February 6, 1998
Jerry Cantrell: Not Bogged Down by Alice?
by Johnny Walker
With his upcoming album, 'Boggy Depot', Alice In Chains lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell takes his first baby steps as a solo artist after spending the past eleven years in rock and roll's premier smack-metal band, whose sophomore album 'Dirt' picked up where Lou Reed's infamous 'Heroin' left off.
Dressed in black, sporting biker boots and a shaggy Skunk Baxter handlebar mustache, the amiable Seattle axeman held a press conference Thursday in chilly Toronto, Canada, and along with the usual verbal softballs which he deftly hit out of the park, struggled with what, despite his ambivalence, seems to be the death knell for his famed partnership with AIC singer-songwriter Layne Staley, whose chemical excesses have been well-documented.
Cantrell's fielding of the inevitable questions about AIC's future were fraught with the tension created by not wanting to disparage his past while at the same time wishing to put the emphasis firmly on his (possibly Alice-less) future.
"After being together for eleven years - I love those guys and we've gone through a lot of stuff, but shit, it's time to change a little bit," Cantrell opined. "Life is only so long, and seldom do groups of people, marriages, last that long. But we've never said that we're over, and I won't say that here... if we decide to do a record it'll be because we wanna do a record, not to dispel any rumors, fuck everybody else." Such bravado, however, only momentarily belied what later seemed to be a few more clues as to the band's fate.
When asked if 'Boggy Depot' might have come about because of a frustration with Staley's lifestyle, which has often been rumored to have the singer hovering in a hedonistic twilight world of drugs and depravity. "I think it's unfair to say that any progress [with AIC] has been slowed down by Layne in particular," Cantrell retorted, noting that Staley had offered him much encouragement and camaraderie during the 'low periods' while recording his solo album. "We are human, and apt to make the same mistakes as anybody else, and God knows we've made a few, you know? But that's how you learn. But I'm totally satisfied [with 'Boggy Depot'] - I always have been - with what we've done as a band. It was a growing process and a challenge and I stepped up to it and kicked its ass."
Things became clearer as Cantrell began to talk about his debut solo effort as being a natural extension of the AIC aesthetic. "I think this record's pretty dark, pretty depressing in certain areas," he surmised thoughtfully of 'Boggy Depot'. "You don't want to repeat yourself, but certainly there's elements of things I've done with Alice in it. The apple ain't fallen that far from the tree, and that's fine, because I'm proud of my tree. I've never held back - you shouldn't be afraid of what you feel."
Certainly then, those hankering for an Alice 'fix' should look to The Jerry Cantrell Band for spiritual sustenance, as the guitarist takes to the road and makes plans for solo album number #2. "It won't be a two-week or month long deal, we're gonna tour a full tour on this record," Cantrell explained, making clear that this is far from a one-off bit of dabbling. "It may not be as long as we've toured in the past... my goal basically is to tour this record and get a solid lineup by the time the touring cycle is done, because I fully expect some changes. People will come and go, and I'm trying to put together something that's more of a living band itself, and then go right in off of the road and record another record."
Though he couldn't bring himself to say it, 'Boggy Depot', for those reading between the lines, sounds like the last goodbye to his former bandmates, and one more nail in the coffin of the hallowed 'Seattle Scene' of the early 90s which has now splintered beyond recognition. A very non-ironic 'Good luck' to you, Mr. Cantrell.