It's been nearly two years since the surviving members of Alice in Chains — guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney — announced they'd be returning to action for a series of reunion gigs. At the time, some in the band even hinted at the possibility of some fresh Alice tunes somewhere down the line.
Now, two highly successful tours later (see "Alice In Chains Unlock North American Fall Tour" and "Velvet Revolver Team With Alice In Chains For Summer Tour"), Alice in Chains — with Comes With the Fall frontman William DuVall stepping in for late singer Layne Staley — are ready to write and hope to have an LP recorded by the end of 2008.
"Definitely possibly," Cantrell responded with a healthy guffaw when asked whether fans could expect an Alice record next year. "I don't think you can put a time limit on it, because first we have to come up with a record we're satisfied with, and I think we can do that."
No, Alice in Chains haven't written any complete songs for their forthcoming record yet, but Cantrell said they have been tinkering with a few ideas here and there, and they'll start writing in earnest after the holidays.
"The body of stuff that's been coming out so far — all the riffs and song ideas — are really cool," Cantrell explained. "It's really aggressive and everything Alice was, but it's moved on into a different thing too. It's [indicative of the] transformation of this band. The dynamic is different, and it should be. But Mike, Sean and I, we're still here. We're still a big part of how this band sounds. The elements that remain and the element that William brings to the band are powerful things. I couldn't put a time on it, but I can tell you that [writing songs] is what we are working toward. We're gathering material and doing other business to help this band move forward."
Liberated from the constraints that often come from aligning with a record label, Alice in Chains are free to explore their options — and may even release new material on their own. Right now, Cantrell can't say for sure what the future holds for his band, but he does know what the plan is.
"We've spent a good part of the first part of the year absorbing what we did last year and the tour before that, and I got right into writing. So it's been a good three, four months where we were writing pretty hard and compiling stuff," Cantrell said. "Then we decided to tour [with Velvet Revolver]. The focus for us is seeing what we can come up with, and I'm completely confident that we can come up with some great stuff. It's always been about creating good music, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do that and for this band to move forward.
"I don't think any of us expected, a couple of years ago, that this would happen," he continued. "It's a bold move, and it's not something to be undertaken lightly. We've had a good time up until this point. We have two solid tours under our belt, and the band has really become tighter. William's had time to get comfortable in his role, and we, of course, got to know him a lot better. The response has been great from the fans. So an album is the next logical step."
Cantrell said he was blown away by the response to the Alice reunion runs but attributes it all to the strength of the band's back catalog.
"It was very satisfying because people showed up and they cared," he said. "Not only did the die-hard fans that had been there before come out, but a whole new generation of young kids. That's what we were excited about — seeing 13-year-olds showing up in Alice shirts. That's cool and a testament to the music."
If you weren't able to catch any of the band's recent live gigs, you won't be getting a second chance anytime soon. Cantrell said Alice in Chains have no plans to tour until there's an album on the shelves to promote.
"I wouldn't expect us playing live again until we come up with a record, and I'm glad we still have the opportunity to do what we do, and we feel good about it," he said. "The focus is on writing, and it's something I enjoy doing. We have a great body of riffs and song ideas already, and we're looking forward to adding to that. We're still sketching things out, but the general feeling is we're very confident the music is going to be strong, and it will have all of the elements of what this band has been about. I'm pretty stoked about it."
Fans also shouldn't expect a live Alice in Chains record any time soon, as has been rumored online; reports surfaced recently claiming the band had recorded an all-acoustic set in Milwaukee that it would eventually release as its comeback LP. Not true, said Cantrell.
"That was a little bit of a false statement by the opening act for those shows we did, our friend [comedian] Craig Gass," he explained. "I guess as part of his routine, he told the crowd that we were doing this live album. We didn't plan on making a record; it's just something he worked into his act. We were like, 'Dude, you can't say that, because people will take you seriously and then we're the ones they'll hold responsible.' It's an unfounded rumor. We definitely recorded a lot of our gigs but with no intention of releasing a record. It was just for us to document. But then again, who knows what that stuff can turn into in the future? Right now, it's more important that we make a studio album first."
Cantrell said he may even try to release another solo album somewhere down the line — the follow-up to 2002's Degradation Trip — but the Alice record is his top priority. For a while there, he said, his experience with Roadrunner Records sort of soured him on working again on his own — and with a label. But again, nothing's set in stone for his future solo plans.
"I love creating music, something that means something to me, and in turn, ends up meaning something to somebody else," he said. "I've been lucky enough to do that and not have a straight gig, so it looks like I still have that opportunity and still have that desire to do that. I'm sure sometime in the future I'll do another record — I've got a few in me."