William Duvall: What It’s Like to Play with MC5

Alice in Chains lead singer William Duvall stopped by the studio to talk with Kim Monroe when Alice in Chains passed through Seattle on their current tour. Check out the video above or read the interview below*.

One last question. I’ll let you get out of here because I’m sure you have better things to do than be chased out of the building with a fire drill.

Yeah, that was fun. It was me. I pulled the alarm okay? I confess. It was me.

Just before we get started here, just so that folks know what we’re talking about. Somebody set off the fire alarm and we all had to evacuate prior to doing this. It was William. Don’t tell the fire marshal.

I just wanted to meet everybody.

Exactly, it was one quick was to get to meet everybody really fast so we got that. Going forward, if there was one band that you could be a part of…it could be something way back like to like the 1930’s, or somebody now that you could be the guy, the singer, or the guitarist and songwriter, who would it be?

Goodness gracious, that is really…

Do you like that one?

Yeah, that’s good. Actually, be a part of. First I thought you were going more of could you see. If you could go back in a time machine or something and see them personally.

Oh, I like that too.

Oh man, there’s just so many. One that comes to mind immediately is the MC5 from Detroit. I actually did get to do a couple of shows fronting the surviving members of the MC5. Oh man, one of the greatest honors of my musical life.

Wayne Kramer asked me to go to London in 2008 to do a show with himself, Wayne Kramer, and Michael Davis – rest in peace – when he was still alive and Dennis Thompson the drummer, Machine Gun Thompson. Then we had Adam Pearson playing second guitar, the Fred Smith role. I basically got to be Rob Tyner.

We did this show at the Royal Festival Hall in London and Primal Scream opened for us. It was one for the books man, I got to tell you. They actually did videotape that and professionally record it and it is out on a DVD/CD package through Easy Actions Records, label out of the UK. It was killer. It was killer. John Sinclair was there. He was the old manager of the 5 back in the sixties in Detroit and Ann Harbor. He’s a well-known activist for those who don’t know him and want to research their sixties history. John Sinclair was…he was many, many things. Put it this way. John Lennon wrote a song called “John Sinclair” for John when he was locked up in prison on a marijuana charge. John was there and he came out and he did his improvised poetry while we were…we broke down Black to Comm, one of the great improvisational songs the 5 used to do. We broke it down real quiet and John came out and did his thing. “What is Jazz?” It was, I got to say, just one of the great moments for me. Then he came up to me later and he was like, “Man, you really brought me back. You really did.” It was killer. It was ridiculous.

Then a couple years later, we did a thing in France, in the countryside. The Raw Power Stooges and us, outside in France. That was about 2012 and it was, again, unbelievable. Iggy watched from the side of the stage for the first couple of songs. Again, talk about your nerve-wracking kind of thing. He was super cool. Wayne introduced me after and Iggy was just like, “Man you really face them. You stand your ground and you just show them, and it was just really great. It was awesome.”

You’re like, “Thank you. Thank you.”

Yeah, I was like, “Yeah dude. Right on.” I was like, “Who do you think I got some of that from bro?” Do you know what I mean?

Exactly. That is fantastic. Doesn’t suck to be a rock star sometimes.

Man. That’s one where it actually kind of came true, where you know … I was a little kid, looking at the fold-out covers of the 5’s albums because they had the gatefold sleeves. I would look and be like, “Man if I could be in that picture. If I could just be in that building. If I could be in that room.” I kind of got to do it decades later, so that’s one.

It’s recorded somewhere that I’m going to go find. I can’t wait to see it.

It’s recorded. I wouldn’t believe it otherwise, honestly. It they hadn’t had cameras on-

You own it obviously, right?

I do, I do. One of my proudest possessions.

Something to share with your son.

You know what, yeah, it is. We’re at that stage now where we sit in the car and we listen to music, and I turn him on to stuff, and yeah.

* This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

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