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Alice In Chains’ William DuVall reveals Drag Race icon RuPaul’s secret punk rock past

William DuVall + RuPaul
(Image credit: Mat Hayward/Producers Guild of America via Getty Images)

Alice In Chains frontman William DuVall has revealed that Drag Race host and LGBTQ+ icon RuPaul has a secret punk rock past. 

In a brand new interview with Metal Hammer, DuVall remembers RuPaul being a familiar face and inspirational presence on the underground punk rock scene in Atlanta, Georgia in the mid 1980s, when DuVall was playing guitar with local hardcore heroes Neon Christ, and RuPaul was studying performing arts in the city. The two would frequently cross paths at Atlanta LGBTQ+ venue The Celebrity Club, which hosted punk rock gigs in addition to drag cabaret nights.

“We wanted to play for everybody, everywhere,” DuVall tells Metal Hammer in an exclusive new interview. “We’d play anywhere that would have us.”

“Our gigs at the Celebrity Club would have different countercultural mixes: you’d have the punk rockers coming to see us and mixing with gay crowd and the drag crowd. Everybody was: ‘Hey, we like high energy music’, and we were so committed to our thing. I think people recognise that level of commitment no matter where you're coming from. And RuPaul was part of that scene.”

DuVall recalls the future Drag Race host as “a really industrious guy at a really young age… just like we were.”

“He was promoting himself as a superstar way before anyone knew who he was,” he says admiringly. “He was plastering his flyers all around the city - we were wondering what kind of glue he was using, cos I swear the flyers he put up in 1985 were still there in 1995! We were doing the same thing in terms of promoting ourselves, and in terms of that and the energy and the music, I think he recognised something he liked. He would come to our shows - there are tapes of him screaming at us from the audience. We really respected him and  think he respected us.”

Asked if he’d received an invitation to appear as a judge on RuPaul’s hugely successful Drag Race show, DuVall says, “I haven't, but I would accept it in a heartbeat.”

“Our roads have parted,” he says, “he's gone off to do what he's done, I've gone off to do what I've done, but I swear to you, I would love the chance to reconnect with that guy to say, “Hello”, because there's so many memories we would have – there's probably so many things that he'd remember and I wouldn't, and vice versa.”

“He came out of the same pond that we did, and he made it. His story is a triumph. I wasn't surprised at all, cos boy you saw it back then.”

DuVall’s teenage punk rock band Neon Christ are re-releasing their 1984 studio recordings on June 12 on Southern Lord/DVL (the latter being DuVall’s own label).

DuVall wrote the songs which make up Neon Christ’s upcoming 1984 album when he was 16: the first 10 tracks on the album emerged on the Atlanta, Georgia quartet’s self-titled, seven inch vinyl EP Neon Christ, with the remaining four tracks being recorded that same year with Foghat producer (and future 24 actor) Nick Jameson. 

The band - who featured vocalist Randy DuTeau, DuVall on guitar, bassist Danny Lankford and drummer Jimmy Demer - played alongside the likes of Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks and C.O.C. before  DuVall moved to California to join BL’AST!, who released three records on Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn’s influential SST label.