of Alice in Chains
"Honestly, for Layne, it wasn't a struggle with addiction. It was a struggle with all the demons he had inside of him. That was the real struggle. No one was ever able to get through to him to help him deal with those inner demons. His way to keep them quiet was to sedate himself."
~ Jerry Cantrell
Jerry Fulton Cantrell Jr. is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. He is best known as the founder, lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist, and main songwriter of Alice in Chains. The band rose to international fame in the early 1990's during Seattle's grunge movement, and is known for its distinctive vocal style and the harmonized vocals between Cantrell and Layne Staley (and later Cantrell and William DuVall). Cantrell started to sing lead vocals on Alice in Chains' 1992 EP Sap. After Staley's death in 2002, Cantrell took the role of Alice in Chains' lead singer on most of the songs from the band's post-Staley albums, Black Gives Way to Blue (2009), The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (2013) and Rainier Fog (2018), with DuVall harmonizing on the new songs, and singing Staley's vocals on previous songs.
By Kreig Marks, May 2022
KM: It's now just over 20 years since Layne (Layne Staley, former lead singer of Alice in Chains) died. When he died, how close were you to shutting down the band for good?
JC: Well, when Layne died, Alice was basically done anyway, before he died. I was doing my thing, Layne doing his. I really had no intention of getting the band started again, but when I found singer William DuVall, it all came together, and Alice in Chains was reborn.
KM: William has strong vocals and the two of you really gel well.
JC: Yeah, he does, and I think we really do gel. We're able to create very similar harmonies, like Layne and I had back in the day. I was a bit skeptical at first, not knowing how receptive the fans would be to Alice in Chains without Layne Staley. But they were very receptive and supportive and the past 16 years have been great.
KM: You guys sound great. I've heard you are a big Elton John fan. True or false?
JC: Oh yeah, that's very true. The first album I ever had was Elton John's Greatest Hits. And then years later, I was so fortunate to have Elton play on my album Black Gives Way to Blue.
KM: That must have been very surreal, to have one of your heroes playing piano and singing with you on your own record. Can you describe how that felt?
JC: Oh man, it was so surreal. Sometimes I still can't believe it really happened. He's an incredibly talented musician and singer, and a really amazing person. I'm so fortunate to have met him, recorded with him, and to be able to call him a friend.
KM: That's great. Going back to when you first met Layne, I've heard you knew, from the first time you heard him sing with his previous band, that you would be in a band with him. Is this correct to say?
JC: The first time I heard him sing he sounded great and had a really cool vibe about him. A few months later I met him at some house party, and soon after that, we got together to form the band. Within a few weeks we did our first show.
KM: How hard was it for you to watch him struggle with his addiction?
JC: Honestly, for Layne, it wasn't a struggle with addiction. It was a struggle with all the demons he had inside of him. That was the real struggle. No one was ever able to get through to him, to help him deal with those inner demons. His way to keep them quiet was to sedate himself.
KM: It's very sad. Did you have a premonition that he would die at a young age as a result of his addiction?
JC: You know, I always held hope that he would find the strength to move past his addiction and defeat his demons. But yeah, I guess I always had a feeling that things wouldn't end well with him. Near the end it was hard to watch. He was like a brother to me. Imagine watching your brother slowly die and there's nothing you can do to help him. The only one that could help him was himself, and he wouldn't take that step to do it. It hurts. It still hurts all these years later, but you learn to live with it, and hope that you never have to experience anything like that again with anyone you know or care about.
KM: I hear you. Let's talk about some good things now. The new solo album, "Brighten." It's pretty solid from start to finish. Your signature guitar sound is there in every song, unmistakable. Has that always been your intent when writing songs?
JC: I don't know if it's subconscious but, yeah, it's become my platform, my signature as you put it. As a kid, I would listen to BB King, Robert Johnson, Van Halen. From the first couple of notes, you knew who you were hearing, unmistakable. So yeah, I guess I wanted to have my own sound that was immediately recognizable.
KM: You're now doing a brief tour to promote the album until you head out again with Alice in Chains. How much fun are you having right now?
JC: You know Kreig, it's been about 2 1/2 years since I was able to perform live. Let's just say I am having a blast right now. I'm playing with some great guys, and we're doing straight up Rock, and it's really cool. I am definitely having a blast.
KM: The first single, "Siren Song" is very cool. You can definitely hear your signature bending guitar sound bleeding through, and your solid backing vocals. We're looking forward to hearing a lot more from you soon.
JC: Thanks, Kreig. Yeah, it's a cool song and I'm enjoying playing it live. Let's do this again.
KM: You bet. Thanks for the time, Jerry. Keep doing what you're doing and having a blast. We are loving all of it.
JC: Most definitely. Thanks, Kreig and thank you Tru Rock Revival Magazine!
Kreig Marks, Publisher / Founder TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and promoting musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.