Alice in Chains in September 2007. (l-r): William DuVall, Sean Kinney and Jerry Cantrell.
Origin: Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Genres: Alternative metal grunge heavy metal
Years active: 1987–2002, 2005–present
Labels: Columbia Virgin/EMI Capitol
Associated acts: Diamond Lie Alice N' Chains Class of '99 Comes with the Fall Mad Season Black Label Society Ann Wilson Spys4Darwin
Discography at Wikipedia
William DuVall – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (2006–present)
Jerry Cantrell – lead guitar, vocals (1987–2002, 2005–present)
Mike Inez – bass, backing vocals (1993–2002, 2005–present)
Sean Kinney – drums, percussion (1987–2002, 2005–present)
Layne Staley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1987–2002; died 2002)
Mike Starr – bass, backing vocals (1987–1993; died 2011)
Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell and original lead vocalist Layne Staley. The initial lineup was rounded out by drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr, who was replaced in 1993 by Mike Inez.
Although widely associated with grunge music, the band's sound incorporates heavy metal elements. Since its formation, Alice in Chains has released five studio albums, three EPs, two live albums, four compilations, and two DVDs. The band is known for its distinctive vocal style, which often included the harmonized vocals of Staley and Cantrell (and later William DuVall).
Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with other Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The band was one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over 20 million albums worldwide, and over 14 million in the US alone. In 1992 the band's second album, Dirt, was released to critical acclaim and was certified quadruple platinum. Their third album, Alice in Chains, was released in 1995 and has been certified double platinum. Both albums achieved No. 1 Billboard 200 releases. The band has had 14 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and nine Grammy Award nominations.
Although never officially disbanding, Alice in Chains was plagued by extended inactivity from 1996 onwards due to Staley's substance abuse, which resulted in his death in 2002. The band reunited in 2005 for a live benefit show, performing with a number of guest vocalists. They toured in 2006, with William DuVall taking over as lead vocalist full-time. The new line-up released the band's fourth studio album, Black Gives Way to Blue, in 2009. The album received gold certification by the RIAA. In 2013, the band released The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, its fifth studio album. The band has toured extensively and released several videos in support of these albums. Alice in Chains is currently working on their sixth studio album.
Formation and early years (1984–89)
Before the formation of Alice in Chains, then-drummer Layne Staley landed his first gig as a vocalist when he auditioned to sing for a local glam metal band known as Sleze after receiving some encouragement from his stepbrother Ken Elmer. Other members of this group at that time were guitarists Johnny Bacolas and Zoli Semanate, drummer James Bergstrom, and bassist Byron Hansen. This band went through several lineup changes culminating with Nick Pollock as their sole guitarist and Bacolas switching to bass before discussions arose about changing their name to Alice in Chains. This was prompted by a conversation that Bacolas had with a singer from another band about backstage passes. Due to concerns over the reference to female bondage, the group ultimately chose to spell it differently as Alice N' Chains to allay any parental concerns, though Staley's mother Nancy McCallum has said she was still not happy with this name at first.
Original vocalist Layne Staley formed Alice in Chains along with guitarist Jerry Cantrell.
Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell while working with Alice N' Chains at Music Bank rehearsal studios. The two struggling musicians became roommates, living in a rehearsal space they shared. Alice N' Chains soon disbanded, and Staley joined a funk band that also required a guitarist at the time. Staley asked Cantrell to join as a sideman. Cantrell agreed on condition that Staley join Cantrell's band, which at the time included drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr. Eventually the funk project broke up, and in 1987 Staley joined Cantrell's band on a full-time basis, playing in clubs around the Pacific Northwest, often stretching 15 minutes of material into a 45-minute set. The band played a couple of gigs, calling themselves different monikers, including Diamond Lie, the name of Cantrell's previous band, before eventually adopting the name that Staley's previous band had initially flirted with, Alice in Chains.
Local promoter Randy Hauser became aware of the band at a concert and offered to pay for demo recordings. However, one day before the band was due to record at the Music Bank studio in Washington, police shut down the studio during the biggest cannabis raid in the history of the state. The final demo, completed in 1988, was named The Treehouse Tapes and found its way to the music managers Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver, who also managed the Seattle-based band Soundgarden. Curtis and Silver passed the demo on to Columbia Records' A&R representative Nick Terzo, who set up an appointment with label president Don Ienner. Based on The Treehouse Tapes, Ienner signed Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989. The band also recorded another untitled demo over a three-month period in 1989. This recording can be found on the bootleg release Sweet Alice.
