Was including him a weird thing for you? That he’s on the first record you’ve done in over a dozen years.
Sure. And it’s the title track, and it’s for Layne, there are so many things. Here’s another little tidbit of information, Elton was actually Layne’s first concert too. I knew that, and had forgotten that, but since this has been getting the press that it has that Elton’s played on the record and on that particular song, Layne’s stepdad, Jim Elmer, let us know, he said, ‘You guys realize that was his first fucking concert.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot about that.’ All these things keep lining up. To have somebody that means so much to you as an artist, the artist that he is, of course to be able to collaborate with him on something of such importance on this record, it’s indescribable to have that go down. Just one of those lucky things that happen, something completely unexpected. You ask somebody something—I sent him an email and kind of explained what the thing was, sent him a demo, and I wrote ‘If you have time, listen to it and if you feel anything for it, we’d be of course honored to have you play on this and do anything that you want.’ And he did it. It’s just really cool for a lot of reasons man. (laughs) One of the coolest things that has ever happened to me in my life is walking into the studio and seeing his piano in the room—he came in a couple of minutes late, his football team was playing a game or something that ran late—so we were in the studio with the engineer and his piano in there. We walk in and the piano and he’s got the lyrics and the chart for a song that I wrote and a song that I had written for Layne. It was just a super heavy moment. Like, wow. Just fucking crazy man (laughs).
I get the impression that you and the band have been spearheading the business of the band and it seems that everybody involved with the band at this point in time has been really vetted. Do you feel more in control of Alice In Chains’ destiny than you ever have?
Well, I think that we probably are because we are a little bit different people than we used to be (laughs). We were a lot younger and way the fuck more out of hand before. But I have to say at the same time, we were deeply involved in everything back then. Our work, our videos, the way things looked on stage, everything. We’ve always had a super firm grip on that wheel. Of course, just by the going through changes and growing up as men and going through the things that we have and maybe not quite living the way we used to live, of course that’s going to make things that much more focused.
With these gradual things, ‘A Looking In View’ getting the responses it did for example, was there ever a feeling of pressure around the new record that’s starting to build up or maybe go away as the record comes closer and the tours are starting?
It’s just really exciting, you know. It’s exciting as it ever was. And it means just as much as it ever did. I still haven’t heard ‘Check My Brain’ on the radio yet. I heard ‘A Looking In View’ the day that we released it, and that’s where you wanna hear your music, driving around in your car with that kick-ass radio compression. I still haven’t heard ‘Check My Brain,’ I actually even looked for it here and there, but I just have been kind of busy doing other things and haven’t got to driving around in my car by myself and the song comes on yet. But I remember when ‘A Looking In View’ came on and I caught it that first day. I was driving over the Ralph’s to get some cat food or something (laughs) and it came on just as I was pulling down below the parking structure and right as the satellite kicked off. I think I was listening to Octane or whatever, XM radio, so I heard it come on and then the signal cut and I turned back around and went back up so I could listen to the rest of the song.
It’s just as cool to hear your tune on the radio as it ever was (laughs). It’s fun. I think we worked really hard and we faced a lot and I think the reason we’re doing it is extremely genuine and I’m just really proud of all of us for taking on that sort of a challenge and coming through it the way that we have and the only way to do that is to really depend on each other and communicate and to make sure that it’s right with everybody as far as to keep taking that next step. It’s something that started with a real humble beginning—we got together for a charity show Sean put together and one thing led to another. Through that experience, we did a couple other shows and were asked to be a part of a show for our friends Ann and Nancy [Wilson] for VH1 and that turned into a couple more shows and that turned into a tour. Things just kept building without a plan. So to be here today is just as much a surprise for us as anybody else, and it’s all good.
Black Gives Way To Blue is out tomorrow.