Ranked 12th in MTVs 22 Greatest Voices in Music survey, ahead of such icons as David Bowie, Steven Tyler and Bruce Springsteen; Chris Cornell, the voice who behind Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog, has been called the single most dynamic rock and roll force produced by the Grunge Revolution of the early 90s. But Cornell would have little to sing without an equally powerful facility as a lyricist. Nine years after the breakup of his band Soundgarden through which he paved the way for the Seattle grunge sound, Cornell has become and enduring musical and cultural icon.
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Cornell is currently in the studio with Grammy Award-winning British super-producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Morrissey, Dave Matthews Band) working on a solo project. This will serve as his 13th career album and is expected to be released in early Spring 2007 on Suretone/Interscope Records.
In addition, Cornell recently released the single You Know My Name, the main title track for the current James Bond installment, CASINO ROYALE. Written in collaboration with Bond composer David Arnold the song is gaining praise from critics and fans alike.
As frontman of rock supergroup Audioslave, they released their triple-platinum self-titled debut album in 2002: Audioslave produced the hits such as Like a Stone and Cochise. After extensive touring the band released their sophomore album Out of Exile which debuted at #1 on the U.S. charts in May 2005. The albums title, says Cornell, spoke to all facets of his life. Having had a volatile experience with the business side of the industry and a degree of dysfunctionality in the past, being in a band that actually enjoyed the music offered a way out of that, Cornell explains. Also in May 2005, Audioslave became the first American rock band to perform in Cuba, resulting in the platinum two-disc DVD Live in Cuba. Their third album, Revelations, was released on September 5th 2006 and touches upon more topical subjects, from Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf War. Cornell says that Audioslave is now better able to incorporate all of our different influences and spread our wings a bit and that, whereas their first two albums alternated between harder-edged tracks and those more melodic, now both elements are being woven seamlessly into individual songs, marking the evolution of the four-year-old band.
Cornell, inspired by songwriters from Elvis Costello to Bruce Springsteen, says the most exciting thing is to let yourself expose your true, vulnerable feelings, which is what resonates with people most. While the writing process with Audioslave usually involves a group dynamic, for Cornell each song is a natural marriage of mood and music. As far as his vocal style, he points to such R&B singers as Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin for showing masterfully how emotion can best be conveyed, even in subtle phrasing.
Music played a tangible role in Cornells youth growing up in a large Catholic family in Seattle, WA. Disliking piano lessons, he taught himself some basic piano and then guitar, figuring out tunes he knew and those that came to him. At age nine or ten he listened almost exclusively to The Beatles for more than a year after finding a trove of records at a friends house. Cornell experienced a musical breakthrough when his mother bought him a snare drum, which honed both his focus and his passion. Supplementing the snare with a full drum set, Cornell quickly joined a band, playing traps and singing backup. At age 15, he dropped out of the local parochial school and took a job as a cook, helping earn money for the family. He segued through various cover bands, struggling to find where he fit in until meeting a kindred spirit, guitarist Kim Thayil, in 1984.
The pair formed their own band, Soundgarden, named after a wind sculpture in Seattle, and eventually Cornell moved from the drum kit to downstage, focusing on singing while expanding his abilities as a guitarist. Along with new drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Hiro Yamamoto, Soundgarden made a place for heavy metal in alternative rock, according to music critic Stephen Erlewine.
Playing the same circuit that would several years later be traveled by Nirvana and Mudhoney, the band released 1987s Screaming Life EP on the new label SubPop, and an LP debut the following year, Ultramega OK. Interest around the band began spreading outside the confines of the Northwest, just as their A&M debut Louder Then Love was released in 1989 and then Badmotorfinger in 1991. Cornell wrote most of the material on the critically acclaimed 1991 album Temple of the Dog, a collective of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden members who formed in tribute to late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood. In 1994 Soundgarden hit it big with Superunknown and its crossover single Black Hole Sun, selling more than three million copies and earning two Grammy Awards. Soundgarden retained momentum with their most experimental release, 1996s acclaimed Down on the Upside. But the album found the band grappling with their imposed legendary status, a mantle of importance that proved too suffocating for Soundgarden. They soon disbanded, releasing a best-of collection, A-Sides (1997), as a goodbye of sorts.
As a solo artist Cornell explored more surreal musical textures, esoteric studio techniques, emotional lyricism and varied singing styles on his 1999 album Euphoria Morning, whose single Cant Change Me earned a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Many of Cornells songs have been featured on film soundtracks such as PUMP UP THE VOLUME, WAYNES WORLD, TRUE ROMANCE, FEELING MINNESOTA (a title lifted from one of Cornells own Soundgarden lyrics), GREAT EXPECTATIONS, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II, MIAMI VICE and Cameron Crowes Seattle-based film SINGLES, in which he also gives an on-camera cameo performance.
In addition to his work in the music world, Cornell was also the face of the 2006 John Varvatos ad campaign and recently opened Black Calavados (BC) restaurant in Paris. Cornell recently began a new chapter in his personal life with his marriage to Parisian Vicky Karayiannis and a move to the City of Lights. Along with gaining a European view, he is also a changed man as father of daughter Toni and Christopher, as well as a daughter, Lillian Jean, by a previous marriage.
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