Alice in Chains' new album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, comes out this May. It's the Seattle's band follow-up to Black Gives Way to Blue and the second album with vocalist-guitarist William DuVall. According to singer-guitarist Jerry Cantrell, the band feels like they've made a major jump with the new album.
"We made a unique record that's completely different from anything we ever did," he tells Rolling Stone. "It encapsulates a period of time, like all records do. You see growth and that the band is moving ahead in new territory that we haven't been to before, but we haven't lost our identity."
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, again produced by Nick Raskulinecz, who did Black Gives Way to Blue, finds Alice in Chains digging in the dirt on songs like the methodical title track, "Lab Monkey," and "Stone."
"There's some real filth in there. That's intentional, and that's also just how we sound together," Cantrell says of the record's deep, gritty sound. "We're trying to make a record that we dig and we're trying to keep the bar high for ourselves and see if we can get past it, and I think that we did again. And of course you want people to dig it too and to respond to it, and to have that start happening is satisfying."
It's started happening with the lead single and opening track, "Hollow," which hit Number One on the rock radio charts. Despite the fact that Alice in Chains' forays into the murky waters have consistently proven to lead to both commercial and radio success, Cantrell was still pleasantly surprised by the song's immediate acceptance.
"The initial response to 'Hollow' has been fucking incredible, totally not what we intended, and that's fucking awesome," he says. "We just put that song out there for the fans and then it ended up turning into a number one single, a six-minute sludgy metal tune. That's always fun, to see something like that happen."
Alice will be doing some upcoming dates with Soundgarden, which Cantrell is looking forward to. "I just saw Soundgarden a couple of nights ago at the Wiltern and it was a really great show," he says.
For Cantrell, the road is the best place to catch up with old friends. "You maybe haven't seen each other in years, and you meet in fucking Wisconsin because you're playing together, or fucking Berlin or wherever – odd places on the globe you meet up and catch up again."
He's excited to incorporate the new material into the live show. "It's always great for us because we get new shit to play for people, and alongside of that we've been fortunate to have a pretty long career and have a lot of material that people react to," he says. "There's really not any song in our repertoire that you can't play live . . . The bolts of the song, we can play our shit. It's kind of a lost art these days, to actually play your stuff without having to have some tracks to help you out," he adds, laughing.
The band got some credit in the recent Judd Apatow comedy This Is 40, in which their track "Rooster" was cited by Paul Rudd's character as "real rock." Cantrell says it was an honor to be included in the film. "We had heard Judd was interested in using that song in a scene and we were like, 'Of course,'" he says. "We're fans of his work as well, and it is really cool to see his love of music."
Apatow invited Cantrell and drummer Sean Kinney to the premiere, where they made an unexpected connection. "His grandma, they have some jazz label, her and her husband, and she was really interested in Sean," Cantrell recalls. "We went over and talked to her and she was trying to sign us to her label, which was fucking awesome."
So have the two ever considered starting a jazz band? "If it's for Judd's grandma, we might have to," he says, cracking up.