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Originally forming in Seattle in the late ’80s, alternative outfit Alice In Chains were pioneers of the early grunge movement that permeated across the globe in the early 90s, paving the way for bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana to find an audience.
Alice In Chains released their debut album Facelift in 1990, following the record up with the albums Dirt in 1992 and their self-titled in 1995. All three albums found huge commercial success, with the latter record topping the charts in the band’s home country.
After a run which saw the band become one of the biggest rock groups on the planet, due to personal issues, Alice In Chains quietly went on hiatus.
Then watching the band from afar with great enthusiasm as a fan was William DuVall. The musician who started out playing in hardcore punk bands met Alice In Chains founder Jerry Cantrell through a mutual friend in Los Angeles, becoming firm friends with the guitarist and vocalist.
Originally appearing as a guest for a few shows, DuVall performed lead vocal duties on their 2006 reunion concerts, with the musician promoted to a full-time member in time to record their brand new album Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009; their first new music in 14 years.
Now back in the full swing of things, the band followed up the release with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in 2013 and with their latest album Rainier Fog last year.
Rainer Fog saw the band returning to their Seattle roots, heading to the Emerald City to record in the same studio where they made their debut LP.
A roaring success, the album is their highest charting release in the UK to date and earned the band a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Album.
To support the release, Alice in Chains will come to the UK this May, for a handful or arena tour dates.
Ahead of the gigs, we caught up with the band’s lead singer Willian DuVall, to discuss what fans can expect from the shows.
How much are you looking forward to your upcoming UK tour?
Very much! We’ve always loved playing there and this is an important record for us. Every time we put out a new record, start a new campaign and play in the UK we try to come up with something special, something we’ve never done before and try and step it up. Playing the size of venues that we are on this tour is awesome, so we’re really excited about it.
Can you describe what it feels like to walk out on stage in front of 10,000 fans?
It’s exhilarating. When everything lines up correctly it’s an indescribable exchange of energy. It’s unbelievable really, it can lift you up and make you feel for a second that you might have a shot at immortality.
What makes a perfect Alice in Chains show?
For one thing, a crowd that is particular “mad for it”… as you guys might say. That is a key ingredient for sure.
Then us putting together a set list that flows really well which takes all of us on a journey through all of the records. Also, making sure the pacing of the show is right.
You came into the band in 2006, do you feel differently about playing the songs before you were in the band to the ones you wrote?
It’s impossible for me to be objective as I’m a bit too close to it all. I think it serves all of us, both the band and our supporters if we look at it all like one big family of music, instead of two separate times.
I’ve seen for a few years now how the two eras of music can co-exist live and how well it all works together.
When it comes to what came before I was in the band, yeah I probably do feel different about it because I have to do my best performing it, but I’ve found personally the more I put it out of my head and forget about it the better I perform and the music takes over.
The best shows are the ones where you come out of it and you barely remember what happened.
Rainier Fog came out in August, how pleased were you with the reaction to the album?
Very pleased! You can never take anything for granted and the industry is changing so much. Just in the 13 years that we’ve been operating it’s become a completely different industry, so you never know what’s gonna happen, but we’re really pleased and we’re very proud of this record.
What was the process like putting the album together?
Well, we started off in Seattle and we basically spent the summer of 2017 there which was really nice, in my opinion, that is the best time of year to be there. And the band hasn’t worked in Seattle since the ‘90s, we actually recorded in the same studio that the first album was made. Many other records were recorded there too. It used to be owned by Heart. Many Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden also worked there too.
Then we went over to our producer Nick Raskulinecz’s studio which is about 40 minutes outside of Nashville. So we had that difference of going from this urban city in the Pacific North West to rural Tennessee, which was just farmlands and hills as far as you can see.
Then we mixed and finished the record in LA which is where we usually work out of.
I think the mixture of those environments definitely impacted the music. You can hear it all there.
The album is steeped in references to Seattle, as a band do you feel like you represent the city when you’re touring the world?
Well, Seattle is a very big part of the band’s history. So I think that is a part of it but now the four of us live all over.
Seattle is definitely significant to Alice In Chains; you’ll see the city represented in some of our merchandise and it’s a huge part of the band’s story.
What are some of your favourite tracks to play live from the record?
Never Fade is definitely a favourite. It was an unexpected track, the music had been sitting around for a while and wasn’t meant to be on the album. Our producer pulled me to the side and said: “Man, I’ve got this demo that Cantrell has been working on, he doesn’t know where it’s going and I just want you to hear it”.
It was just the music and chords at that point and I just stayed up all night in this little back room, and I just worked away after everyone had gone home and refused to leave until I’d finished it. It’s about the people that you hold a special connection with, that is truly unbreakable.
You’ve been doing this a long time, what advice would you give to bands just starting out?
Quit! (Laughs) No, the truth is that if they really want it the way that I wanted it there’s nothing anyone could say that would stop them. No amount of obstacles or odds or any of that will stop them.
If I can give any advice it is just, really play what you love. Don’t worry about any commercial trends or what’s popular on the radio or whatever. Play what you dig. It probably favours you more now to play what you’re into and just do what you wanna do.
If you’re any good at all, you’ll find an audience who’ll love what you’re doing.
Alice in Chains comes to the UK later this month. Here are the dates:
23 May 2019 – intu Braehead Arena, Glasgow
24 May 2019 – Arena Birmingham SSE Arena
25 May 2019 – The SSE Arena Wembley, London
Limited tickets for the tour are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk