Alice In Chains Box Set Contains New Music And Rarities

Three-CD collection from Seattle grunge-rockers nears completion; features unreleased tracks, early demos.

The long-rumored, oft-delayed box set from Seattle grunge-rock icons

Alice in Chains is nearing completion and is expected to include new

music, live recordings, rarities and early demos, a band spokesperson said.

The still-untitled set is expected to contain three CDs that will feature

the band's greatest hits, as well as concert material,

B-sides, rarities and demos from Alice in Chains' early incarnation. Two new and

previously unreleased songs also will be included.

"It's going to have a bunch of stuff they cut when they were trying to

get signed," Jen Kern, a spokesperson for the group's management, said. Additionally, Kern said alternate versions of AIC's most popular songs, which were performed for such radio programs as "Rockline," will be included.

In September, the group's members -- guitarist Jerry Cantrell, singer

Layne Staley, bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney -- recorded two

new songs, their first studio efforts together in more than three years.

Kern said one of those songs, "Get Born Again," may be featured on a

13-selection sampler to precede the box set. The group hopes to have the

sampler out by late summer.

Plans call for the box set to contain at least 40 songs, and it may also

include a long-form video, Kern said. It is not currently on the Columbia

Records release schedule, according to a label spokesperson who requested

anonymity.

In 1997, Columbia promoted the box set in the industry trade-magazine

Billboard under the tentative title Men in a Box -- a

reference to the group's 1990 Grammy-nominated hit "Man in the Box"

(RealAudio excerpt), from its debut album, Facelift. At the time,

Alice in Chains' handlers quickly quashed speculation about the set, saying the ad

was premature, while fans have been waiting in limbo for new music from

the band.

Alice in Chains emerged out of the fertile Seattle grunge scene in 1987 with a heavy

rock sound built around singer Staley's haunting vocals. The enigmatic

Staley has openly addressed his drug abuse in songs such as "Sludge Factory"

(RealAudio excerpt), from 1995's Alice in Chains, the most recent

studio recording by the quartet.

Kern also said a fourth CD, an interactive CD-ROM, might be included in

the box set. Seattle artist Jesse Higman, who has designed T-shirts for

AIC, as well as fellow Seattle stars Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, said he's

been toiling for nearly four years on the CD-ROM project, tentatively

titled Hell Within (which is taken from an Alice in Chains song title).

Based on Higman's paintings and a narrative he said is loosely built on

Dante's "Inferno," the "interactive graphic novel/rock opera" tells the

story of the devil's attempts to control the members of the band. "It's

got the vibe of a children's horror story," Higman, 31, said. "But it's

kind of funny, and it makes you go through each circle of hell with a

moral problem to solve."

Higman said he's been working independently on the project

with the group's blessing. The members of Alice in Chains have not yet committed to

using the CD-ROM in the set, but Higman said he planned to submit it to

their label Tuesday (May 4) with the hope that it will be part of the

package.

The quest game/novel, which takes 90 minutes to navigate, uses music

from all of the band's albums and is packed with lyrical references to

the group's work, Higman said. "The basic premise is the devil is not

really the power behind music, but that he's been conspiring to destroy

it," said Higman, who plans to give up rock art for fine art after

finishing the CD-ROM. "[The devil] realizes [that music is] the thing

that makes humanity great and unites us all."

While all four Alice in Chains members were involved in recording the two new songs

last year, the group has no plans to work on another album, Kern said.

The band also has no plans for any live shows, manager Susan Silver said

in late 1998. The most recent live appearances by Alice in Chains were during a brief,

four-date run opening for pop-metal rockers Kiss in 1996.

Kern said Cantrell already is starting rehearsals for sessions to record

the follow-up to his 1998 solo debut, Boggy Depot, which contained

such songs as "Break My Back"

(RealAudio excerpt). The Columbia source said

that while no Cantrell record is expected for release this year, it was

no surprise the guitarist was gearing up for another solo album.

"He had a great experience doing that album," the source said. "It was

a lot of fun, and he had a great touring band and a really good rock 'n'

roll experience being out there."