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10 Years Ago: Chris Cornell Leaves Audioslave

Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

When Chris Cornell left Audioslave, it wasn’t on the best of terms. In fact, he didn’t even inform the rest of the group.

On Feb. 15, 2007, the day the press release went out, he told Rolling Stone, “They’ll be hearing about this today. I haven’t spoken to anyone in the band in a few months.”

The dissolution of the supergroup made up of the then ex-Soundgarden singer and the instrumental core of Rage Against the Machine – guitarist Tom Morello, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford – didn’t exactly come as a surprise. There had been rumblings about it for over a year, despite the release and positive reception to the outfit’s third effort, Revelations, the previous September. At Cornell’s behest, Audioslave chose not to tour in support of the album, and it certainly didn’t help matters when Rage Against the Machine announced three weeks prior they would be headlining that year’s edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April.

“Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave,” Cornell said in a tersely worded statement. “I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors.”

“We agreed to do Audioslave under the premise that it was going to be harmonious and fun for everybody, and as soon as it wasn’t that way anymore, I didn’t want to do it,” he further expounded to Entertainment Weekly.

From the beginning, it wasn’t an easy undertaking getting Audioslave together. Spurred on by the breakups of their respective former bands, Rage in 2000 and Soundgarden in 1997, and the ensuing lukewarm reception to Cornell’s solo career, producer Rick Rubin encouraged the four musicians to consider the project in late 2001. But a few months after they began, the group broke up, with a variety of reasons as to why rumored, though most having to do with conflicts between each other’s management.

When Audioslave finally became a reality in the latter part of 2002, releasing a well-received self-titled debut, it was a breath of fresh air into a rock scene which had been oversaturated with garage bands in recent months. The group brought heaviness with “Cochise” and “Show Me How to Live” but also delivered a surprising delicateness in tracks like “I Am the Highway.”

Following his departure, Cornell would go on to release his second solo album, Carry On, that May, and reunite with Soundgarden in 2010. Rage would tour sporadically over the next four years, their final performance coming at the L.A. Rising Festival in July of 2011. In January 2017, Audioslave reunited for a three-song set at the Anti-Inaugural Ball in Los Angeles to protest incoming U.S. President Donald Trump. It was the first time they shared the stage together in just over 11 years.

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