Entertainment behind the scenes
“It’s been a long road to get here, man. There’s a lot of miles to go.” Thus spake Alice in Chains singer/guitarist Jerry Cantrell as his resurrected, new-look band previewed its first studio album in 14 years at a listening party in Hollywood on Tuesday.
Cantrell (second from left), accompanied by new singer/guitarist William DuVall (right), bass player Mike Inez (left) and drummer Sean Kinney, performed a three-song acoustic set at the Montalban Theatre, including the title track from the new album, “Black Gives Way To Blue,” due in stores on Sept. 29.
Cantrell described the song as a “deep” tribute to DuVall’s predecessor, Layne Staley, who lost his lengthy battle with drugs in 2002. It includes a glockenspiel turn by Kinney. The band also played another new song, “Your Decision,” and “Down in a Hole,” from its 1992 breakthrough “Dirt.”
Beforehand, guests heard the entire album on the PA system after checking in their cell phones at the door to prevent piracy. The heavy guitars, submerged vocals and thunderous rhythm section quickly assured fans that the band has lost none of its menace. The new video, “A Looking in View,” also played in a loop. It boasts full-frontal female nudity. Among those in the audience were former Guns N’ Roses bass player Duff McKagan,
During the 1990s when Seattle was at the epicenter of the “grunge rock” phase, Alice in Chains spearheaded the gloomy genre with a string of dark, druggy albums. Four of them hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200, including the chart-toppers “Jar of Flies” (1994) and its self-titled studio swan song the following year.
But Staley’s chronic heroin problems hampered the band’s progress, and it ended the decade on an enforced hiatus. After Staley’s death, the survivors eventually regrouped and recruited punk-rock veteran DuVall. A 2006 tour engendered a surprisingly strong reception, and the emboldened band started recording its new album in Los Angeles last October with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters).
“Black Gives Way To Blue” marks the band’s first release for Virgin/EMI; all its previous albums were handled by Columbia Records. Virgin will also host a listening party in New York next Tuesday.
Velvet Revolver, the Grammy-winning rock group founded by three former members of Guns N’ Roses, is not ready to call it a day even though they have yet to find a new singer.
The band ousted Scott Weiland in April 2008, following an unusually public feud, and he returns to the road next month to promote a solo album that he released in November.
His former bandmates are also keeping busy, including bass player Duff McKagan, who begins a U.S. tour in Nashville on Saturday with his side project, Duff McKagan’s Loaded. The band, in which McKagan sings and plays guitar, released its debut U.S. album “Sick” last week.
Asked about the status of Velvet Revolver, McKagan told Reuters, “It is not done. We just haven’t found a singer … There’s a lot of criteria to fill.”
McKagan rebuffed a suggestion that he could take over as lead vocalist. He sang harmonies with both Velvet Revolver and Guns N’ Roses, and often took a solo spot during Guns N’ Roses shows singing the old punk song “Attitude”
“I’m very comfortable singing, for sure. I know what my range is,” he said. “(But) we need a standalone singer, for sure. We need that rock guy.”
As for Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver colleague Slash, McKagan revealed that the guitarist is recording a solo project with guest vocalists, including Black Eyed Peas frontwoman Fergie.
McKagan rolled his eyes at the mention of the pop singer’s name, but said he “completely” supported Slash’s creative decisions.
As for his own band, McKagan joined forces with three musician pals from his Seattle hometown. Their label, Century Media Records, gave them a modest budget of $20,000, and they recorded “Sick” in just nine days.
The album bears traces of the Stooges and Guns N’ Roses, and angry tirades rub shoulders with wistful ballads about drug-overdose casualties and McKagan’s own recent relapse.
“It’s accessible, not that we tried to write an accessible record,” McKagan said. “It’s left of center, for sure, But it’s not completely out there.”