Podcast: Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains

So. If you know me, you know I’m a huge Jerry Cantrell nut-swinger. I celebrate the man’s entire catalogue. The new Alice In Chains album Ranier Fog is released at the end of this week and it’s a killer evolution of the Alice In Chains sound: just like everything else AIC, it’s recognisably them yet recognisably different at the same time. I had the chance to talk with Jerry about it, along with as many other nerdy guitar questions as I could cram in to the chat. I hope you dig it. You can check it out on iTunes, at BlogTalkRadio or on pretty much all good podcast catchers (and if it’s not on yours, let me know and I’ll change that). 

Alice In Chains – Dirt

Man, I’m continually blown away by how well Dirt by Alice In Chains holds up today. For all its darkness and brutal honesty there’s something strangely beautiful about it. It’s not an easy listen. You can tell even at this stage that the band was surrounded by and drawn towards self-destruction. The lyrics speak not just of addiction in an abstract sense, but of surrendering willingly to it, throwing yourself into it and letting it take you over completely. Embracing the hopelessness and the fuck-it-ness of it all. 

When I first heard the record, I couldn’t relate to that at all. Hell, the biggest addition I had was playing guitar, and I managed to turn that into something constructive. But as I got older I started to understand Dirt a little more. I was never a drug guy but I came to understand self-destruction, hopelessness, the compulsion to see how far you can take something that is bad for you, how low you can get before you admit you need help, how much you can dislike yourself before you decide to either do something about it or give in. 

There are a lot of albums I love that I don’t particularly feel like I need to listen to regularly any more, just because they’re so burned into my brain. But this one keeps calling to me and I keep hearing new things. And although Dirt has been out there in the world for 25 years now and has been a part of my life since my teens, I don’t listen to it for nostalgia. I listen to it because it feels like a living, evolving document of the human condition. It’s filtered through the lens of depression, addiction, desperation and surrender but as a listener you can superimpose all sorts of demons onto it and hopefully exorcise them in the process. 

Dirt is still not an easy listen. If you’re a sensitive soul, you’re going to feel a lot of things and you’re probably going to want to just sit in silence for a few minutes afterwards, letting your mind come back from wherever you’ve just been. But it’s a very worthwhile listen too.

My Favourite Guitar And Bass Intros

IntrosIs there anything better than a good song intro? Well, yeah. I can think of a few things, and some of them even have something to do with music. But still, there’s just something magical about a great song intro. Whether it’s an unaccompanied slab of guitar wizardry, some kind of unexpected time signature, a chunk of mysteriously atmospheric ambience or even just  some kind of silly bit if dialog recorded in the studio, a good intro can set the scene and build anticipation for the song proper. So in celebration of the glories of the intro, here are a few of my favourites, divided in to guitar and bass examples. What are yours?

To buy music by any of these bands, hit up Amazon.com
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RIP Alice In Chains’ Mike Starr

Awful breaking news – original Alice In Chains bass player Mike Starr has died in Utah, USA.

Police tell TMZ that Starr’s body was found in a Salt Lake City home. Starr has had a long and much-publicised battle with substance abuse and was last month arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance.

As an Alice In Chains fan I’m devastated by this. Mike’s bass playing on Facelift and Dirt was great, and his intro to Rain When I Die was one of the coolest moments of Dirt. Those albums, especially Dirt, were huge for me back in the day, and still are today.

Riki Rachtman has posted his feelings here, calling it like he sees it. It’s a powerful read.

VIDEO: G&L Jerry Cantrell signature series

Whoa! Check out this Premier Guitar video about the G&L Rampage Jerry Cantrell model. The guitar will be available in Tribute and US-made versions in 2010.

Look at the specs of the Tribute version.

Kahler 4300 bridge
Alnico 5 humbucker designed with Jerry
Soft maple body
Maple neck
Ebony fretboard
Matching headstock

The US-made version will have a Seymour Duncan JB humbucker and an upgraded Kahler bridge.

NEWS: New Alice In Chains single for free download

Alice In Chains has released a new single, A Looking In View, via their website, www.aliceinchains.com – rock on over there now to download it for free, in return for signing up to their mailing list. Small price to pay, methinks. The track is from the forthcoming album ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’ which is due for release on September 29. CLICK HERE to preorder the album from Amazon.com.

So what do you think of the track? Here are a few thoughts, in dot points because they’re fun.

• Huge guitar tone from Jerry Cantrell. It reminds me of his sound on Dirt but, I dunno, bigger. More body and oomph. Something about the pick attack reminds me of Sepultura’s ‘Against’ CD, which is a kinda weird comparison, but there it is.

• Big production with lots of overdubs and audio candy. This shouldn’t really be a surprise since AIC’s best stuff was heavily layered.

• One thing this song does is once again remind me that Jerry’s vocals are a huge part of the Alice In Chains sound. His role had gradually increased during the band’s first, Layne Staley-led incarnation, to the point where now Jerry and William DuVall seem to be sharing the lead vocalist slot equally.

• Speaking of Duvall, he seems to be purposefully using a Staley-like vibrato in a few spots, but his voice is more nasal than Staley’s. I quite like that he’s not trying too hard to sound like Layne, but at the same time isn’t denying what a huge part Layne played in the AIC sound.

CLICK HERE for my review of Alice In Chains at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, on February 26, 2009 and CLICK HERE for my ‘How To Sound Like Jerry Cantrell’ lesson. (And thanks to Avon Calling of aic.yuku.com for pointing out I messed up some dates in that Jerry article – I’ll fix it soon!)