There must be something about befriending dudes from the Cult that leads seasoned rock vets to feel the urge to form a cover band. First, Jane's Addiction axeman Dave Navarro caught the bug hanging out with the Cult's Billy Morrison. The two recruited Velvet Revolver (and former Cult) drummer Matt Sorum and singer Donovan Leitch and formed Camp Freddy — the cover band to end all cover bands. Now, it seems former Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell's infected.
The flaxen-haired grunge guru has aligned himself with Cult guitarist Billy Duffy for Cardboard Vampyres, who specialize in AC/DC, Stooges, Metallica, Motörhead, Beatles and Black Sabbath covers. And on occasion, they even belt out a few Alice in Chains and Cult faves.
According to Cantrell, Cardboard Vampyres actually grew out of his work with Camp Freddy; he contributes vocals to a version of Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak" on that band's forthcoming album (see "Yet Again, Dave Navarro Surveys Life After Jane's Addiction"). But, even as he prepares to hit the road with Cardboard Vampyres (rounded out by Cult bassist Chris Wyse, Jellyfish vocalist Eric Dover and Danzig/ Comes With the Fall drummer Bevan Davies) for a six-date tour, Cantrell said his focus continues to be on original music.
"I've spent the last year and a half in writing mode, compiling a lot of material, writing with a lot of different people," he explained. "I've worked with some great songwriters, and I've just been stockpiling my warheads, so to speak, until it's time to do a record. And it's getting pretty close to that time. I've been just gearing up for the next phase of my career, whether that's my third solo record or, of course, there's a possibility it may be a new band as well. I'm just sussing that out for myself. Cardboard Vampyres is something we do for a blast."
Cantrell's been working with several high-profile musicians, including Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, Wyse, Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, Alice in Chains' Sean Kinney and Mike Inez, producer Marti Frederiksen (Mick Jagger, Aerosmith) and Faith No More's Mike Bordin, who played drums on Cantrell's most recent disc, 2002's Degradation Trip.
While Cantrell wouldn't speak in detail about the album, saying he'd like to keep its title and track list to himself for now, he did promise the LP would see release in early 2006 — but through which label, he's still not sure. At present, he has no label ties.
"I'm really enjoying my free agency," he said. "But I guarantee you some sh--'s coming, and it's serious. There's a really exciting thing that's happening with the material I'm coming up with. It's beautiful, it's ugly, it's powerful, it's all that stuff. It's got edge, it's got teeth. It also is something a little different. It encapsulates this part of my life, and I'll be sharing it with everyone else."
In recent weeks, Cantrell said he's been taking breaks here and there from his solo work to keep company with one of his "Seattle homies": Courtney Love.
"She's an interesting character," he said. "We've gotten together a few times to work on some stuff for her next solo album. She's been working with a bunch of people. I know Billy Corgan's been over there. But I threw a few things at her, and I think we've come up with something different."
But whether or not Cantrell, Inez and Kinney would ever take the stage again together, as they did in February for the K-Rock Tsunami Continued Care Concert in their native Seattle (see "Ex-Alice In Chains Members Enlist Damageplan Singer, Others For Benefit"), he couldn't say. He did reveal that performing with his old bandmates — Damageplan frontman Patrick Lachman took the microphone, in place of the late Layne Staley — did feel right.
"It was a f---ing great feeling being back onstage with those guys, but it was also heavy," Cantrell said. "There's a big hole there, and Layne, he's still something major to get through (see "Layne Staley Died From Mix Of Heroin, Cocaine, Report Says"). You can't even put him behind you, you can only get through. Layne not being there, it's such a huge hole, and such a sad thing. All we can do is appreciate what we had and, it was, I mean, it was pretty f---ing amazing. It still has impact. We did it honestly, the right way, and we did it for us, with the right intentions. But you can't replace a guy like Layne. But this is what you're left with — life. So, you live.
"Still, there's always the possibility, man," Cantrell continued. "But there's really no plan of it. I would hope and probably say that Sean and I and Mike would get together and do something at some point. That's always been a big hope for me. The Seattle show, that was a one-time deal. It's hard to step forward with a hole as big as Layne and out of respect to not only him, but the music we created with him, I mean, where do you go from there? I don't know. I'm not saying it couldn't happen. It's pretty unimaginable. But if it did happen, [the band] would have to evolve into something new that carries on the old tradition."
Cardboard Vampyres tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 6/24 - Seattle, WA @ Fenix Underground
- 6/25 - Bellingham, WA @ Fairhaven Pub
- 6/26 - Yakima, WA @ Grant's Brewery Pub
- 7/8 - Minneapolis, MN @ The Quest
- 7/9 - Milwaukee, WI @ Summerfest (Music Market Stage)
- 7/10 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues