It's a unique problem to have, even in the music industry, but because of this sonic exploration he's never quite sure how much he can mix and match the songs he's recorded before fans start heaving chairs at him (you know, if they weren't screwed down). That's why he decided to play on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution this summer. Well, it's one of three reasons at least...
"To me, for what I do personally, it's important to be able to mix it up and have an audience put up with that," Cornell says. "(Because of this, Projekt Revolution) is kind of ideal, because being a solo artist after all this time and having two bands -- three bands really -- that I released records with as well as a lot of solo material, it's a lot of diversity. I noticed in the last year playing festivals worked really well for me because I can mix it up and do some of the heavier Rock that I've ever written, as well as turn around and do songs where I'm just singing and playing acoustic guitar."
That's Reason No. 1: Festival tours inherently draw crowds more interested in seeing their favorite artists surprise them, whether it's Soundgarden taking the stage with Ice T & Body Count to perform "Cop Killer" at the second Lollapalooza or, these days, Cornell picking up an acoustic guitar after tearing through "Spoonman."
"I did, I think, six or seven shows with Linkin Park in Australia, when they did their Australian tour this last year, and it just was great," Cornell explains. "It was a different audience, it wasn't my audience, and I had to go out basically and do what I do and earn the respect of these people every night. And it was really a great, refreshing feeling, it wasn't preaching to the choir. So the idea of putting the two together, where it's a festival and also I'm getting to tour with Linkin Park, I think was just something that really appealed to me."
Shortly after those Australian gigs, Cornell started asking his management to set up a full-length tour with Linkin Park. Projekt Revolution seemed the most obvious way. The festival, in case you're unfamiliar, heralds back to the golden age of Lollapalooza, before the once industry-changing festival, really the first of its kind, surrendered its soul and became a sedentary once-a-year event. With Projekt Revolution, artists who have no business sharing the stage together, like Snoop Dogg and Less Than Jake, join forces and hit the road. This year, Cornell and Linkin Park will perform alongside disco-rockers The Bravery and Emo-ers Hawthorne Heights (rapper Busta Rhymes recently dropped off the tour). As Lollapalooza once did, the tour challenges the rules of popular music.
This brings up Reason No. 3 Cornell signed up for Projekt Revolution even though he's never had trouble selling his own tickets:
"I think when you look at just the different brands and compare it to other festival tours, it's kind of the least genre-oriented," Cornell explains of Projekt Revolution. "Like Lollapalooza originally came out that way, it wasn't genre-oriented at all. The whole idea of the tour was mix it up as much as possible. And that's the point. I think a tour like Ozzfest is pretty specific in terms of the kind of music that gets represented, and that's the difference."
Actually, come to think of it, let's add a fourth reason Cornell opted to join the Projekt Revolution tour -- the ghost of Lollapalooza.
"It was an amazing combination of bands," Cornell says, fondly remembering the first day he played the festival tour in 1992. "(Soundgarden) were on our second major label album, so it was like our fourth album. The place was pretty much packed and there was 20,000 people or whatever. And for me it was formative, because I was still young in my career and I'm going out there and I'm having a big ego and I want it all to be about me, and I want the world of Rock to check out what I'm doing. I'm on a tour with Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ministry and Ice Cube. And it's like, 'Guess what? It's not going to be all about me.' In fact I'm way down on the list and I'm going to have to like it up and learn about what I do and learn about the craft and learn about just enjoying playing music and just getting involved in it on that end." ©