On the eve of the launch of the fifth Projekt Revolution — the multi-genre tour founded by Linkin Park in 2002 — Rolling Stone checked in with two of its acts, LP's Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell. The pair of famous frontmen chatted about the greatest rock singers and classic Lollapalooza fests.
How does being around all these different artists on the Projekt Revolution tour inspire you?
Chris Cornell: Being on tour can sometimes be less complicated than being at home because your day is regimented. You wake up in the morning, you warm up, you do a soundcheck, you play your show, you sleep or get on the bus — every single day is like that. There's someone putting a sheet of paper under your door telling you what time you're gonna do what. But a festival tour like this is very different. It's much less predictable and a lot of different things can happen. And seeing other bands perform for me changes my whole mood in terms of what I end up bringing onstage. I've often watched live performance footage from any band before I go onstage just 'cause it gets me in that mindset.
Chester Bennington: What I like about doing a touring festival, especially Projekt Rev, is the fact these are bands that I can get really excited about since I'm part of the reason they're there. For me, last Projekt Revolution was probably the best touring experience I've ever had. For me to be able to bring out Mindless Self Indulgence — a band that I've always liked and I've felt that they've never really gotten the love that they deserve — to see them show up and play with another band like Saosin and 5,000 kids are showing up at noon, just like, "Yes, it's happening." And I felt really proud that they got to do that and that Gerard [Way, of My Chemical Romance] and Lyn-Z [Mindless Self Indulgence bassist Lindsey Ballato] reignited their friendship and then ended up getting married backstage on the last show. I was like, "This is freaking awesome." When we did Ozzfest I couldn't go to the main stage because I had the wrong pass. I felt like I was segregated from everybody else. The main stage guys were in their superstar land and it was just like, "I don't feel comfortable here." Everyone needs to feel respected and everyone needs to be able to go wherever they wanna go and do whatever they wanna do.
Chris, going back to what you said, how does seeing live music affect the way you approach playing?
Cornell: Energy and enthusiasm, those are the things that I'm talking about. To stand up in front of thousands of people and perform whatever way it is, whether it's in a rock band or a string quartet, it's an intense thing to do. As soon as I see it, it's like I immediately absorb it. The other way to do it is sit in a room by yourself and then you go out and suddenly stand in front of a bunch of people for the first time. At Lollapalooza '92 I would go into the pit, put my hair in a hat, and watch Ministry and try to see if I could jump over the security guards and stage dive and really get into being a fan.
Bennington: That was a great tour [laughs].
Cornell: That was also very diverse and seeing all those bands in one day I could see it sort of changing everybody. But the enthusiasm, the passion for doing it is what I connect with immediately just by seeing it happening in front of me. When we toured Australia, Chester broke his wrist on like, the third song and then finished the whole set with a broken wrist. That kind of dedication and passion, like, "This is what I'm doing, this is the most important thing there is, I'm onstage right now." That affects me.
You guys are regarded as two of the greatest voices in rock. How much will you be watching what the other is doing onstage?
Bennington: For me, I'm such a fan I think that's the most important aspect of why I do what I do and how I do it. I've got to play with a lot of guys that I've grown up loving; I get to sing on stage with Chris Cornell, I got to play with Metallica and Black Sabbath, and I've performed songs with Jane's Addiction, members of Guns n' Roses, did the Doors 40th anniversary with the Doors and Perry Farrell onstage — I'm just like, "What world do I live in, 'cause this can't be real?" And I love watching other guys play and I love being pushed mentally to try to do my best. It made me really uncomfortable when Donovan Leitch [at a Camp Freddy show], said [I have] "The best voice in rock & roll." I was just like, "Ugh," and Steven Tyler walks onstage and in my opinion he has one of the best voices ever.
Cornell: Yeah, there's no quantifying. It's weird to even think that way. I'm sure the best singer in the world, nobody knows who that is. He's somewhere, or she's somewhere, and they're out there. I get blown away by singers all the time and almost feel embarrassed that I would be referred to or regarded as one of the best singers in rock ever.
What's one of the best shows you've ever seen?
Bennington: I'll never forget this show, I saw Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers, in my opinion, all on their best records. You had Pearl Jam out with Ten — the band was great, they've got two of the shreddingest guitar players alive, and they were just killing it. And then Nirvana came out, and it was so different, so new and so fresh, it felt like when I discovered Jane's Addiction. I felt like the Chili Peppers didn't say, "Okay, you guys can't blow things up because we're gonna blow things up. And just have Pearl Jam do basic lights." Everybody got to do what they wanted to do and I think that, for me, was the reason why it was so special. No one freaked out when Eddie Vedder ran across the arena and was climbing up the wall and singing while swinging from the lighting fixtures over his band. I was like, "He's gonna fucking kill everybody." But it was really great. And then for Kurt Cobain to come out and destroy his set and to feel that pure raw passion and then the Chili Peppers are one of the best bands ever. It was a really memorable thing and I remember being like, "I wanna do that. I want to be part of something like that." And going back to Lollapalooza, there was Ice Cube, Ministry and you guys [Soundgarden], it was like, "What is happening right now 'cause this doesn't normally happen?" And that kind of inspired me and I think it inspired all the guys in my band 'cause we were like, "How can we take all this stuff and put it in one thing? And how can we take all of our inspiration and all of our passion for all these other bands and bring that out on a tour?"