By Robyn Collins
Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell is adding another tune to his growing list of movie songs. The rockstar has written for 12 Years a Slave, Great Expectations and the James Bond flick Casino Royale. And now he’s taken on Armenian Genocide-themed film The Promise.
“There are a couple of really amazing documentaries about the Armenian genocide, and one of them was about the phenomenon that people who had literally minutes to grab what they could from their homes would take photos before anything else – before jewelry even,” Cornell tells Rolling Stone. “I was really moved by that; the idea of what is most important to people in a crucial second.”
The song captures this idea of pictures (memories) of the past being the most important thing when forced to choose, and holding onto the legacy left behind.
Cornell explained why he chose an orchestral instrumentation for the title track. “I wasn’t trying to record a song that sounded like it was from 1915, but I didn’t want there to be obvious modern references because obviously at the time there was no such thing as the Beatles or Metallica or everything that is my reference for musical ideas,” he says. “So the orchestra works just because that did exist and it can be a little bit out of time, so I was swimming in those waters of ambiguity.”
The artist also discusses how he feels connected to the subject matter. “I married into a Greek family, and my wife’s grandparents were affected by the same genocide at the same time, since it was part of the same Ottoman Empire policy,” he says. “So I saw the nearness to it. And one of the producers is a good friend of mine, and he’s Armenian and we talked about it for a long time. It affected his generation and you can see it echoing through the generations. … I think we all have a responsibility to recognize the warning signs that lead to this.”
“This movie’s a great opportunity to tell a story that needs to be told, to help engage the healing of something that happened at a specific time and place, but it also remind us that it’s happening now and reminds us what to look for,” he adds. “You can see it now in Syria, where you have one regime that is trying to deny any [killing] is happening and you have ISIS on the other side who is targeting a different group and advertising it.”
Cornell is donating his proceeds from the song to the International Rescue Committee, a charity that responds to humanitarian crises by helping to restore health, education and economic wellbeing, among other things, to people stricken by conflict.