Alice In Chains

Sean Kinney

Band: Alice In Chains
Date of Birth: May 27, 1966
Factoid: During the height of the grunge era, Kinney was a member of a Willie Nelson tribute band, which included Kim Thayil of Soundgarden on guitar, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana on bass, and none other than country-music legend Johnny Cash on lead vocals.


Alongside Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Rage Against The Machine, Alice In Chains was one of the most influential and powerful bands of the grunge generation. Their success is due, in part, to the dynamics of drummer Sean Kinney.

Born in Renton, Washington on May 27, 1966, Kinney’s musical interest was piqued early on in his youth by his grandfather, who was part of a well-known area band called the Cross Cats. Spotting his grandson’s affinity for the craft, Sean’s grandfather, as well as the other members of the Cross Cats, allowed him to sit in as a member of the group when he was only nine years old. As a teenager attending Liberty Senior High School in Renton, Kinney’s musical interests grew, particularly in rock, alternative, and heavy metal.

Not long after graduation, Kinney joined the band Diamond Lie, which included bassist Mike Starr and guitarist Jerry Cantrell. While Diamond Lie was working at a recording studio, the guys developed a friendship with local musician and vocalist Layne Staley. Staley eventually joined Diamond Lie as lead singer. After a few gigs the band adopted a new name, Alice In Chains (a name used by one of Staley’s earlier bands, although then it was spelled “Alice N Chainz”).

The band’s first release, in 1990, Facelift, almost immediately shot Alice In Chains to the top. For the remainder of the year, as well as the following year, they opened up for acts as diverse as Van Halen, Iggy Pop, and Extreme, a testament to the band’s genre-busting sound, due in part to the wide-ranging musical interests of Kinney, Cantrell, and the rest of the band. 1992’s Dirt would cement Alice In Chains as a musical force for the rest of the decade. They would also prove to be one of the most experimental bands of the era, as touted on 1995’s Jar Of Flies, an EP that highlight’s the band’s use of acoustic guitars, and that dips slightly into the jazz realm with Kinney’s playing on the track “Swing On This.”

Although the band faded from the spotlight after their third album, and Staley’s death in 2002 seemed the final nail in their coffin, Alice In Chains has returned with a new vocalist, William DuVall, and a powerful new release, Black Gives Way To Blue, that shows Kinney and the rest of the band playing as vibrantly as ever.

Mike McHone