Facelift and Sap (1990–92)
"Man in the Box" (1990)
Alice in Chains soon became a top priority of the label, which released the band's first official recording in July 1990, a promotional EP called We Die Young. The EP's lead single, "We Die Young", became a hit on metal radio. After its success, the label rushed Alice in Chains' debut album into production with producer Dave Jerden. Cantrell stated the album was intended to have a "moody aura" that was a "direct result of the brooding atmosphere and feel of Seattle".
The resulting album, Facelift, was released on August 21, 1990, peaking at number 42 in the summer of 1991 on the Billboard 200 chart. Facelift was not an instant success, selling under 40,000 copies in the first six months of release, until MTV added "Man in the Box" to regular daytime rotation. The single hit number 18 on the Mainstream rock charts, with the album's follow up single, "Sea of Sorrow", reaching number 27, and in six weeks Facelift sold 400,000 copies in the US. The album was a critical success, with Steve Huey of AllMusic citing Facelift as "one of the most important records in establishing an audience for grunge and alternative rock among hard rock and heavy metal listeners."
Facelift was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) by the end of 1990, while the band continued to hone its audience, opening for such artists as Iggy Pop, Van Halen, Poison, and Extreme. In early 1991, Alice in Chains landed the opening slot for the Clash of the Titans tour with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer, exposing the band to a wide metal audience but receiving mainly poor reception. Alice in Chains was nominated for a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy Award in 1992 for "Man in the Box" but lost to Van Halen for their 1991 album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Following the tour, Alice in Chains entered the studio to record demos for its next album, but ended up recording five acoustic songs instead. While in the studio, drummer Sean Kinney had a dream about "making an EP called Sap". The band decided "not to mess with fate", and on March 21, 1992, Alice in Chains released their second EP, Sap. The EP was released while Nirvana's Nevermind was at the top of the Billboard 200 charts, resulting in a rising popularity of Seattle-based bands, and of the term "grunge music". Sap was certified gold within two weeks. The EP features guest vocals by Ann Wilson from the band Heart, who joined Staley and Cantrell for the choruses of "Brother", "Am I Inside", and "Love Song". The EP also features Mark Arm of Mudhoney and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, who appeared together on the song "Right Turn", credited to "Alice Mudgarden" in the liner notes. In 1992, Alice in Chains appeared in the Cameron Crowe film Singles, performing as a "bar band". The band also contributed the song "Would?" to the film's soundtrack, whose video received an award for Best Video from a Film at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.
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In March 1992, the band returned to the studio. With new songs written primarily on the road, the material has an overall darker feel than Facelift, with six of the album's thirteen songs dealing with the subject of addiction. "We did a lot of soul searching on this album. There's a lot of intense feelings." Cantrell said, "We deal with our daily demons through music. All of the poison that builds up during the day we cleanse when we play".
On September 29, 1992, Alice in Chains released its second album, Dirt. The album peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 and since its release has been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA, making Dirt the band's highest selling album to date. The album was a critical success, with Steve Huey of Allmusic praising the album as a "major artistic statement, and the closest they ever came to recording a flat-out masterpiece". Chris Gill of Guitar World called Dirt "huge and foreboding, yet eerie and intimate", and "sublimely dark and brutally honest". Dirt spawned five top 30 singles, "Would?", "Rooster", "Them Bones", "Angry Chair", and "Down in a Hole", and remained on the charts for nearly two years. Alice in Chains was added as openers to Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tears tour. Days before the tour began, Layne Staley broke his foot in an ATV accident, forcing him to use crutches on stage. While on tour, Starr left the band and was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Mike Inez. In 1993, the band recorded two songs with Inez, "What the Hell Have I" and "A Little Bitter", for the Last Action Hero soundtrack. During the summer of 1993, Alice in Chains toured with the alternative music festival Lollapalooza, their last major tour with Staley.
Jar of Flies (1993–94)
Bassist Mike Inez joined Alice in Chains in 1993
Following Alice in Chains' extensive 1993 world tour, Staley said the band "just wanted to go into the studio for a few days with our acoustic guitars and see what happened". "We never really planned on the music we made at that time to be released. But the record label heard it and they really liked it. For us, it was just the experience of four guys getting together in the studio and making some music."
