“We’re a Seattle band,” says Jerry Cantrell. “It’s where we fucking started and it’s still who we are. We’re really proud to be part of the history of our town.” Photo by Scott Dachroeden
A great example of stretching out is “Never Fade.” It introduces a very uplifting sound and feel to the band’s palette.
DuVall: I think it’s part and parcel of how long we’ve existed in this second incarnation of the band. There is a survivalist element that has always been in the band’s music. And now, because we’ve gotten to this certain place, I think the survivalist and celebratory element is more able to come to the fore than ever before. It’s a gradual thing that happens. But now that we’re on our third album, perhaps people are noticing it more, or perhaps we’re accenting it more.
Cantrell: That song is a bit different for us, for sure. But again, it’s new territory to explore. It’s actually a song that was not going to be on the record. I had this great chorus for it, but I just couldn’t come up with something that I liked in the verses and the pre-chorus. So it just laid around for a while. And we were almost at the end of tracking when Will got a hold of it. He went into the back room and came up with a really cool verse and a pre-chorus. We ended up approaching it completely separately. And what he’s writing about is totally different than what I was writing about. Not unlike what Layne and I did with “Rain When I Die.”
You chose to record with Nick Raskulinecz again, which makes three albums in a row. What draws you back to him?
Cantrell: Nick’s just an amazing producer, and he’s a real fan of rock ’n’ roll. He’s like the same kid you smoke dirt weed joints with, in his bedroom in seventh grade listening to Rush records, trying to figure out how to learn to play them [laughs]. That’s him, and he never lost that. And we have that element to us, too, so we get along great. And doing three records together, we can read each other before anything is even said. There’s not a lot of B.S. There’s a lot of laughing, a lot of good times, and we’re all trying to make the best record we can make.
DuVall: Just a good energy. He comes in air drumming, headbanging to air guitar, and joking and laughing. It’s nice to have that. And then, of course, he’s just good, man. He’s good at what he does.
Jerry, you’re known for stacking a lot of amps to get your studio tones. What did you use to get your sound on this album?
Cantrell: I’m using a lot of my signature Friedman amps, the Double J [JJ], a good handful of Bogners, which I’ve always used as well, and some Marshalls. And I used an Orange and a Laney. If you’re going to layer a lot of stuff, which I like to do, you’ve got to change it up. Otherwise, if you just keep putting on multiple tracks of the same guitar and the same amp, it ends up canceling itself out.
An oddball thing that we used on this record, and there’s usually one of these on each one of our records, Nick went down to the Pike Place Market and bought a cigar-box amp. It’s just a cigar box with a fucking input, a volume knob, and a speaker. It cost probably 150 bucks. On that heavy part of “Drone,” when those chords come in, you can really hear the barking sound of that cigar-box amp.
And there’s always a flotilla of G&L Rampages around and four or five Les Pauls that I’ve had for years. And that’s pretty much the base of the sound.
Tell me about your relationship with Dave Friedman and how your signature JJ amp heads came about.
Cantrell: Dave and I have been friends for a long time. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a real guru of tone who knows what a rock guitar is supposed to sound like. So we started talking a few years ago about putting a signature amp together that’s my amp and is tailored to me. It’s a bit spendy for an amp, for sure. But it’s exactly my amp. It’s not a cheaper simulation of my amp that’s made somewhere else with not-quite-the-same parts. It’s exactly my amp.
You’re also known for your wah work. Did you use your signature Dunlop Cry Baby on the album?
Cantrell: I think we exclusively used the Dunlop JC wah. Dunlop’s always been a part of our sound. And kind of similar to the Friedman thing, I was talking to Scott Uchida, who used to be one of the main guys over there at Dunlop, and he said, “Let’s make you a signature wah that’s a little bit more tailored to your sound, a little darker, a little throatier.” And they made a great piece of gear for me. I’m very honored to slap my name on that thing. I see them pop up a lot in someone’s dressing room or when I’m watching someone play onstage. It makes me fucking proud. And it also makes me happy to be part of the story.