Jerry Cantrell Credits Van Halen For Inspiring Legendary Grunge Sound

Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains performs at The Anthem in DC on May 3, 2018. Photo by Andy Jones.

The small Pacific Northwest city of Seattle was on the verge of something big in the late 80s as a regional sound was developing through bands like Tad, Grunt Truck, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, The Melvins, and Soundgarden. It is true that the earliest bands of the ‘grunge’ scene were inspired more by 1970s metal than punk rock — a fact confirmed by Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell during a recent interview for Sweetwater Sound. Cantrell, Alice in Chains' co-founder, guitarist, and chief songwriter, cites Van Halen and Black Sabbath as the pioneers of the drop D tuning that become a hallmark of the band’s — and the city’s — sound.

“Van Halen or Sabbath is probably where I picked up on the drop D thing”   Jerry Cantrell on what helped shape their sound

By the early 90s, the city saw a swell of bands relocating to the region in hopes of capturing the international fame bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Alice In Chains were experiencing. Seattle was in the midst of a full-on media frenzy that is best described in the 1996 documentary Hype! about the phenomenon of grunge that dominated pop culture into the mid-1990s.

Hype! trailer, 1996

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