As former Audioslave vocalist Chris Cornell prepared to release his second solo CD, Carry On, he started auditioning LA-area musicians for a new band. Cornell wanted to go out on the road with a different group of musicians than those who had played on the record, since the breadth of material he’d be touring with – catalog from both the singer’s two previous bands as well as his solo material – required a grasp of the heaviness of Soundgarden, the brutality and looseness of Audioslave, and the delicate nuances that define his solo balladry.
By the time drummer Jason Sutter was asked to sit in on a round of auditions when the drummer Cornell had already chosen couldn’t make it, the sessions included some of the top players in Los Angeles. “I wasn’t even there to get the gig,” says Jason. “But it was a great vibe with all of the guys and I thought it would be amazing to get into this band.” As it turned out, Jason’s versatility and intuitive feel for the kind of grooves Cornell was looking for led to him getting his wish. “Chris had a drummer already lined up but he really wanted me in this band, so I had to take the gig,” he confesses. “This is one of the best bands I’ve ever been in and I respect everyone because they’ve all worked with the best.” Cornell’s band also includes guitarists Yogi Lonich (ex-Wallflowers, Buckcherry) and Peter Thorn plus bassist Corey McCormick.
“I’m following in the footsteps of Matt Cameron and Brad Wilk, who are incredible drummers.” Jason continues. “I have a lot of respect for this music, so I’m listening to what they did, but at the same time I don’t go into it trying to emulate them or play their parts exactly the same way. I never stick too close to anything unless it’s an integral fill. I’m just trying to be who I am.”
Metal Edge: What were rehearsals like for this tour?
Jason Sutter: We had to learn a lot of songs in a very short time. We joke that Chris had us in “Band Camp,” which was like our trial by fire. For a week and a half we’d go in every day, learn four or five songs and rehearse for six or seven hours. At the end of that rehearsal session he’d give us three or four more songs. I’d go back to my rehearsal space, take an hour break and then start rehearsing all night on the new songs, having barely learned the songs from the night before. Then I’d come back in the morning to review them, play them all day with Chris, barely feeling like I had them down, and then he’d repeat the process. It was excruciating, and not just for me but for these other killer players. My hands were shredded; my brain was just fried at night. My mind was racing with all these parts. It was extremely trying, mentally.
Metal Edge: Chris is also a drummer: how does that affect what he wants from his own drummers?
Jason Sutter: With this gig there are certain areas where Chris gets very excited if I start creating this fire underneath, playing over a vamp or solo. The more I play and interact with the solo, the more excited he gets. I have free reign to be creative. The only comments he’s made to me on some of the Soundgarden songs are to say something like, ‘Matt [Cameron] stuck really close to the guitar part. Don’t feel like you have to do that. Make it your own.’ Matt was also a guitarist and that’s why he tended to hone in on the guitars. I’m not really that guy.
Metal Edge: Did you add to your kit for this gig?
Jason Sutter: Yes. I added a cymbal to my right and an 18-inch floor tom. I’ve never had two floor toms before and, as far as cymbals, I’ve always just had two crashes, a ride and hi-hats. But there is so much punctuation with Chris’s music and such lulling, calm parts that the minute I put up another floor tom and another crash cymbal everything was 100% easier. Everything just flowed because I could be moving from cymbal to cymbal and it was very organic. Then, having another drum was like nothing I’ve ever experienced, really. In the past, having more drums has always been a hindrance to me. Now, having slightly expanded my set I was able to suddenly free myself because it was so much easier to create and have more vocabulary. I also went from a 14-inch rack tom – which is what I’ve used for the past few years – to a 13-inch. Since there’s a lot more articulation in these drum parts I needed a little more accent from that drum.
Metal Edge: What’s been the best part of playing with this band?
Jason Sutter: This situation with Chris is one where I get to really stretch my dynamic range. I’m playing in front of an entirely different audience, plus I get to travel, and I love playing in Europe. I’m thankful to him for picking out such a killer band that I get to take the stage with every night, and this is a band that will go everywhere. These kinds of opportunities are the benchmarks in a drumming career that have excited me and pushed me. It’s been an upward spiral so far for the past four years.
Sizes: 26” Kick, 16” and 18” Floor Toms, 13” Rack Tom, 6 ½ Brass Snare
Sticks: Vic Firth
This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.