Drummer Brad Wilk speaks out

Steve Hammer

Audioslave is much more than a supergroup or a merger of Rage Against The Machine and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. They're a musical powerhouse, for sure, but they also have a social conscience and work consistently for change and to open people's minds.

NUVO caught up with drummer Brad Wilk during a stop in Philadelphia for a telephone interview.

NUVO: There's so much contradictory press about the band, and so much speculation about the origins of the band.

Wilk: What do you mean?

NUVO: Well, I'm looking at this one Web site and they're saying stuff like "Cornell stipulated he would not join the band if they were going to be a political machine" - Wilk: That's where the problem lies. The three of us never wanted Chris to join the band to be in a political band. We wanted Chris in his own right. He's an amazing lyricist. He's not joining Rage Against the Machine; it's an entirely new band. That kind of stuff is just speculation in the press. The honest-to-God truth is that you have four guys in a room creating music. We're not worried about that or answering to that. We have one thing, and that's making music that we love and being true to our fans.

All that stuff is how rumors and speculation start. And there's not much you can do about that, really.

I pay no attention to that stuff. But if I allowed myself to get involved with it on that level, I'd be basically reading what other people may be speculating about the truth. I already know the truth. I already know what happened. So for me to spend my time reading about that stuff seems really counter-productive. I don't know what's being said, but, man, there's better things to spend my time on.

We have Axis of Justice. We work with charities and giving money from our ticket sales to charity. That's all stuff that you'll know about or you won't. The important thing isn't that you know about it or that it's in the press. The important thing is that the money is getting to the people who need it and the music is getting to the people who want it.

NUVO: The Live in Cuba DVD is amazing. The performance was great, but the audience reaction was something I've never seen before.

Wilk: It was a life-changing experience, for real. It was incredible. To be the first American band to play Cuba and play a free show in front of 60,000 people was amazing. There's so much propaganda and so much of what you hear about Cuba is different than the reality of Cuba. We were expecting hidden cameras in our rooms, and our hotel being bugged, and all this bullshit, and it couldn't be further from the truth. We were met with the most gracious of people. They were so happy that we were there. And the feeling was mutual; we were ecstatic to be there. To be there for three days and then play in front of 60,000 people, it was definitely a highlight of my career.

NUVO: With so much material to choose from, how does the band create its set list? Do you play the same show every night, or do you switch things up?

Wilk: We definitely switch it up. There are probably six or seven songs we play every night that we know people want to hear. There are different new songs we throw in there; there's Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden songs that we throw in there; and Audioslave songs we like to switch around on a nightly basis.

NUVO: It seems like things are shifting now politically and that everything you guys have been saying for years, things a lot of us have been saying, is becoming accepted. What's your take on that?

Wilk: I think people are finally realizing that George Bush is a fucking scam. I feel like Middle America is finally realizing, especially after these disasters and watching how they were handled, that they're getting the message. We're at the 2,000 mark for people killed in Iraq, and what's coming of it? Did we find weapons? No. Did we find there's lots of oil? Yes. All of the things that people who were against the war, the reasons they had, there they are for anyone to stare at.

NUVO: The fact that we were right doesn't make it any less depressing, though. We were vindicated, but we're still fucked. What would you say to people who are discouraged?

Wilk: The simplest answer is that people do have the power to change. People have power in numbers. When the war started and I was out protesting on Hollywood Boulevard, I realized that the number of people there was so much more than they were saying on television, which is controlled by the right-wing people who don't want you to see this. The odds are stacked up against us and it's more important than ever to realize you have a voice and you need to speak up. It can be very depressing. But you can run away from it or you can use your voice to try and make it better.

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