Heroes & Villains: Jerry Cantrell

Who was your first songwriting hero?

The singer who probably caught my ear first was Elton John. That was when the light bulb went on for me.

Did high school play an important role in your musical development?

I had three teachers who were very inspirational. Linda Martin taught drama. I got on a stage doing plays before I ever did with a band. Then my choir teacher, Joanne Becker, had a great sense of musicality. I also had a math teacher called Brian Martin, who was a guitarist. I used to jam with him once in a while.

What about guitar players?

I started listening to Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Aerosmith and AC/DC, who are probably my all-time favourite rock’n’roll band. Then there was Van Halen. You can’t deny the impact of that band on a guitar player.

Tell us about forming Alice In Chains.

After my mother passed away, her brother Miland told me: “You have a chance here to give your dream a shot. It was your mom’s dream too to be a musician, but she never got to do that. You don’t have anything holding you down now so go for it.” It meant a lot that he would say that.

Do you get advice from other musicians?

I’ve had conversations with both James and Lars from Metallica throughout the years. And we were pretty tight with Chris Cornell and the guys from Soundgarden. I still look up to those guys.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.