never whitnessed a Pearl Jam crowd moshing its ass off and grunting "f*ck you I won't do what you tell me motherf*cker" while Eddie Vedder stood naked on stage for 15 minutes) and you will reach the conclusion that most people who posted a comment about Audioslave being a sucky band were probably hoping for something more Rage-esque. I for one liked both bands, blablablabla, blabla, and so on... Whoa, I actually forgot what I was going to say... :p
    shwilly
    Lotz222 : I saw Audioslave 3 times and i thought they were great all 3 times. From the start people wanted them to be either more like Rage or more like Soundgarden. I felt they never got a real chance from the public eyes. But either way he is a great artist. Do what ever makes ya happy.
    I totally aggree. However,
    Lotz222
    I saw Audioslave 3 times and i thought they were great all 3 times. From the start people wanted them to be either more like Rage or more like Soundgarden. I felt they never got a real chance from the public eyes. But either way he is a great artist. Do what ever makes ya happy. The second time is saw them it was in a small club and they played outshined. When line "Looking Cal but felling Minnesota" people just screamed it. I was in Minnesota though HA.
    _zac_
    i love RATM, like Audioslave from the start but theyve gotten proggressively worse in my opinion... Revelations was rubbish (again, in my opinion). Its pretty clear that hes pursuing a solo career for more money, or because he doesnt like working with other musicians. I'm glad theyve split because A) theyve gone downhill and B) it makes a RATM reunion more likely. oh and he comes off as being an arrogant douchebag. also hes not that great a singer, ive seen 2 live DVDs (Cuba and some other one with like 3 of their songs on top of some building) and he sounds no where near as good as on the albums, which isnt that great to begin with
    winged136
    anyone who is a true musician knows he's doing the best thing for him.who do you worry about ? you!as far as i concerned he can do what ever he wants.for all the idiots who bash him your braindead and hope you are slowly impaled on a dull fence post.but back to the point if you don't like it don't listen and save the diss for the only person who cares what you think your cracked out mommas.chris cornell is a genuis and a love all his music that's why he still has a career after 20 years.news flash all the great soundgarden audioslave songs were all him he just couldn't play all the parts.not to trash morello or kim because they were good enough to play with him.rage sucked vocally and morello screws around to much i look forward to nightwatchman because he finally lost all the pedals.
    catchtherainbow
    one thing I realise is that,Chris Cornell is not an open minded musician..he likes music to go in the direction he wants...he wants to write most of the stuff..I don't hate him..he's one of the best vocalist I ever heard...but yeah,he does have some bad attitude...I mean,how bad can the rest of RATM be? they write songs..and Chris overdubs with vocals..I guess Chris just doesn't like to work that way.. He also didn't state what was wrong with the band...I mean,the rest of RATM are good musicians...not like they're some new ass musicians who just broke through..they've been around since the 90s. I think Audioslave's break up was more of Chris Cornell's desire to write everything on his own rather than the rest of RATM being asses..'cause I can't even imagine Tom Morello or Tim Commerford or EVEN Brad Wilk acting all rockstar towards Chris Cornell.
    Inferno11
    DRP1000 wrote: I'm a big fan of Rage, soundgarden, and Audioslave, but if anyone wants proof that cornell can have problems singing live, just watch the live in Cuba dvd. Shocking.
    I agree fully! My buddy and I picked up that dvd and were pumped to see it but when he started singing we were both shocked, he sounded terrible . He's got a great studio voice (who doesn't really?) but live, he just doesn't cut it. I've heard a few of his new solo songs and I find them kind of bland and uncreative IMO. Oh well, best of luck to him. Time for RATM to reunite!!!!
    TC1223
    Hooyahman wrote: I love him, but he shouldve stuck with Audioslave.
    Actually he should have stuck with Soundgarden which blew Audioslave out of the water.
    DRP1000
    I'm a big fan of Rage, soundgarden, and Audioslave, but if anyone wants proof that cornell can have problems singing live, just watch the live in Cuba dvd. Shocking.
    Pearlincubus
    I agree that Audioslave didnt have the same chemistry as rage or soundgarden. It was obvious that Cornell wanted to move in one direction but morello insisted on playing the same goddamn riffs over and over again. Dont get me wrong i absolutely love some of rage and audioslaves songs, but after a while they really get old...cochise and your time has come are practically the same riff. I think Cornell just wanted to try different things. I really wish soundgarden would reunite though...they were amazing. The only problem with that is cameron seems happy with pearl jam (the greatest band on earth), and it sounds like cornell doesnt want it either. I will always love Chris Cornell's music though, right from temple of the dog and soundgarden through audioslave, and hopefully beyond. And I completely agree with DaBlackE, "Seasons" from the singles soundtrack is one of the greatest songs ive ever heard...if youve never heard it youve gotta find it.
    Nedir Kire
    For those who like Audioslave, I figured things would fall apart after Out Of Exile. That was their best album, and Revelations was a failed attempt to do something new. Way to go, Chris Cornell, for solo career. You have a fan for life right here. Keep it up, Chris.
