Jerry Cantrell: Making Degrade.

15 July 2002 | 12:00 am | Chris Ryder
Originally Appeared In

Blame It On The Rain.

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Degradation Trip is in stores now.

Jerry Cantrell, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and one of the seemingly unsung heroes of the grunge era has returned with his second solo album Degradation Trip. The founding member of Alice In Chains was also the band's principle songwriter, and after the band's demise, Cantrell released his first solo effort Boggy Depot. That was back in 1998, and since then, he wrote and recorded a massive twenty-five tracks for the record that became Degradation Trip. Originally slated for release as a double album, Cantrell decided to unleash this work in two chapters, beginning with fourteen songs about the depressed, the addicted, the suffering and the dying.

Degradation Trip is most easily surmised as bleak. Cantrell spent a considerable amount of time composing the album, and while the guitarist and singer brushed off many of his emotions during the creation of Degradation Trip as being, "'s circumstances, which we all go through," due to the forlorn nature of the album, and the fact that it was written in Cantrell's hometown of Seattle, a town notorious for its miserable weather, it seemed clear that these factors must have contributed to the outcome of the album.

"Well I don't know if that was an important as any other factor in the records that I have done," says Cantrell as though he were considering that notion for the first time, "but Seattle definitely has a grey and rainy feel to it, which to me that's home. If I'm in LA and get too much sunshine and there's no change in weather, I don't feel right."

Cantrell has a little of that gift that singers such as Nick Cave and Tom Waits possess as songwriters... the ability to tell a story within the confines of a song. Most of Cantrell's characters are as indicated, addicted and suffering. A portal into Cantrell's view of humanity at large?

"I don't know. I'm completely open to for anyone to interpret the album in anyway they see fit," he replies in an aloof sort of manner, which naturally led to the old adage of writers writing what they know most about.

"I do what I do, and I have a hard time talking about these things so I guess that's why I write songs about them," says Cantrell, not denying that some of the tales of woe described in his songs may in fact be based on a personal experience. "I really don't think that far into it, it's completely up to the listener."

While Jerry Cantrell was the guitarist for the multi million selling Alice In Chains, he did compose a massive amount of the band's material. Many songwriters, after having such a grand success as Alice In Chains did, would often be fixated with trying to recreate that success. Many would see their careers to an end trying to relive former glories. Cantrell is not one of those people.

"I don't really enter that kind of thinking," he says frankly. "I write and I've been lucky enough to have a long career. I've been working on this thing for a while and it seems like it's coming into its own. Of course Alice In Chains is always going to have a soft spot in my heart because it was the best experience I've had in my life so far. It's still something I'm adjusting to not having," he pauses, "and especially in light if recent events. I'm just trying to make good music... it's as simple as that."

Degradation Trip clocks in at 73 minutes, and features fourteen tracks. With an average playing time of five minutes per cut, and a fairly minimalist approach with regard to the structure of the songs, Cantrell decided to remain true to the spontaneous arrangements that were initially recorded as demos, denying anyone the right to 'trim off the fat' as it were. His musical collaborators, the well respected Rob Trujillo and Mike Bordin, both of who are in Ozzy Osbourne's band presently, encouraged Jerry to remain true to his initial vision.

"I had a pretty strong idea about what I wanted to do, and anytime I would bring up an idea of adding or changes parts, they would both say, 'Hey man, let's just leave it how it was. That's the way it should be.' They have both given me a lot of support."

Unlike a number of his contemporaries, Cantrell hasn't played up the fact that Degradation Trip features a host of reputable guests. Former Queensryche guitarist Chris DeGarmo's contribution to the album was the one addition that Cantrell believes he could not have lived without.

"Chris DeGarmo played guitars on Anger Rising. He's got kind of an accent part on the second half of the double-chorus and an outro-solo, which is amazing. We came up with the riffs and jammed it at sound checks back in 1998, when we were out on the Metallica tour. When it came time to record it, I gave him a call to make sure he could put his part down, because he was a part of that song before it was even written."

Degradation Trip was initially slated for release as a double album. Cantrell was so satisfied with the twenty-five cuts written post Boggy Depot that nothing was to be laid to waste.

"Well I've thought of releasing it at every possible way," Jerry begins by way of explanation. "A double, two separate albums, condensing it down to one, and so forth. I've had a lot of time to think about it, and when I got together with Roadrunner Records and we planned it out, it seemed right just to release volume one now. It just seemed like there might have been a little bit too much to bite off and digest," he continues. They're intending to release it as I wanted it to be, so that is one thing I am really happy about."