“Someone called us The Satanic Everly Brothers”: Jerry Cantrell shares memories of his friend Layne Staley

(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Jerry Cantrell has spoken to Metal Hammer about the unique chemistry he shared with his friend, and former Alice In Chains frontman, Layne Staley.

Reflecting on the creative partnership he shared with Staley, who passed away on April 5, 2002, aged 34, Cantrell tells Metal Hammer’s Stephen Hill, “Layne was just an amazing talent.”

“He had a real unique and powerful voice, but he had a sensitivity and touch to it as well,” the guitarist remembers. “The way that I wrote and the way that he wrote blended together so well, we felt like a natural fit. He had more horsepower than me, I’m not going to be able to do the Brian Johnson gargled razor blades, but together we had something that the other didn’t. Think of The Beatles, Floyd, the Eagles, that attitude of, ‘You take this line and I’ll take that one’ – it adds more colour to the canvas. Someone reviewed us once and called us ‘The Satanic Everly Brothers’, which I thought was pretty cool.”

Cantrell goes on to identify his band’s dark, harrowing masterpiece Dirt [1992] as “the most complete record” Alice In Chains ever made, describing it as “a brutal record with some real force.”

“Dark… it is what it is,” says Cantrell. “It’s probably the most focused we’ve ever been, the most complete record we’ve made, it’s a brutal record with some real force, and I mean that in a very good way. People cared about it, it spoke of a time and a place, we really never pulled any punches. Which is good and bad; it’s good artistically, but it’s bad because if you are going to be that honest then you’ll struggle to live it down. It’s an amazing record, it’s probably our crowning achievement.”

Jerry Cantrell’s solo album, Brighten, is out now.

The full interview with Cantrell, plus pieces on Korn, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Gojira, Venom Prison and more, can be read in the new issue of Metal Hammer.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.