Photo credit: AlternativeNation.net photographer Dustin Halter
Yesterday, Alternative Nation posted Part 1 of our interview with Alice In Chains singer/guitarist William DuVall. DuVall discussed his Alice In Chains bandmates reactions to his debut Giraffe Tongue Orchestra record, shared an update on Alice In Chains’ next album, and told a touching story about meeting late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland for the first time when Layne Staley passed away in 2002.
We now give you Part 2, which sees DuVall discuss bonding with Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, his thoughts on Alice In Chains’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chances, and how he and Jerry Cantrell write songs together.
Also remember to check out the debut album from his new supergroup Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, Broken Lines, set for release on September 23rd. GTO also features Ben Weinman (Dillinger Escape Plan), Brent Hinds (Mastodon), Pete Griffin, and Thomas Pridgen.
When Eddie Vedder joined what was Mookie Blaylock at the time, Chris Cornell was fast to embrace him as part of the Seattle music family. In your last decade plus in Alice In Chains, who in that scene has embraced you the most, and who have you formed the strongest bonds with?
Everybody has been really cool. Whenever I run into Chris Cornell, or any of the guys in Soundgarden or Pearl Jam, everybody has been very cool. Obviously we’re all really busy, and I don’t live in Seattle, so between the fact that we don’t live in the same cities, and that we’re always on the road, we only really see each other if we happen to be playing the same festival or something, or if we just happen to be in the same town at the same time, like if we’re in Seattle for some function we’re all going to. But everybody is always very cool, it’s a great honor because I was a great fan of those records they put out years ago. I bought them and listened to them just like everyone else, so it’s always been great when we’ve gotten a chance to hang, even if it’s just little moments.
One time Eddie Vedder and I were at some festival in Spain, Paul Weller was also playing, and we’re both big fans of Paul Weller, so we walked over to his stage and stood together and watched him at the side of the stage, and totally fanboyed out to the point where we even took a selfie to commemorate it (laughs). We got a selfie geeking out on Paul Weller. Later that night Alice played and we did our thing, Spanish crowds are always so great, and then after our set Pearl Jam came on and just totally batted cleanup, it was really cool.
I was watching from the side of the stage, and Ed had his bottle of wine, and at one point he just came over to me and handed me the bottle to get a swig, and we just both had a drink at the side of the stage together while the band is jamming, it was probably a guitar solo or something (laughs). We had this moment with his wine, and it was sort of like: ‘Yeah, this is a great night isn’t it? Look at these people.’ It’s always great to run into those guys, I’m still a huge fan of all of them.
You started working with Jerry Cantrell in the early 2000’s, and that built up to your first record with him, Black Gives Way to Blue with Alice In Chains. How much creative freedom does he give you on the compositions he brings to the band, and how has that relationship grown creatively over the years, and how does it work in the studio creating harmonies?
It can work various ways. It takes all forms, because I of course play guitar well, and in a lot of ways kind of identify as a guitar player before even as a singer, which sounds strange to people sometimes, but it’s just how I started out. With “Your Decision” I came up with the guitar fills that sort of come in and out in that song. “Phantom Limb” I played the solo. It can take the form of an instrumental contribution, or it can take the form of a lyrical or harmonic contribution, whether he writes the tune, or we write it together. “A Looking In View” we were going riff for riff on that song. He had one, then I had something that I would play that went right with what he was playing, so that’s how that one worked.
“Last of My Kind” I remember driving over the hill, he called me up and said, ‘Do you want to come over? Cause I got nothing.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really have anything either, but yeah, I’ll come over, sure.’ As I was driving over the hill to his house, I saw a napkin on the floor of my car that had some writing scribbled on it. The words were ‘so young, so brazen, so unholy.’ I picked it up and was like oh, I must have scribbled that at some point and discarded it, and that became “Last of My Kind.” So I basically started writing the song in my head on my way to his house, then when I got to his house he just kind of left me alone in his little demo room he had set up. He went to go play video games, and I wrote “Last of My Kind” and sang it right there, and it’s pretty much exactly like what you hear on the album, and then he came in and a had a listen and we just shook hands, and that was that. So it takes different forms, obviously he’s always written a lot for this band, so sometimes he has really definite ideas, and sometimes he doesn’t.
Are there any Alice In Chains songs from the 90’s era that you really connect to lyrically, and are there any that you’d like to sing live that you haven’t sung live before?
There are things I connect to lyrically, I always like singing Dirt. That stuff to me is almost like blues or something, the emotions behind it are all relentless, that’s why it’s blasted. As far as songs I haven’t sung before, we’ve done a lot of them, but “I Am Inside,” that would be cool.
What are your feelings about going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Alice In Chains? Because to me you guys should be in right now.
Well thank you. I don’t know, I don’t really think too much about that sort of thing. I’m interested in just doing work that I believe in. The run in Alice has been pretty good, if the Hall of Fame comes knocking, I’m sure we’ll answer the door, but that’s not really in our control. A lot of that stuff is so far removed from us and our every day experience, so it’s best to just sort of keep on with what we do.
What was the inspiration behind the “Crucifixion” music video, because there’s a lot of interesting imagery seen in that?
Those are all clips that I pulled, and passed them onto Ben, and passed them onto a friend of his to kind of assemble along with a bit of footage of us playing together in New Jersey a couple of months ago. It was sort of like a rehearsal that we filmed. The clips really, without putting too fine a point on it, I think the way it all works together sort of sends a snapshot of both the good and bad of human nature, the duality of the human condition. Given the really dangerously divisive dynamics that are going on both in the United States and throughout other parts of the world, I think it just sort of serves well to juxtapose these historical clips with clips from today. Just sort of provide this picture of a continuum, like what we are experiencing now is not real, it may be difficult, and it may be dangerous, it’s certainly divisive, inflammatory, but it’s not new, and we need to really understand that because it might help us gain some perspective, and then possibly correct our course.
Obviously that’s philosophy (laughs), that’s almost sort of silly to say as a person in a rock band, but as an artist, what our job is to paint these pictures and talk about whatever is on our mind. The song itself is inspired by more personal events, but once we got the idea to make this video for it, it just seemed like it would be better to take the song a little bit out of the personal, and take it more to the wider world, so that was the idea. I think it worked really well, it kind of reminds me of the old 80’s punk flyers, which I really love, it’s how I came up.
When it comes to GTO, are there going to be more shows, or thought provoking videos?
GTO has dates that we’re going to be giving out in the not too distant future, the dates are going to be kind of late November going into December in the U.S., we’re very excited about it. It’s probably not going to be a very long tour, but it’s something (laughs), it’s a start. We would certainly like to do more. In terms of videos, we have a video for the single “Blood Moon” coming out on September 16th. I think it will attract some attention to say the least, maybe provoke some thoughts (laughs). It’s very different from the “Crucifixion” video, let’s just say that.