The members of Alice in Chains aren't afraid to use the L-word. When examining the band's past and explaining where it's headed, there's one word that comes to mind for them: legacy. So when it came to putting together Black Gives Way To Blue, the band's first full-length album in 14 years, careful steps were taken to make sure the record was worthy.
"We have never worked this fucking hard on a record," guitarist Jerry Cantrell says. "It's a hell of a challenge to try to add to a legacy. It takes a big set of fucking balls — four sets of balls — to take on a challenge like this, and we did it for the same reasons we made music before. We care about it, we respect what we did, and we also respect the fact that we want to continue to make music with each other, so there's a certain level that it has to live up to."
Perhaps it wouldn't be so hard if the band could have used all of the same ingredients as before, but with the death of vocalist Layne Staley in 2002, the surviving members had to embark on a process of picking up the pieces and decide how to carry on. Ultimately, the band tapped William DuVall, who had performed in Cantrell's solo band, to step in to share guitar and vocal duties. But everyone agrees, while he's a new member of Alice in Chains, he's no replacement for Layne Staley.
"I can tell you from our point of view, there is no fucking replacing the dude," Cantrell says. "It's also something William can't live up to, and he's not trying to live up to that. There's more going on than just, 'Here's the new lead singer replacing Layne Staley,' that's not fair to him or us. It's an immense challenge, and it's not lost on us. Nobody knows better than us the size of the hole created by the loss of our fucking buddy."
The gap between Alice in Chains' 1995 self-titled record and Black Gives Way To Blue's scheduled September 29th release has become twice as long as the band was initially active, and Cantrell is still surprised and pleased to look back and examine how much work his band did in such a relatively brief span. The video for first single "A Looking In View" is out now (watch it above).
"In a period of six or seven years, that's four full-length records and two EPs, so that's 75 songs that still stand up today, and that's a pretty cool thing," Cantrell says. "You hope to create something like that, and the cool thing is, it started off as a fucking lark. We all dug playing music, but we were this little fucking gang of dudes that just wanted to chill out at the Central Tavern, so to look back and see the whole path of it and compute where we are today, it's a pretty monumental thing."