CHRIS CORNELL: 'I've Never Been Somebody That Looks Back Much'

Kate Heath of myYearbook recently conducted an interview with former SOUNDGARDEN/AUDIOSLAVE frontman Chris Cornell. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

myYearbook: What was going on in your life that inspired "Scream"?

Cornell: Lyrically, it ends up being a collection of little stories that are in my mind, kind of created by the character that lives in the song. It's hard for me to know where that is, in terms of how much of it includes my life, how much of it includes where I'm at in the moment, and how much of it is this creativity of coming up with the story and the dialogue of the character. I usually know later, it ends up taking a couple years for me. Looking back on it, I'll see more clearly where the autobiographical parts have been and the certain moments that were happening at the time fit in.

myYearbook: Timbaland has described your sessions as some of the best work he's ever done. What was the experience like for you?

Cornell: It was really great. At the very first moment of starting, it was obviously not going to be like anything I've ever done. When he brought in the first beat idea, which was the song "Long Gone", I started playing it and I could tell right away that he understood who I was and how he was going to be able to take what he does and bring it to me, and I was going to be able to do something creatively over it that would make sense and that would work. That was the only question there was hanging in the air, "Is that going to be possible?" Once I heard the first couple bars of that song, I knew that it was going to be possible. From that point on, it was a super focused process of songwriting and recording that didn't end. There were no days off, we worked all night long. The initial songwriting and recording period was only six weeks, but the album process itself was six months because it took another turn. We got along so well creatively that it led to what became the hour of continuous music, where all of this music was written and orchestrated to tie all the songs together and make it kind of a one idea album — a movie soundtrack as opposed to just a collection of songs thrown on a disc.

myYearbook: Do you think you'll work with Timbaland again?

Cornell: I would definitely do something with him again. I don't think I would turn around and go make another album with him right now. Mainly because I don't think it would beat what we just did. What we just did is a very primal and raw reaction to each other when you're working with someone who you've never worked with before that yielded something really special. I wouldn't want to be disappointed. (Laughs)

myYearbook: You've had a 14-album career, with multiple collaborations with different artists. You're a multi-Grammy award-winning musician and you're regarded as a rock icon. Do those awards and titles have meaning to you, or do you get satisfaction elsewhere?

Cornell: I think that performing the songs, writing the albums, writing and recording, the continual process is where the satisfaction comes from. That never really goes away. It doesn't get easier. The hole that needs to be filled for someone like me; you don't ever really fill it up and then ride on it. I always have to be looking forward to the next performance, and looking forward to the next song that I'm writing. As long as that is there, as long as I have both of those things somewhere in focus, that's kind of what I'm thinking about. I've never been somebody that looks back much. That hasn't always been a positive thing. The periods of my career, the number one albums and things like that, I didn't really ever stop to celebrate that stuff. When I've won Grammys, I didn't throw a big party for my band or myself. You know, none of us did to celebrate. I was already thinking about the next thing. There are positives and negatives to that. I think it's a sad thing when someone doesn't really stop and celebrate accomplishments and achievements, but I've just never wanted to get stuck in like the tar pit of celebrating past achievements. It's like; I've got other stuff to do. Maybe, I'm afraid that if I stop for ten seconds that I won't ever get started again. There are people out there that sort of stand as an example of as to why someone like me should be afraid of that. There are people who do suddenly stop; it seems like, in the middle of time. Where people who are artists, whose life seems to be forwardly mobile and then all of a sudden five years, ten years have gone by and they didn't move an inch. I would much rather deal with my career the way that I do and deal with the slings and arrows of trying things in a different way than be stuck in one position and be sort of helpless or impotent to change that.

myYearbook: Vocally you sound more soulful these days. Obviously, you've experimented and changed your sound over the years, but what would you attribute that to on this record?

Cornell: I think it's just me exercising influences that I've always had. I can also draw lines from a lot of these songs to other solo work I've done, or actually some songs I've even done with AUDIOSLAVE where that side of me comes out. Obviously working with these beats and these songs, it just comes out a lot more because there's more of a soul and R&B flavor to them.

Read the entire interview at myYearbook.

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