Posts Tagged ‘Audioslave’

Chris Cornell first invaded my ears back in the early 90s as frontman of Soundgarden – a Seattle band front and centre in the grunge music scene. Those formative years wouldn’t have been the same without that distinctive voice, his voice. Cornell’s vocals were what set them apart from the plethora of grunge bands trying to make it big at the time. His ability to hit such high octaves with perfect control, but also be raw and loud, gave him such versatility, and a sound that will always truly be his own (start video at 0:19) 

In Soundgarden’s early days, even before they “made it big” with 1994’s Superunknown, Cornell lived with musician Andrew Wood, of the band Mother Love Bone. After Wood died of a heroin overdose in 1990, Cornell got together with Wood’s bandmates, and wrote and produced a tribute album, under the name Temple of the Dog. It also featured backing vocals of newcomer Eddie (of yet-to-be-formed Pearl Jam.) The whole idea behind this entire project was friendship, so it’s no surprise I’ve made long-lasting friendships based on a mutual love for this powerful, anthemic track.

Soundgarden inevitably broke up in 1997, like the rest of the grunge bands. Cornell decided to kick off a solo career with 1999’s Euphoria Morning, which fared pretty well. As a solo artist, he also performed covers, appeared on soundtracks, and even had one of his albums produced by Timbaland (which did not fare well with his fans.) Point is, he was always experimenting, always making music, always in our ears. This track appeared in the movie Great Expectations – the one with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was the best part of the movie, and revealed a much softer Cornell, reaffirming that he really was capable of anything.

If Cornell didn’t have enough going on already, in 2001 he joined ex-members of rock-metal band Rage Against the Machine, to form Audioslave. A hard rock band, similar in many ways to Soundgarden, just less grunge and more aggression. They were loud, but also musical. By this time, I was in University, a completely different phase in my life. But there he was – still ringing in my ears. This track is so incredibly haunting and proof that no matter how much noise was going on, Cornell’s voice could always rise above, and take the whole thing to another level.

I had the privilege of seeing Cornell play live 3 three times. Once as a solo act at a small venue in Hamilton. I drove through a snowstorm, in pitch black just to get there, and it was worth every second. The 2nd time was with Soundgarden on their reunion tour at an outdoor venue; when the sky turned gray, and they went into “Fell on Black Days,” the rain didn’t even matter. Lastly, a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall: just him, his guitar and a lot of incredible music. I went to this show all by myself, because I couldn’t miss this opportunity. I had goosebumps the entire time, and never felt I was there alone – Cornell, as usual, was right there.

There was never a time in my musical life that Cornell wasn’t doing something, or part of something. Everything he got involved with, somehow became a part of my life. A memory, a mood, a phase. It was comforting to know, no matter what he was doing, it would always resonate with me. When he performed live as a solo artist, the most remarkable thing was not only did fans get to see Cornell, but also Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave. So when Chris Cornell passed away on May 17th, not only was he gone, but he also took Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave with him. As a music fan, that’s a whole lot of music to mourn.

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We often hear about celebrities being triple threats. Usually that entails having a music, acting and some sort of entrepreneurial career, ie perfume line, clothing line, etc. Sure these celebrities are somewhat successful in all their paths, but for the most part: actors can’t make music, musicians can’t act and neither are actually all that involved with their businesses (except to use their face to sell them.) So I’d like to turn your attention to those celebrities that truly are dangerous: musicians who lend their talent to several bands, all of which get them recognition.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Dave Grohl. He first appeared as the mad-tastic drummer for Nirvana. A 90s grunge band that defined a generation. After lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide, Grohl wasn’t ready to leave music just yet so he decided to make his own band: Foo Fighters. But this time, he was on guitar and song writing. In their illustrious 19-year career, they have won a whopping 11 Grammys, and have released seven studio albums.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            During his stint with Foo Fighters, Grohl took a mini-break and joined Queens of the Stone Age (QotSA) in 2002 as their drummer. He recorded their third and most successful album, Songs for the Deaf, and toured with them in support of it. In 2009, Grohl took another vacation from the Foos and joined QotSA frontman Josh Homme and ex-Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to form Them Crooked Vultures, with Grohl back on drums. They’ve released one album to date and are currently working on their next one. So that’s four bands, playing two different instruments and even songwriting. He may not have a shoe named after him, but that’s one talented dude.

Emily Haines. Haines hails from Toronto and is best known as lead singer, guitar player and keyboardist for the uber popular indie band Metric who put out their first album in 2003. And she plays a mean tambourine. Prior to forming Metric, Haines was part of the Toronto music collaborative Broken Social Scene: a concept formed by two indie musicians who bring together the best of indie music in Toronto. The band has had as little as three members to as many as eleven. The musicians are typically part of other bands, and just lend their vocal or other music talents when they can.

After releasing two albums with Metric, Haines formed Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, a much more mellow version compared to Metric, and where she more often uses her piano skills. She released one album in 2006 which included the single “Our Hell” which is sure to give you goosebumps. In 2007, Haines got back in the studio with Metric and between then and 2012, have released three more albums, including 2009’s Fantasies, easily one of the best albums released that year. One band, a solo project, and guest starring vocals in an extensive indie music project, mostly consisting of Canadian artists. Plus the ability to play multiple instruments. Can she be any cooler?