Columbia Records released Alice in Chains' second acoustic-based EP, Jar of Flies, on January 25, 1994. Written and recorded in one week, Jar of Flies debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming the first ever EP—and first Alice in Chains release—to top the charts. Paul Evans of Rolling Stone called the EP "darkly gorgeous", and Steve Huey stated "Jar of Flies is a low-key stunner, achingly gorgeous and harrowingly sorrowful all at once". Jar of Flies features Alice in Chains' first number-one single on the Mainstream Rock charts, "No Excuses". The second single, "I Stay Away", reached number ten on the Mainstream rock charts, while the final single "Don't Follow", reached number 25. After the release of Jar of Flies, Staley entered rehab for heroin addiction. The band was scheduled to tour during the summer of 1994 with Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies, Danzig, and Fight, as well as a slot during Woodstock 94, but while in rehearsal for the tour, Staley began using heroin again. Staley's condition prompted the other band members to cancel all scheduled dates one day before the start of the tour, putting the band on hiatus. Alice in Chains was replaced by Candlebox on the tour.
Alice in Chains (1995–96)
While Alice in Chains was inactive during 1995, Staley joined the "grunge supergroup" Mad Season, which also featured Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, bassist John Baker Saunders from The Walkabouts, and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin. Mad Season released one album, Above, for which Staley provided lead vocals and the album artwork. The album spawned a number-two single, "River of Deceit", as well as a home video release of Live at the Moore. In April 1995, Alice in Chains entered Bad Animals Studio in Seattle with producer Toby Wright, who had previously worked with Corrosion of Conformity and Slayer. While in the studio, an inferior version of the song "Grind" was leaked to radio, and received major airplay. On October 6, 1995, the band released the studio version of the song to radio via satellite uplink. On November 7, 1995, Columbia Records released the eponymous album, Alice in Chains, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified double platinum. Of the album's four singles, "Grind", "Again", "Over Now", and "Heaven Beside You", three feature Cantrell on lead vocals. Jon Wiederhorn of Rolling Stone called the album "liberating and enlightening, the songs achieve a startling, staggering and palpable impact." The song "Got Me Wrong" unexpectedly charted three years after its release on the Sap EP. The song was re-released as a single on the soundtrack for the independent film Clerks in 1995, reaching number seven on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The band opted not to tour in support of Alice in Chains, adding to the rumors of drug abuse.
Alice in Chains resurfaced on April 10, 1996, to perform their first concert in three years for MTV Unplugged, a program featuring all-acoustic set lists. The performance featured some of the band's highest charting singles, including "Down in a Hole", "Heaven Beside You", "No Excuses" and "Would?", and introduced a new song, "Killer Is Me". The show marked Alice in Chains' only appearance as a five-piece band, adding second guitarist Scott Olson. A live album of the performance was released in July 1996, debuting at number three on the Billboard 200, and was accompanied by a home video release, both of which received platinum certification by the RIAA. Alice in Chains performed four shows supporting the reunited original Kiss lineup, including the final live appearance of Layne Staley on July 3, 1996, in Kansas City, Missouri. Shortly after the show, Staley was found unresponsive after he overdosed on heroin and was taken to the hospital. Although he recovered, the band was forced to go on hiatus.
Hiatus and the death of Layne Staley (1996–2002)
Although Alice in Chains never officially disbanded, Staley became a recluse, rarely leaving his Seattle condominium following the death of his ex-fiancée Demri Parrott due to infective endocarditis. "Drugs worked for me for years", Staley told Rolling Stone in 1996, "and now they're turning against me... now I'm walking through hell". Unable to continue with new Alice in Chains material, Cantrell released his first solo album, Boggy Depot, in 1998, also featuring Sean Kinney and Mike Inez. In 1998, Staley reunited with Alice in Chains to record two new songs, "Get Born Again" and "Died". Originally intended for Cantrell's second solo album, the songs were reworked by Alice in Chains and were released in the fall of 1999 on the box set, Music Bank. The set contains 48 songs, including rarities, demos, and previously released album tracks and singles. The band also released a 15-track compilation titled Nothing Safe: Best of the Box, serving as a sampler for Music Bank, as well as the band's first compilation album; a live album, simply titled Live, released on December 5, 2000; and a second compilation, titled Greatest Hits in 2001.
