AUDIOSLAVE: TWO GREAT TASTES THAT TASTE GREAT TOGETHER
Rage Against The Machine was a lumbering, vicious monster that crushed everyone under the weight of its riffs and leaden political rhetoric. Soundgarden helped kick off the mainstream grunge movement with stoner metal and soaring, psychedelic vocalist Chris Cornells unworldly wail. Now, following the Frankenstein surgery of producer Rick Rubin, the wings that flew Soundgarden have been grafted onto the body of the behemoth Rage machine, forming a new and perhaps even more frightening creature called Audioslave. The beasts first single Cochise was a wake-up cry declaring that straight-up, metallic rock with depth and height is back. Audioslave is ready to dust off all of the goat-boys that have inherited the nu-metal scene. I spoke to Audioslave/Rage Against The Machine bassist Tim Commerford about the bands brand new self-titled CD, its past, present and future.
Chris McKay: How have audiences been reacting to Audioslave?
Tim Commerford: Its pretty crazy! I mean, before going into it, I was telling my friends Were a different band than Rage. The songs have a slower tempo. There are not as many spots in our set that you can jump to comfortably unless youre Spud Webb and have like a 55-inch vertical leap. But I was wrong (laughs)! Weve picked up the tempo a little bit in some songs unintentionally and the crowd jumps and then we jump and the next thing you know, its the same thing as Rage! People are going nuts, yknow? When the kids jump in unison and theres a whole crowd jumping, I feel like Im in something thats equally as powerful as Rage Against The Machine.
CM: How is Audioslave different from Rage Against The Machine?
TC: Our songs would be a lot more like Rage Against The Machine if it werent for the fact that we have this guy who is so different than (Rage vocalist Zack De La Rocha). Where we might be riff rocking and throwing hooks together, Chris is singing this beautiful melody that links it together with a slippery glue over the top of something thats really elemental. Its different because Rage had one key and one gear. We played in E, B or F sharp. Thats it. Thats all we ever did. We just tried really hard to rock people with intense songs that would make people jump. With Audioslave were realizing that there are other ways of rocking and that you can bring it down to a mellow song and people sing along. They may not jump in unison, but they sing in unison and its just as powerful. Weve never experienced that. Weve heard people rap; weve heard people screaming out the words, but never people singing. Theres been more than a few times when the crowd is as loud as the P.A. One time, I was like, Whats that effect that our soundman is using? What is that? Get it off! and it was the crowd singing along.
CM: What was it like working with super-producer Rick Rubin for this record?
TC: Hes an incredible guy. It was Ricks idea for us to jam with Chris Cornell and he was involved in every decision. I cant say enough about Rick Rubin. One thing that people dont realize is that he doesnt wash his beard and that he keeps a lot of treasures in there. If you know him close enough, hell actually allow you into his beard to pull things out. If youre that lucky, then youre assured that youll have a hit because theres more than one hit in his beard. He let us all go in there a few times and just hang out and we came out of there with a bunch of hits.
CM: Do you miss the political stances of Rage Against The Machine? I mean, that band was all politics, all the time.
TC: No, because (guitarist/activist) Tom Morellos here. If it werent for Tom, I dont know that I would care as much as I do about certain things. He teaches me. Im not afraid to go, Yo, whats that mean or whats that all about? Now hes got the Axis Of Justice (www.axisofjustice.org), which is more than the Zapatistas. Its all-inclusive. If youre getting abused by your parents or if youre a Zapatista or if youre into European politics, theres something there for you. Im actually excited about that. It just feels good for me able to be able to go, Yo, heres the guy that went to Harvard, graduated political science and is smart as hell, reads voraciously, hes got it going on and hes the man for the job. Hes not pigeonholed in any way. Theres no leash on him. We say, Youre great at that; go do it. Im just psyched to be in a band with him. I dont feel like Im missing the politics at all. Im learning more than ever before. And when those benefit shows come around and were big enough to play them, well be like, Hell yeah, lets do benefits and raise money for people. Thats the thing. From day one, Cornell was like, Im not looking to be the singer for Rage. I dont want to be in a political band, but I will play any benefits that you guys ever want to play. I think thats cool, and I believe in that more than anything else. You can talk the talk, but walking the walk is when you hand the check down to the grass roots organization.
CM: So how does it feel to basically have had lightning strike twice? Most people dont get that first chance, but here you go again!
TC: Its exciting. I cant tell you how lucky I feel. Its not as much luck as I actually felt like it was when Rage Against The Machine was on top of the world. I was like, God, Im a lucky guy. I kind of felt like I hung out and grew up with the right people at the right time and went to the right schools and it all worked out. Now I feel like theres something else going on (laughs). Theres definitely a work ethic that the three of us: me, Tom (guitar) and Brad (drums) have. Chris Cornell just jumped right into it and assumed the same ethic. Whenever we get together, we get work done. Weve got a tour scheduled for a year and its no joke. I feel really comfortable that well make a really great second album thatll be even better than the first record because were a better band now. Weve played more and weve been on more tours. Were just better. I dont feel the power of being 54 years old, turning on the radio and hearing Fuck you, I wont do what you tell me (from Rages debut). I dont think its going down like that. I could be wrong and I know there will always be fans of that, but I think my chances are a lot better with Audioslave. I just believe in a bigger audience for Audioslave and Im really excited to look out in the audience and its a bunch of young kids who are digging it, too. Its a whole bunch of different age groups that get off on it. I feel like right now Im in a better spot than Ive been in my whole career.
To read the full, unedited interview, click here.