In fact, Cantrell was on tour earlier this year, when he learned about the death of Alice in Chains lead singer and longtime musical collaborator Layne Staley. He says it was, of course, a difficult decision to continue touring but he felt it was the right thing to do. "It was definitely better to play through it and work through that than to sit around and bum out about it," he states.
Shortly after Staley's passing, Cantrell's second solo effort, Degradation Trip was also released. The material, however, was actually recorded years ago, at a time when Alice's future was certainly in question. The songs contain Cantrell's dark guitar dirge accompanied by confessional and, at times, tortured lyrics. These elements also made Alice in Chains famous in the early 90s, so there's no wonder why some critics, as well as rock fans, consider the record as sort of a continuation of Alice in Chains.
But the guitarist, who in fact penned much of the material for Alice in Chains and provided vocals on countless tracks as well, wants to get one thing clear: the new album ain't Alice.
"I think it's a totally different thing," he affirms. "It's not Alice in Chains. There's an aspect of it that ties it to Alice and that's me. Hopefully it's just me being me and it's not a continuation of Alice in Chains. Alice in Chains is done now so I'm just trying to do something else.
"There are going to be some similarities because of how I play and how I sing. That's just who I am," he adds. "I have no desire to be any different than I am or to play somebody else's music so that's just what is going to happen. I'm not trying to be Alice or not be Alice, I'm just fucking continuing on."
It was in 1998 when Cantrell wrote what would become Degradation Trip. He recorded 25 tracks with bassist Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies, Ozzy Osbourne) and Mike Bordin (Faith No More, Ozzy Osbourne). The original album, released this summer, contains only 14 tracks, but in December, his label, Roadrunner Records, will release a limited edition double CD containing all 25 tracks. Cantrell acknowledges that while the material was written long ago, haunting lyrics such as, "Feel like a psychotic break comin' on/Thinking "bout my dead friends whose voices ring on" (from the opening track "Psychotic Break") have taken on new meaning. "Songs always change as time goes on. Often you'll write a song and you won't have a clue of why you did it, it just comes out that way. And maybe as time goes by, you get a better look at it."
And while you're certain to hear him play a familiar Alice song or two with his new band (consisting of members from the Atlanta band Comes With The Fall), he's also very clear on why he includes the tunes in his set. "They're songs I wrote and I play songs I've written," he states. "It always trips me out when people try to make some deal about why I'm playing stuff or should I not play stuff, but it's shit I wrote so why the fuck wouldn't I play it. It's also songs that I'm proud of."Lynn.Farris@CLN.com
Jerry Cantrell will perform Tuesday, November 12 at Tremont Music Hall. Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 the day of the show. Call the club at 704-343-9494, for more details.