Alice In Chains' Mike Inez: "I think beat-up basses sound better, somehow"

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(Image: © Christie Goodwin / Getty)

Mike Inez talks us through his thunderous career as bassist for Alice In Chains and beyond...

“Man, we’ve got warehouses full of basses and guitars. I love anything bass, it’s an amazing instrument. Bass gets overlooked so much and it’s such an interesting, important, sexy part of any band.

“I’ve got some old Fender Jazz basses that I’ve collected over the years; I’ll be in a town without anything to play, so I’ll go to a shop and buy one and bring it home. My basses are tools; I don’t just buy them to sell later. They’re like memories for me.

“I usually play four-strings. I have some fives, and we’ll drop them in there for some songs, but for the most part we go to drop-D if I need to detune, as our default tuning is half-a-step down. The blueprint in Alice In Chains is pretty solid now.

“Old Ampegs are my thing for that nice fat sound. I use a ’69 in the studio with a newer, hollow-body bubinga bass on a couple of songs. It’s the Star Bass 2 that Leland Sklar plays. He’s an old friend and we had a nice discussion about that bass; it’s such a good instrument. Whenever I do autograph signings at the Warwick Bass Camp, I always try and sit next to Lee, because he’s who I want to be when I grow up, haha! He drives around LA in a hotrod and writes pissed-off Facebook posts; he’s amazing. Him and Chuck Rainey tell these stories that leave me in awe. 

“The thing about bass players is that we’re friendly to each other, whereas singers hate each other, and guitarists will pretend that they like each other - but then talk shit about each other, haha! It’s a great community. I travel around the world and I try to represent that, because I think that being like Lee or Chuck or Larry Graham or Robert Trujillo is important.

(Image: © Tina K)

Strong Streamer

“I did most of our new album, Rainier Fog, on an old Warwick that Ozzy Osbourne bought me back in 1990 when I was in his band - a Streamer with some old EMGs in it. It’s a Moonburst or Silverburst finish and completely beat to shit. It’s on its fifth headstock!

“The other one that he bought me was an old Spector, and that one’s on its fourth headstock. Of the 50 basses that I have, you can tell that those are the two that have been on world tours for the last 30 years. Nothing sounds like them either - they’re my favourites.

I’ve been a Warwick endorser since 1990 and I love what they do; they’re great woods

“I’ve been a Warwick endorser since 1990 and I love what they do; they’re great woods. They just made me two Streamers. The first one is based on this old go-kart helmet that I had when I was five. It’s sparkly blue with some pinstriping on it and a number 14, and they made a bass with the exact same paint job on it. Then they made me a pearlescent white one as well, which I used in London recently. I’m gonna make sure they get beat up on stage a lot, because I think beat-up basses sound better, somehow. I think it’s all the spit and blood and sweat that gets on them.

“When I was a kid, my uncle was the keyboard player in a Top 40 band in the San Fernando Valley. On the day I was born my family drove me home, and when we got back his band was rehearsing in the house next door. They had to shout at him to shut up because the new baby was there, so I literally came home from the hospital to a live rehearsal situation. I grew up surrounded by musicians, and I always knew I’d be one myself.

(Image: © Mat Hayward / Getty)

Oz-test

“I played rhythm guitar for years before my uncle gave me a 1955 Fender P-Bass that I wish I still had. I traded it for something else and went from there. I was in a couple of bands in LA, and then I was at a rehearsal studio one day in 1989 with my band, when a guy came in and told me that Ozzy Osbourne was auditioning bass players just around the corner.

“I was about 22 at the time and I knew it would be my one shot, so I phoned in sick for work on the day of the audition and went over there. Every bass player in the world was there, and I thought there was no way I was going to get the gig, but I played a bunch of songs with Ozzy and Zakk Wylde and had a blast. I was playing a Fender PJ at the time, the one that Duff McKagan plays. I heard they had over 200 guys try out, but I got down to the final three, and then Sharon told me I got the gig and I was off to Dublin, Ireland.

“We did a three-year tour for the No More Tears album and Alice In Chains, who supported us, asked me if I would fill in for their bass player Mike Starr. I did 27 gigs in 32 days in 16 countries while I was filling in. After that they asked me to join full-time, and here we are all these years later!"

Rainier Fog is out now on BMG.

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