Before your solo album, Boggy Depot, you talked about the song “Hurt a Long Time” being a painful one to sing. Are there any on this album that stir up the same feelings?
“Hurt a Long Time” was for my cousin Kevin, who had just committed suicide. I think of anything off this record, obviously “Black Gives Way to Blue” is the most difficult song, without a doubt. Even cutting that song, you can hear it in my voice. You can’t really hide that. I don’t even know how I got through the recording of that, but I just kept fucking slugging away. It was producer Nick Raskulinecz, our drummer Sean [Kinney], and me in a room, and all of us are crying our fucking eyes out. Sean’s having fucking anxiety attacks and I’m fucking just holding onto the mic stands, [trying to] get through the fucking thing. And it was very difficult, even on the writing of that song. There was a huge chunk of grief there I’d been holding on to for a long time—I think we all have. And by writing that song, it kind of puked it out. So that probably triggered a big part of a mourning process that probably didn’t happen right at the time Layne passed away. And I think a big part of that, for me, was that I dropped a record right when he died and I had to go on the road, so I probably was carrying a shitload of stuff around. And probably still will. Like I said, it’s never gonna be right.
What does new vocalist-guitarist William DuVall bring to the band?
He’s a dear friend of mine and somebody I’ve known for almost a decade. I’ve always admired how dedicated he is to what he does. There is nothing else in life that is more important for him than music, except for maybe now his son, of course. But I relate to that because that’s how I am too. I’m dedicated to this and it’s the only thing I’ve never quit or been fired from. And also to have the set of balls that he has to take on a challenge like this and under intense fire—and to do it gracefully and respectfully, not only to this band and the memory of Layne but also to himself—it’s an admirable thing. … We operate as a team, although it’s a completely different relationship than Layne and I had, and I don’t think you ever get to be buddies like you do when you start as kids together and go through a career. It’s a different thing, but it’s a similar dynamic. The band was always a two-headed monster and we kind of worked as a team vocally—creating the sound, writing it, and representing it live. That’s what we do here, and William and I are kind of a team. You get two lead singers for the price of one here.
Talk about the humor in “Check My Brain,” your riff on L.A. life.
I think the cool thing about that song in particular is that it singles out my experience up to now and where I am living now, which is someplace I never expected to call my home. [Laughs.] Let alone be okay here without kind of living the way I used to live, which was pretty fucking hard. This town was a particular favorite to haunt, and things aren’t like that today anymore—and it’s totally cool. It’s just the irony of that, of kind of living in the belly of the beast, and being okay with it and living a different way than I used to live. It’s kind of like the fucking bad ex-gambler who decides to live in Vegas and actually has no problem not gambling anymore. It’s just kind of funny. I’m from Seattle, there’s no fucking way I ever thought of myself living in L.A.—and I’m totally cool with it. I don’t mind slow-rolling it out of bed every morning and going out and laying out in the sun on a lounge, having a coffee and a smoke. And then after I sit there for a while, make a few calls and jump in the pool. That’s not a shitty way to start the day. [Laughs.]