Live ’n’ loud: Sound­wave stars shake free of the chains..........

There was the ugly and the bad, now it’s all good for Alice in Chains, writes An­drew Fen­ton

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAYCONTENTS -

ALICE in Chains co-founder Jerry Cantrell is reminiscing about ugly strip­pers, gaffer tape and Van Halen as he gazes out his win­dow ‘‘on a fine Seat­tle day – (10) de­grees and over­cast’’.

Cantrell – the band’s chief song­writer, gui­tarist and co-vo­cal­ist – fondly re­calls an escalating se­ries of pranks be­tween his out­fit and Van Halen that al­most got out of hand on their 1991 tour.

‘‘The very last show they got us re­ally good,’’ he says.

‘‘They cov­ered the whole stage with up­side-down gaffer tape.

‘‘They had the most unattrac­tive strip­pers you could imag­ine come out and dance around and then they had the crew come out dressed as Lit­tle Bo Peep with sheep and lambs when we were do­ing Man In the Box.’’

To top it all off, as Alice in Chains tried to chug through their fi­nal song, Van Halen be­gan car­ry­ing off their equip­ment, a piece at a time.

‘‘They left Sean with a kick drum and a snare drum, they left me with one cab­i­net and I think they may have taken (bassist) Mike’s stuff com­pletely off,’’ Cantrell says, laugh­ing.

The early 1990s were Alice In Chain’s glory years, with the band achiev­ing main­stream suc­cess a year ear­lier than Seat­tle brethren Nir­vana, af­ter MTV put

Man In The Box on heavy ro­ta­tion. The grunge wave pushed the band’s mu­sic to a huge in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence and they had a se­ries of hit records in­clud­ing the quadru­ple plat­inum Dirt (1992), the chart-top­ping EP Jar Of Flies (1994) and the No. 1 al­bum Alice In

Chains (1995). And then it all came to a screech­ing halt thanks to heroic lev­els of drug abuse, which saw the band go on in­def­i­nite hia­tus from 1996. Drugs ended up claim­ing the lives of front­man Layne Sta­ley in 2002 and orig­i­nal bass player Mike Starr two years ago.

‘‘When Layne passed away that was pretty much it,’’ Cantrell says. ‘‘So to have the band start back up or­gan­i­cally like it did (was in­cred­i­ble).’’ The re­union, for a tsunami vic­tims ben­e­fit con­cert in 2005, turned into a se­ries of gigs with var­i­ous stand-ins in­clud­ing Mark Lane­gan, James Het­field and Scott Wei­land, be­fore the big haired Wil­liam Du­Vall signed up as Sta­ley’s full-time re­place­ment.

‘‘Hav­ing Wil­liam come on board and take on all the bull­shit he was go­ing to have to take from a lot of peo­ple and see him be­come ac­cepted and go far be­yond where you thought he could go. It’s been a suc­cess­ful run,’’ Cantrell says.

Their first al­bum in 14 years, 2009’s

Black Gives Way To Blue went Gold in the US, peaked at No. 5 there and No. 12 here.

‘‘We have our own stan­dards and we’re lucky enough that if we’ve met that stan­dard, it seems to res­onate with other peo­ple and, most im­por­tantly, the peo­ple who’ve been with us all along,’’ he says.

Aus­tralian fans got their first taste of the new line up at Sound­wave that year when Alice blew most of the hot new acts off the stage. Cantrell has ‘‘warm’’ mem­o­ries of the weather be­ing sunny – very im­por­tant to Seat­tle na­tives – the peo­ple fan­tas­tic, they played some great rock shows and they ‘‘hit quite a few of the casi­nos. You’ve got some nice poker rooms in Aus­tralia.’’

The band is back for another run of dates with Sound­wave 2014 and their new al­bum, The Devil Put Di­nosaurs Here re­leased in May this year, con­firmed the res­ur­rected band was here to stay, de­but­ing at No. 2 in the US, No. 10 here and get­ting flogged by US rock ra­dio.

The al­bum’s ti­tle is a deliberate shot at ‘‘right wing re­li­gious nuts’’, as Cantrell calls them.

‘‘We thought that might dis­turb a lit­tle shit there and that was in­ten­tional. The song (the ti­tle is taken from) deals with how lame we are to peo­ple be­cause we be­lieve some­thing dif­fer­ent or live in a dif­fer­ent way,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s an odd thing we haven’t grown with the times. (It) wasn’t any sort of po­lit­i­cal man­i­festo. It’s just a great song and a great ti­tle.’’

And you know you’ve made it to leg­endary sta­tus when you get mad re­spect in a big movie. Di­rec­tor Judd Apa­tow paid trib­ute to the band in This Is 40, when Paul Rudd’s char­ac­ter blows his top at his wife and daugh­ters singing Nicki Mi­naj and he tries to get them into the 1992 track Rooster in­stead.

‘‘This is called good mu­sic, from some­body’s heart,’’ he tells his fam­ily.

‘‘This is what’s go­ing to sur­vive in 100 years.’’ They look at him blankly. ‘‘It doesn’t make peo­ple happy,’’ his wife, com­plains. ‘‘It makes me happy,’’ he says. The band loved that scene. ‘‘A lot of di­rec­tors have an in­cred­i­ble sense of mu­si­cal his­tory and to have that song be part of that movie . . .

‘‘I love that movie, es­pe­cially the singing and him say­ing ‘just once I wish one of you had a d**k!’’’

Alice in Chains, Green Day, Korn, Placebo, Stone Tem­ple Pi­lots, Me­gadeth and more play Sound­wave, at the RNA Show­grounds, in Bris­bane, on Fe­bru­ary 22.

Alice in Chains 2013 in­clud­ing co-founder, song­writer and gui­tarist Jerry Cantrell (sec­ond from right).

2002: Sean Kin­ney, Layne Sta­ley, Jerry Cantrell and Mike Inez

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