How Alice In Chains’ Drummer Recorded ‘Man in the Box’ with a Broken Hand

aliina s., CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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When you’re a young and hungry band first starting out, you’re going to do absolutely everything you can to make the best record you can.

There’s nothing that’s going to stand in your way in the early days, and some of the greatest acts in history get there because of how much blood, sweat, and tears they actually put into their recordings.

While Alice in Chains’ story may have been tied up in a lot of darkness already, drummer Sean Kinney really had to suffer for his art when it came time to record what would go on to become one of the band’s biggest hits, ‘Man in the Box’. 

Right after making the We Die Young EP, Alice were right back into the studio to cut Facelift, with everyone zeroing in on the song “Man in the Box.” The only problem was…Sean was out of commission, having broken his arm a few weeks before they were set to go into the studio. Even though the rest of the band were working, much of the first few days were spent with Sean in a cast watching the rest of the band lay down tracks as a session drummer took his place for the first handful of songs. 

While the initial idea was just to cut the first handful of tracks with another drummer, Sean lost his patience, saying later “I almost didn’t play on the record – they started rehearsing with the drummer from Mother Love Bone, Greg Gilmore.

I was sitting there playing with one hand, guiding him through it. Dave Jerden came in and they started to try to do it. He was like, ‘Screw it – pull the plug. This is not going to be the same.’ Luckily, we took a tiny bit of time off. I had that cast on for a while, and was like, ‘I can’t miss this.’ I cut my cast off in the studio and kept a bucket of ice by the drum set. Kept my hand iced down and played with a broken hand. I tried not to do that again – your first big break, and you fuck it up.”

That was just the start of Sean’s problems though, having broken his hand on more than a few occasions, which has affected his performance, saying “It’s just that it’s different because that finger sits back a little further. It’s really affected my stick twirls, dude, which is the sad part of it all. My showmanship is really suffering for it.”

He might still nail it every time Alice takes to the stage, but just don’t expect him to give you the kind of Peter Criss-like theatrics anymore these days. 

Pretty impressive to listen back to the song now knowing this, especially considering this was a time of analog tracking before Pro Tools was widely adopted and before all of the digital studio tricks that exist for editing these days.