Alice in Chains supported Van Halen on tour in the US in 1991/1992, when the California hard rock legends were promoting their For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Famously, after expressing an interest in purchasing one of EVH’s signature Ernie Ball model guitars, Cantrell returned to Seattle post-tour to discover that Van Halen had gifted him enough guitars and amps to fill his manager’s garage.
“That was pretty amazing,” Cantrell recalls in a new interview with Guitar World. “He had a really big heart. It meant a lot then and it means even more to me now that he’s gone, that he took a shine to me. We had a little bond, you know. It was a really cool thing.
“Any time we got the chance to hang, going to a pool hall or just meeting at his hotel and whipping out a couple of guitars or just sitting around backstage. Sometimes I’d be late for soundcheck and I’d show up and he’d be up there with the band, fuckin’ rockin’ out with them [Laughs].”
“And honestly, those two EVH guitars mean the world to me,” Cantrell continues. “One of them was the Goldtop that went missing when I was making [2002 solo album] Degradation Trip. Somebody lifted it out of the A&M studio.
“I just got it back a few years ago – a couple of AIC fans and collectors tracked it down and tried to do a sting on this kid who had it and was trying to sell it. He went dark on the first guy, who was from Florida. The second guy was a separate collector from San Diego. Between the two of them, it took about two weeks for me to get that guitar back… after 19 years!
“I remember giving Eddie a call saying, ‘Dude, do you remember that fuckin’ guitar that got stolen, the Goldtop you gave me? I got that thing back!’ And he was like, ‘No way… how long had it been?’ I told him and he said, ‘Man, I’m really happy for you, I never get any of my stolen shit back!’
“I told him, ‘Man, you’re Eddie Van Halen… if I had some of your gear, I might not give it back either!’”
Cantrell will release his third solo album, Brighten, on October 29.
Brighten was recorded with film composer Tyler Bates (300, John Wick) and long-time engineer Paul Fig, alongside a cast of musicians including Guns N' Roses' bassist Duff McKagan, former Dillinger Escape Plan singer Greg Puciato on backing vocals, former Dillinger Escape Plan and Marilyn Manson drummer Gil Sharone, Paul McCartney drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., pedal steel guitarist Michael Rozon, and Vincent Jones on piano, Wurlitzer, and organ.
The album’s first single, Atone, is out now,