Meet Audioslave, the supergroup that almost wasn't. Former Rage members and Soundgarden's Chris Cornell blend to create a not-always-harmonious new project -- an excerpt from the Nov. 22, 2002, Listen2This cover story
Credit: Audioslave Photograph by Jill Greenberg

Barricade-storming fans of Rage Against the Machine shouldn’t expect the same politically charged aesthetic from Audioslave, the new group that plops Soundgarden’s tortured heartthrob, Chris Cornell, onto a Zack de la Rocha-less Rage. Cornell, who still wears a weathered pair of motorcycle boots from his Soundgarden days, is reluctant to abandon that group’s relatively apolitical legacy. ”I would be pretending,” he says, ”if I tried to write politically motivated lyrics all the time.” The 14 songs on Audioslave’s eponymous Nov. 19 debut avoid overt agit-rock; instead, feeling-Minnesota lyrics like ”I can tell you why/People die alone” function as what former Rage guitarist Tom Morello approvingly calls ”haunted, existential poetry.”

Can this really be the work of Rage — the band that torched an American flag at Woodstock ’99 and jammed outside the Democratic National Convention in 2000? Audioslave, which broke up and reformed before ever releasing an album, may share their progenitor’s volatility. But the new band’s story — which melds an apparently genuine creative bond with a near-fatal business struggle — begins where Rage’s tale fades.

After nine years and just three albums of original material, Rage Against the Machine ceased to exist on October 18, 2000. ”Our decision-making process has completely failed,” rapper Zack de la Rocha, the group’s natty-dreaded lead revolutionary, announced that morning, en route to a solo career.

Three months passed before Morello regrouped with Rage bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk. Long fed up with waiting for the mercurial de la Rocha to feel like recording or touring, the trio, ready to seize the means of production, decided to soldier on. Says Commerford: ”Before Zack left the band, we had discussed every option. Are we willing to go through this same thing again and again, or are we gonna empower ourselves and see what we’re made of?”

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