The Rarely Told True Story of Alice in Chains’ Leading Man: Layne Staley

The grunge-metal band from Seattle, Washington, was formed in 1987 and was an instant hit, rising to international fame and becoming part of the grunge movement of the early ’90s (along with the other major players from Seattle, like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden). Alice in Chains turned out to be one of the most successful music acts of the ’90s, selling over 30 million records worldwide. They released six studio albums, three EPs, three live albums, four compilations, two DVDs, 43 music videos, and 32 singles.

Photo by Kevin Estrada, Shutterstock / Source: Tumblr / Pinterest

But despite fame and fortune, the band was plagued by extended inactivity since 1996, due to lead vocalist Layne Staley’s drug abuse. Eight years after Kurt Cobain took his own life, Staley followed suit, albeit from a likely accidental overdose, in 2002. He was 34 years old. Unfortunately, like too many other famous rock bands, Alice in Chains had to face their own roller coaster ride, afflicted with tragedies.

This is the story of one of the most famous rock bands in music history, and the rise and fall of its leading man.

Rhythm Bands and Name Changes

Layne Rutherford Staley was born in Kirkland, Washington, on August 22, 1967, to parents Phil and Nancy Staley. It was clear that the young Layne was going to have a life in music because, by the time he was three, he already joined a rhythm band in Bellevue.

Layne Staley of Alice in Chains.
Photo by Atashian / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

Layne was seven years old when his parents got divorced, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, Jim Elmer. Layne took his stepfather’s last name when he was in high school, known for some time as Layne Elmer. Layne must have had a thing for names because he couldn’t stand when people called him by his middle name, Rutherford, and legally changed it to Thomas when he was a teenager (he was a fan of Mötley Crüe’s drummer Tommy Lee).

Dear Dr. Seuss

Staley wasn’t only a rebel when it came to his names; he was also against religion. Staley was raised as a Christian Scientist, but throughout his adult life, he voiced his criticism against religion. But the one thing he always stood by and kept close to his heart was music. And by the time he was nine years old, he already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Layne Staley as a child.
Source: Pinterest

He even wrote in his Dr. Seuss’s book, “All About Me,” that he wanted to be a singer. He learned about music through his parents’ collection, listening at an early age to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. In fact, Staley always held that Black Sabbath was his first influence).

From Sleze to Alice N’ Chains

Staley started playing drums when he was 12 years old. He was the drummer in a number of glam bands (also known as pop-metal or new wave metal) in his early teens. But by that point, his mind was set on being a singer. It was in 1984 that Staley joined a group of Shorewood High students, a band who called themselves Sleze.

Layne Staley as a teenager.
Source: Pinterest

The group, by the way, also featured future members of The Dehumanizers and Second Coming. By the time 1985 rolled around, Staley and his band Sleze made a cameo in a low-budget movie called ‘Father Rock’ from Seattle’s Public Access Channel. And by 1986, Sleze morphed into Alice N’ Chains, a group Staley said: “dressed in drag and played speed metal.”

Deciding On a Name

At first, the Sleze lineup consisted of guitarists Johnny Bacolas and Zoli Semanate, drummer James Bergstrom, bassist Byron Hansen, and Staley as vocals. They went through several lineup changes ending with Nick Pollock as the sole guitarist and Bacolas switching to bass before they even discussed changing their name to Alice in Chains.

Sleze circa 1985 with Layne Staley, James Bergstrom, Johnny Bacolas, and Nick Pollock.
Source: Pinterest

The idea came during a conversation between Bacolas and Russ Klatt, the lead singer of Slaughter Haus 5. They were talking about backstage passes, and one of the passes read: “Welcome to Wonderland.” They started talking about the reference to Alice in Wonderland, when Klatt said, “What about Alice in Chains? Put her in bondage and stuff like that.” Bacolas thought it was a cool name and raised it with his Sleze bandmates, and everyone agreed.

Calming All the Parents Down

But while they decided on going with Alice N’ Chains, there were concerns about the reference to female bondage. So they cleverly decided to spell it differently, as “Alice N’ Chains,” to calm any parental concerns. As for Staley’s mother Nancy, she was never happy with the name of their group. And if anyone thought they were ripping off Guns N’ Roses, they weren’t.

Alice n' Chains, with Layne Staley second from the left.
Source: Pinterest

According to Bacolas, they chose the N’ in 1986, which was a year before Guns N’ Roses ever became a household name. Their first album, Appetite for Destruction, was released in 1987. Anyways, the newly renamed band would do gigs around Seattle, playing Slayer and Armored Saint covers. And it was at a party in Seattle that Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell.

When Staley Met Jerry

Staley met Cantrell in Seattle in August of 1987. But a few months before that, Cantrell saw a concert of Staley’s band in his hometown at the Tacoma Little Theatre. Cantrell was impressed by Staley’s voice. At the time, Cantrell was homeless after being kicked out of his family’s home, and so Staley invited him to come and stay with him at the rehearsal studio Music Bank. The two struggling musicians became roommates and instant friends.

Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains performing in Brazil, 1994.
Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

Soon after, Alice N’ Chains disbanded, and Staley moved on, joining a funk band as their guitarist. Cantrell’s own band, Diamond Lie, broke up too and wanted to form a new band. If you want, you can call it serendipity, because it was the catalyst to them forming a new band, the one we now know as Alice in Chains (that’s “in” not “N'”).

The Beginnings of Alice in Chains

Staley gave Cantrell the phone number of Melinda Starr, who was drummer Sean Kinney’s girlfriend. It was his way of connecting Cantrell with Kinney – the two future founding members of Alice in Chains. Kinney and his girlfriend went to the Music Bank to meet Cantrell and listen to his demos. Cantrell also mentioned that they needed a bass player, and that’s when Mike Starr came into the picture.

Mike Starr of Alice in Chains performing in 1993, in Rio De Janeiro.
Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

Kinney told Cantrell that his girlfriend was actually Mike Starr’s sister and that he had been playing music with Starr since they were kids. All the pieces were falling into place, and the buds of Alice in Chains were starting to bloom. Kinney, Starr, and Cantrell started jamming at the Music Bank, but there was one problem: they didn’t have a singer.

The Voice of a 350-Pound Biker

At the time, Staley was playing guitar for his funk band and asked Cantrell to join as a sideman. Cantrell agreed on one condition: that Staley joins his own band, too. At the time, his band with Kinney and Starr was incomplete and nameless. They wanted to get Staley onboard as the lead singer, but he wasn’t showing any interest… at first.

Layne Staley of Alice in Chains.
Photo by Atashian / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

So the guy started auditioning some really bad lead singers in front of Staley, which only made him angry. The final straw for Staley came when they went so far as to audition a male stripper in front of him. After that, he agreed to join their band. “I knew that voice was the guy I wanted to be playing with. It sounded like it came out of a 350-pound biker rather than skinny little Layne. I considered his voice to be my voice,” is how Cantrell described it.

Getting Noticed

Staley’s funk group broke up anyway, and by 1987, he joined Cantrell’s band full-time. The band had gone through some rather unwholesome names, like “F***” and “Diamond Lie,” which was the name of Cantrell’s former band. They started to get attention in the Seattle area, and at first, they took the name of Staley’s previous band, Alice N’ Chains.

Layne Staley is performing with Alice in Chains in Rio De Janeiro in 1993.
Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

They then renamed themselves to Alice in Chains after Staley got permission from his former bandmates to use the band name. Randy Hauser, a local promoter, became aware of Alice in Chains at one of their concerts and offered them to pay for demo recordings. But as luck would have it, one day before the band was scheduled to record at the Music Bank studio in Washington, the cops shut down the studio during what would become the biggest cannabis raid in the history of the state.

The Treehouse Tapes and Getting Signed

Their final demo was completed in 1988, and they named it ‘The Treehouse Tapes.’ The demo made its way to the music managers Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver (who managed Soundgarden), who then passed it on to Columbia Records’ Nick Terzo. He then signed Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989. And so it was time for them to start working on an album.

Alice in Chains with Layne Staley in New York in May 1991.
Photo by Malluk / Mediapunch / Shutterstock

Alice in Chains released their debut album, ‘Facelift,’ in 1990, creating the band’s signature style. Their second single, “Man in the Box,” written by Staley, became a big hit. The album certified double platinum for sales of two million copies in the United States alone. The band embarked on their first tour, lasting for two years.

A Near-Death Epiphany (Perhaps)

In 1992, Alice in Chains released ‘Dirt,’ which was a critically acclaimed album and their most successful. During the ‘Dirt’ tour in Brazil in 1993 (joined by Seattle’s very own Nirvana), Staley saved Mike Starr’s life after he overdosed. Starr later admitted that Staley saved his life after both Staley and Kurt Cobain gave him shots of heroin one night.

Alice in Chains
Source: Pinterest

Starr collapsed, but Staley quickly revived him by giving him CPR. He recalled waking up to Staley, who was hysterically crying. Shortly after, Starr left the band, even though the band was achieving its greatest commercial success yet. According to Staley’s words (from a Rolling Stone article), Starr’s departure from Alice in Chains stemmed from “just a difference in priorities. We wanted to continue intense touring and press, Mike was ready to go home.” But according to Starr, the band kicked him out because of his heavy drug use.

In and Out of Rehab

They may have kicked Mike Starr out of the band for having a drug problem, but Staley was no angel. During the early ’90s, he checked into several rehab programs, but he never stayed clean for too long. There was even a point when the other Alice in Chains members flew to Los Angeles for weekly therapy at Staley’s rehab.

