METALLICA's HETFIELD, ULRICH Interview ALICE IN CHAINS; Audio Available - Sep. 25, 2009
James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of METALLICA interviewed ALICE IN CHAINS for FMQB Productions' "Inside Alice In Chains: Black Gives Way To Blue" broadcast special, which has just started airing on radio stations across the country.
When asked by Hetfield what the album title means to the band, guitarist Jerry Cantrell explained that the title track is a song about late ALICE IN CHAINS singer Layne Staley, who died in 2002. "It's a really intense song and a really open-hearted song because of Layne and the experience that we all went through," he said. "It's [about] facing up to that stuff and all the good and all the bad and moving forward together. It speaks to [the fact that] things were pretty black for us. It's pretty literal, and things are starting to get a little lighter."
Cantrell also stated that having Elton John play on the song was an honor, because Elton was the first musician that he really admired. "It was a really heavy thing for me, because my whole journey starts with him. That was the first guy I really got into," Cantrell said. "Then I started discovering guitar bands like AC/DC and KISS and all sorts of other stuff. But Elton was the first thing that turned the light on for me. So to have that come full circle for all of us – for what we've all been through – and for who that song is about, it's a pretty heavy thing. It's one of the few moments in life where the universe really lines up and tells you you're doing the right thing."
The band was also very candid about going through their own battles with addiction after Staley passed away. "We kind of went off the rails and stopped touring with two number one records back-to-back because we were not in really good shape. We tried to take time off, and the plan was to focus on living a little bit," Cantrell said. Drummer Sean Kinney added, "The plan was to stop because I knew for a fact, if we were to stay out on the road, death was imminent. It wasn't just Layne — it could have been me, it could have been anybody. We pulled back from that and the theory was to try to get our act together so we could live and move on."
Later in the special, Hetfield asks ALICE IN CHAINS singer William DuVall if it was strange for him to sing someone else's lyrics. But as DuVall pointed out, music is always open to interpretation, and he takes away his own meaning from the lyrics, whether they were written by Staley or Cantrell.
"Truth is truth, and I'll relate to it on that level," he explained. "It's similar to the older songs; a tune that might be really personal to Jerry, like 'Rooster', Layne sang those songs with a lot of conviction. I come to that stuff singing a song like 'Dirt' or 'Junkhead' with my own experience, because the feelings behind those lyrics are universal. The impetus for writing them may be extremely personal, but that's the beauty of music. That's the power of it. It's all the blues to me, and I know a thing or two about the blues. I'm a blues person!"
When asked by Revolver magazine if he had a close relationship with Staley, Hetfield replied, "I wasn't really close with Layne, but I remember going to see ALICE IN CHAINS many times. I remember when we were down in L.A. [in 1991, making 'The Black Album'], I left the studio early to see them play on Clash of the Titans with SLAYER. I was driving like a madman in this rented van, going on the median and scaring the shit out of my friend — 'We gotta get there!' And we get there, and they'd just got off. I was like, 'Aw, man!' [Laughs] I hung with them a little bit, always just loved their music, and I'd say that Jerry [Cantrell, AIC guitarist] and I share some life experiences, like getting a second chance at life and realizing how cool things can be. So we've got kind of a kinship that way. And seeing them play — I just love hearing those songs. Those songs are awesome and should be heard, you know? They were so unique, so ahead of their time. And out of all the Seattle stuff, that stuff is the most timeless. Unfortunately, Layne just loved the junk too much, man, and that was that. I just read in his lyrics his obsessiveness about it. And he knew where he was goin'! It's like, in the school of driving, look where you want to go — and that's what he was doing, it seems like."
"Inside Alice In Chains: Black Gives Way To Blue" can be heard below. http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=127647