Active: 1984 - present
Chris Cornell (born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964) is an American rock musician best known as the lead singer and songwriter for rock bands Soundgarden (1984?1997) and Audioslave (2001?2007). He was the founder and frontman for Temple of the Dog, the one-off tribute band dedicated to his former roommate, Andrew Wood, and he has released two solo albums, Euphoria Morning (1999) and Carry On (2007). His third solo album, Scream (2008) is set for release later this year and is to be produced by American hip-hop record producer, composer, singer and rapper, Timbaland.
Cornell was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and attended Shorewood High School. His parents are Ed Boyle (a pharmacist from an Irish Catholic background) and Karen Cornell (an accountant from a Jewish background). He has two older brothers, Peter and Patrick, and three younger sisters, Katy, Suzy, and Maggie. Peter, Katy and Suzy formed the band Inflatable Soule, a moderately popular band in Seattle during the 1990s. Peter Cornell is now in the band Black Market Radio, which released their debut album entitled Suicide Parlour in 2006. Cornell and his siblings took his mother's maiden name after his parents divorced.
Cornell mentions on the Audioslave ? Live in Cuba DVD documentary that he spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to The Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a house. He then suffered from a severe case of clinical depression during his teenage years, rarely leaving the house. At one point, he spent a whole year of his life without leaving his house, during which time he would spend his time drinking and playing drums and guitar. Before becoming a successful musician, he worked at a seafood wholesaler and was a sous chef at a restaurant named Ray's Boathouse.
He is married to Vicky Karayiannis (Βίκυ Καραγιάννης), a Paris-based American publicist of Greek origin, and was previously married to Susan Silver, the manager of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. He had a daughter with Silver, Lillian Jean, in June 2000. He and Silver divorced in 2004 and he married Vicky Karayiannis shortly afterwards. She gave birth to his second daughter, Toni, in September 2004, and their second and his third child, Christopher Nicholas, in December 2005.
Along with Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden became one of the most successful bands from Seattle's emerging grunge scene in the early 1990s. The band was formed in 1984 by Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto, with Cornell originally on drums and vocals. They hired drummer Scott Sundquist, so that Cornell could concentrate on singing. After a year-and-a-half Sundquist was replaced by Matt Cameron, former drummer of Skin Yard, and current drummer of Pearl Jam.
The band signed to Sub Pop, releasing the Screaming Life EP in 1987 and the Fopp EP in 1988 (a combination of the two was issued as Screaming Life/Fopp in 1990). Though the band was being courted by major labels, in 1988 they signed to SST Records to release their debut album, Ultramega OK (1988), for which they earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1990.
In 1989, the band released their second effort, and their first for a major label, Louder Than Love, through A&M Records. It was also the last Soundgarden album to feature the band's original bassist, Hiro Yamamoto. Ben Shepherd was soon recruited as a permanent replacement.
Shepherd replaced previous bassist Jason Everman and the new line up recorded Badmotorfinger in 1991. Badmotorfinger included the singles "Jesus Christ Pose", "Outshined", and "Rusty Cage". The three singles gained considerable airtime on alternative rock radio stations, while the videos for "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" gained considerable airtime on MTV. The song "Jesus Christ Pose" and its music video was the subject of widespread controversy in 1991, and the video was removed from MTV's playlist. Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1992.
"Room a Thousand Years Wide" was released previously as a single in 1990, but not to promote the album. It was released (with the song "HIV Baby") as a 7" through Sub Pop's Single of the Month club a full year before the release of Badmotorfinger. The song was re-recorded for this album. "Rusty Cage" was covered by Johnny Cash on his 1996 album Unchained. It also appeared on the fictional radio station Radio X on the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and in the 32-bit version of Road Rash.
The album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1992. It was also ranked number 45 in the October 2006 issue of Guitar World on the magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitar albums of all time.
