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Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell Tells Who Started the Grunge Movement

(Image credit: Chris McKay/Getty Images)

Like most musical movements, grunge has rather obscure beginnings, having grown organically out of the sounds of numerous bands working the Seattle scene in the late Eighties.

But the band responsible for launching grunge beyond the local scene is very clear to Jerry Cantrell, guitarist for the long-running grunge pioneers Alice in Chains. Speaking on Jonesy’s Jukebox, a show broadcast on 95.5 KLOS, Cantrell said Soundgarden is the group that gave the genre its momentum to become something much bigger.“The first band that started it all, as far as like the rest of the world kind of getting opened up to it, is Soundgarden, absolutely,” Cantrell says around the 6:25 mark.

“Soundgarden got signed to A&M [in 1988]. That was the first major-label signing, and they put out a record. And Mother Love Bone was second, on Polygram, I believe. And unfortunately [Mother Love Bone frontman] Andy [Wood] passed away right as that record came out.

“And we were the third major band signed to Columbia, and our records kind of came out in quick succession. Nirvana and Pearl Jam came after.”

“It was all happening. All of these bands were making great music,” Cantrell adds. “It was so cool, because it was just our thing, man, and we weren’t trying to impress anybody other than the people in our town. That was pretty much the scope of our goals, you know, to be able to sell out the Central Tavern and to play the local bar that everybody played. Meeting each other and hanging out with each other and going to each other’s shows…it was a really cool and supportive thing.

“Nobody was trying to be like you, they were just trying to be like them. That’s what you respected about them and that’s also what made you want to do your own thing as well. I think that’s why all of the bands that came out during that particular time, including Mudhoney and the Screaming Trees, and a few others out of that time, not one band sounds like the other.”

You can watch the entire clip below. The interview begins around the :50 second mark.

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Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.