Joint Deal Serves Audioslave

Excerpted from the magazine for

Mergers can make for strange bedfellows in the music business.

The relationship created by the formation of Audioslave -- the "supergroup" that rose from the ashes of seminal '90s rock acts Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine three years ago -- remains an unusual pairing even in an industry accustomed to unorthodox unions.

The band returns May 24 with "Out of Exile," its second release under a rare joint deal with Sony BMG's Epic Records and Universal Music Group's Interscope Records.

Beyond the occasional one-off project like Jay-Z and Linkin Park's "Collision Course," a joint Def Jam/Warner Bros. release, or a multilabel hits compilation series like "Now That's What I Call Music!," competing major-label groups are not prone to sharing star talent.

But in the case of Audioslave, Epic and Interscope are splitting all costs, profits and market share associated with the band. They also are rotating marketing and distribution responsibilities for its albums.

This time out, Interscope is handling the multiplatinum quartet, picking up where Epic left off with the band's 2002 self-titled debut.

The deal for Audioslave stems from the refusal of either record company involved to surrender their claim to what they both saw as a blockbuster combination of the remaining three-fourths of Epic's RATM -- Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford -- with Chris Cornell, the former Soundgarden frontman signed to Interscope.

"It's rare to find such a hybrid," Morello says. "Chris came with his own record company and booking agent and manager and attorney, and we did too. So there was a sorting-out process. The people that worked with us were rightly covetous of their half of the equation. But the constant through all of it was the music we all loved and the camaraderie that the four of us [in the band] shared. That never wavered."

Indeed, when the dust cleared, "Audioslave" sold more than 2.7 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Worldwide it has moved in excess of 4.2 million. It also yielded four charting singles in America: "Like a Stone," "Show Me How to Live," "Cochise" and "I Am the Highway."

While that is a tough act to follow, early indicators have been positive and Morello is unabashedly confident and excited about the prospects for "Out of Exile."

He says that Audioslave, now free of the business distractions that surrounded the first record, is road-tested and comfortable playing with each other, and it shows in the music. The 12-song set, which was produced by Rick Rubin and mixed by Brendan O'Brien, features some of the band's most energized and freewheeling material.

"Be Yourself," the first single from the album, stormed to No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart at the end of March and has been ensconced at the top of the chart three weeks running.

Meanwhile, the band is in the midst of a five-week North American small-venue tour that will run through a May 20 show in Los Angeles. A European tour opens May 29 at Portugal's Super Bock Super Rock Festival and will close July 10 at Ireland's Oxegen Festival.

Excerpted from the April 30, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to subscribers.

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