When Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell spoke with SPIN, the grunge icon shared a few nuggets of hard-lived wisdom that he'd collected over the last 25 years. "A really important lesson we've learned is to take things one step at a time and enjoy what you are doing now and keep your head in where you are now," Cantrell said. "If you're looking too far down the road or too hard over your shoulder, you're going to fucking fall down."
The Seattle vets doled out some more advice on Tuesday (May 28) during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit. Alice in Chains used the fan-led Q&A to not only promote their just-released fifth LP, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, but also as a platform to encourage (and discourage) eager young bands, name-drop Kurt Cobain, and tease the possibility of an AiC documentary. Read the highlights below.
Alice in Chains' advice for young bands (cynical edition): "Just quit now. Save yourself before it's too late."
Alice in Chains' advice for young bands (optimistic edition): "If you are dedicated enough to do it there's nothing that's going to stop you. Remember it's your thing and make yourself happy — that's your only shot to do what you want to do. You have the freedom to do that. There's many people that will try to turn you into something else. Do your own thing and make something unique and different. Feel free to let yourself be influenced by a wide variety of things — the more that you incorporate the more influences that don't even have to musical. You can make music influenced by any form of art."
Alice in Chains' advice for young bands (rough-edged realism edition): "One of our fears is there's a kid as good as good as Cobain that isn't in music. The fact that we are here means you can do it — you just have to be do it. No 1/2 measures. Open wide and be prepared to eat alot of shit."
On what the band was listening to while recording The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here: "We were listening to ourselves and the new record! When you're making a record you're in lock down mode — the focus is all on that process. It's pretty exhausting — all you want to do after recording is get something to eat, get some sleep and go back into the studio."
On whether it's harder or easier to be around each other while touring: "Sean: Surprisingly it's not hard at all. I miss it. Week 5 we are all tired of ourselves. If I'm away from everyone for a couple weeks I miss it. Jerry: Not a whole lot of Mystery. William: It's all about routine, it's a perverse thing even if you are experiencing hardships like sensory overload you know feeling cramped being in close quarters. When a run ends you do miss it. You get into a routine that becomes your whole life. You miss each other. Even the things you hate about it like the bus rides you miss it. Jerry: At least you have a routine."
More thoughts regarding life on the road: "Sean: People can pull you out of your funk. You have to do it. William: It's the simplicity of it that is very powerful. You're only focused on one thing — the show and everything has to focus to do that. Life outside of that can get complicated. Mike: Some of the favorite moment are the inside jokes. There are no funnier Fuckers on this planet than these guys."
On crafting memorable guitar solos: "Jerry: I just try to make what's right for the song. None of us spend any extra time on stage doing solos. Whatever makes the song good. Solos should always be a brief vocal thing. Like a short musical part to make the song work. It's not for wankery. William: This band seems to compose solos which is why there is a tendency to do the solos live because they are a written part of the song like a lyric."
On remaining vital and authentic after 25 years: "We're just continuing to be ourselves and make the best music we can for us. Just by getting together and making noise you're going to sound how you do — you're going to come up with new stuff. I don't think any of our records sound alike — the common thread is the band and how we do things. Sometimes we hire other people that were influenced by some of our other records."
On the possibility of making an official Alice in Chains documentary: "Jerry: If we have our way we'll get it done. We're in the process still of doing our thing. It's an odd place to exist being a public person and out in the public but we're pretty private. Out stuff is for us. Thats how we have always been. What's on the inside always stays on the inside. We're still writing our history."