ALICE IN CHAINS Guitarist: 'All You Can Do Is What Makes You Happy & What You Believe Is Right'

November 17, 2009

Mark Eglinton of The Quietus recently conducted an interview with ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist Jerry Cantrell. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Quietus: Jerry, you've always been careful over the years to avoid pigeon-holing the band. Was that because you thought grunge wouldn't last?

Jerry Cantrell: Well we were what we were before that word was even invented so... and I'd say that probably all the other bands from Seattle were doing what they were doing before that word was invented too. So I don't know if anyone really feels comfortable with that title, that was the catchphrase which encompassed us at all, but as far as I look at it we're all rock and roll bands to various degrees, drawing from all sorts of different influences. From pop to punk, to metal to rock, you name it. It's kind of a mix of all of that stuff. So you're correct on that. You just do what you do.

The Quietus: So the grunge tag was retrospective?

Jerry Cantrell: Yes, totally. I mean, when we first came out we were metal. Then we started being called alternative metal. Then grunge came out and then we were hard rock. And now, since we've started doing this again I've seen us listed as: hard rock, alternative, alternative metal and just straight metal. I walked into an HMV the other day to check out the placement and see what's going on and they've got as relegated back to the metal section. Right back where we started! [ laughs]

The Quietus: No bad place to be...

Jerry Cantrell: No, we're right next to BLACK SABBATH. I'm good.[laughs]

The Quietus: In retrospect, was there more you could have done to help Layne (Staley)?

Jerry Cantrell: This is going to be a good one. Was there more I could have done to help Layne? I don't think so. I think we all cared about each other a lot and dealt with each other pretty realistically but we were grown men at that time and you live your life the way you're going to live it. So, I don't think there was anything anybody could have done. He made a choice and stuck with it and it didn't turn out very well, obviously. It's not like nobody did anything or nobody cared, that would be a ridiculous statement.

The Quietus: So when you're in that situation, you'll do exactly what you want to do regardless of anyone else, is that what you are saying?

Jerry Cantrell: First off, this seems to be a drug interview so that's my last question about drugs. But, it's just a tired subject. It's old and I'm not there anymore, so I'm pretty much done talking about it.

The Quietus: Fine. At Sonisphere in July, almost every other band literally ran to see ALICE IN CHAINS play. That had to feel good?

Jerry Cantrell: Sure, it's been a really exciting time for us and a big part of being a musician is being a fan yourself. I remember being interviewed myself that day and trying to hear a little MASTODON myself.[laughs]. I was on the stage when METALLICA played too so you get to be friends with people you are inspired by. We've been friends with those guys for a long time.

The Quietus: The new record was a risky proposition obviously?

Jerry Cantrell: Sure, you can never really bet on that. All you can do is what makes you happy and what you believe is right for yourself. That's what we did. We chose to take on those odds and they were very significant that it would not be a wise decision to continue. We kept feeling that it was right every step of the path that we've been on. All the arrows kept pointing in a positive direction so we continued to follow. We stand behind it and I think that are musical legacy is something we're very proud of and this record is a part of that. And to have people react how they have is a great thing and that's what you hope for. But you can never really control that. It's the perfect storm of all things lining up.

The Quietus: Were you as horrified as everyone else with Chris Cornell's working with Timbaland?

Jerry Cantrell: [laughs] Yeah he's gotten a lot of shit about that and it's personally not one of my favourite things that he's done either. But I respect Chris tremendously and I also have done a few solo records so I know what that's about and what sort of a risk it is being judged against your own body of work. But what that means to me is that Chris is obviously trying to do something completely different and so I support his decision. He's one of the guys I have always admired as a song-writer and as a person. His body of work speaks for itself and that maybe when you do some things that don't pay off so well to the rest of the world, maybe you have your own reasons for doing them anyway. And that's probably why he did it.

Read more from The Quietus.

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