INTERVIEW – WILLIAM DuVALL [ALICE IN CHAINS]”The idea of releasing an album under my own name was kind of scary for me.”

Posted on by Oran

Stepping into the role of the late, great Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Stanley is no easy fate, but thanks to William DuVall, the legacy of the iconic Seattle band continues to this day. Overdrive caught up with the font-man to discuss his new solo album ‘One Alone’ among other things…

“One Alone”, the new solo opus from William DuVall is a dark and equally euphoric collection of heartfelt songs that captures the boundless landscape of his talents, not only as a songwriter but as a producer, composer; and all-round human.

Ahead of his first EU/UK run of selected dates later this month including a very special and intimate show in Dublin, Ireland’s legendary Whelan’s venue on Wednesday, March 25th, Overdrive spoke to DuVall about the new album, the difference in working with Alice In Chains and his experience in performing as a solo artist.

OD – “One Alone” has to be the only album that was not intended to be an album. I know that you initially went into the studio to record ‘Till the Light Guides Me Home’ and ended up walking out of there with 8 tracks! That is literally the definition of striking a ‘rich vein’. When you got out of the studio, was it instantly apparent that this was going to be a solo album that you simply had to release?

WILLIAM – Well it actually took a bit of time until I got to that point. When I first got out of the studio and was in my car, I knew then that this was something more than I had anticipated.

I had a collection of song and ideas, but just didn’t really know what I was going to do with them. I knew that they hung together pretty well but I just didn’t really have a clear intention as to what to do with them. I was thinking that some of them could be B-Sides for other stuff etc, but it took a bit of time to get to where I thought; “This is an album and I need to put these songs out“.

OD – Why did it take so long for you to do this and did you have any fears of going out alone, as you’ve always been in a band-like situation with everything else?

WILLIAM – Part of the reason that it took so long was that I was just such a ‘band guy‘ for so long [Laughing]. Thre was a lot of trepidation for me to release a solo album just under my name alone.

I was really hung up on that and just didn’t have the confidence to do it. So, I think that most of my hesitation was based around that alone. The idea of releasing an album under my own name was kind of scary for me.

OD – Did you consider putting out the solo album under a different name?

WILLIAM – Yeah, I was kind of in two minds with that. I was like; “Do I put it out as William DuVall or something else?. It just seems weird“. It was that kind of stuff that was the hang-up, not the music; but the self-doubt.

Once I got over this silly hang-up, it was like; “Well, clearly this is the way to go and I’m here now, so it’s time to just take a deep breath and follow through with it.

OD – Are you happy with the way it all came to be?

WILLIAM – Yeah, totally! I think things happen for a reason and the way it all came together has been very gratifying, to say the least.

OD – You gearing up for the EU dates to celebrate ‘One Alone’, I know you’ve had some of the material in the works for a long time and other tracks like ‘The Veil of all My Fears’ was written the day before you recorded it. There seemed to be a lot of really positive chemistry involved from the get-go, from the J185 Hummingbird guitar to the relaxed approach to writing and recording. Would you agree that there a level of serendipity at play here?

WILLIAM – Yeah, absolutely. Again, I think that it goes back to that idea of things happening at certain times and in certain ways. If you just surrender to that idea and flow with it, things can take twists and turns that you may have not anticipated, but along the way, I just surrendered to that central premise of letting the universe guide me and I had to keep pushing forward with purpose, and it all just shook out the way it did.

It adds to the great feeling of gratification now that the album is out and I’m starting to do shows and get really positive reactions from people. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s all been worth it [Laughing].

OD – I know that you are used to working at a considerable fast rate which you’ve commented on in the past with reference to “Neon Christ” and ‘Comes with the Fall’ and as mentioned earlier, some tracks were written and almost immediately recorded. Do you prefer to work this way or in the more traditional sense that I’m sure AIC does with each album?

WILLIAM – Yeah, I think ultimately it’s a good thing for me as an artist to have a variety of experiences when documenting the work. I do tend to go a bit faster when it’s my own thing. For example with Comes With The Fall, we used to write and record material in two days and also there are a lot of songs on our albums that are actual live performances that we recorded right off the floor, with maybe one guitar overdub and a background vocal.

Half of our second album (‘The Year is One’, 2001) is pretty much live off the floor and I’m talking about the vocals also. We just went in there and just worked that way because it was born out of necessity and it was driven by the lack of money [Laughing].

I felt it was my job to get this album done and as a producer, I needed to keep the wheels moving and just lock it in as soon as possible. My feeling was that if we can’t work that quickly, then we’re wasting our time and everyone else’s time.

A rock n’ roll band should be able to go in and blast it out and if we couldn’t do that, then my thoughts on it were that we weren’t living up to our potential, and what’s the point then? The ability to write and record so quickly also let to us capturing the immediacy and excitement of that moment forever. You can totally hear the emergency of the music on those records. So, it was a positive outcome as much as it was a difficulty if you know what I mean. It was all based on trying to use these components to our advantage. That’s just how I roll.

OD – And how different is it working with Alice In Chains?

