Why is the record called Out Of Exile?
First of all, it is the name of a particularly jamming track on there, but Chris writes the lyrics, and he could tell how that song relates to things in his personal life. But it definitely has a more positive or hopeful vibe than some of the lyrics he has written in the past. The way I look at I, it’s the first record of our careers that we spent the entire time focused on the music, not on interpersonal difference or managerial problems or drug problems.We focused; 24-hours of our rock day was focused on what it should be…Rock!
How does the writing happen for you personally?
The honest answer would be I don’t know. It was only around the being of Rage Against The Machine that I was able to write music that I loved. It has come pretty effortlessly, I tried something different with contributions on this record. Normally, I do a great deal of preparation, weeding through tapes, and obsessively compulsively categorizing ideas, giving them starts and things like that. This time, I didn’t do any of that, relying a lot more on spontaneity and intuition. Just showing up and seeing what happens in the room that day and responding to each other’s ideas, rather than a more formal, prepared thing. And it was great. I think we came up with a more diverse mix of songs, and also, there is such a high level of trust and confidence in one another musically…That on any given day, any idea, that anyone of the four of us were bringing in, we would work to completion and we were always very satisfied.
Yeah, from just hearing the two singles they sound like they could be off of two completely different records.
Yeah, I mean the ‘Be Yourself’ song, which is one of my favorites on the record, Timmy was just thumbing this four note thing, and Chris instantly had that melody beginning to end for it, and Brad and I added our parts, and we wrote it in a couple of hours. It just felt like we had complete freedom, we didn’t have anything to prove to anybody, we just loved writing these songs and are eager to share.
It feels like it has a more positive message as well, would you agree and is that important to you?
I find that song a little dark, I think it has a double-edge sword. For me, it’s a little darker; it’s an acceptance and embracing your essence. And acceptance that you may not be able to transcend it, and that is a really Cornellian vibe right there, he never gets too positive, don’t worry about that.
You guys recently played Cuba?
Well, it was a great honor to be the first American rock band to ever play Cuba. It was amazing! It took a lot of hard work and negotiation between the two governments to make it happen, and it was crucially important to us, that it be a free show, so that everybody who wanted to come, could come. Sixty to 70 thousand Cubans came to the show, it was the biggest show we’ve played by far. It was our first show ever in Latin America.We went a couple of days before we played there too, and we were really blown away by the people we met, the things that we saw. It’s more than an economic embargo against Cuba, there is like an information embargo. It’s hard for Americans to understand what’s going on there, but we really want to play there again, and we hope that the success of the show we played will open doors for more bands to do the same.
That has to be one of the fondest memories you will have throughout your career.
Oh, absolutely. Just the notes people were throwing onstage, ‘Thank you! We will remember this forever.’ People were moshing, headbanging, crying, holding each other, and standing in awe of the event…and some of those people were us.
Was that also one of the greatest pressures you were put under?
Oh yeah! I mean, we had no idea what we were going to see, if the lights were going to turn on, if anyone was even going to come to the show, or if anyone even knew who Audioslave was. So it went off without a hitch, and I don’t even know how they got access to the music, but amazingly people knew our songs.We played for two-and-a-half hours, which is the longest show that we ever played, and it was really important for us to play the show of our lives, because the couple of days before, so much had been given to us by the Cuban people and the experience there. From jamming on the melanin with amazing Cuban folk musicians to visiting a free music school, which used to be an elitist country club and seeing these amazing jazz players that I have ever seen in my life, but the school can’t afford guitar and bass strings for them. It was a pretty humbling experience all around.
What are some of the other outstanding times of your career?
Oh wow, probably the Redding Festival with Rage Against The Machine, that was the first time we knew that the brushfire was spreading. Up until then we were basically a club band in the States, they had accidentally played the song ‘Killing In The Name’ on the commercial radio station in London. They played the unedited ‘Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me’ 16 times in a row. It caused kind of like a Sex Pistols scandal there, but we were a club band and opening for bigger bands in small theaters, and the Redding Festival we played pretty much like in Cuba, Seventy-thousand people and the place exploded. It was like Queen at Live Aid. We were looking at each other like, ‘What is happening?’ That was our first window of just how hard we could rock the world. That was one big event. Also the first Audioslave show we played was the Dave Letterman show on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater. Literally the first live show we ever played was in front of a television audience of millions, just jumping on the deep end.
Everyone knows that you have also used your fame as a springboard for your love of activism. What has your attention in that area currently?
You can always check Axisofjustice.org. Axis Of Justice is the non-profit organization that Surj Tankian from System Of A Down run. On that site we have daily updates of kind of alliterative news, vast arrays of recommended readings and movie lists, and freedom fighter of the month, we do a radio show on Axis Of Justice radio network in Los Angeles, all of those shows are catalogued on there. Basically the main focus is that we get fans of music politically involved and it’s grassroots organizing, because it’s our contention that change doesn’t come from above. If you are sitting around waiting for the President and the congress and the Supreme Court to make the world a better and more just place, you are going to be waiting a long time. Change comes like it always has, from everyday, ordinary people standing up for their rights where they work, where they live and where they go to school, and that’s what we are promoting in Axis Of Justice.