As promised, here is the second part of the interview with Chris Cornell. Plenty more interesting revelations including a tease about a possible Temple Of The Dog anniversary celebration…..
PM: What inspired to do a solo acoustic tour?
CC: One day, who knows when, I came to the realisation that although I’m in a successful rock band and the music and albums are important to people, there are other musicians, Elton John comes to mind, who can sit down at a piano, perform song and it would just knock you over. He doesn’t need anything else, he’s completely autonomous. Spoonman, who we wrote a song about, could walk into a room anytime and with his spoons, talent and energy could entertain a group of people from ten to ten thousand. And there was something about that which appealed to me and made me think ‘if I can’t do that then what good am I?’ What happens when it’s the post apocalypse and we don’t have any electricity? It was just a weird thing where I felt like I can’t really call myself a musician or entertainer if I can’t pick up a guitar by myself and hold someone’s attention. Plus it was something that really terrified me. When I first quit drinking in my mid thirties I had an excess amount of energy, as you do, I had spent years anaesthetising myself. So I made a list of things I’d never done, because I was intimidated by it, and started doing those things one by one and getting up by myself was a big one so I started doing it and got over the fear of doing it right away. Then it became something people responded to positively and that I enjoyed doing. I’d sit at home and entertain myself coming up with silly songs to do covers of, which is how ‘Billie Jean’ came about.
In the context of me sitting with a guitar and singing a song, it’s something that naturally happens. In the context of a super aggressive rock band it’s not really that easy to do because there’s so much else going on. Some songs are ‘that’s a great guitar riff and who gives a shit what the guy is singing about?’ And sometimes it’s not important what the guitar is doing, it’s just there to support the vocal and the lyrics and when that happens, it’s much easier to convey the emotion of the song, there’s nothing in the way.
PM: Do you think with the Soundgarden reforming that fans with have fewer expectations with regards to your solo career?
CC: I don’t know. I already think about what expectation fans have with the new Soundgarden album and then quickly dismiss it. With the solo carer; whatever the next thing I do is, it’s going to be different to the last thing I did…unless I do another album with Timbaland (laughs).
PM: Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with?
CC: I was going to work with Daniel Lanois when I was making ‘Euphoria Morning’ but that kind of fell apart at the last minute. But I am still haunted by the idea of working with him, I like what he does. He still makes guitar-based rock exciting and interesting.
PM: Its 20 years since Temple of the Dog album was released are you planning to anything to commemorate the event?
CC: We’ve talked about it. We’re going to do something at some point, I’m not sure when. We all have great memories of the very brief experience that it was. We only did one show ever where we played 10 songs, which was the whole album.
PM: How much did your using and sobriety inform your music?
CC: I think I talked about it when I was newly sober because that’s what you do. As a songwriter I was never someone who spent time doing it on any kind of substance other than coffee. If ever wrote anything, especially lyrically, when I was drunk or high on anything, I never kept it. I always hated it. So creatively nothing’s really changed for me. The worst period for alcohol and drugs getting out of hand to the point where I was mentally ill was in my thirties. Before that I was so wrapped up in the creative process with Soundgarden that I kind of managed being a drunk at the same time. There was only about five years where I would really do anything, I didn’t care. I know people who are drug addicts and have managed to live for decades that way. I’m glad I only had five years because it’s such a hard life and it was really hard to recover from, just mentally. I think Audioslave suffered from that because my feet hadn’t hit the ground yet. I was sober but I don’t think my brain was clear. In the last couple of years of getting fucked up, I was getting really fucked up. It took a while to gain perspective and I regret that. I regret that it affected Audioslave. It took me about five years of sobriety to even get certain memories back.
Even though I wasn’t a raging drug addict in my twenties and early thirties I was drinking all the time. I only knew life as drinking to the point of being drunk almost every day and that affected me with my relationships. Now I have a very close relationship with my wife that I’ve never actually had with another person. I never thought that I was a person that could have a relationship with another human being where I wanted to be with them all the time. I was so isolated before and I don’t blame that on the drugs and alcohol but when you take them away and you’re not fucking up your physiology you’ve got nothing else to do but figure out what the hell is wrong with you. I was essentially making myself insane and while I was insane I thought everything is normal.
PM: Why are there so few Soundgarden live albums?
CC: It’s because we haven’t got many tapes of our live shows. We brought Adam Kasper (who had worked on ‘Superunknown‘ and ‘Down on the Upside’) out on the road to record some shows with the idea of a live album and we broke up shortly after that was done. I didn’t even remember there was any recording because I was staring to get drunk all the time. Matt and Adam pulled the tapes out and started listening to them and it was just really surprisingly good. I felt like it was a really different glimpse into the band. The live versions of songs are much more expressive, moodier and darker. We started getting a lot of attention as a live band before we actually released anything and then we never released a live album, which is kind of stupid.
PM: What are Soundgarden up to at the moment?
CC: Writing new material. It’s really fun and different to anything we’ve done before. It sounds like we just took a year off, doesn’t feel like we took thirteen years off, it just feels like a brief break. Everybody has been super focussed and dedicated to getting into a room and writing music. It’s been really fun and all-inclusive. It’s really interesting to see after thirteen years what makes us sound like us. I’m not sure if I have a better handle on it than I did before. From day one when we started rehearsing for a show I realised that there’s something out of control that happens when we start to play. I’ve played the songs with other people but it’s not the same. It’s indescribable, hard to put your finger on but it has to be there and sometimes there’s too much of it.
PM: Finally can we expect any more ‘off the wall’ cover versions?
CC: So far I haven’t found anything as unusual or as interesting as ‘Billie Jean’, because it was such a retarded idea to begin with. I may just do the original version of ‘Billie Jean’ as a dance track…everyone will be happy with that!
Peter Makowski (Copyright 2011)