Awesome Totally Awesome - DTK

Digging For Dirt: How Alice In Chains Made Their Ultimate Album

Among the truly great heavy metal albums, Alice in Chains’ masterpiece Dirt is easily a cut above the rest.

Released in September, 1992, Dirt took the Seattle band to No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard chart, no small feat for band that got little airplay and a record with drug addiction, depression and anger as central themes.

But, aside from the lyrics and amazing songs, what makes Dirt such a great record is how good it sounds.

Produced by Dave Jerden, who also worked with AIC on their debut Facelift album, Dirt has a doomy, heavy sound that announced the band as one of the heavy hitters in rock at the time.

And central to that amazing sound is how guitarist and principal music writer Jerry Cantrell got those super thick and heavy guitar tones.

Turns out Cantrell actually recorded each riff through high, mid and low frequency amps to get three different tones. Then those tracks were double and triple tracked to fatten up the sound. Jerden and engineer Bryan Carlstrom built a customized splitter box that split the guitar into the three amps and cut down on the hissing and buzzing created from such a process.

You can really hear the thickness in songs like “Them Bones” and “Rooster”.

Awesome Totally Awesome - DTK

In an interview with Music Radar, Jerden credits Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich for helping him find the right drum sound at One On One Studio in LA that helped Sean Kinney sound like a monster on Dirt.

“We recorded it at One On One, where Metallica did their “Black” album. Lars told me that they had this 31-inch woofer for the kick drum. I rented a PA system and put the kick drum, toms and snare through this woofer plus these huge side monitors,” Jerden told Music Radar. “That went into the room sound, and it made the drums sound like artillery going off. I credit Lars with turning me on to that room.”

Those who have read David de Sola’s book “Alice in Chains: The Untold Story” will know that Layne Staley didn’t like anyone watching him lay down the vocals. And that was the case recording Dirt. Staley would go into the booth by himself and cut vocals. He usually did them very quickly, with minimal retakes, in total privacy.

Staley’s Vocal Booth Shrine

Awesome Totally Awesome - DTK

Dave Jerden behind the board

In de Sola’s book, Carlstrom recalls Staley had created an inspirational shrine in the booth that included candles and a picture of the Last Supper, as well as a dead puppy in a jar.

As for how Jerden produced Staley’s booming voice, he said he had two 24-track machines and used 16 tracks for Staley’s vocal parts.

“I tripled-tracked him, and he sounded great. He knocked out his parts and just sang great. I made this effect using delays on Layne’s vocals with an Eventide Harmonizer; in fact, I called the effect ‘Layne Staley.’ Reverb can darken things up, but delays keep things hard and powerful,” said Jerden. “None of the mixes took long. A lot of them were done in just half an hour.”

Naturally, the songs speak for themselves on Dirt: A collection of phenomenal music with nary a filler track to be found (except for the 44-second “Intro: Dream Sequence). The songs are propelled by the stunning harmonies of Staley and Cantrell’s voices, particularly on “Down in a Hole”, “Them Bones”, and the Staley-penned “Angry Chair”, which those who have gone through drug rehab say is a song about the process of being in treatment and trying to kick heroin.

As for the album art, many wrongly believe the woman on the cover is Staley’s then-girlfriend, Demri Parrott. In fact it’s an actress named Mariah O’Brien who is laid out in the dirt of the desert. But she does look a lot like Parrott.

Suffice it to say, Dirt is a timeless album for the ages that will be enjoyed by many more generations of music fans.

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

Awesome Totally Awesome - Freaks & Weirdos Boutique
ATA - DTK

Awesome Dropping

Awesome Totally Awesome How To Pretend

How to Pretend to Be Doing Something With Your Life

Life is hard. There are a million choices we could make in our lives that will impact us in ways we can never even imagine.
Awesome Totally Awesome - Kanye West Poopity Scoop

Kanye West Launches New Pet Product Line Entitled “Poopity Scoop.”

Only a few months after the release of his hit song, “Lift Yourself,” Kanye has announced that he will be creating a line of pet waste scoopers for both cats and dogs.
Awesome Totally Awesome - Todd does Lyft

Todd Gets a Job With Lyft

Todd sits in his car, anxiously tapping his fingers on his steering wheel in a rhythmic pattern as he waits for his passenger. He looks at his lit LYFT mustache on his dashboard, humming silently. “Okay, okay,” Todd thinks to himself, “let’s not screw this up.”

Awesome Features

Awesome Totally Awesome Beastie Boys Check Your Head

Why Check Your Head By the Beasties Will Always Be My Favorite Album

Check Your Head was named after a random occurrence wherein Ad Rock had purchased a pack of Desert Storm trading cards and brought them to the studio. 
Awesome Totally Awesome - WooD BoX

ThE WooD BoX At 11 BRooKlYn RoAd

The house was of an unremarkable style, square and plain. It sat on a lot surrounded by tall woods...As Alison waited for someone to answer, she glanced at the wood box.
Awesome Totally Awesome - Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla: The Pursuit of Greatness Sans a Championship

Despite playing in over 1,500 regular season games, 81 playoff games with three different teams and the fact that he is one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL, Iginla never achieved the Stanley Cup.

Awesome Trending

Awesome Totally Awesome - Lupe Fiasco

Why Lupe Fiasco is Still My Favorite Rapper?

We get into Lupe Fiasco more closely especially after his most recent release, Drogas Wave.
Awesome Totally Awesome Bono

“There Is A God,” Claim Millions of Atheists After Hearing the News That Bono Lost His Voice

Upon the news that Bono completely lost his voice, partway through U2’s performance in Berlin Saturday, atheists around the world began to seriously question their worldview.
Awesome Totally Awesome Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s Next Collaboration Is a Trip

ATA has since discovered that Musk is working closely with DTK (Drink the Koolaid) Labs on a new LSD that he claims will initiate a new industrial revolution.