ALICE IN CHAINS Guitarist Discusses Making Of 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here'

Steve Baltin of GRAMMY.com recently conducted an interview with ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist Jerry Cantrell. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

GRAMMY.com: One of the things I like about "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here" is there's a real griminess and grittiness to it.

Cantrell: I keep hearing that from people, comparatively to the last record, and I think that last record was pretty hard too. So it's nice to hear that it's coming across. I think the songwriting is very strong on this record and I thought it was on the last record too. [I'm] really proud of the body of work and all that all four of us put into it.

GRAMMY.com: Did the delay resulting from your shoulder surgery affect the album at all in terms of writing?

Cantrell: We don't start until we're ready, you can't really start unless you've got ideas to work on. [laughs] Usually there's a period of accumulating riffs and ideas and generally a lot of the stuff happens in odd places and on the road, dressing rooms, soundchecks, [and] warming up before a show. There's always a camera or an iPhone and anytime something happens where you perk up or somebody perks up, then you put that down and what you're doing is depositing it in the account for later withdrawal. So by the time the tour was done there was a good 20 or 30 little riffs or ideas to go through and "Black Gives Way To Blue" was exactly the same way. It's fairly similar, it's just a couple years later. We couldn't have been prouder of how ["Black Gives Way To Blue"] played out, so we decided to do it again. I think we took a step up, maybe even two.

GRAMMY.com: Was there a moment in the writing process where you felt like the album was taking a step up?

Cantrell: Yeah, before I had the surgery I think I demoed "Voices" really quick, that was a kind of quick song and came together within a couple of days of just me messing around here at the house. It was right after tour and it was a good, strong song and so I sent it around to everybody and everybody liked it and I thought, "Fuck, that's good." That was the first thing that came together on the record, so I knew there was a good song there. And then during the process of rehab, the riff for "Stone" [developed] — I still have the voice recording, it's hilarious. I didn't write that on guitar, I just started hearing something in my head. [I was] watching TV, and my arm's all fucked up, so I grabbed the phone and started humming the riff into the phone and that's where that song came from. So once I was able to demo that and fill that one out, I knew that one was pretty strong too. We got into a couple of different studios and we just sat up and recorded jams, worked through the shit we had, and [producer] Nick [Raskulinecz] was involved in that process as well, even though he was working on the RUSH record ["Clockwork Angels"] and a bunch of other stuff.

GRAMMY.com: Were there songs that really morphed and became much stronger in the evolution from idea to reality?

Cantrell: Absolutely, and on the flip side of that coin there's also stuff that you think is great and later on down the road you're like, "Ah, it's not very good." Actually, "Voices" was the first song, [but] the first riff was "Hollow". I was warming up in the room in Vegas, our very last show of the tour, and I remember our manager, Beno, was in the room and they were sitting there talking and they were worried about me because I was pretty close to having pneumonia. I was so ill. I started playing that riff and I recorded that riff. I saw Nick bobbing his head. I dug it too, so I recorded it. That's actually the first riff that happened. So that song, "Stone", "Voices", the title track — that song is amazing — those [are] all cornerstone tracks on the album. And also you have stuff you think is good and get proven wrong, so it doesn't just end up in there. It's not just you, you're working in a band and there's a very healthy thing to have to pass all those filters, not just yours. It's gotta go through Sean, Mike and Will [too]. It's gotta survive all that and be something everybody can get behind. That's generally what you end up with on a record. It's pretty much no different than it's ever been in this band, whatever works is the idea.

Read the entire interview from GRAMMY.com.

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