    Taren
    Haha You think you can make great records on your own. No offense but jeebas your a great singer man but your solo stuff is no comparison to Audioslave or Soundgarden.
    grimhood
    The chemistry behind Audioslave as a band just did not work..and thats the bottom line....well thats how lifes gonna be and goes....good luck to you Chris Cornell!!! You'll be alright...thanks for the good songs you guys made as an Audioslave...thanks for the memories....:
    punkrockpirate
    I agree that he sounds a bit arrogant here, although he gives fair enough reasons for leaving. I never did think Audioslave really clicked, so I'm not really heartbroken. I don't think he's an amazing vocalist though.
    DaBlackE
    I think the best thing I've heard him do solo was the song "Seasons" from the Singles soundtrack
    sandoz
    Think what you will about him as an individual. I think everyone misses Soundgarden. And Rage, for that matter.
    Sixpack5001
    i dont know, Audioslave made some good stuff, but they were kind of doomed from the start. look how different soundgarden and rage are! i think a lot of us would have made the same decision placed in cornell's shoes, although he does sound a tad overconfident when it comes to his solo career of course im sure a part of that is just putting up a false front for his ex-bandmates
    xavier_rudd_fan
    "Tim/Tom/and Brad will join forces with... Paul McCartney! New Beatles here we go!" LOL! can't wait haha that cracked me up. Rage>Audioslave>Soundgarden
    Spankyx2
    Cornell sucks. I feel bad for Tim, Brad, and tom though, they gotta feel pretty weird losing two lead singers. So now the next step... Tim/Tom/and Brad will join forces with... Paul McCartney! New Beatles here we go!
    "Tele" Steve
    Dr. No wrote: "I can make great records on my own " haha yeah right
    Listen to Euphoria Morning. He can.
    jcthomasva
    hmmm...I detect some groupthink about Cornell's supposed "attitude" regarding music. He sounds more interested in music than making some hackneyed, cliched political statements a la RATM. So he's a perfectionist, if only the rest of Audioslave cared enough about the music, maybe it could have been a better band. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt.
    cooljew
    Chris Cornell is sounding pretty damn selfish these days, with all of his bands, he's had to turn everything into his own way of doing things, thats why down on the upside sucked compared to bad motorfinger. i honestly wish him all the worst. btw, "no such thing" the new single, is awful.
    unleashed12
    at this point cornell should be in the busness end of the industry and start his own label if he s concerned about money because his band ain t working and a solo project is a accedent waiting to happen
    DRP1000
    Really disappointed about the audioslave split, but all my fingers are crossed for a new Rage album!
    A monkey
    soundgarden should never have broken up rage should never have broken up audioslave should never have formed cornell shouuld never have begun a solo career
    Ace Frehley
    I think Audioslave was an awesome band!Cornells voice was excellent and very special.Tom's riffs and playing style makes the whole band special.They just have this like,you hear one song you've never heard before and you know it's Audioslave.And I think this is the best thing a band has to offer.I like the Idea of Chriss that he'll go on as a solo artist and the Rage boys will return with La Rocha.IMO Audioslave was a project band that succeded a lot.I have all 3 albums and they're one of my favourites.
    muddshovel
    Time keeps on turning turning into the future ! I want to fly like an eagle to the sea fly let my spirit carry me ! What is the definition of an artist ? can anyone tell me ?
    cooljew
    Simonsen wrote: 'Business' and 'musical differences' are the reasons most musicians leave a band. Cornell is just being inoffensive to the fanbase. It's the mature thing to do. It is true that Morello has done things on the guitar that no one has ever done, however, just because you can physically have sex with your cousin does not mean you should.
    Okay, forgive me for commenting so much but this is stupid. Are you saying you don't respect Morellos playing? you wish he did the same standard john mayor bullshit everyone else does? If you don't think Morello is an incredible guitar player, then you should not be allowed to listen to music, much less post on a site that revolves around guitar playing.
    Simonsen
    cooljew wrote: Okay so... Cornell himself states that he left for reasons like "business" and "MUSICAL differences" yet according to you he got tired of Morellos "diatribes". That doesn't make sense. And as far as your attack at morellos guitar playing, the man is doing things on the instrument that no ones ever done, experementing is part of playing the guitar. I hope Cornells selfish style of doing things lands him in the ****ing shitter. LONG LIVE BRAD WILK, TIMMY C. AND TOM FUCKING MORELLO. and **** chris cornell.
    'Business' and 'musical differences' are the reasons most musicians leave a band. Cornell is just being inoffensive to the fanbase. It's the mature thing to do. It is true that Morello has done things on the guitar that no one has ever done, however, just because you can physically have sex with your cousin does not mean you should.
