Last month, JimDunlop.com asked its Facebook, Twitter and Google+ communities to post questions for ALICE IN CHAINS' Jerry Cantrell. The 11 best questions were chosen about his writing process, gear, playing style and other fun stuff, and were sent to Jerry, who recently answered them. An excerpt follows below.
JimDunlop.com: After almost 25 years through ALICE IN CHAINS and solo projects, what do you do to stay original, innovative and keep your signature guitar style without being repetitive?
Cantrell: Half the battle is finding your own unique sound, or your music fingerprint, that people will recognize. But really, it's just how you naturally sound, so I don't have to think about holding on to that because I sound how I sound. That's good, and that's where you wanna be — you want to naturally sound like you. As for the variety of the writing material in the different areas of the band, I think it's pretty apparent by all the records that we've done. I've been in a really great band that's been able to move in a lot of variant voicings and incorporate a lot of elements from different kinds of music in making our own, from acoustic to the heavy stuff, and everything in between. But you have to trust in the fact that you're going to sound how you sound, and the way you keep fresh and moving forward is sort of forgetting about what you did the in past. But I don't really need to think about that, and I've been really fortunate in that aspect, not only with myself but with my band. I trust that we're going to be okay, and that we're doing something good. In my opinion, we haven't done anything crappy yet, which is cool — it's the best thing I could ask for. Also, we've had a long career, we've made a lot of records, and every record is different from every other one before it. Keeping fresh just means making another record and writing new songs. Keeping your signature sound? That's just who you are.
JimDunlop.com: Where do you draw inspiration for the quality of your writing? The imagery is amazingly fantastic, and your work always inspires me to pick up a guitar and a pen.
Cantrell: When I first started paying, I was inspired by everybody that I ever enjoyed listening to, and some of them weren't even guitar players. But you know, you start off emulating your heroes. For me, it was learning AC/DC songs, UFO, BLACK SABBATH, VAN HALEN — those were a small portion of many bands that influenced me to start — but also had a lot of friends who played in cover bands, and I learned early on that it was not the move I wanted to be making. I wanted to be writing my own stuff, like all those great players and bands were. So not only was I inspired to learn how to play guitar, but I was also inspired to learn how to write songs like those bands were writing for themselves. I knew that was the ticket, rather than playing everybody else's stuff three sets a night in a Top-40 cover band. But ultimately, you find inspiration where ever you find it. It's not some big artsy-fartsy, flowery, ethereal thing for me, it's more of a gut-level thing, and it happens when it happens. I've been able to train myself over the years to know at least initially if an idea is good enough to follow, and also to learn to record any idea — because my perspective on it may change over time — and then do what it takes to make that idea happen. You need to sit there with your guitar and hit record and keep doing it and doing it until it happens.
JimDunlop.com: What does Jerry the "regular guy" do for fun?
Cantrell: It was poker for a while, and I still love the game — it's a nice activity for not thinking about anything other than what you're doing — and I used to fish quite a bit, which I haven't done lately as much as I should, because I love getting outside. A big part of being a musician is spending time in really confined spaces with a lot of other people, so it's really good to get out of that environment and get outside. You know, you're in a studio, in a hotel room, in a van, plane, or a dressing room, a venue — all enclosed spaces — so anything that can get you outside is a good thing. So yeah, I love fishing, especially deep sea fishing. Golf is another great activity. I'm totally shitty at it but I love to play, and it's more about getting outside and doing something that I can focus on, and it's a little healthy, and fun and competitive, and I love that too.
Read the entire interview from JimDunlop.com.