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Chris Cornell throws down

  • Story Highlights
  • Chris Cornell's new album is "Scream"
  • Former Soundgarden, Audioslave front man working with producer Timbaland
  • Rock star life takes work, Cornell says
  • Singer once threw amplifier out window to sample old-school rock star activity
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By Shanon Cook
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Chris Cornell has taken to Twitter like Tweety Bird took to making mischief.

Chris Cornell's new solo album, "Scream," was produced by Timbaland. He acknowledges it's an odd mix.

Chris Cornell's new solo album, "Scream," was produced by Timbaland. He acknowledges it's an odd mix.

Not to suggest he's using the popular social networking service to cause trouble. Hardly.

The 44-year-old rock musician said he enjoys the open stream of chit-chat with his fans.

"It's actually created an environment where I can answer simple questions that someone's probably had forever," said Cornell. "And I don't mind answering them. And I can actually have conversations with fans that are quick, but still more meaningful than the typical situations you're put into. I've really liked it."

His more than 200,000 followers can revel in bite-size musings about life on the road ("crowd was amazing last night") or sweet tweets to his wife, Vicky ("hi baby! i miss you!"). Video Watch Cornell talk about his Twitter fascination »

The former front man of Soundgarden and Audioslave -- who is also known for singing the James Bond theme "Casino Royale" -- is the first to admit he's a fan of experimenting. His new solo album, "Scream," has him meshing his rock vibe with dance-floor beats by the much sought-after producer Timbaland.

The collaboration has left some people scratching their heads. Nine Inch Nails lead singer Trent Reznor took a swipe by twittering: "You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell's record?"

Ouch. The album debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 chart, but it took a substantial tumble the second week.

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But Cornell -- who said he's never met Reznor nor read or responded to his tweet -- was more than ready for criticism.

"You could kind of see it coming," he said. "Some of it is a script that was written just by putting [me and Timbaland] together. And most of the negative responses fit that script perfectly: 'You can't put these two things together. We don't like it! We're not going to let you! So we're gonna say bad stuff.' "

For Cornell, working with Timbaland required him to "rinse away everything that I knew about songwriting and recording." He said the biggest challenge was in having to relearn how to sing to a different rhythm, his raspy voice needing to match up with slick studio beats rather than sliding loosely around the live, loud accompaniment he's so used to.

"To me it seemed like an exciting thing to just go and do," he said. "I think this is as good as any album I've ever made, and I listen to it probably more than any other record I've ever made."

Cornell spoke to CNN about Timbaland, Twitter and throwing stuff out windows. The following is an edited version of the interview.

CNN: Some people have said that you've lost your musical identity in this album.

Chris Cornell: I don't have one, really. I don't want to have one. If I had a musical identity that was definable then it would be time to get into painting or something else. Race car driving.

CNN: So you would be happy to be experimental on your next album?

Cornell: Absolutely.

CNN: So what was it like working with Timbaland?

Cornell: He didn't really have a particular direction in mind in terms of what he wanted me to do. He did what Timbaland does, and I did what I do. We just wrote songs, which is really the best thing that came out of it. ...

It doesn't sound like anybody else's record. It doesn't sound like music I've ever heard. It defies genre, and yet it's very much a song-oriented album as well as an album-oriented album. ... The music never stops. I've performed it that way. It's almost like a movie soundtrack.

CNN: How often do you Twitter?

Cornell: It depends. When I'm out on the road, depending on the day, a couple times a day I'll spend a half-hour or an hour or so. I've found that doing vocal warm-ups and Twitter at the same time, cause I'm a multitasker. I can watch CNN -- because I do -- and then I can be online and do vocal warm-ups all at the same time. And only one of those things is way too boring.

CNN: I read a couple of your tweets, and you said that you were having trouble sleeping. Is that an occupational hazard?

Cornell: Probably, yeah. I think everybody has a hard time when you play ... [a] show and then you're finished at 1:30 in the morning. It takes me an hour and a half to be able to eat after that and then to be able to sleep after that. It's hard.

CNN: What is the biggest misconception about being a rock musician?

Cornell: My first answer would be that it's just all a big party. But then I've been in that situation or seen bands like that where it is all a big party.

I think overall there's this idea that it isn't work, that it isn't something that you have to put pretty much 100 percent of your focus and your being into, that it's like winning the lottery in a sense. And I think if you're a musician that's had any kind of success there is a component to that. There's some aspect to timing and luck, there's talent obviously as well.

But it's a lot of traveling. It's a lot of waiting, it's a lot of leaving one city going into another city only to see the venue you're going to play in when you arrive, playing for the audience and then leaving and going to the next city.

CNN: Have you ever thrown a really big object through a window?

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Cornell: Yeah. I threw an amplifier, a small one, through a window only because me and a few friends of mine that were out on tour together just made the observation [that] our generation just doesn't do stuff like that. So we sort of did it as kind of a ritualistic, "OK, let's participate in the real thing."

There was a piece of duct tape on the amplifier that had my name on it. So I had to run down to the alley and take that tape off so that they wouldn't know who threw it off to the street.

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