Re­vived Alice in Chains avoids po­lit­i­cal dirt

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE - By Nick Patch

TORONTO — Alice in Chains’ sec­ond al­bum since their re­cent re­union, The Devil Put Di­nosaurs Here, de­buted at No. 2 on the Bill­board chart in Canada and the U.S. with more than 60,000 in sales.

Pos­i­tive num­bers, to be sure — at least, for bands who don’t re­mem­ber the 1990s.

“Do­ing well in to­day’s mar­ket is a lot dif­fer­ent than do­ing well in the ’90s mar­ket as far as records go, you know what I mean?” said found­ing gui­tarist/ song­writer Jerry Cantrell in a re­cent tele­phone in­ter­view with a rue­ful laugh.

“You can’t even re­ally com­pare the two.”

True enough. So the lofty heights the Seat­tle band reached in the early’90s hey­day of its muck-en­crusted hard rock are largely un­reach­able nowa­days — af­ter all, 1992’s Dirt and 1994’s Jar of Flies EP went plat­inum a com­bined seven times in the U.S. and thrice in Canada.

But he says it wasn’t just sales that were bet­ter then.

“The fact is, I don’t feel that we value peo­ple’s ef­forts and com­mit­ments and in­vest­ments (any­more), in mu­sic par­tic­u­larly,” said the 47-yearold. “I think in gen­eral, we’ve grown to ex­pect less and pay the same or more for it, and ac­tu­ally be OK with that.”

Hop­ing to be the ex­cep­tion to the rule, Cantrell says the band pushed them­selves hard in mak­ing this, their sec­ond record with a re­vised lineup that fea­tures vo­cal­ist Wil­liam Du­Vall in place of found­ing singer Layne Sta­ley, who died of a drug over­dose in 2002.

Cantrell talked to The Cana­dian Press about the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the new al­bum, tour­ing Canada — they play the MTS Cen­tre Mon­day with Chev­elle and Mon­ster Truck — and want­ing to take Alice in Chains into new mu­si­cal ter­ri­tory.

CP: 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue was your first al­bum with Wil­liam singing lead vo­cals. Has play­ing to­gether since given him a greater com­fort level in the band?

JC: I wouldn’t say the bal­ance is much dif­fer­ent. I mean, we kind of fig­ured out how we op­er­ate dur­ing the process of mak­ing the first record, and this record is a con­tin­u­a­tion of (that). We’re a team and we don’t clas­si­cally have a lead singer. That’s what With Mon­ster Truck and Chev­elle MTS Cen­tre Mon­day, 7 p.m. this band kind of evolved into be­ing. There’s a lot of bands that have more than one voice in rock and roll, and we’ve kind of mod­elled our­selves af­ter be­ing that. We do it in our own way.

CP: The sec­ond sin­gle from your new al­bum, Stone, is built on a riff that sounds a lit­tle un­easy, even queasy.

JC: It makes you sick? Sick in a good way? I’ll take that. It’s a good one, man. It’s very sim­ple. I’ve al­ways been a fan of that, and rec­og­nized that sim­plic­ity is a beau­ti­ful thing. I learned that les­son from AC/DC. And I’m not even call­ing them a sim­ple band, but the for­mula and the riffs are based in re­ally good chunks of bedrock. It’s just a sim­ple idea that just kicks ass. I would say the same thing about Stone. The funny thing about that song is I didn’t even write it on gui­tar. I kind of hummed it into the phone when I was in a sling (af­ter shoul­der surgery). I couldn’t even play gui­tar, but I was hear­ing this riff, so I sang it into my phone and saved it for later.

CP: The ti­tle track has been called Alice in Chains’ most politi­cized song (it fea­tures the re­frain: “Je­sus don’t like a queer/ The Devil put di­nosaurs here/ No prob­lem with faith, just fear.”) What were you try­ing to say with that song?

JC: It’s al­ways funny to me — it’s al­most not even worth say­ing any­thing, you know what I mean, be­cause it gets taken out of con­text. It’s not a po­lit­i­cal record and that’s not a po­lit­i­cal song. There’s noth­ing pol­i­tics about it. It’s about re­li­gion. I don’t know where peo­ple are get­ting off say­ing that. Ob­vi­ously they’re not read­ing the lyrics. But yeah, it’s got some­thing to say on the sub­ject of or­ga­nized re­li­gion, and some of the ar­eas it falls in­cred­i­bly short — the pro­lif­er­a­tion of myth over fact, you know?

CP: Alice in Chains has gigs in nine Cana­dian cities this sum­mer. Many bands only play some com­bi­na­tion of Toronto, Mon­treal and Van­cou­ver, so why did you de­cide to do a more thor­ough tour here?

JC: For that ex­act point. We haven’t done a proper tour across the coun­try, and it’s been a long time. A cou­ple of the times we were go­ing to do it, it was in the dead of win­ter or just didn’t work out sched­ule-wise, so it was a point we dis­cussed. We need to get up to Canada and we need to do a proper (tour) across there in­stead of just hit­ting a cou­ple ma­jor cities. We’re re­ally glad we had the op­por­tu­nity to make a good run across there. We love to see you guys.

JA­SON DECROW / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Gui­tarist/song­writer Jerry Cantrell be­lieves peo­ple don’t value ef­fort and com­mit­ment like they used to in the 1990s when his band, Alice in Chains, was in its hey­day.

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