You’ve been self-deprecating about your voice in the past, but you were president of your high school choir, weren’t you?
“I was. I think my voice is okay. Some people have superlative voices. I’m not like a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, I’m more like a Chevy truck. It’s not a bad thing to be a Chevy truck: it’s steady and it gets the job done (laughs). I went to a school called Spanaway Lake High School, which is in a little suburb of Tacoma, Washington, where I was born. I did all the class plays and musicals, like South Pacific and Annie Get Your Gun, which was my first stage experience, and I had a lot of fun. I remember there was a guy I went to school with, who was the toughest guy but he wasn’t a dick. We were friends and he was in choir. I’d initially turned down joining the choir, but then he told me, ‘It’s full of chicks,’ so that’s why I joined and ultimately became president.”
Did you enjoy being a leader?
“I did. When you’re a kid, you start a new year at school feeling like a fucking idiot, but at the end of the year you felt like you’ve figured a lot of important stuff out, and then you go up another level. It’s a good lesson for life. By the time I was a senior, I think I’d become the kind of kid that some people looked up to. It still cracks me up to this day, but do you know when they do that ‘Most likely to…’ stuff in high school? Mine was ‘Most likely to have his name up in lights.’”
When you were in Dallas, Texas in the mid-’80s, you crossed paths with the Abbott brothers when Pantera were just starting out.What were they like back then?
“They were exactly the same as they were the day they both died – so much fun. In Dallas, I’d hang out in clubs and watch shows, and I caught Pantera playing in this little bar. It was when they still had Terry Glaze singing with them and they were so fucking cool. I remember watching Dime [‘bag Darrell] play, and he was something else. We were the same age, but he was light years ahead of where I was. After the show, I spoke to him and we had an instant connection. This was two years before I’d even met my own band. It was cool too that Alice In Chains and Pantera hit it big at about the same time.”
Your life changed drastically when you were 21, with the loss of your mother and grandmother in a short space of time. That was also when you met Layne Staley. Did that add to the significance of your meeting?
“It did. Those losses really tilted my horizon. My whole fucking life was basically taken away from me within the period of a year, and I felt like I was on my own. I don’t know everything, and I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of an all-knowing God sitting up on a cloud. I get more answers from a scientific view; nothing is really destroyed, it’s just transformed, and there’s a balance to nature; a darkness and a light. When something is taken away, something is given. My grandmother and mother were such huge losses, but I got Layne, the guys, and I got this.”