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
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