I miss you, dude. Ever since I started putting together the idea of what Louder Than Love was to become, I can’t stop learning. I had to learn how to disassociate, or more like relearning how to, in his case. It’s been quite a long time since I last felt the need to do so, decades. But I’m still trying to learn every day, about everything and nothing. About life and death, good and evil – and how to make peace with my sins. I don’t know how many lives Chris has saved with his music, but he saved mine. More than once, actually.

I was a precocious kid, not only because of the things I went through but, I was a little too clever for my own good. I still am, or maybe I just get in trouble often, and I think its a reflection of some ability. When I was seven years old, I remember I dressed like a 16-year-old kid. I wore flannels, ripped denim, and Vans – My parents hated it, especially when I ripped clothes on purpose. I didn’t fit in with the other kids, and I wanted that to have representation in my “fashion choices.” The music I listened to at that age? MTV2 and rock radio, pretty much.

Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots; In that order. That’s how I started listening to alternative rock back in 1994. I had been to Long Beach, California, for a while, and the genre was huge at the time. When we came back to Costa Rica, I was hooked, and there was no going back. I was treated like my voice didn’t matter as a kid, and I was desperate to change that. Even today, when someone dismisses my opinion or discredits me, I still get that burning sensation.

The day I discovered Soundgarden

The first time I was sacked from my home into the streets was when I was seven years old, at night. It was clear to me then who was my enemy and who was my next of kin. When you grow up trying to prove yourself to someone who dismisses everything you say and do, things happen. You learn pretty quickly in life to be yourself and to not give a fuck what others think. My mom forced my dad to look for me and bring me back home, or she was divorcing him. He did so under protest and he made that obvious, I knew I wasn’t welcome.

That same week in May 1994, Soundgarden released “Black Hole Sun,” I was in awe. I was a Nirvana and fan by then and had no idea about Chris Cornell or Soundgarden. Now I had to figure out how to sell enough drawings so I could buy that cassette. That’s what I did in school back then for lunch money until the principal closed the business. CD’s were too expensive for me, and I had no clue you could make mixtapes yet. My Nevermind cassette was so worn out I feared playing it, every time it was a gamble.

The day finally came after I got some money from my grandma, thanks to my birthday on July 10th! I had enough money to buy Superunknown, In Utero, and a random choice that ended up being Purple by STP. When Kurt Cobain died, I cried a lot – He was my Batman. While other kids played with action figures, I just wanted to turn on my walkman and listen to Nirvana. I felt orphaned as I wasn’t huge on Layne Staley, and then I got into Soundgarden. I really got into it, and he saved my life. He did it again and again, whenever I chose to play his music instead of lashing out or doing something stupid.

The day I discovered Audioslave

It’s a survival instinct, I guess – By the time I was eleven, music and cigarettes were my escape. People wanted me to be the star soccer player, or the teacher’s pet and top student. That wasn’t me, it never was, and I forced myself to experience it all to make sure that was the case. I was the stoner kid who slept during class but still managed to pass with a B+ without opening a book. My best friend and I used to get stoned before our school soccer matches, while the others warmed up. By the time I was 17, I was playing in the national 3rd division with the 2nd biggest club in the country.

Audioslave’s self-titled album came out in November 2002, and I was very excited to see my “uncle” Chris again. Chris was the closest I had to a paternal figure after my grandfather, and I only saw grandpa once every few weeks. In my mind, Chris was like an uncle, like the older brother I never had. A friend of my best friend got the Audioslave album as a present, and he didn’t like it, so I got it for free. I love freebies, who doesn’t? While most were raging about Cochise and Like A Stone, I was more interested in Gasoline, What You Are, and Set It Off.

I ran away from home that December and didn’t come back until three months later, just when school started. My best friend was the school’s drug dealer, whose mom left for months and so he was able to roam wild. I wanted that, I wanted freedom. And so I moved in with him and started selling opium before senior year. I tried cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin soon after – I had already tried LSD, someone laced my soda with it when I was 13. I remember talking with my girlfriend and my best friend all night about saving money and moving to Seattle and starting a band.

Watching over me

I’m not bragging about being a privileged juvenile criminal or getting away with it. All the roads I walked through led me here, and for that, I’m grateful. Chris was watching over me then, and he is watching over me now. Perhaps even without knowing, his music continues to save my life. When Chris died, my life did a 180°, I was devastated and lost at first (relapsed after being clean for a long while). It opened my eyes to a new purpose, a new philosophy, and a new life. He died, so many others could live, myself included.

Chris Cornell cannot die in vain, and he won’t. How many of you have awakened thanks to loss and grief? The pain you went through when he was ripped away from this world? I think he has facilitated change for millions, and that fact is still underrated and maybe a bit unperceivable. I want to change that, I want to help in getting that message across. That’s why Louder Than Love was born – as an artistic and altruistic outlet, so I could make peace with myself. I’m not gonna pretend its all selfless, I’m here to make amends too. I’m not “Louder Than Love,” Chris is, Chester is.

As some of you can attest, I can be a prick. To the point, I embarrass myself at times, even if “I’m right,” whatever that means. I don’t have second intentions, and I don’t care about popularity or my ego. I hope I can serve a purpose in all of this and not disappoint you all beautiful people who believe in what I do. When I get pissed because someone discredits what I do, is not because of the insults towards “me or my work.” Is because I cannot sit idle and peaceful while the memories of the abuse victims and those who were murdered over exposing it all suffer. Not on my fuckin’ watch. I MISS YOU, DUDE.

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