Alice In Chains’ William DuVall: The 10 songs that changed my life

Alice In Chains frontman William DuVall has a rummage through his record collection and pulls out some gems – from Marvin Gaye to Jeff Beck…

Alice In Chains’ William DuVall: The 10 songs that changed my life
James Hickie

You may know William DuVall as the masterful modern voice of Alice In Chains, but his journey here has been just as fascinating. Let’s dive in…

The first song I remember hearing...Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly (1973)

“My mother used to see Roberta play in bars in the Washington, D.C. area before she was even signed. Her music had a special significance for my mum from the word go, so it would be playing a lot when I was a kid. As you can imagine, when Roberta ended up getting really famous, and Killing Me Softly was everywhere, it was even more prevalent in our house.”

The song I most associate with home...Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On? (1971)

“This song not only epitomises the time in which it was released, but also crystallises a moment in the lives of black people in Washington D.C.. In one song you had all of that pride and all of that pain; it unified everybody that I knew, whether they were adults or children. When I hear this song, I go right back to being in Washington D.C., especially in the winter times. For some reason it evokes cold weather for me.”

The song that helped me find my voice...U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For (1987)

“I didn’t really start trying to sing until young adulthood, because I’d always been a guitar player and a songwriter as a kid. When I finally got to a point where I was writing songs I no longer felt comfortable giving to someone else to sing, it fell to me. I spent a lot of time with certain records trying to see if I could do it. Listening to [U2 singer] Bono helped a lot, because I sensed the struggle within him. He made a certain kind of difficult singing approachable to me.”

The song that brings me back to my uni days...Miles Davis – John McLaughlin (1970)

“I studied for a degree in philosophy, specialising in religion. When it came to putting my nose to the grindstone and hitting the books, it was sometimes tough for me to have music on. But there’s certain music that opens doorways through which you can get into a thought space where you can more easily digest information. Miles Davis, on the Bitches Brew album, definitely helped me.”

The first song of mine I heard on the radio...A.V.O.C. – Last Days (1982/83)

“This was my first band and it stood for Awareness Void Of Chaos. I was actually at the radio station in Atlanta being interviewed when they played the song. The DJ’s name was Melanie Collins. It was a really big deal because I was 15 and they wanted me to talk about the band, our songs and what we felt about the world.”

The song that sums up my hardcore years...Neon Christ – The Knife That Cuts So Deep (1990)

“We were at the forefront of all of that stuff back in Atlanta – pioneers hacking through the woods! No-one else was doing it. I wrote this song when I was 16. I have a specific memory of a girl I did not know, who wasn’t a part of my band’s circle of friends, taking me aside and saying, ‘That song really hits me.' That was a big moment for me.”

The first time I heard Alice In Chains...Alice In Chains – Man In A Box (1990)

“I heard Man In The Box first, but the song that really made me take notice was Would?. What got me was the ‘Am I wrong?’ bit at the end, which was such an unusual harmonic turn. I’ve definitely had a few ‘How did I get here?’ moments while performing both of those songs since.”

The song that America needs right now...Stevie Wonder – Love’s In Need Of Love Today (1976)

“I know it’s clichéd to say, but love is the be all and end all. One has to try to remain hopeful, otherwise there’s no point in getting up in the morning. We need to figure this out, starting from a place of, ‘You’re a human just like me; you have children just like me.’ It gets tougher to do that the further you go along in life, but it becomes more important, too.”

The song that makes me feel most proud...Alice In Chains – Never Fade (2018)

“Jerry [Cantrell, guitarist] had the music and the chorus, but nothing else. We went into the studio in Seattle, and I stayed up all night creating the rest. When we click, we click hard. There’s no second guessing. The song isn’t just about [the musicians] we’ve lost – it’s also about those who remain in your life and how special that is.”

The song I’d like played at my funeral...Jeff Beck – The Final Peace (1980)

“I remember hearing this as a child and thinking, ‘Wow, this would be a great song to have played at your funeral.’ It’s the first time I’d ever thought that about a song, and a strange thing to think as a child, but it’s a beautiful piece of music and evokes that idea of life being over.”

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