Producer Brendan O’Brien is best known for his work producing some of Pearl Jam’s greatest records like Vs. and Vitalogy, and for producing Stone Temple Pilots’ first five albums. He also worked with Chris Cornell in his solo career and with Audioslave. He discussed Cornell in new liner notes for the Chris Cornell career retrospective album, via PearlJamOnline.
“Chris Cornell and I met in 1993 after I was asked to meet with Soundgarden to discuss mixing a record they were finishing in Seattle. I had been a fan and while excited to work with them, meeting Chris was a bit intimidating. He was a great singer, tall, brooding and a bit aloof who was a fairly no-nonsense person that didn’t suffer fools particularly well. A pro. A smart-ass. My kinda guy. Our conversation lasted ten minutes before I suggested that talking about mixing was not something I knew how to do and why don’t we just get it going. He and the rest of the guys seemed to be what would best be described as relieved. We became friends right away.
I worked with Chris many times over the years and my impression of him was always the same, a truly open and committed musician who was willing to do whatever was needed to get his music across. He was always easy to work with, although I did get mad at him when he left Audioslave after we had finished their last album together, but mostly for selfish reasons. However, when he called me a few years ago to help him with some new songs I was happy to be involved. How can you say no to a guy with that kind of voice and that much fun to be around? Higher Truth was a fun record to make.
Most of the time it was just the two of us making the music. His music. I felt honored that he wanted it that way.The guy seemed larger than life in a vocal booth and most of the time I was just happy to be in the room. We spent a lot of time laughing, talking about cars, movies and obscure tv shows. Important things. The music and his performances were his best solo work since Euphoria Mourning, a beautiful record that he made with Alain Johannes and the late Natasha Shneider. This was an artist at ease with performing with a more stripped-down approach. Intimate songs with minimal instrumentation and a singer doing what he does best.
Undoubtedly, Chris is best known for his work with Soundgarden and Audioslave. He was a titan among singers who could summon his inner self and demons in a way that was powerful, ferocious and believable all the while making it look easy. Yet, he was also able to sing barely above a whisper with just an acoustic guitar (by the way, a very underrated guitarist) and give you the same emotion, power and vulnerability. Again, making it look easy.”