Interview: Alice in Chains
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Reforming, everyone’s at it! Plug in the hype machine, play some high-profile shows, perhaps churn out some mediocre legacy-killing albums, and rake in some pennies for the retirement fund. Alice in Chains is not one of those bands. Their 2006 comeback was unlikely, unexpected and played out with the subtle air of a band just wanting to get back to doing what they do best. Despite undoubtedly their classic albums in the early 90s, AiC have never quite fit – they never fit the ‘grunge’ tag and were the heaviest band on the scene. The death of original drug-addled front-man Layne Staley in 2002 put the chance of the band working together again in serious doubt. It was always the exquisite vocal interplay between singer Layne Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell always set them apart. But with a new singer in tow, the band came back with a bang with 2009’s comeback album Black Gives Way To Blue, a statement of intent and one that has seen the band take up where they left off as an extremely relevant musical force. They returned earlier this year with their second release with William Duvall on vocals The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, their ‘heaviest to date’ according to drummer Sean Kinney who joins me on the phone on tour in Buenos Aires. These latest recordings have him excited. “We feel really strong about (the new songs). Of course you don’t know if people will enjoy them and, you know, that’s just so out of your control, what can you do? It’s so subjective; one person’s favourite song is another person’s filler! Like, who would do this for a living, and ever set out to write filler? It takes a hell of a lot of work and money and time and energy and care to put into this... utter shit that you think is crud? (Laughs) You don’t get that. Everybody has their opinions, what works for them, what doesn’t. This works for us.” Never ones to falter in the face of causing a little controversy, the new album’s title has caused some uproar with its apparent pot-shots at religious belief. The line, “The devil put dinosaurs here / Jesus don't like a queer / No problem with faith / Just fear”, for example, takes a clear swipe at Christian fundamentalism. Have they experience any backlash? “No, not really” says Kinney. “It’s not some kind of a gimmicky, controversial thing... It’s a pretty neat title, so that was cool. We’re coming up with a lot of good imagery for it and... You know, we haven’t really cut too much crap for it. I mean, I haven’t felt it. It’s not like us telling it how it is or taking a stance on what others should do, it’s like a reflection of what’s going on, especially here in the states. They’re playing politics with a lot of this shit, it’s disturbing. As far as beliefs go, people are free to think whatever they want... just not at the expense of others. The “I’m right and you’re wrong” kind of scenario doesn’t seem to make much sense.” Listening to the new record, there’s a clear continuity in terms of sound coming on from the previous one, with all the familiar aspects of the band’s classic sound firmly in place. The initial sessions for the new album started in 2011, but delays were caused by Jerry Cantrell’s need for surgery in his shoulder. A ‘necessary interruption’, says Kinney.. “He was just in too much pain; he had to get his shoulder dealt with. Now, once you go through the process of making a record there’s the live part, the performing thing and that’s a pretty physical thing. And you get it day in and day out with all the travel and everything, and that’s a lot of pain. It hampers what you’re doing.”
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