Superunknown was the band's breakout album. Upon its release in March 1994, Superunknown deputed at number one on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. The album granted Soundgarden international recognition. Superunknown achieved quintuple Platinum status in the United States, triple platinum status in Canada, and Gold status in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Rolling Stone gave Superunknown four out of five stars. Reviewer J.D. Considine said Superunknown "demonstrates far greater range than many bands manage in an entire career." He also stated, "At its best, Superunknown offers a more harrowing depiction of alienation and despair than anything on In Utero." Considine criticized "Black Hole Sun" and "Half", stating that the former is "not a very good song" while the latter "is the virtual definition of a B-side." Jon Pareles of The New York Times said that "Superunknown actually tries to broaden its audience by breaking heavy-metal genre barriers that Soundgarden used to accept." He added that "Soundgarden...want[s] something different from standard heavy metal." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album an A. He said, "Soundgarden is pumped and primed on Superunknown, and they deliver the goods." He praised it as a "hard-rock milestone-a boiling vat of volcanic power, record-making smarts, and '90s anomie and anxiety that sets a new standard for anything called metal."
The band's final album was 1996's self-produced Down on the Upside. The album spawned several singles, including "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World", and "Burden in My Hand" (sample (help?info)). The album was notably less heavy than the group's preceding albums, and marked a further departure from the band's grunge roots. Soundgarden explained at the time that it wanted to experiment with other sounds. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly said, "Few bands since Led Zeppelin have so crisply mixed instruments both acoustic and electric."However, tensions within the group arose during the sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell's desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become the band's trademark. Despite favorable reviews, the album did not match the sales of Superunknown. Due to tensions within the band, Soundgarden announced it was disbanding on April 9, 1997.
Regarding a future Soundgarden reunion, Cornell stated that it would "probably not happen". He continued, "It's almost like we sealed the lid and said, this is Soundgarden and this is its lifespan, and put it out there." In interviews following his departure from Audioslave, Cornell reiterated that the members of Soundgarden had no interest in reuniting. In an interview in early August 2007, Cornell mentioned that Thayil had wanted to release a box set or B-sides album of Soundgarden rarities, although no further information was given.
SOLO CAREER 1998-2000
In 1998 Cornell began writing work for a solo album, entitled Euphoria Morning, released on September 21, 1999, on which he collaborated with Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider of the band Eleven. The album proved commercially unsuccessful although the album's single "Can't Change Me" was nominated for "Best Male Rock Vocal Performance" at the 2000 Grammy Awards. They also contributed the song "Sunshower" (a bonus track on the Japanese release of Euphoria Morning) to the soundtrack of Great Expectations, and a reworked version of the track "Mission", retitled "Mission 2000", was used on the soundtrack to the film Mission: Impossible II. Euphoria Morning includes "Wave Goodbye", Cornell's tribute to his late friend Jeff Buckley. It has been noted that Euphoria Morning is influenced by Buckley's songwriting and distinctive vocal style. In 2000, Cornell embarked on a tour in support of the album.
Audioslave was formed after Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine and the remaining members were searching for another vocalist. Producer and friend Rick Rubin suggested that they contact Cornell. Rubin played the remaining Rage band members the Soundgarden song "Slaves & Bulldozers" to showcase his ability. Cornell was in the writing process of a second solo CD, but decided to shelve that and pursue the opportunity to work with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk when they approached him. Critics initially described Audioslave as an amalgamation of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden, but by the band's second album, Out of Exile, noted that they had established a separate identity. Morello described Cornell as: "He stepped to the microphone and sang the song and I couldn't believe it. It didn't just sound good. It didn't sound great. It sounded transcendent. And... when there is an irreplaceable chemistry from the first moment, you can't deny it." The quartet wrote 21 songs during 19 days of rehearsal and began working in the studio in late May 2001.
The band was nearly derailed before the album's release; Cornell was going through alcohol problems and a slot on the Ozzfest tour was canceled. The problems were ironed out; and he has remained sober since this time.
Their debut album, Audioslave, released in November 2002, spawned hits such as "Cochise", "Like a Stone" and "Show Me How To Live", and has reached triple-platinum status in the United States. During this time, there was a rumor that Cornell had checked himself into drug rehabilitation. He later confirmed it in an interview with Metal Hammer that was conducted from a clinic payphone. In a San Diego CityBeat article, Cornell explained that he went through "a horrible personal crisis" during the making of the first record, staying in rehab for two months and separating from his wife. The band toured through 2003, before resting in 2004 to record their second album.
Audioslave's second album, Out of Exile, was released in May 2005 and debuted at #1 on the U.S. charts. The album has since gone on to achieve platinum status. The album features the singles, "Be Yourself", "Doesn't Remind Me", "Out of Exile" and "Your Time Has Come". Cornell admitted to writing his most personal songs ever on this album, influenced by the positive changes in his life since 2002. He also described the album as more varied than the debut and relying less on heavy guitar riffs. The album was received more favorably than Audioslave's debut; critics noted Cornell's stronger vocals, likely the result of quitting smoking and drinking, and pointed out that Out Of Exile is "the sound of a band coming into its own". Allmusic praised the album as "lean, hard, strong, and memorable".The lyrics, however, were still a common complaint, musicOMH.com wrote that Cornell's lyrics "continue to border on the ridiculous".
On May 6, 2005, Audioslave played a free show in Havana, Cuba. Audioslave became the first American rock group to perform a concert in Cuba, playing in front of an audience of 70,000. The band traveled to Havana on May 4 to interact with Cuban musicians. Cornell commented: "Hopefully, this concert will help to open the musical borders between our two countries." The 26-song set concert was the longest the band had ever played.
In early 2006 the band returned, recording their third album as they had written most of the material during the tour. The band released the album, titled Revelations, in September 2006. For Revelations, which was influenced by 1960s and 70s music, Cornell adopted his "seventies funk and R&B-flavor vocals". The first two singles were "Original Fire" and "Revelations". Two of the songs from the third album, "Shape of Things to Come" and "Wide Awake" were also prominently featured in Michael Mann's film Miami Vice prior to the release of the album. Despite the exposure to other forms of media and the positive critical buzz for their third album, Audioslave did not tour behind the release. They went into hiatus to allow Cornell to complete "You Know My Name", the theme song for the James Bond film Casino Royale, and Morello to pursue his own solo work under the moniker of The Nightwatchman.
All of Audioslave's lyrics were written by Cornell, while all four members were credited with writing the music. Their songwriting process was described by Wilk as "more collaborative" and "satisfying" than Rage Against the Machine's, which was "a battle creatively". Cornell, for his part, saw Soundgarden's songwriting method as inferior to Audioslave's.
Cornell's lyrics were mostly apolitical; Audioslave's Morello referred to them as "haunted, existential poetry". They were characterized by his cryptic approach, often dealing with themes of existentialism, love, hedonism, spirituality and Christianity.
Cornell's battle with drug addiction and alcoholism was a defining factor in the writing and recording process. Even though the singer admitted that he was "never able to write effectively" while drinking, and attended rehab after recording the debut album, Morello stated that Revelations was "the first record [Cornell] didn't smoke, drink or take drugs through the recording". However, Morello said: "Chris was stone sober during the making of our Out of Exile album. Chris was also sober during the making of Revelations and prior to recording he gave up smoking as well. I apologize for any confusion or concern that was stirred up by the original article. Sobriety can be a matter of life or death and Chris' courage in maintaining his health for years has been an inspiration."
News about Cornell's departure emerged in July 2006, when insiders stated that after the third album he would split for a solo career. The singer immediately denied the rumors, stating "We hear rumors that Audioslave is breaking up all the time. ... I always just ignore [them]". On February 15, 2007, Cornell officially announced his departure from Audioslave, stating that "Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave. I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors." As the other three members were busy with the Rage Against the Machine reunion, and Morello and Cornell had each released solo albums in 2007, Audioslave was officially disbanded.
