Alice in Chains’ Drummer: ‘No One Is a Harsher Critic of Us Than Ourselves’
When Alice in Chains reformed with a new singer, founders Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney knew that people might raise their eyebrows at the band moving forward without late singer Layne Staley. “Jerry and I have devoted more than half our lives to this,” drummer Kinney told Noisecreep. “That is the cool thing. No one is a harsher critic of us than ourselves.”
The band will tour the U.S. this year to support ‘Black Gives Way to Blue.’ Kinney joked that the one thing he has to pack in his tour suitcase/bags is his liver! “I bring all my internal organs with me on tour,” he said. “I will even bring my appendix and my spleen. I don’t need them, but I bring them. Space is valuable in a suitcase. Maybe I will need them. I am very OCD like that.”
The U.S. tour will feature the AIC classics that fans want to hear, but Kinney said the band doesn’t do an advance, permanent set list, saying, “I like them all, I don’t have a favorite song and I don’t have a favorite color. We have a lot of songs, so we change them up, so that night, it’s what we haven’t played in a while. Certain things have to be in certain places, but we change it up.”
Kinney also admitted if someone told him in the band’s nascent years that he’d be doing Alice in Chains for over two decades, he’d not have believed them. “I didn’t think I would live this long,” he said. “It’s surprising. You appreciate it differently when you’ve been through a lot. At the height of things back then, before the grunge thing, we had success. Then the code word ‘grunge’ came and things got weird.
“But back then, people were more aggressive about music, grabbing you when they see you. Now, people are more polite. We don’t have to run, and be like ‘Quit touching me.’ Now, it’s ‘Would you mind taking a picture with me?’ or ‘Can I bother you for an autograph?’ When it’s not a bother. You stick around, as a band, and people have a different appreciation for you. The music lived on all those years. Now at our shows, it’s not just a bunch of guys with tribal tattoos and stocking caps with no shirt on. It’s a cooler mix: 12-year-olds, 50-years-olds.”
Even with grunge’s popularity almost 20 years ago, AIC were also accepted in the metal world, too. “We have acoustic elements so we’re not a metal band, but they never knew what to do with us. We toured with Slayer and Iggy Pop! We were the grunge scene’s red-headed step child, which I am cool with. We’re not the most uplifting band, but we’re not super depressing. There is hope in all those songs. It’s easy to mask stuff if you sing about cars, chicks and partying, but we write from experience. Real life isn’t always awesome and the songs are how we deal with it.”
One of AIC’s most personal songs, ‘Rooster,’ from 1992’s now-essential ‘Dirt,’ is an example of this songwriting philosophy and why AIC have endured in our hearts. “That was an extremely personal song that Jerry wrote about reconnecting with his dad and trying to understand what his dad had been through in Vietnam, after three or four tours,” Kinney said. “It was about him trying to imagine what that’s like and for Layne to come in, take something so personal and sing his ass off with a straight face and to translate it? That was our chemistry.”