    Chiefwiddler
    Is there documentary evidence that RATM actually give ALL their money away to political organisations, charity and other worthy causes? If not, I think they should STFU about politics. Its all a bit dry when you are raking the cash in whilst moaning about corporatism. None of them are short of a few quid...its called hipocrisy.
    baghdaddy
    Audioslave was a one album experiment that limped along for three albums. The fact that they stayed together as long as they did is a testament to how bad rock music sucks in the 2000's. When you make supergroups from past decade has beens and they are huge successes it doesn't mean that they are good. It means the new kids on the scene have to step up to the plate. Audioslave was the Asia of this decade. He's smart to leave those three. They can go back to subverting the government in peace now.
    DirtyNoise
    Soundgarden reunion is all that ever needs to happen - Come on chris - make it efin happen!!
    frontmanofdoom
    as a frontman myself i can understand the need to branch out because sometimes your bandmates kinda get in the way of progress hell i've been guilty of it myself focus is key and if you cant focus and get anything done because of petty issues then the time comes to make the decision to leave
    cooljew
    Simonsen wrote: Euphoria Morning has more class than any Audioslave release. Tom Morello's guitar style has become a mockery of itself, much like rap. The whole Che Guevera worshipping, communist flirtation thing is so ridiculous given the fact that the man has made millions selling his product on a free market. Cornell probably got tired of listening to politial diatribes on the benefits of a peasant worker state. Long live Cornell.
    Okay so... Cornell himself states that he left for reasons like "business" and "MUSICAL differences" yet according to you he got tired of Morellos "diatribes". That doesn't make sense. And as far as your attack at morellos guitar playing, the man is doing things on the instrument that no ones ever done, experementing is part of playing the guitar. I hope Cornells selfish style of doing things lands him in the ****ing shitter. LONG LIVE BRAD WILK, TIMMY C. AND TOM FUCKING MORELLO. and **** chris cornell.
    sparkster79
    Cornell ruined Soundgarden because he couldn't play anything but drop d. Tom Morello is a moron who thinks he's the greatest of all time because it sounds like he is always playing through a coffee can. Can the man play any open chords? hopefully none of them will polute the airwaves any longer. I mean, have ever heard them live? They sound like a freakin train wreck!
    Pearlincubus
    Ace Frehley wrote: I think Audioslave was an awesome band!Cornells voice was excellent and very special.Tom's riffs and playing style makes the whole band special.They just have this like,you hear one song you've never heard before and you know it's Audioslave.And I think this is the best thing a band has to offer.I like the Idea of Chriss that he'll go on as a solo artist and the Rage boys will return with La Rocha.IMO Audioslave was a project band that succeded a lot.I have all 3 albums and they're one of my favourites.
    I think the fact that, when you hear an audioslave song youve never heard before and you know its them, thats the worst part about them. Your not supposed to be able to pick out a bands song that easily, that means they sound the same, and thats the biggest knock against a band. Bands are supposed to write songs that sound different, not all the same. Soundgarden was able to invent different sounds for themselves...burden in my hand was vastly different (and down on the upside as a whole) from their earlier work, but that is a good thing i feel, because all their cds were very good, although ever changing.
    phil conry
    singer_johnny90 wrote: go chris. the best thing about audioslave was the singing. the rest of the band was okay, but annoying many times because they just insisted on making stupid sounds that didnt even fit the song. i have all three records, btw. i didnt know that chris even had a solo career, though. but thats cool. good luck to him. ill buy it.
    yes, because it is widely acknowledged that tom morello is just an "okay" guitarist. wait a minute... thats not right. doofus.
    xdirgeinfernox
    i didnt really LOVE audioslave, i mean they were cool had some great songs but i never really loved them, but it was mostly because of chris cornell, i didnt really get over the fact that zack de la rocha bailed then rage died, but yeah, this whole chris cornell solo crap pisses me off, he needs to go find him alot of hookers bang the shit out of them and join audioslave again..... pussy
    Schecter_player
    I liked audioslave, i loved soundgarden and rage..well..i liked them. I think basicly what we have to take from this is the guy dident get along with his band, so he left...ya know he has a good point about doing just fine on his own, the dude has put out a hellofalot of albums. I like his voice and I like the fact he doesnt sing about politics because although that is very needed in music, I think it's a lil depressing and its refreshing to hear more up beat rythems or things. Plus, you guys say chris is a greedy cocky arse...have you ever listend to tom morello? he thinks hes a freakin rocket scientist.( even though he went to harvard or something )
    TC1223
    Simonsen wrote: Euphoria Morning has more class than any Audioslave release. Tom Morello's guitar style has become a mockery of itself, much like rap. The whole Che Guevera worshipping, communist flirtation thing is so ridiculous given the fact that the man has made millions selling his product on a free market. Cornell probably got tired of listening to politial diatribes on the benefits of a peasant worker state. Long live Cornell.
    I just think Cornell is the disruptive one. Audioslave had nothing to do with politics and what not. He wrote the damn lyrics man! Soundgarden was absolutley amazing, one of the best bands I have ever heard, and he f***ed that up as well. This guy just needs to buy a cabin in the woods and waste away.
    docdrum
    Chris is one the true great artist!Who ever can not understand this is a ****in poop -stain!!!!