By 2002, Cantrell had finished work on his second solo album, Degradation Trip. Written in 1998, the album's lyrical content focused heavily on what Cantrell regarded as the demise of Alice in Chains, which still remained evident as the album approached its June 2002 release. However, in March that year, Cantrell commented, "We're all still around, so it's possible [Alice in Chains] could all do something someday, and I fully hope someday we will."
After a decade of battling drug addiction, Layne Staley was found dead in his condominium on April 19, 2002, two weeks after his actual death. His mother and stepfather became alarmed when accountants noticed that money was no longer being withdrawn from his accounts. With assistance from the police, they broke into his condo and made the discovery. An autopsy revealed Staley had died from a mixture of heroin and cocaine. His friends speculate that in addition to drugs, he may have contracted an illness that his body could not fight off, due to a compromised immune system. In his last interview, given months before his death, Staley admitted, "I know I'm near death, I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way." Cantrell dedicated his 2002 solo album, released two months after Staley's death, to his memory.
Reunion shows (2005–08)
In 2005, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, and Sean Kinney reunited to perform a benefit concert in Seattle for victims of the tsunami disaster that struck South Asia in 2004. The band featured Damageplan vocalist Pat Lachman, as well as other special guests including Maynard James Keenan of Tool and Ann Wilson of Heart. On March 10, 2006, the surviving members performed at VH1's Decades Rock Live concert, honoring fellow Seattle musicians Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. They played "Would?" with vocalist Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Down and bass player Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, then they played "Rooster" with Comes with the Fall vocalist William DuVall and Ann Wilson. The band followed the concert with a short United States club tour, several festival dates in Europe, and a brief tour in Japan. To coincide with the band's reunion, Sony Music released the long-delayed third Alice in Chains compilation, The Essential Alice in Chains, a double album that includes 28 songs.
DuVall joined Alice in Chains as lead singer during the band's reunion concerts. Duff McKagan again joined the band for the reunion tour, playing rhythm guitar on selected songs. Before the tour, Kinney mentioned in an interview that he would be interested in writing new material, but not as Alice in Chains. However, AliceinChains.com reported that the band had begun writing new material, with DuVall on lead vocals.
Black Gives Way to Blue (2008–10)
Blabbermouth.net reported in September 2008 that Alice in Chains would enter the studio that October to begin recording a new album for a summer 2009 release. In October 2008, Alice in Chains began recording its fourth studio album at the Foo Fighters' Studio 606 in Los Angeles with producer Nick Raskulinecz. At the Revolver Golden God Awards, Jerry Cantrell said that the group had finished recording in March 2009 and were mixing the album for a September release. In April 2009, it was reported that the new Alice in Chains album would be released by Virgin/EMI, making it the band's first label change in its 20-plus year career. On June 11, 2009, Blabbermouth.net reported that the new album would be titled Black Gives Way to Blue and was officially set to be released on September 29, 2009. On June 30, 2009, the song "A Looking in View" was released as the first single from the album. It was made available for a limited time as a free download through the official Alice in Chains website in early July. The music video for the song debuted via the official website on July 7, 2009. The second single, "Check My Brain", was released to radio stations on August 14, 2009 and was made available for purchase on August 17, 2009. In addition, it was announced that Elton John appears on the album's title track.
In September 2008, it was announced that Alice in Chains would headline Australia's Soundwave Festival in 2009, alongside Nine Inch Nails and Lamb of God. In February 2009, it was also announced that Alice in Chains would play at the third annual Rock on the Range festival. On August 1, 2009, Alice in Chains performed, along with Mastodon, Avenged Sevenfold, and Glyder, at Marlay Park, Dublin as direct support to Metallica. The band made an appearance on Later Live ... With Jools Holland on November 10, 2009, performing "Lesson Learned", "Black Gives Way To Blue", and "Check My Brain" as the final performance of the episode.
To coincide with the band's European tour, Alice in Chains released its next single, "Your Decision", on November 16 in the UK and on December 1 in the US. The fourth single from the album was "Lesson Learned" and was released to rock radio in mid-June. On May 18, 2010, Black Gives Way to Blue was certified gold by the RIAA for shipments of over 500,000 copies.
Along with Mastodon and Deftones, Alice in Chains toured the United States and Canada in late 2010 on the Blackdiamondskye tour, an amalgam of the three bands' latest album titles (Black Gives Way to Blue, Diamond Eyes, and Crack the Skye).