After opening five shows on the Guns N' Roses reunion tour, they are now headlining a tour of their own that rolls through the Valley tonight at Talking Stick Resort. It's been a decade since Duvall replaced the legendary lead singer, Layne Staley, and he's filled the role as well as anyone could have hoped for.
This past week marks the 24th anniversary of the band's heroin-infused masterpiece, Dirt, as well as the release of Duvall's side project Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, which features members of Mastodon and the Dillinger Escape Plan. We caught up with the singer to get the skinny on the Alice In Chains legacy, streaming services, his new band, and fitting into one of the best bands of the '90s.
New Times: What was the last physical CD or vinyl record that you purchased?
William Duvall: I've got to think about that for a second, because I still do buy discs occasionally. I know I bought the Led Zeppelin reissues that Page put out, and that was fairly recent [the most recent Zeppelin reissues came out in 2015]. I'll get vinyl and I won't even open it, and sometimes I'll get multiple copies (laughs) so I can get one to open and one to keep.
Do you use any streaming services to listen to music?
No, you know I'm still more of an old school person, I-like-to-own-my-music kind of guy. If I don't buy the physical disc, I will still buy a digital copy. I'm not much of a streamer, and that's just my personal preference. The payment plan (laughs) is a whole other ball of wax, and we probably shouldn't even go down that rabbit hole.
It's been three years since you released The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. What's it like touring without new material?
It's fine. Alice In Chains is lucky enough to have the kind of fans that will show up regardless, and there is obviously never any shortage of songs to play. America is so big that you can do a cycle around the country and still miss so many cities, which then allows you to go back and do another cycle to hit all the places you didn't get the first time around or even the second time around. Every night onstage, it's gonna be different no matter what; there are so many variables to putting on a live show. Just because you don't have new material, it's not like it's not gonna be this completely sort of fresh and exciting experience.
What are some of the songs from the band's back catalog before you took over for Layne Staley that you haven't had the chance to play yet?
You've been in the band since 2006, do you still feel like the new guy?
No, I don't. (Laughs)
Does it feel like it's your band now?
Yeah, it certainly feels a lot more so than in years past. A decade — that's a long time and we've done a lot. I think at this point this incarnation of the band has more than earned its right to exist.
Do you have a time frame of when you may start working on the next record?
I don't know. This group always works on its own time schedule, and we're very lucky that we don't have anyone to answer to except ourselves. It allows us a lot of freedom in terms of how long it takes to do things and how often we do things, or how seldom we do things. Right now, we just want to get through this tour, and after that we'll just have to see.
Besides Alice In Chains you've also been working on other projects.
Yes, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, and it just came out today. You're calling me on a momentous day. I'm extremely excited and I don't recall ever being this excited about a record release in my life. It's a landmark piece of work for me, and I think all of us in the band feel that way.
Is it nice to put out a record that isn't Alice In Chains knowing that it won't be compared to the past? And does that make it even more exciting for you since it's something completely new?
Certainly it's true that I don't have to deal with the comparison in the same way as with Alice. I would just say that I'm tremendously excited about the release of this record for a lot of reasons mostly to do with the material itself, because we've certainly had the term supergroup applied to us with all the positive and possible negative connotations that term carries. But in this case, I feel like the members of this group, though well known from other bands, we've managed to come together and really create something that exists completely in its own space. I'm extremely proud of the variety of material on the record as well. It goes from the really gnarly progressive sound that one might expect from this lineup to power ballads, to almost dance rock, and yet it holds together really well and it sounds like the same guys doing it.
For someone who isn't familiar with the project, what's a good track to check out to get a good feel for what you're doing?
The very first song that we put out a couple of months ago, which is sort of the street track, is a song called "Crucifixion" — the second song on the album. I'd say that one was chosen as the street track because it perhaps carries a little bit more of the earmarks that one might expect from this combination of people. The song is a little more on the progressive end and more on the gnarly end as well, a lot of rapid-fire mood swings. ... The first official single is a song called "Blood Moon," and that's one of the more straightforward tracks and it's got more of a dance element to it, but it's still got a lot of go-for-the-throat attitude.