How Jerry Cantrell Stepped into Uncharted Territory with ‘Cut You In’

Despite never officially disbanding, Alice in Chains had become essentially inactive in the late 90s, mainly due to Layne Staley‘s debilitating heroin addiction. Still, the ghost of the grunge titans came over the guitarist Jerry Cantrell when he released “Cut You In”, the lead single from his debut solo album, Boggy Depotin January 1998.

After filming a MTV Disconnected special and open a handful of dates on Kissreunion tour in 1996, Alice in Chains went on indefinite hiatus as Staley disappeared from the public eye and suffered a slow, agonizing death, culminating in his death in April 2002. With his band stuck in limbo, Cantrell began working on material for his first album in 1996. That same year, he made his debut solo outing with the single “Leave Me Alone”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the Ben Stiller-directed black comedy The cable guystarring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick.

Whereas “Leave Me Alone” featured the same grinding guitars and sinister vocal melodies that made Alice in Chains the king of grunge, Boggy Depot incorporated piano-driven laments and country-tinged laments into Cantrell’s alt-metal arsenal. “Cut You In” deviated from the AIC template with its lurching, samba-like groove and prominent horn arrangement, courtesy of Fishbone saxophonist Angelo Moore. “I was pretty hammered when I wrote that tune,” Cantrell said Guitar world in 1998.

“I just started humming this thing that I had in my head, and I grabbed this guitar that I made in high school — it’s a white Strat that I call EMBO, which stands for ‘Eat My Butt Out.’ Anyway, I grabbed the guitar and wrote it in about 20 to 30 minutes.”

Watch the video for Jerry Cantrell’s ‘Cut You In’

With lyrics like “I lose myself, hide from the sun / I make a trip when I’m out of fun“and”I call you when I’m stoned / We chew the skin, choke on the bones,” “Cut You In” sounds like a hedonistic drug buddy anthem on the surface. But as Cantrell explained to Billboard a few months after the song’s release, it’s a rebuke of fickle relationships, “aimed at the type of people who ride with you when shit’s good. But when your situation turns south, they’re the first to bail—in unlike true friends.”

Cantrell recorded the track with the help of a couple of real friends: Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney. (The latter also appears in the song’s music video as a car thief who jacks Cantrell’s ride, which Cantrell first stole from a middle-aged man.) At the time, the singer and guitarist wasn’t sure whether the band associations would help or hinder his solo venture. “It may be that programmers know my work and will be more likely to pick up on the advance and throw the cut on. Or they may hate it to see,” he mused. “Regardless, Alice is a great legacy to live up to. Hopefully the fans like it. They’re the real bosses.”

The Real Bosses expressed their approval by sending “Cut You In” to No. 5 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Airplay chart and No. 15 on Alternative Airplay (formerly Modern Rock Tracks), the highest positions of Cantrell’s solo career. It confirmed the guitarist’s extracurricular endeavors, which he still found unfamiliar and a little unnerving.

“Everyone knows I had plenty of time to waste for a while. The question was, do I want to sit on my couch or do I want to make music?” Cantrell asked Billboard. “I decided to explore my solo side. It’s weird wearing all the hats. In a band you have more shoulders to carry the load and more brains to throw ideas around. I’m still getting used to going it alone.”

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