Alice in Chains' Mike Inez doesn't want to be a rockstar

Few musicians have a resume like bassist Mike Inez’s.

He’s spent four years playing with Ozzy Osborne, four with Heart, toured with Slash, jammed with Korn’s Ray Luzier and made a cameo on Motörhead’s album Kiss of Death. In 2019, Inez will be adding his next entry to the list, with a trip to Australia as a member of Alice in Chains.

Despite his platinum-gilded discography, Inez wears the title of “rock star” uneasily.

“I look at it as a team sport,” says Inez. “Not everybody can be Magic Johnson. If there were five Magic Johnsons in the room, that team would never win. I’ll be the guy who plays solid D and who hits the three-point in the corner when you need it. That’s the way I look at it: I try to support the bigger picture,” he says.

Inez’s 25-year relationship with the Seattle-based metal icons has taken him on so many high-velocity tours – including one where he played France, Switzerland and Belgium in a single day – that he’s developed an immunity to jet lag, he says.

“Here’s the secret: don’t think too much about it,” says Inez. “Just sleep when you’re tired and eat when you’re hungry. Hopefully your tech has your bass in tune – that’s pretty much all I concentrate on.”

2018 allowed Inez to fill in a few blank spaces on his map, including Moscow and Israel, where Alice in Chains played a two-night gig at the Caesarea Amphitheatre, a venue 2,000 years older than rock itself. Inez, however, has also been working on a return to Australia. Previous attempts to coordinate a new Australian tour were frustrated by scheduling conflicts and difficulties with promoters at now-defunct festival Soundwave.

“We’ve been trying to get there for a while,” says Inez. “Sydney is a work of art. I just love hanging out in that city – although Melbourne probably rocks a little more than Sydney. Melbourne people really appreciate it when you play some heavy rock for them.”

Alice in Chains’ catalogue of must-plays makes setlist construction a challenge – by the time they’ve played ‘Man in the Box’, ‘Would?’, ‘Rooster’ and other obligatory hits, there’s only time for four or five more songs before the night is over. Inez always pushes to extend the band’s set length to two hours, he says.

This year, Alice in Chains is bringing Australia something new: Rainier Fog, an album conceived in the shadow of Washington state’s aptly-named Mt Rainier and recorded at Studio X, the studio that gave birth to Heart’s ‘Barracuda’, the Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like an Eagle and Pearl Jam’s Vs. – titles that leave even Inez a bit intimidated.

“We were going back to the belly of the beast, because we also did a lot of our early stuff at Studio X,” says Inez. “It’s an historic studio. The history of this place is not lost on us. But, as soon as we started plugging our guitars into the amps, everything started working out for us.”

Inez hopes that the band’s long-awaited return to Australian shores will give him a chance to explore Melbourne’s record stores and the seaside scenery of Western Australia, and to do what he enjoys most – jam out.

“There’s not many younger people that like to jam and experiment,” he says. “They just cut and paste their songs, and I think a lot of modern music reflects that. It all sounds same-y. You get a $2,000 computer system and you think you can do a record at your house. And you can – and there is something fantastic about that, and I am jealous I didn’t have that when I was growing up, but there’s also something lost in that.

“Music’s about being communal, kind of like going to church. It’s important for people to communicate, and that’s what being in a band is all about. The whole is bigger than the parts. Alice in Chains still has an old-school philosophy about it: we just like to make a bunch of racket and hope for the best.”

Alice in Chains play Download Festival at Flemington Racecourse on Monday March 11. Get your tickets via the festival website.