Alice in Chains

Sep 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bud Scoppa

THE SONIC MASSIVENESS OF BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE

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Raskulinecz describes “A Looking in View,” the first track to go to radio, as “an intentional leak. It's gone all over the world now, and they're playing a seven-minute song on the radio. When was the last time that happened?” Little wonder they've been playing this track, with Cantrell's charging-woolly-mammoth riffage acting as DuVall's bodyguard as he steps out to blend his voice with Cantrell's through the entire song. Releasing it to introduce DuVall and thus reassure the hungry hordes was a typically savvy Alice in Chains move — bold, defiant, swaggeringly self-confident — and it worked like gangbusters. “MY HEART JUST STARTED BEATING AGAIN 14 YEARS LATER!!!!,” one fan commented in the iTunes Store. “The WORLD needs this band!”

“If we had gone through that process and we felt that it didn't live up musically to the legacy of the work we'd done before, then we would've shelved it — and shelved it happily, too,” says Cantrell, “and known for ourselves that this is the end of it, and that's cool. But that didn't happen. I've never done a record where I've worked that hard, or where everybody worked that hard, in that unified of a way. And I think it really shows. Nick and Fig put their hearts and souls into that record — they cared about it and believed in it. And Randy Staub f***in' killed the mix.” Staub mixed the record in Studio Mix at Henson, next door to the tracking room where the band was still working. “As for mixing while the band is still recording, for me that's pretty much business as usual.” Staub says. “Almost every record I did with [rock producer] Bob Rock was like that, and many others as well. I like having the artist and producer around.”

Says Kinney: “I'll never be okay with how things happened with Layne, but there's nothing I can do about that. We did this record for why we needed to do it, and now it's everybody's. I keep hearing that people are surprised by the record, and I can see that, but it's not surprising to me.”

“We oughta know how to sound like ourselves,” says Cantrell, pausing to let out a macho laugh before turning serious. “And you know what? That's cool, man, 'cause the boy lives in that. Layne lives with us. When you've lost somebody as unique and integral as Layne was, and on top of that him being our best friend, you've got that whole dynamic to deal with. Is this record something positive to add to the catalog? Does it stand up? Is it worthy? And the answer is yes, it is. But you don't know that until you go through the process. We busted our asses, and we were rewarded with a f***in' good record that exceeded even our own expectations.”

According to Raskulinecz, the defining moment of the project happened when Cantrell did his vocal on the title song, which closes the album. “It's really Jerry saying goodbye to Layne,” he explains, “and that moment was very powerful, very emotional. Jerry was on the mic singing about his guy, and it brought us all to tears — five grown men crying. It's just one vocal track, and Jerry's never let himself be as vulnerable as he did on that song. When people really listen to it, they're gonna feel the same emotion we had that night, during that moment. That's why I do this — for those moments. I hope this record takes them right back to the top, where they belong.”


Bud Scoppa is Mix's L.A. editor.






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