Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Deftones Reflect on BlackDiamondSkye Tour
Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2010
As the men of Alice in Chains, Mastodon and Deftones wrap up the
BlackDiamondSkye fall tour, they share horror stories from the road and tell us what essential gear keeps them rolling along.
Clearly, there’s a world of difference between struggling on the local club circuit and playing sold-out arenas. But even successful musicians have problems with gear, venues, crowds, techs and transportation—the same things that your average weekend warrior has to deal with.
Don’t believe it? Just ask Alice in Chains, Deftones and Mastodon, who joined together this fall for the BlackDiamondSkye tour. Having climbed the ladder that separates virtual unknowns from recognizable celebrities, these guys have seen it all—from tiny, trashy dives to palatial arenas; from passenger vans with busted stereos and no AC to luxury coaches with entertainment centers and fully stocked refrigerators. Over the decades they’ve learned through trial—and lots of error—what to bring on the road, what to do before a gig and what setup works best for every location.
When the BlackDiamondSkye tour rolled into New York City for a show at Madison Square Garden, we thought it was a good time to get some of the guys together for a roundtable on road survival. And so it happened that, on the day of the show, Alice in Chains frontman William DuVall and guitarist Jerry Cantrell, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter, and Mastodon guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher gathered around a Guitar World conference table to talk about their experiences and offer some useful advice.
In addition to discussing the essential items they need to be productive, ease boredom and curb insanity, they addressed the importance of having a good guitar tech, warned what can happen to guitars in airports and explained how in-ear monitors have become a necessary evil. They also told some great stories about surviving car accidents, smashing guitars, being pelted by hostile fans and getting stuck in gridlock traffic with a major radio interview just minutes away. It all made for an entertaining and informative gathering. So sit back and take a word or two of advice from the pros.
GUITAR WORLD As guitarists, what do you have to have with you at all times on the road?
BILL KELLIHER A tuner helps. [Everyone pulls out different tuners and laughs.]
JERRY CANTRELL Whichever tuner you use, you just gotta make sure your backline guys are all using the same one.
GW A lot of techs use strobe tuners. Do you like those?
BRENT HINDS No, strobe tuners are really hard. There’s too much stuff going on.
STEPHEN CARPENTER Techs use ’em because it makes ’em look like they know what they’re doing.
GW Do you carry a pocketful of picks?
CANTRELL Yeah, and a pocketful of hate. Just a little.
HINDS Always. Drugs and picks.
GW What if the dogs at the airport pick up the scent of the drugs on your picks?
HINDS They can’t smell pills, man.
CARPENTER It should be said for the record that as human beings it’s a damn shame that people’s lives are ruined over a dog. You can’t even talk to a dog. How can a dog smell drugs? And the cops just go, “Oh, the dog’s right.”
GW Is there anything else you must have on tour, playing-wise or recreationally?
CANTRELL PlayStation 3 for me, so I can chill out after the gig. And of course everybody’s got a computer. I also like a Slingbox—especially abroad, so you don’t rack up a huge bill.
WILLIAM DuVALL Yeah, that’s cool. It basically allows your computer to stream whatever’s on your home television.
CANTRELL Any time you touch anything in a hotel, it’s gonna cost you $20 or $30, whether it’s food, TV or phone. You gotta have your computer so you can talk to everyone at home through your Skype for free. And you can watch movies. I’m a big football fan, so I got the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV.
KELLIHER On the road you’ve got too many hours to kill, so you can easily get in trouble. I have a guitar in the dressing room, and I bring Pro Tools so I can throw ideas down.
CANTRELL I got a Zoom digital recorder that’s nice for recording riffs. It’s got video on it. And it’s got a great mic.
KELLIHER And you can hide it in the girls’ locker room.
CANTRELL That’s always good, too. Unfortunately, we only travel with dudes.