Echoes of Resilience: Recording Alice In Chains’ ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’

In 2008, when producer Nick Raskulinecz, called me up and asked if I’d be interested in working on an Alice In Chains record, I was beyond thrilled. Being a huge fan of the band, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. The story Nick shared with me about how he got involved with the band, hearing the demo of “Check My Brain” and immediately jumping on board, was just the beginning of an incredible journey.

Dialing in the drum set-Bock 251s for Overheads at 606 Photo: Todd Shuss

We set up shop at Studio 606, while the band wrapped up last-minute pre-production. Meeting the legendary members – Sean Kinney, Mike Inez, and Jerry Cantrell (with his scraggly beard), along with the new vocalist William Duvall – was a surreal experience. As we geared up for drum tracking, the excitement in the room was undeniable.

Mic’ing up Jerry or acoustic guitar overdubs at 606 Photo: Todd Shuss

With the basics laid down – drums, scratch tracks, guitars, and bass – we delved into capturing Jerry Cantrell’s signature guitar sound. We pulled out all of his amps and cabinets and began the mic’ing process. After hours of mic adjustments and blending amps, we knew we were onto something special, between his iconic Les Pauls and the two G&L Rampages named “Porno” and “No War,” we had something!

Jerry Cantrell  adding wah guitar at 606 Photo: Todd Shuss

I’ll never forget the moment Jerry plugged in and started playing. His signature chugging riffs filled the room, and when he turned around with that characteristic surly look, only to break into a smile, I knew we were on the right track.

Jerry Cantrell Digging in on main guitar overdubs at 606 Photo: Todd Shuss

The recording process was long and arduous, but incredibly rewarding. Building a relationship with Jerry, Sean, Mike, and William, a band I’d admired for so long, was a dream come true. As we poured our hearts and souls into the music, there was a poignant sense of starting anew while also honoring the memory of their late bandmate, Layne Staley.

A personal highlight of my life having a birthday break with AIC at 606 Photo: Todd Shuss
Bass break with Mike Inez and his Moonburst at 606 Photo: Todd Shuss

We began recording in early fall at Grohl’s Studio 606 and later moved to Henson Studio B to add final touches – guitars, tablas, vibraphones – and record vocals. It was during one of these emotional vocal sessions, as Jerry started singing the title track “Black Gives Way to Blue,” that I witnessed something truly remarkable.

Percussion overdubs at Henson Studio B Photo: Todd Shuss
Listening  back. Henson Studio B Photo: Todd Shuss
Me and Raskulinecz really feeling William Duvall’s performance at Henson Studio B Photo: Todd Shuss

Surrounded by Nick and Sean at the console, Jerry’s heartfelt delivery brought tears to our eyes. The raw emotion and personal significance behind every word were undeniable. When Jerry needed a moment to compose himself, it was a powerful reminder of the deep connection to the words being sung about their late friend.

Lightening things up at Henson Studio B Photo: Todd Shuss

The record’s eventual certification as gold in February 2010 was not just a testament to its commercial success but also a confirmation that Alice In Chains had indeed risen from the ashes of tragedy, emerging stronger and more vibrant than ever before. It was an honor to be part of this journey, and I’ll always cherish the memories we created in the studio, crafting music that touched the hearts of fans around the world. Being part of the making of such an important record with such an amazing band, who I would now proudly call my friends, added an extra layer of significance to the experience. The bond forged through the creative process, the shared moments of inspiration, and the mutual respect for each other’s craft have solidified our connection beyond the confines of the studio. Working with Alice In Chains not only enriched my professional career but also enriched my life, leaving an indelible mark.

Alice in Chains EPK-Black Gives Way to Blue

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