We were willing to give everything just to be a fly on the wall in the recordings of this wonderful album, we are sure that magic happened during the recordings...
This album was issued on the 25th of January 1994.
It seems to happen a lot... especially in the world of music, when you do not intend or plan, when things are done spontaneously and without pressure, amazing things are created. This is exactly the story of this album, which in the band's history is defined as an EP but it exceeds the 25-minute rule set for EPs.
If we mention the definition of EP then we should just mention that in 1994 this album was the first EP in history to reach number 1 on the Billboard 200.
How "lovely" it is to return from a long, crazy, and exhausting tour when you have incredible momentum in terms of success just to discover that you have no home. Some technical failure in the system caused the band, if until now we did not write its name... "Alice in Chains", to forgot to pay rent, and when they returned from the tour they had nowhere to live. Since they booked in advance the London Bridge Studio they decided to stay there until they reset themselves and find a place to live.
(Photo: Chris Caroll)
Internally for the band, it was not so easy period, despite the success of the album "Dirt".
During the tour, they lost their bassist Mike Starr to drugs and added Ozzy's bassist Mike Inez. He fitted in amazingly with the band and even recorded with them two songs for the soundtrack to Arnold Schwarzenegger's film "The Last Action Hero", but they have not yet worked with him on the creation of an album. On top of that, the intense and powerful tour took a piece of them and they came to the studio pretty worn out and fed up with distortions and drum beats.
Turns out that, that was exactly what they needed at that moment and it was an important moment in the band's history. The test of Mike's dynamics with the band members and the test of everyone's ability to create something new now after the masterful album "Dirt".
Before the end of the tour, the band members planned to record an EP and they asked Jerry Cantrell not to write anything, they wanted it to be everyone's joint work. Although there was no plan to release these materials on an album, but only to record them as demos for future material.
So without a place to sleep, bored, worn out from the tour and with a new bassist they added producer Toby Wright just to help a bit, they went into the recording studio and...
...Boom !!! After a week, this exemplary album was done !!
The album opens with the song "Rotten Apple" when already in his first note Mike gives the stamp that he belongs to this amazing band and integrates into it wonderfully. Cantrell with the "wow wow" feels like he is crying before the harmony of the two enters and the atmosphere becomes gloomy and melancholy.
These were 7 minutes. The opening song of the EP just proves they did what they wanted and what makes them feel good.
So you had a full 7 minutes to prepare for one of the band's most beloved and moving songs "Nutshell". The opening of the guitar causes a kind of irrational sense of happiness and sadness mixed together as if neither of them is willing to leave and leave the other alone. We've had a lot of discussions about which song is the most moving, whether it's Pearl Jam's "Black" or "Nutshell" but we'll leave that for another post. Layne Staley as always puts his soul and sincerity into the lyrics, if in the first song, we learned how the guy becomes addicted to drugs and becomes a rotten apple, here he discovers how superficial his new reality is and everything is artificial when he is left alone trying to fight his demons.
Here in "Stay Away" our hero has already won and cleaned himself of all the drugs but he tries to keep fighting and avoid those drugs and demons that haunt him and do not give him rest. The combination of Cantrell with the touches of the electric guitar and the extra violins creates a very dramatic atmosphere here that seems to have been taken from a Hollywood movie scene.
Layne's amazing opening in "No Excuses" puts us in a slightly more encouraging and less gloomy atmosphere but the meaning is still difficult and it relates to Layne's return to drugs and the deal he's had most of his life. By the way, this is the only song of the band with Layne that took first place in the charts.
The next section "Whale & Wasp" is a beautiful instrumental section, Cantrell's talent as a guitarist rises above and beyond and sweeps us without words.
The song "Don't Follow" gets a slightly folky southern vibe with David Atkinson's collaboration on the harmonica and is calm and slow, apparently here our drugged hero no longer returns home and asks not to be followed physically as well as mentally.
The song that closes the album "Swing On This" is very different in its blues style from the other songs, finding its distant protagonist asking to be left alone even though his family and friends are calling him back home.
(Photo: Frank Micelotta)
Layne said it was a very exciting and nurturing experience to create this album, he said that he sat on the top floor of the studio waiting nervously to get the song structure from the rest of the band. After the band members assembled the structure they brought him the demo, he wrote the lyrics and melody and with that, he went down to the other members to record the song in full. This is how they worked for a whole week for more than 15 hours a day. The album was recorded on the famous Neve console in a completely analog manner without the use of Pro Tools, Layne specifically demanded that no software be used during the recording of the album.
The name of the album was taken from an experiment that Cantrell performed as part of a third-grade school project, where he compared two jars of flies each under different conditions. Layne said the experiment left a great impression on Cantrell so he asked to use it as if some message was hidden in it.
The album earned the band two Grammy nominations in 1995, Best Recording Package and Best Hard Rock Performance.