Respected rock musician, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Jerry Cantrell achieved stardom as a result of his affiliation with the platinum selling grunge/metal band Alice in Chains. As the main songwriter and guitarist, he has written many of the group's innovative songs such as “Would,” “Rooster,” “No Excuses” and “Man in the Box” and enjoyed platinum releases with such albums as Facelift (1990), Dirt (1992) and Alice in Chains (1995). Formed in 1987, Alice in Chains experienced a near-permanent hiatus in the late1990s because of lead singer Layne Staley's problems with drugs that eventually led to his death in 2002. After a long break, Cantrell and the rest of the Alice in Chains members reunited in 2005 for a charity show in Seattle and have since entertained their devoted fans in a series of live performances that features vocalist like Mark Lanegan, Maynard James Keenan, Phil Anselmo, James Hetfield, and William DuVall. In July 2006, Cantrell earned the title of Riff Lord from the British hard rock magazine Metal Hammer in its annual Golden Gods Award show. Among his competitors were famous artists such as Slash, James Hetfield and Jimmy Page.
Outside of Alice in Chains, Cantrell has released solo albums, including Boggy Depot (1998) and Degradation Trip (2002), and made appearances in other artists' albums as well as on film soundtracks. He also collaborated with Billy Duffy of The Cult in Cardboard Vampyres, a rock group they formed in 2004. Cantrell also played the role of Jesus of CopyMat in the Tom Cruise successful vehicle Jerry Maguire (1996).
Fan of Black Sabbath
Childhood and Family:
Jerry Fulton Cantrell Jr. was born on March 18, 1966, in Tacoma, Washington. He now lives in Los Angeles and regularly visits his family ranch in Oklahoma. Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, and Queensrÿche are among Jerry's idols that have highly influenced his music.
Alice in Chains
Jerry Cantrell first met singer Layne Staley in a party in Seattle in 1987, and with bassist Mike Starr and drummer Sean Kinney, formed a group called Alice in Chains, which emerged as one of the prototypical Seattle grunge bands. With the release of an EP called We Die Young, in July 1990, Cantrell professionally made his recording debut with the band as their lead guitarist and main songwriter. The title track went on to become one of the group's first rock radio hits. A debut album, Facelift, followed in August, which launched the group into platinum-selling artists thanks largely to the Cantrell-penned, ultra-heavy hit “Man in the Box.” The group reached the top of the alternative-metal heap with their highly successful releases Dirt (1992), which premiered at No. 6 on the Billboard charts and sold more than 1 million copies in less than two months, and Alice in Chains (1995), a Billboard No. 1 hit album that produced a handful of hard rock singles that cemented their position as metal legends. During this time, former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Mike Inez replaced Mike Starr, who left the group while they were promoting Dirt.
It was in 1992 that Cantrell and Alice in Chains made their first contribution to a movie soundtrack when the songs “Would” became an anthem of Generation X, and “It Ain't Like that” was included in the soundtrack for the Cameron Crowe directed Singles (1992). He also appeared in the movie, along with the rest of the Alice in Chains group, performing the songs. They also contributed to the Last Action Hero soundtrack with the songs “What the Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter.” However, Cantrell did not make his first solo performance until 1996 when he released the song “Leave Me Alone,” featuring Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Les Claypool of Primus. The song was included on the soundtrack for the dark comedy The Cable Guy (1996), starring Jim Carrey. Also in 1996, Cantrell appeared as an actor in the box office hit Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise.
“In '98, I locked myself in my house, went out of my mind and wrote 25 songs. I rarely bathed during that period of writing. I sent out for food. I didn't really venture out of my house in three or four months. It was a hell of an experience. The album is an overview of birth to now.” Jerry Cantrell
With the future of the band up in the air, primarily because of Staley's drug problems, Cantrell continued to pursue his solo career and in 1998, issued his very first solo album called Boggy Depot, produced by Toby Wright who had previously worked with Alice in Chains and the Nixons. The album was released to mostly positive reviews and in support of the album, Cantrell toured the summer with Van Halen as their opening act.
After the tour, Cantrell was reunited with Alice in Chains for a few releases, including a box set and a greatest hits album, before returning to the studio in the fall of 2001 to work on his follow-up solo effort. This time he teamed up with Ozzy Osbourne's touring rhythm section, Faith No More's Mike Bordin (drums) and Robert Trujillo (bass). The result, Degradation Trip, was released on Roadrunner Records in June 2002. He dedicated the album to Alice in Chains vocalist Staley, who was found dead in his apartment two months before. A double album with eleven additional tracks on the same label was released in November, 2002. The Degradation Trip single, “She Was My Girl,” can be found in the 2002 movie Spider-Man soundtrack. Cantrell revisited the movie scene in 2004 to write with the new metal group Damageplan and the single “Ashes to Ashes” was created for the movie The Punisher, which starred Thomas Jane in the titular role. The song was included on the Japanese version of Damageplan's album New Found Power, as a bonus track, in addition to being featured in the movie's soundtrack.
Following the death of Staley, the remainder of Alice in Chains went on to work on their personal projects until a 2005 benefit in Seattle, where they were performed together in a charity show for CARE. It was the first time the group had performed together in eight years. They reunited once more in March 2006 for the “VH1 Decades Rock Live” tribute to Heart in Atlantic City. The good response received from the performance encouraged the members of Alice in Chains to revamp. To support their performances, the band has recruited singers like Maynard James Keenan, Mark Lanegan, James Hetfield, Phil Anselmo, and William DuVall.
In addition to his solo albums and long-running affiliation with Alice in Chains, Cantrell has appeared as a guest guitarist on various albums and in projects, such as Danzig's album Blackacidevil and Metallica's album Garage Inc. He also guest starred on the Circus of Power album Magic & Madness in 1993 for the single “Heaven 'N Hell.” Cantrell and The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy collaborated in early 2004 to form the rock group Cardboard Vampyres. The group performed mainly cover songs at several venues across the nation (but primarily the west coast), and continues to exist, although no formal albums have been launched.