‘Brighten’, Jerry Cantrell’s first solo album since the underrated ‘Degradation Trip’ of 2002 is an old school rock version that is diverse, with mostly laconic songs and a common thread that connects each of his nine tracks. .
The Alice in Chains co-founder called from his home south of Seattle to talk about ‘Brighten’, the impact Spokane has had on Alice in Chains and where the iconic band signed a contract with a big label. a generation ago. The cat evolves into a pair of guys who are the same age (55) who love music. We reflect on what we went through growing up on different sides of the country while coming of age during a rapidly evolving period in rock.
You’re more than a capable singer, but were you one of those reluctant, James Hetfield-like singers from Metallica, and (the late Alice in Chains singer) Layne Staley helped you become the singer that you are?
I was happy to play guitar and sing in Alice in Chains. When you have a guy like Layne Staley in the band, you don’t want to compete with him. But I give Layne credit for giving me the confidence to sing. I was amazed by him. I was the main author of the group. Layne said, “Don’t be offended by these words, but they are very personal. I think you should sing them. I was like, “You’re better than me.” He said, “Everything will be fine. We have given each other confidence. Layne was a unique power who had a lot of empathy.
Your singing throughout “Brighten” is moving and the songs get right to the heart of the matter.
I was raised by a few country and blues fans, and country and blues go straight to the point. There is nothing more necessary. You have to tell a story in two or three minutes, and that’s it. I’m known to meander a bit through songs, but the only long one on this album is “Black Hearts and Evil Done”.
This song is the only epic of “Brighten”, but it is the most powerful of the new songs.
I’m getting a lot of good feedback on this. “Black Hearts” is only part of the record. There are songs on this album that are heavy and aggressive, and then there is stuff that I write that is underrated.
“Brighten” stands out because many releases feature a single and four songs that resemble the featured track.
I do not understand. I never talked about it. The albums I’ve been a part of have always had different songs from each other. I can’t wait to play these songs in front of an audience.
You have decided to shoot in 2022. Why did you decide not to hit the road this year?
We are all experiencing this unique event that changes the world. It’s a new crowd-loving disease, and what I do for a living is playing with crowds. I know a lot of people are on tour now, but I’m just being very careful.
Spokane is not on your 2022 itinerary. Could that change?
Yes. Spokane is not on the route, but neither is San Francisco. After the first leg, I hope to come back and play cities that we will miss like Spokane.
You have a long history with Spokane. Do you remember your first show in Spokane with Alice in Chains?
Yes. One of our very first concerts was in Spokane. We opened for the BulletBoys at a cafeteria in Spokane. It was at a university. I remember the tables and chairs. During the first few days, Alice opened for anyone. Susan (Silver) or Kelly (Curtis) were getting calls, and we were going to play on a bill with any band.
Which Spokane concert is the most memorable?
It was probably when we played at Raceway (Raceway Park, July 2, 1989). We were signed that day (by Columbia). We opened for Great White and Tesla. The PA was not even on. We played four or five songs for about 20 people. It was one of our worst concerts. … We had guys from the label come to see us. But the guys (from Columbia) told us they were going to sign us anyway (laughs). We will always remember this show.
It’s always cool to see bands that make an impact early in their careers. I caught My Bloody Valentine with about 75 people in 1989, and it was like listening to the future.
Some of my favorite concert times were seeing bands before they got big. I remember seeing Pantera in Houston early in their careers and Faith No More when (singer) Chuck (Mosely) was still in the band. I remember seeing Jane’s Addiction at the Moore Theater (in Seattle) early in their career.
I saw Jane at the same time. I was reviewing a zine, B-Side, and the publisher who hated the band for no good reason also revised and called Jane’s an unprintable word.
Oh my God! I can’t tell you how much I hate this! The same has happened with us. Our hometown rag, The Rocket, had a stick on them… about us, and they tried to stick it on us whenever they could. One of the most satisfying things of my career has been (Rocket editor) Charles Cross admitting that he did everything to kill us, but we just weren’t going to die.
Taking an active part in trying to destroy someone’s career says a lot about you. A band might not be your favorite thing, but writing Jane’s (an unprintable word) is ridiculous (laughs). I love this group. They have been so influential.
I remember reading an article at the time relating your group to Jane’s since you both had female nicknames.
The reason we met (producer) Dave Jerden was because he produced Jane’s Addiction, and we both had girl names!
What was it like to be in a band that was part of a tangible shift in rock and pop culture?
It was as if the good guys had won for once. We were part of this deep tapestry of creativity. It reminds me of how when people say rock is dead.
They’ve been saying it since the moment rock’n’roll was invented. It is not dead. Everything is cyclical. But that time (1991) was incredible.
People always talk about 1991, but the seeds were planted in 1987, 1988. Consider the endless game-changing albums that came out in 1988. “Daydream Nation” by Sonic Youth, “It Takes a Nation to Hold Us Back “from Public Enemy,” Stigmata “,” Life’s Too Good “from the Sugarcubes and” Nothing’s Shocking “from Jane’s Addiction, to name a few. 1988 is one of the greatest years in music since so much came out of the underground and some of it somehow slipped into the mainstream.
It’s really nifty and that’s a good point. It’s always on the move. There was a lot of great music in the 80’s and so many great live bands.
The biggest live band of that time were your friends Fishbone. I hung out with these guys quite a bit in the late ’80s and early’ 90s. I remember when I asked former Fishbone guitarist Kendall Jones what Fishbone’s next album would look like, he said. picked up his guitar and said, “Alice in Chains, baby, Alice in Chains.”
These guys mean a lot to us. We spent a lot of time on the road with Fishbone. I learned a lot from these guys. Kendall called me last night. What they did (cover up) with “Them Bones” was sick. Fishbone is a great live band. Only a handful of bands on the planet can get by on a stage with Fishbone. You don’t want to follow them.
That’s exactly what LL Cool J. once told me. He said the biggest mistake of his career was playing after Fishbone.
I was at this concert! They booed him from the stage after two songs! LL is cool, but it was a bad choice.
What was the first show you experienced?
Black Sabbath. The Heaven and Hell Tour with Ronnie James Dio (in 1980.) What was yours?
KISS with AC / DC with Bon Scott opening in 1977. But the show that perhaps had the most impact on me was Van Halen in 1981. After seeing this show you were forced to form a band. Can you imagine if Van Halen was there today?
It would be pretty sick.
Alice in Chains reminds me a bit of Van Halen with the harmonies. Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony never received enough credit for his backing vocals.
Anthony was sick, but Ed (guitarist Eddie Van Halen) was great too.
What’s next for Alice in Chains?
We talked about doing a few shows next year, but I’m focusing on this album, touring behind this album once I’m out. But I will come back with Alice in Chains.
What are you listening to these days?
Not a lot. I like it when it’s calm. I do enough racket, and when I see groups, I get enough racket. But I like rock.
And Gene Simmons, who says rock is dead, is wrong, right?
Rock is not dead. Everything is cyclical. I can’t wait for Godzilla to rise from the swamp again and shake things up. It will happen.
To learn more about Jerry Cantrell, visit jerrycantrell.com.