Catching Up With…

Sean Kinney

Priding themselves on being a “live” band, the members of Alice in Chains need little encouragement to get out and play. But for this summer’s tour, there’s a more compassionate motivator at the core.

by David Ciauro

Earlier this year, a radio station in Hartford, Connecticut, connected the members of Alice in Chains with a cancer-stricken superfan named Stefan-Dayne Ankle. Sadly, this past March, Stefan lost his battle with leukemia. As a consequence, for its current tour, the band will be donating two dollars for every presold ticket to his memorial fund. “He was a real fan of the band, and his story touched us,” Sean Kinney says. “We kept in touch with him, and when we learned that he passed away, helping his family became a good reason to go out and play. When you have a nineteen-year- old kid that digs your band, and you’re in your forties, it’s a glaring reminder of why you continue to do this and what it all means.”

Kinney’s desire to create and improve hasn’t waned through the years, but hitting the road remains his favorite part of the age-old three-prong process of writing, recording, and touring. “I like touring the most, that ‘anything can happen’ aspect,” Kinney says. “We’ve never been the type of band that lives in the studio. It’s much more of a clinical thing for us that comes with its own set of challenges. I’m far less stressed on tour. Live, it’s the one time you’re going to play a song that way in that moment, and we have far more experience with that as a band. When writing, you’re creating things and getting excited about music, which is why you do it in the first place. In the studio, you’re trying to capture that excitement with your little tribe of dudes…it’s nerve-racking.”

When not on tour, Kinney plays almost every day, but he admits that doesn’t compare to getting in a room with other musicians. Lack of proximity, however, makes free-form jams with his bandmates unrealistic, with Kinney residing in Seattle and the other members spread out in various cities. “A band has a purpose, which is both super-open and super-confining, if that makes any sense,” Kinney says. “We have to schedule time to get together, and it’s usually to write, record, or prepare for a tour. So I seek out people to get together with in a garage and just spaz out for a while, strictly for fun. Not to say that the band isn’t fun—it’s great—but it’s your livelihood and it has different tenets and boundaries.”

Though Alice in Chains doesn’t have immediate plans to head back into the studio, “We’ve been tossing around ideas,” Kinney says. “After the tour we’ll get back to working on music and see if we can come up with another album of tunes that we dig—and then force them upon the general public!”