Former grunge rocker looking for greater substance and less pressure

Chris Cornell first introduced himself to audiences through Soundgarden, one of the most successful groups of the grunge era in the 90s. A gifted and restless artist endowed with a powerful vocal delivery, Cornell has always wanted to go a step further, for the joy of exploration. His abrupt decision to abandon Soundgarden a decade ago stunned many fans. Cornell then formed the supergroup Audioslave with the three remaining members of Rage Against The Machine – guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk – after that act’s frontman Zack de la Rocha had split. But even Audioslave’s enormous success failed to keep Cornell on board. He parted ways with his backing trio early in 2007 to pursue a solo career. The 43-year-old Seattle-born musician is spending this summer performing at festivals around the world. His tour includes a night at the Rockwave Festival on the outskirts of Athens, in Malakasa, tomorrow. Cornell will present work from two solo album releases as well as selections from his days with Soundgarden and Audioslave. In the lead-up to his performance here, Cornell spoke to Kathimerini in an interview that started with the rocker explaining why he quit an extremely successful band for the second time in his career. «I wanted freedom. Music is a journey and experimentation, and not just a means for money and fame. Rock bands may earn more money but, at some point, they lose the essence of music – which is why I decided to change direction,» Cornell explained. He manages to capture this attitude on his latest album, «Carry On,» an effort on which Cornell functions as a singer-songwriter striving for the element of purity in music. The material here is esoteric, open to sounds and more melodic. It nibbles at soul, rock and blues. There’s a surprise cover, too, Michael Jackson’s gigantic hit «Billy Jean,» which Cornell has transformed into a beautiful ballad. «I originally did it as a joke,» said Cornell. «But then the song’s lyrics began to reveal wonderful feelings to me and it all led to what you hear. I discovered a new face in ‘Billy Jean.’ It was a good lesson on how a song can be something other than what you think it is,» he continued. On a wider level, this approach hints at Cornell’s drift away from the fast-moving pressures of the big-time rock circuit. «I’m not stressed. I feel like I have all the time in the world, and that’s how I want to function from now on,» said Cornell. «I may be sitting somewhere, like an airport’s departure lounge, and think of a melody for the guitar or a word around which I’d like to build a song. As simple as that, with no rush. Music has to be a pleasure, not stress so you can look cool.» Rockwave’s lineup this summer A three-day event this year, Rockwave, an annual summer music highlight, begins tomorrow with Led Zeppelin’s frontman Robert Plant as the headline act on opening night, as well as Chris Cornell and Europe. Heaven and Hell, or, rather, Black Sabbath – because the only difference is Ronnie James Dio in place of Ozzy Osbourne – will be the main act on July 1, the festival’s second day. Also on the second day’s agenda are Dream Theater, Anathema, Iced Earth, and Kinetic. The festival ends July 3 with Metallica at the top of the bill. The American supergroup’s set, which is expected to exceed two hours, will feature all its hits. Opening for Metallica will be Mastodon and Dirt Spawn Disease. Advance ticket purchases at Ticket House (42 Panepistimiou St, Athens; 20 Ethnikis Amynis St, Thessaloniki) and