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 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 Cornell’s 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 beast’s 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 band’s brand new self-titled CD, its past, present and future.

 Chris McKay: How have audiences been reacting to Audioslave?

 Tim Commerford: It’s pretty crazy! I mean, before going into it, I was telling my friends “We’re 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 you’re Spud Webb and have like a 55-inch vertical leap.” But I was wrong (laughs)! We’ve 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, it’s the same thing as Rage! People are going nuts, y’know? When the kids jump in unison and there’s a whole crowd jumping, I feel like I’m in something that’s 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 weren’t 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 that’s really elemental. It’s different because Rage had one key and one gear. We played in E, B or F sharp. That’s it. That’s all we ever did. We just tried really hard to rock people with intense songs that would make people jump. With Audioslave we’re 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 it’s just as powerful. We’ve never experienced that. We’ve heard people rap; we’ve heard people screaming out the words, but never people singing. There’s been more than a few times when the crowd is as loud as the P.A. One time, I was like, “What’s 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: He’s an incredible guy. It was Rick’s idea for us to jam with Chris Cornell and he was involved in every decision. I can’t say enough about Rick Rubin. One thing that people don’t realize is that he doesn’t wash his beard and that he keeps a lot of treasures in there. If you know him close enough, he’ll actually allow you into his beard to pull things out. If you’re that lucky, then you’re assured that you’ll have a hit because there’s 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 Morello’s here. If it weren’t for Tom, I don’t know that I would care as much as I do about certain things. He teaches me. I’m not afraid to go, “Yo, what’s that mean” or “what’s that all about?” Now he’s got the Axis Of Justice (, which is more than the Zapatistas. It’s all-inclusive. If you’re getting abused by your parents or if you’re a Zapatista or if you’re into European politics, there’s something there for you. I’m actually excited about that. It just feels good for me able to be able to go, “Yo, here’s the guy that went to Harvard, graduated political science and is smart as hell, reads voraciously, he’s got it going on and he’s the man for the job. He’s not pigeonholed in any way. There’s no leash on him. We say, “You’re great at that; go do it.” I’m just psyched to be in a band with him. I don’t feel like I’m missing the politics at all. I’m learning more than ever before. And when those benefit shows come around and we’re big enough to play them, we’ll be like, “Hell yeah, let’s do benefits and raise money for people.” That’s the thing. From day one, Cornell was like, “I’m not looking to be the singer for Rage. I don’t want to be in a political band, but I will play any benefits that you guys ever want to play.” I think that’s 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 don’t get that first chance, but here you go again!

 TC: It’s exciting. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel. It’s 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, I’m 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 there’s something else going on (laughs). There’s 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. We’ve got a tour scheduled for a year and it’s no joke. I feel really comfortable that we’ll make a really great second album that’ll be even better than the first record because we’re a better band now. We’ve played more and we’ve been on more tours. We’re just better. I don’t feel the power of being 54 years old, turning on the radio and hearing “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” (from Rage’s debut). I don’t think it’s 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 I’m really excited to look out in the audience and it’s a bunch of young kids who are digging it, too. It’s a whole bunch of different age groups that get off on it. I feel like right now I’m in a better spot than I’ve been in my whole career.

To read the full, unedited interview, click here.

(Chris McKay/