Chris Cornell's new album, Scream
, mixes the immense power and passion of Cornell's gritty vocals and the thumping beats and synthesized sound of rapper and producer Timbaland. The album is a far cry from Cornell's Seattle grunge roots of the late '80s and early '90s and an improbable collaboration between two of the biggest names in music.
"I was looking for somebody to do some remixes and he introduced the idea of doing original material," Cornell said during a recent phone interview. "I threw out the idea of making a whole album. I wasn't really looking at making an album yet.
"He just responded really positively to going and making a whole album," Cornell continues. "Suddenly I just thought that would be an interesting thing to do, different than anything else I've ever done...The first time I'd heard anything that was a production from [Timbaland], it left a really big impression on me. It was one of those moments where I connected with hip-hop and it was basically through trippiness and the psychedelic nature of what he seems to be able to create."
In the wake of Scream
, his third solo album, Cornell has set out on a world tour, stopping by Indianapolis for a sold-out show April 15 at the Vogue. It will be Cornell's first visit to Indianapolis since parting ways with Audioslave in 2007.
Cornell saw the new album as a chance to create without rules or inhibitions.
"The first beat that Timberland brought in, after talking for a couple of days, and he started to play it," he explains. "It was about 16 bars into it and his engineer handed me a pad of paper and a pencil. There was like a really sort of encouraging, creative environment. Nobody was like nervous about what anyone else would think. There was really no energy expended on anything other than writing and creating music.
"I want to be able to take advantage of the fact that there are certain pluses for solo artists to kind of do whatever you want and to do it at the pace that you want. Actually my only real concern while I was making the album. I didn't know how I was going to approach it live."
He was worried at first about playing live with a set of songs so different from the rest of his work.
"I thought I was going to have to separate the album from other albums and other parts of my career," Cornell says, "and kind of do a scream set and then do an acoustic set and then do catalog material or whatever."
But Cornell says he arrived at a solution while performing on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution tour.
"We just approached it by playing the songs as a rock band," he says. "What ends up happening is, even though we'll have a keyboard player, they basically transform into rock songs, but rhythmically and to some degree sonically, they're still different and stay true to the record."
Cornell says the new songs have been received well and that fans are enjoying the live set.
"My audience is made up from different parts of my career. I'm performing for an audience that has never heard any of these songs before, which is another component to it.
To see and feel a reaction from an audience from material that you know they haven't heard, you sort of get a sense of what it means and how it resonates."
Ultimately, Cornell isn't straying too far from his hard rock roots.
"I'm coming from a place where I just made this album where some people or some fans might look at it as me wanting to make this huge departure away from rock music. At the same time, most of the time I'm on tour spending every day, every night playing a two and a half hour set of really aggressive rock. It's a funny juxtaposition."