WILLIAM – Well, writing with AIC, it’s a process that sees seasons change [Laughing]. The world is a different place with elections happening, different world leaders etc. [Laughing]. But it’s cool because the last album we did ‘Rainier Fog‘, was put together in two completely different locations. We did a bunch of it in Seattle and then over to the other side of the country in Tenessee with totally different climates, time-zones etc [Laughing].

It’s interesting to have the different approaches to writing and recording and that system works for Alice in Chains and I just try to dig it all.

OD – Will there be another Giraffe Tongue Orchestra album and if so, when can we expect to see it?

WILLIAM – I would love to do another album with “GTO” but it’s just the scheduling that’s the problem. Everyone is just too damn busy [Laughing]. We really didn’t get to serve ‘The Broken Lines‘ (2011) album as well as I would have liked to.

I would have really loved to have played more live shows but that was just a complicated possibility around that time. We had planned quite a few shows around that album but Brent Hinds (Mastodon) sadly had an incident on his motorcycle and we had to cancel a bunch of live dates and that was tough and since then, we’ve just not had that block of time to arrange anything.

I’m so grateful for the shows that we (Giraffe Tongue Orchestra) did play in Reading and Leeds Festival and Austin, Texas. So, well just have to see what happens with this project going forward.

OD – You have a great advantage of working with different musicians and projects, do you find that at times, it can be difficult to creatively take your mind off certain projects and concentrate on others?

WILLIAM – Sometimes there’s a lot of multitasking that happens. Also, there’s a lot of tedious business stuff that I need to deal with. For example, let’s say I’m on tour with Alice in Chains and I’m working on mixing other stuff while on the road. I actually did that for a live version of ‘Smoke and Mirrors‘ (see below). I did the mix for the live video in Canada in a hotel room while we were out on the road promoting “Rainier Fog“.

Sometimes it just feels like there’s not enough hours in the day. It can get hectic, but it’s necessary. I’m very lucky to have so many creative outlets in my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

OD – Of your time in AIC, which of the 3 albums is there anyone of them that you hold in higher regard and if so, why?

WILLIAM – Well, the ‘Rainier Fog‘ album was really important for me because of the timing of it. There were a lot of things going on in our personal lives and my personal life during the writing and recording process that found it’s way onto the album, which will always have a personal significance for me.

That album gave me a chance to work through those emotions night after night on stage which was really good for me. ‘So Far Under‘ is such a heavy song and I’m really proud of it. It really resonates with people and I’m actually doing that in my live solo show.

But, ‘Black Gives Way To Blue‘ (2009) holds so much significance for me also. There’s not a night that goes by that I don’t have someone running at me with a copy to sign [Laughing].

OD – With the scheduled live shows I’ve been checking out some of the setlists and it’s a mixed bag of the solo album, some AIC stuff and a few covers. Will you be chasing up the setlist with each show and do you tend to do that or just go with your inspiration during the show?

WILLIAM – Yes, it’s gonna be a mixed bag of stuff with a few covers thrown in for good measure. I actually played a Prince track last night in Seattle so yeah, it’s really gonna be a variation of solo stuff, AIC stuff and tracks that I just really enjoy playing.

OD – This tour will see you in some intimate venues where you can see the whites of peoples eyes, are these shows the ones that give you the goosebumps or is it all the same regardless of the size of the venue?

WILLIAM – It’s definitely a very different feeling going out there by myself [Laughing]. It’s the real deal man! There’s no room for messing up’ [Laughing] It’s like; “WOW“!

Also, the way that I’m forced to get inside the songs as It’s just me and an acoustic guitar, that is a very intense experience for me. It’s a completely different animal to have to tame and I’m really out there on the high wire trying not to look down as there’s no net.

Also, the acoustic guitar can be very unforgiving at times. [Laughing] You have to really have it together and if you stumble you have to get it back together very quickly. That’s the beauty and the terror of these shows and ultimately, it’s a really enjoyable experience for me and the audience seems to be digging it too.

I just try to embrace it and ride the wave and it’s an indescribable feeling when I catch that wave and the audience catches it with me too. Those are the moments that make all of this worthwhile and to walk off stage doing a whole evening like that is just an incredible feeling. In fact, I would go further to say that I’ve never experienced that level of gratification as a musician as I’ve felt on this recent run of shows.

OD – What was your favourite album of 2019?

WILLIAM – I would say Tool’s return to the world was a big statement, especially for the Rock genre. Their method of releasing the album was so clever and it had such a huge impact on a global scale. I mean, just the announcement of the album’s release was a big news story.

They really make their own rules and that’s an incredible thing. The fact that a band of that genre, releasing an album at this time, and generating No 1 status all over the world, was just incredible and is a huge achievement.

Also, the show is fantastic. I went and saw them in Atlanta. Adam (Jones, Tool Guitarist) invited me to the show, he’s a great friend. All those guys are all just so awesome.

There’s also another killer band called Starbenders who just put out there new album ‘Love Potion‘ last month (February 14th). Those guys are awesome too. They will actually be touring all over the place and you should check them out. We brought them out on the US dates with Alice in Chains and are killer live.

William DuVall’s debut solo album ‘One Alone‘ LP is out now. Catch him live in Whelan’s on Wednesday, March 25th. Very limited amount of remaining tickets on sale here.

Oran O’Beirne © 2020.