Jerry Cantrell: All Secrets Known

Alice in Chains’ lead guitarist and vocalist <b>Jerry Cantrell</b> reclines in The Skinny’s interrogation chair to spill the facts you never knew you needed.

Feature by Dave Kerr | 26 Oct 2009
  • Jerry Cantrell

My first job…
…was probably delivering the papers. It took a lot of getting used to reading the news on a bike at 5 o’clock on the morning. The money was shit.

The first time I picked up a guitar…
…was when I was in sixth grade. My mother was dating this guy and brought him home. He played guitar, my mother played organ and I remember them jamming. So I’m just checking this out and the guy hands me the guitar to show me a couple of chords. In a few minutes I had them together and I could play two or three. I don’t remember his name but I remember that moment because I picked it up pretty quick and actually pulled it off. He asked my mother ‘Does he play guitar?’ I’d played clarinet and sung in the choir. My mother goes ‘no, he’s never played a guitar in his life’. He’s like ‘well, you might want to get him one because he’s pretty good at it.’ So she bought me my first acoustic.

The most memorable book I’ve read…
…is probably The Stand by Stephen King, which was pretty intense for me. Another read that struck me from an early age was No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jerry Hopkins biography of Jim Morrison.

The last film I was impressed by…
…that made a serious impact on me was The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. The visuals are amazing – some dark surreal imagery – very cool. In a nutshell, it’s about this doctor who kills an opera singer and brings her back to life to play in his performance and have his revenge on some other dude. Alice are making a video just now with Stephen Schuster who directed A Looking in View for us, he tells me that the twins who made that film [known as the Quay brothers] have done quite a few others.

The biggest guilty pleasure in my record collection has to be...
...Glass Houses by Billy Joel.

The last time I saw a good comedian…
…was at The Laugh Factory with Dave Chappelle, Dane Cook and even Dice Clay got up. I go down there quite a bit but there’s a lot of great comedy clubs where I live in LA.

The last time I travelled to a foreign land and thought ‘I could live here’ was…
…in Australia, it’s the country I’ve felt most comfortable in as I’ve always liked the cosmopolitan-meets-wild west dynamic of it. It reminds me of my father, he’s a country guy and I was raised on that music. There’s a big element of that in their society, but it’s mixed with that beach lifestyle. I was raised on the west coast, so I could spend some serious time in Australia and be just fine.

The last gig I went to as a punter…
…was Pearl Jam in Los Angeles last week. I watched the whole show – took William [DuVall], he’d never seen them before. I was in the audience for the first half, but I got to go up and stand at the side of the stage and watch. So I’m watching the second encore and they do Hunger Strike, [Chris] Cornell was there - actually the whole of Soundgarden was there, Kim [Thayil], Ben [Shepherd] - and Matt [Cameron] of course was playing with Pearl Jam. So Chris got up and Temple of the Dog were together for a minute. They closed the show with Alive and I’m just sitting there having a good time when [Mike] McCready rolls over to me when it gets to the end solo, throws me his guitar and says ‘Solo in E!’ I’m like ‘What?’ ‘Just solo in E, dude!’ So I got to go out there and rock out with them too. We all did a bow together, fuckin’ Pearl Jam, Cornell and me. It was a cool moment, a really nice thing. I went from punter to performer pretty quick.

If I could recruit one dream player to appear on the next Alice in Chains album it would be...
...Cornell. I’ve always wanted to do something with him again. We did Right Turn with Chris and Mark Arm and it was special, but maybe you can’t go home on that.

Given a life or death situation where I had to choose an ally...
...I’d vote Bruce Lee.

Alice in Chains play Glasgow Barrowlands on 12 Nov.

http://www.aliceinchains.com