According to Alice in Chains axeman Jerry Cantrell, the trick of finding a unique guitar tone lies in the guitarist's hands and there is only so much the gear can do when it comes to that magical signature sound.
During a recent chat on official Jim Dunlop website, Cantrell was asked by one of the fans to talk about finding such a tone. Although he admitted that clear differences between various guitar models do exist, the guitarist also pointed out that the tone is mostly in your hands.
"I remember reading stories about this in old magazines," Cantrell started, "but I figured out for myself pretty quickly that it doesn't really matter what gear you're playing on - you're gonna sound how you sound. Gear can color it - I mean a Les Paul sounds like a Les Paul and a Strat sounds like a Strat, so there's two different tones there, and you can alter some of your tones by your gear - but mostly your tone is in your hands and that's just the way it is."
The guitarist went on to back up his theory with more specific examples, saying, "I remember hearing stories of Van Halen opening for Ted Nugent, and Nugent going out to watch Eddie, saying, 'What is this guy playing through?!' Then he went and plugged into Eddie's stuff, and he sounded like Ted Nugent.
"I have firsthand knowledge of that; when we toured with Van Halen, sometimes I'd be late getting to sound check and Ed would be on stage playing with my band, plugged into my stuff, and he sounded like Eddie Van Halen. And when I played through his stuff, I sounded like me. So gear can only get you so far with tone and sound adjustment, but basically at some point, you are who you are, and that is literally in your flesh. You know, it's not the car, it's the driver."
Cantrell also stressed that finding a unique recognizable sound is "half of the battle." He also pointed out the importance of sounding natural and unforced.
"You have to trust in the fact that youre going to sound how you sound, and the way you keep fresh and moving forward is sort of forgetting about what you did the in past. But I don't really need to think about that, and I've been really fortunate in that aspect, not only with myself but with my band. I trust that we're going to be okay, and that we're doing something good. In my opinion, we haven't done anything crappy yet, which is cool - it's the best thing I could ask for.
"Keeping fresh just means making another record and writing new songs. Keeping your signature sound? That's just who you are," the guitarist concluded.
The latest Alice in Chains record, "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here," dropped on May 28 via Capitol Records, marking the fifth release in the group's catalogue. Featuring 12 new songs, it became their second album with singer William DuVall handling the vocal duties.