When Alice in Chains Made Their Own Grunge Supergroup for the Sap EP

Chris Cornell via A&M Records. Mark Arm by Daigo Oliva (via Wikipedia)
Published on:

If Cameron Crowe had gotten the bare minimum out of Alice in Chains for his movie Singles, the acoustic EP Sap probably would not have existed.

While in the studio recording for Crowe’s movie, Alice in Chains got struck with some creative lightning, and used the same session to make a demo for the song that would eventually become “Would?” off of Dirt. Since the band had some extra free studio time, they began messing around with acoustic guitars, which would eventually become the EP Sap that they released with virtually no hype behind it.

Though “Got Me Wrong” ended up being the stand out track on the record thanks to the soundtrack to Clerks, what the public didn’t fully know at the time was that Alice in Chains had brought on some of the best members of grunge royalty at the time to round out the recording process.

In between studio sessions, the band were messing around with a simple strumming song called “Right Turn,” and decided to bring some friends along to help them out on the recording, with Chris Cornell from Soundgarden taking one of the verses on the tune.

Mudhoney were also in town the week they were cutting the tracks as well, and Mark Arm ended up singing the final verse of the song, which he was actually incredibly nervous about doing.

Speaking in David De Sola’s book Alice in Chains: The Untold Story, friend Dave Hillis said: “He [Mark] was really nervous…and he started drinking a beer because he was so nervous. I was like ‘What’s up man?’ He was nervous about the fact that Chris was there, and Layne {Staley}. ‘They can all really sing, and I don’t fit in. My voice doesn’t come out as a singer that way.’

Even with the added confidence though, Cornell had to end up being reeled in too, with Hillis sayingWhen he [Cornell] came in, he really wanted to belt it out like he does, and I remember {producer} Rick {Parasher} kind of messing with him a lot…not letting him belt it out with the classic Cornell high scream and stuff.

Outside of just the verses though, the whole things turns into a singalong by the end of the track, with Cornell absolutely wailing on the final seconds of the track.

In an interview with Guitar World, Jerry Cantrell would later reveal how he orchestrated the collaboration with Chris and Mark, as well as with Ann Wilson of the band Heart who also appeared on Sap:

“We’d finished four of the songs on Sap, and were just sitting there one night, when I said what do you think about brining Ann in to sing on a couple of tunes, and maybe Chris, and anybody else we can find? We’re really big fans of both Heart and Soundgarden.

I didn’t think Chris would show up because he had some things going at the time. I didn’t know Mark very well, but I got his number from Layne and called him up, and called Ann, and they all showed up within an hour of my phoning them. I was really surprised. 

They all knocked out their shit in an hour or two, and it was done. Mark’s voice on “Right Turn” gives me the chills. It’s like the voice of death [laughs]. I gave Chris the words and Layne and Mark added their own thing to it. It turned out to be one of the must unbelievable songs we’ve ever done.”

Hilariously, the band would go on to credit the collab in the album’s liner notes as “Alice Mudgarden.”

Even though grunge may have had the most self contained bands in music history, the entire scene in Seattle was still one big grunge family.

Listen to Alice in Chains’ Right Turn, Featuring Chris Cornell and Mark Arm: