Seal's appearance on Amoeba Records' long-running regular What's In My Bag finds him ruminating on some of his favourite artists – and reflecting a broad taste that his own back catalogue has often reflected. But we didn't have him down as a big Alice In Chains fan until now. Picking out their second album Dirt from his bag, alongside records from Kate Bush, Neil Young and David Bowie, he reveals that he discovered the band at a seminal time in his life.
This band were really significant for me because when I left England at the beginning of my career, grunge had just kicked off," the British singer-songwriter reflects. "I remember coming to Los Angeles and being in a cab, talking to the driver and we got talking about music. And he said, 'We what kind of music do you like? What are you into' And I said, 'I'm really curious about this grunge thing, I really like it.'"
Though Seal was familiar with Nirvana and Pearl Jam at that point, he hadn't heard their North Western Pacific peers. "He said, 'Have you heard of this band called Alice In Chains?' He put on Man In The Box and that was it; I heard Layne [Staley's] voice, Layne and Jerry [Cantrell] singing together with those close harmonies. Out of that grunge period, they were by far, by far, my favourite. And I think the most underrated.
"There are some great songs [on Dirt], the obvious one being Rooster that Jerry wrote about his father coming home from Vietman," added Seal. "I love their artistry obviously but there's a real sexiness to their music – it's dark, it's beautiful, it's melancholic but it's really sexy. It's weighty."
For Seal it set AIC apart.
"They had something that all of those other bands from that era, that grunge era, they had something truly unique – they had a soul, almost like an R&B type soul. Even though it didn't sound like R&B but that guttural soul, as opposed to just being in your head… they had stuff that got you right down here. I'm a big fan of Alice In Chains and Layne's voice – his approach, god rest his soul."
Seal also goes on to reflect on David Bowie's influence on his life, musically and personally as a friend. So much so that Five Years from the Ziggy Stardust album was a direct inspiration for Don't Cry from 1994's Seal II. Check out the full interview above.