On the evening of June 1, 1988, 22-year-old Jerry Cantrell could be found loitering outside the Seattle Center Coliseum hoping to meet the members of America’s hottest new hard rock band, Guns N’ Roses, who were in town to support Iron Maiden on the British metal band’s Seventh Tour Of A Seventh Tour trek. The young guitarist had a demo cassette recorded by his own band, Alice In Chains, and he hoped he might be able to pass it along to a member of Guns N’ Roses, who might, in turn, be able to get it into the hands of one of the music industry’s hot A&R men. When Cantrell spotted Axl Rose leaving the arena, he seized his moment, walked over to talk to the singer, and pressed the demo tape into his hand.
“And as he was walking away,” Cantrell recalled with amusement two decades later, “I saw him throw it away.”
Cantrell recently spoke about the encounter during an interview on the Appetite for Distortion podcast. Despite the snub, Cantrell isn’t bitter, and he revealed that Rose actually approached him years later in a club in New York to talk about the incident.
“I think I was with [The Cult’s] Billy Duffy, and Axl came in, and I saw him come in,” Cantrell recalls. “He kinda locked eyes with me, and then he kinda started walking towards me with a purpose. He comes over and he’s like, ‘I heard you tell that story about you giving me that demo tape… Are you still with that girl that you met there?’ Because I’d told the story that that’s where I’d met my girlfriend Courtney at the time… and he was more curious about if I was still with Courtney, which was pretty cool. And we chatted for a little bit.”
“It's kind of one of those fun things, where you’re proud of your band when you’re kind of unknown… and they were pretty damn huge,” Cantrell says. “People still give me their demo tapes all the time too, it’s old school.”
Clearly bearing no mental scars from the encounter, Cantrell is happy to hail Guns N’ Roses as “an important band” to Alice In Chains.
“Appetite… is one of a handful of records that's one of those epic things that transcends space and time and the band,” the guitarist says. “It's a worldwide massive record and it’s perfect."
Cantrell will release his third solo album Brighten, which features a guest appearance from GN’R bassist Duff McKagan, on October 29. You can listen to the full Appetite For Distortion interview below.