Chris Cornell. First known as lead singer/guitarist for prominent grunge band Soundgarden. They’ve been around since the late 80s and have released six albums and won two Grammys. While Soundgarden was rising to fame in 1990, Cornell combined forces with most of the members of yet-to-be-famous Pearl Jam, to form Temple of the Dog, as a tribute to his roommate Andrew Wood, who had passed away earlier that year. They released only one self-titled album which spawned the classic track “Hunger Strike.”

In 1997, Soundgarden hit a rough patch and they broke up, so Cornell went solo. His 1999 debut release wasn’t incredibly well received, but the single “Can’t Change Me” was nominated for a Grammy. Next, he joined Rage Against the Machine’s band (minus lead singer Zack de la Rocha) and formed Audioslave. Another hard rock band who put out three albums and were nominated for three Grammys. Due to creative differences, they disbanded in 2007, and Cornell went back to his solo career, made two more albums, the more recent Scream produced by Timbaland. Again, not critically acclaimed but it was Cornell’s highest charting solo album.

Finally, in 2010, Soundgarden reunited, put out an album and are touring. Cornell writes all his lyrics, his vocal range is out of control and he has also lent his voice to several soundtracks, including my personal favourite “Sunshowers” from Great Expectations. So three bands, a solo career, writing credits and having his music in movies. Bonus: if you ever see him live, it’s like seeing four bands at once.

Anyone who wants to become a celebrity will find some way to do it. With all the mediocrity we see out there, all the reality-show-fabricated talent, all the YouTube sensations, it becomes increasingly difficult to recognize true celebrity: being famous/recognized for being amazing at what you do best. Not being average at several avenues leading to celebrity. These three musicians are a breath of fresh air, a sight for sore eyes because they are so talented and live for music so much so that they will find any way to be able to create it. And for us who long for what’s real, without all the glitz and glam, it’s a reminder that it still exists. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Every member in a band has a specific role based on where they talents lie. Some are meant to play instruments, others are meant to sing; each one is key in bringing the band’s sound together. They consider themselves a family, a team, in which all members contribute and have a say. Yet we often hear about lead singers starting solo projects, venturing out on their own. With their band they already have fame, fortune and fans; so what then compels these lead singers to cut the cord and move forward?                                                                                                                                                                                                             Reason #1
Because they need a side project.
Lead singers in this category have every intention of continuing to make music with their band, but need to take a break to explore other musical directions. It’s not an ego trip or a diva moment, they just want to do their own thing for a while. Clear their heads. Gwen Stefani did it with No Doubt. They were at the top of their game with the release of Rock Steady in 2001 and then Gwen decided to follow her own inspirations and explore her creative mind. By herself. So she went out and got herself some Harajuku Girls, put out two solo albums, launched a clothing line and had two kids somewhere in there. In September 2012, No Doubt is finally set to release their next album. This is a classic case of having your cake and eating it too. Stefani wins no matter what: not only does she remain the face of the band, but now due to all the extra exposure as a solo artist, there’s even more attention on her. It becomes distracting and as a result, the rest of the band fades into the background.

Reason #2
Because they can do better.
This is most common in groups that feature more than one lead singer, because they inevitably end up competing with each other so they don’t get replaced. Justin Timberlake is a perfect example. As ‘N Sync gained popularity, it was abundantly clear he had the best voice. The division of vocals started to work in Timberlake’s favour and he became their unofficial lead singer. Although they were doing incredibly well, he knew (or at least his people did) he could do better on his own, no sharing required. Like he used the rest of them as supporting acts to launch himself. Well we all know how that turned out. As for the the rest of the group they all sort of fell apart and only re-appeared on reality television and as a wannabe astronaut. This comes off as a clear decision, no confusion, no looking back. Everyone appears to be amicable about the situation, everyone has moved on, gone their separate ways. Timberlake’s the only one left in the music industry and let’s face it, he deserves to be there.

Reason #3                                                                                                                                       Because they think they can do better.                                                                                                    A lot of the time lead singers will go off and do their own thing seemingly to make a statement. To irritate band members, because of their own egos, because they think they are the band. The break up is usually unfriendly, chalked up to irreconcilable differences, too many differing opinions and no one getting along. It usually involves storming out of a room and dramatically slamming the door. Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, fits right in here. During the 90s, they were one of the top grunge bands to enter the scene. They dropped five albums in eight years and then broke up abruptly in 1997. He’s a talented musician who thought he could do better, thought he was better. Since then, Cornell released a solo album in 1999, followed by three albums with a new band Audioslave, who broke up in 2007. Next he put out three more solo albums, last of which was released in 2011. But last year, Soundgarden decided to reunite and go on tour. So many years gone by and he decides to crawl back to his original band. Like his temper tantrum was finally over. This displays signs of a fickle mind, uncertainty, regret; like he doesn’t know what he wants or where he belongs. He needs to figure that out.

Lead singers will pursue a solo career for a number of reasons: more attention, more fame, more money, more freedom of expression, and so on. Some thrive, some fail and some don’t make any mark at all. What remains consistent is the original band is forever changed. No Doubt has become that band Gwen Stefani sings for on the side; ‘N Sync has been removed from everyone’s vocabulary; Soundgarden is now that grunge band Chris Cornell came back to. They lose their identity as a band and fans lose interest and move on. Flying solo has its rewards, no question. Too bad the rest of the band ends up alone too.