SOLO REVIVAL 2007- PRESENT
Cornell co-wrote and performed the song accompanying the opening titles for the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale. He and composer David Arnold collaborated on the song titled "You Know My Name". "You Know My Name" is the first theme song since 1983's Octopussy to use a different title than the film, the first ever sung by a male American, and the first ever title theme song that did not appear on the soundtrack album. This song became the first song recorded for his solo album, which he began work on in 2007. Cornell is the first male performer since a-ha in 1987's The Living Daylights. It is the fourth title theme after Dr. No, On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Octopussy, that does not make any reference to the title of the film.
On June 5, 2007 Cornell released his second solo album, Carry On, with producer Steve Lillywhite. It debuted at number 17 on the American Billboard charts. Among the artists who accompanied him on his second solo release was friend Gary Lucas, who contributed acoustic guitar to some of the tracks. Cornell has stated that he is always writing, and that there are some songs that he was not able to put onto an Audioslave album.
While recording his second solo album, Cornell was involved in a motorcycle accident. He was apparently "rear-ended by a truck in L.A.'s Studio City while riding his motorcycle" and "catapulted 20 feet into the air." He was able to walk away from the accident, but had severe cuts and bruises. He returned to the studio later that day.
A promotional CD for Carry On was released in March 2007, entitled The Roads We Choose - A Retrospective. The 17-song CD included songs from Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and Cornell's solo work. Though not officially released onto CD, an hour-long acoustic concert Cornell performed on September 7, 2006 at O-Baren in Stockholm, is widely available for download under the title Chris Cornell: Unplugged in Sweden.
In 2007 Cornell appeared as support to Aerosmith on at least two legs ? Dublin, London, and Hyde Park ? of their 2007 world tour and to Linkin Park in Australia and New Zealand. These shows formed part of his own ongoing world tour which began in April 2007 and is set to continue well into 2008. Cornell has described his touring band ? comprising guitarists Yogi Lonich and Peter Thorn, bassist Corey McCormick and drummer Jason Sutter ? as "musicians that could get the whole picture" playing music by Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well as his solo material.
Cornell played dates in South Africa in March 2008, but recently postponed his forthcoming European tour until Autumn 2008, citing clashes with recording schedule.
Cornell worked with super-producer Timbaland, on his next album "Scream", which is tentatively scheduled to be released on November 4, 2008. Timbaland has referred to the recording sessions as "The best work I've done in my career," and predicted that Cornell will be the "first rock star in the club". Cornell called the new album "a highlight of my career." In 2008, Cornell is featured on the Main Stage of Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution tour. Joining LP and Cornell on the Main Stage are Busta Rhymes, The Bravery, and Ashes Divide. The Revolution Stage features Atreyu, 10 Years, Hawthorne Heights, Armor For Sleep, and Street Drum Corps. During this tour, Cornell has stated that he plans to "jump on stage" with other artists as the opportunity arises; this may set the stage for future Cornell collaborations, outside of his work with Timbaland.
He is also currently rumored to be rehearsing with Led Zeppelin, who are planning a reunion tour and possibly recording material for a new album. The new Led Zeppelin project is said[who?] to not include Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant, and the two remaining members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones along with the son of drummer John Bonham, Jason, have confirmed another reunion without him if he declines the offer. The other candidates for the vocal slot in Led Zeppelin's new lineup include Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy, ex-Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and former Nirvana drummer, and ex-Creed vocalist Scott Stapp.
1988 - Ultramega OK
1989 - Louder Than Love
1990 - Screaming Life/Fopp
1991 - Badmotorfinger
1994 - Superunknown
1996 - Down on the Upside
1997 - A-Sides
Temple of the Dog
1991 - Temple of the Dog
2002 - Audioslave
2005 -Out of Exile
2006 - Revelations
1999 - Euphoria Morning
2007 - Carry On
2008 - Scream