In the words of Jerry Cantrell, "There will be some Alice in Chains shows this year — that's a fact."
There may even be a new record from the grunge rockers, who've been idle for close to 10 years. At this point, the guitarist said, all he can really say is that the band is active, and that the remaining members of Alice — himself, bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney — will be taking the stage this summer to perform songs from the band's catalog.
"We're making it up as we go along," Cantrell explained. "It's what we always did in the past. We're writing the book as we live it. We feel confident that we will have a good time and that it's something that will live up to the same level. It's an exploratory thing, and we're just having fun with it. We'd like to go out and play for the people that supported us and love the music as much as we have all these years. We want to celebrate what we did and the memory of our friend."
That friend, of course, is late Alice frontman Layne Staley, who died in April 2002 from a mixture of heroin and cocaine (see "Layne Staley, Alice In Chains Singer, Dead At 34").
"We have played with some [singers] who can actually bring it and add their own thing to it without being a Layne clone," Cantrell explained, adding that the three remaining AIC members will be meeting with several would-be Staley proxies in the coming months, to front the group at European festival gigs. Alice in Chains have been listed as one of the acts performing at Austria's NovaRock Festival in June, but the guitarist said nothing's been confirmed yet.
"We're not interested in stepping on [Staley's] rich legacy," Cantrell said. "It's a tough thing to go through. Do you take the Led Zeppelin approach and never play again, because the guy was that important?" (In 1980, Zeppelin broke up after the death of drummer John Bonham.) "That's the approach we've taken for a lot of years. Or, do you give it a shot, try something? We're willing to take a chance on it. It's completely a reunion because the three of us who're left are back together. But it's not about separating and forgetting — it's about remembering and moving on."
"We're going to go and play the songs one more time," said Kinney. "It seems like the right time, so I figure we'll go out and play a few gigs and see where it goes. I think we might just show up in assorted places in the U.S. in the next few months without much notice and play some clubs and little theaters, and then go to Europe and play these festival gigs. Beyond that, we don't know at this point."
In addition, Kinney said the band hopes to play several North American dates this summer. Cantrell, Kinney and Inez started jamming together late last year, and the reunion will get into full swing March 10, when the reunited Alice in Chains perform at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of VH1 Classic's "Decades Rock Live" homage to Heart. Former Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagan, "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood, Rufus Wainwright and Gretchen Wilson are also set to appear. Cantrell promised a host of other special guests during the show, but he wouldn't give names.
The band will perform with Comes With the Fall frontman William DuVall — a member of Cantrell's touring band. And DuVall could, theoretically, be part of the Alice in Chains fold come this summer. "We've done some rehearsing with Will and we're having a lot of fun with him," Cantrell said. "But we're still in the beginning stages where we're trying to figure out what we want to do. He could cut it, without a doubt — but we haven't made a final decision on that yet."
"If we found some other dude, I'd love to move on," Kinney said, "write some cool tunes and change the name and go on like that. I don't see continuing as Alice and replacing somebody. ... We're not trying to replace Layne. We want to play these songs one more time, and if it seems like the right thing to do, it'll happen. I don't know how long it will go or where it will take us. It's kind of a tribute to Layne and our fans, the people who love these songs. It's not some 'I'm broke and I need the money' situation. We love playing together."
Kinney said Alice in Chains had been approached by the producers of "Rock Star" for the reality show's second season. They turned the offer down.