Alice in Chains Interview

From the November edition - Out Now 
Words Marty McGovern

Let's face it, until recently 'grunge' was dead. What was once considered one of the most exciting and relevant periods of alternative music had become a stale imitation, buried by wailing wannabes like Nickel-crap and never-gonna-Alter-our-Bridge. 

Fast forward to 2013 and 'grunge' is back! Not only back, but (shudder) it's in fashion. But while the style slaves are strolling the high street in their shredded dungarees this Winter, the real alterna-kids will be toasting the most unlikely renaissance modern rock has ever known.

Following the tragic passing of their long-suffering singer, Layne Staley in 2002, Seattle's favourite sludge metal stalwarts Alice In Chains eventually selected William DuVall, a veteran of Atlanta's hardcore punk scene, to reboot one of the most important and beloved bands of the 90s. The result? 2009's critically revered release 'Black Gives Way To Blue', a jagged slab of metallic emotion that has injected a shot of much needed authenticity into an ailing scene.

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New album 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here' debuted at number two in America this summer and they've been cutting up the festival circuit ever since. Kicking off with the chart-topping thunder of first single 'Hollow', the new record immediately smacks of confidence and contentment.

"I think the main difference this time round was that we didn't have quite as much of a climbing of that hill to proclaim the legitimacy of our legacy," explains William on their creative process.

"There wasn't as much internal work or static from the outside world and we were free to just think about the music."

This relaxed approach certainly seems to have worked. 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here' has given the band its greatest chart success in eighteen years. DuVall is quick to pinpoint why there is still so much interest in established marquee acts, bands that headlined a musical movement put on life-support long before you could rip an album stream off a laptop.

"It’s the fans, first off, and because the Seattle scene exploded in such a way and, you know, it was the last time that rock really asserted a global dominance. Kind of like a last big hurrah, certainly for American rock music, and that scene was really just a group of supportive and talented musicians that looked out for each other and created their own community."

A sense of community shared by the hardcore Punk environment William cut his teeth on when the original Chains were MTV mainstays.

"I think that's just a part and parcel of who I am. A scene with that aesthetic is all about formulating your own sources and sort of coming to your own decisions. I was part of a DIY scene and I was taught that you don't wait, you go out there and you do it yourself. When you're exposed to those values at an early age it prepares you for so many hurdles in life and it really gives you a great work ethic. I mean, I was playing the same shows as Black Flag and The Minutemen and that experience really provides a good yardstick to measure all future people you meet against. The Seattle scene was made possible by the hardcore scene and that notion of having a real connection with your audience."

That unique connection is perhaps best personified by the undisputed godfathers of Seattle rock, Pearl Jam. Vedder's men have spent over 15 years systematically destroying the image of how a successful alternative band should conduct themselves, most recently founding their own label to release records independently.

"Pearl Jam just got to a point where they stepped back from everything and I think that's what really saved their sanity," reasons William. "A lot of people forget that these bands were made up of regular people who were really affected by the pressures this sort of instant fame put upon them. And people paid for that in different ways. Some people paid for that with their personal issues and some people paid for it with their lives. Alice in Chains is so clear on what it will and won't do when it comes to any label or press dealings and all outside interference. We have a really clear line that just won't be crossed."

One line that the quartet continually crosses is the threshold that makes their live show so dangerously mesmerizing. With a back catalogue spanning over twenty three years, what can fans expect from their British tour?

"A mixture of old and new songs," enthuses William. "We're leaving it all on the field. I think we have six shows in six days so it's going be a real barnburner and we're all really looking forward to it."