Layne Staley was performing in August 1993.
Source: Shutterstock

During the Dirt tour, the band manager, Susan Silver, hired bodyguards to keep people away from Staley, who might try to pass drugs onto him. But despite their efforts, he relapsed on tour. Then when news came of Kurt Cobain’s death in April 1994, it managed to scare Staley into temporary sobriety. But that too didn’t last for too long.

Keeping Him Focused

In 1994, their second EP, ‘Jar of Flies,’ came out and debuted at number one. By then, the band members were really noticing Staley’s deteriorating condition and chose not to tour for the new album. Their managers turned down several touring possibilities to keep the band off the road, hoping it would help Staley.

Mike McCready of Pearl Jam in April 2006.
Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

Mike McCready, Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist, also tried to help the guy out by inviting him to his side project, Mad Season. McCready hoped that playing music with sober musicians might encourage him. The side project was with other Seattle musicians, like Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Barrett Martin of Screaming Trees, and John Baker Saunders of The Walkabouts. Together, they formed the band Mad Season. They even completed an album called ‘Above,’ in March 1995.

A Music Outlet

Cantrell had been writing almost all of the music and lyrics for the band, but as time went on, Staley contributed, too. He wrote the music and the lyrics to “Hate to Feel,” “Angry Chair,” and “Head Creeps” as well as melodies to other songs. His lyrics are largely seen as his outlet on dealing with personal troubles, like drug use and depression.

Demri Lara Parrott and Layne Staley are sitting on a couch together.
Source: Pinterest

Things got to a real low when in October 1996, Staley’s former fiancée, Demri Lara Parrott, died from a drug overdose. That’s when Staley was placed on a 24-hour suicide watch. Apparently, and according to a friend of his, Staley took her death “extremely badly” and fell into a deep depression. Mark Lanegan (from Screaming Trees) told Rolling Stone in 2002 that “He never recovered from Demri’s death. After that, I don’t think he wanted to go on.”

Still Writing, Still Playing

Due to Staley’s addiction, side projects, and an overall lack of passion, Alice in Chains was suffering and went on a kind of hiatus. They weren’t touring and couldn’t record as much music as they would have liked to. Reports of Staley’s addiction started to get widespread media attention, and a lot of it was simply because people were noticing his physical deterioration from prolonged heroin abuse.

Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains in May 1991.
Photo by Kevin Estrada / Shutterstock

Alice in Chains managed to continue on, though, and regrouped to record an album called ‘Tripod’ in 1995. The album reached the top of the US charts, getting double-platinum status. Most of the songs were written by Staley, and the album was considered to be his greatest lyrical contribution to the band’s catalog.

Through Thick and Thin

Things seemed like they were back in the right direction. With their latest album, the band released a home video called The Nona Tapes. But things went downhill again, and they weren’t able to complete the tours they planned for the album. You might be wondering how the other band members felt, and whether they were frustrated by all the obstacles in the name of Layne Staley.

Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains.
Source: Imgur

But when they were asked about the frustration of not touring, Cantrell gave some insight into how Staley’s addictions caused tensions in the band and how well they actually dealt with it. Cantrell said it was “Very frustrating, but we stuck it out. We rode the good times together, and we stuck together through the hard times.”

His Worst Enemy

According to Cantrell, they “never stabbed each other in the back.” While his fellow band members had his back and cared about his health, his fans seemed to have the wrong idea. Staley told Rolling Stone in 1996 that “Drugs worked for me for years and now they’re turning against me, now I’m walking through hell and this sucks. I didn’t want my fans to think that heroin was cool.”

Sean Kinney and Jerry Cantrell in 1996.
Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

He said that fans came up to him and gave me the thumbs up, telling him they’re high. “That’s exactly what I didn’t want to happen.” Things were slowly started to reach a boiling point. One of Staley’s last shows with Alice in Chains was their MTV Unplugged performance on April 10, 1996, in New York.

His Last Show with Alice in Chains

The Unplugged recording came after a long period of inactivity, making it their first concert in two-and-a-half years. But Staley’s last-ever performance was on July 3, 1996, in Kansas City, Missouri, when Alice in Chains was touring with Kiss. The period between 1997 and 2002 could be described as his final, spiraling years.

Layne Staley was performing at their last concert in 1996.
Source: Tumblr

In February of 1997, Alice in Chains’ song “Again” was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance at the Grammys, and by April of that same year, Staley bought himself a 1,500 sq. ft three-bedroom condominium (for $262,000) in Seattle’s University District. It would be the place he called home for the last few years of his life and the spot where his body would eventually be found.

A Solo Studio for Solo Work

The home was purchased under the name Larusta Trust, which according to his half-brother Ken Elmer, was a reference to John Larusta, the alias Layne was using at the time. After a while, Alice in Chains producer, Toby Wright, set up a home recording studio for Staley. Staley felt the need to do some of his own solo work, and that was where he could do it.

Sean Kinney of Alice in Chains performing.
Photo by Greg Allen / Shutterstock

Jerry Cantrell would also go over there, and they would play their own demos for each other. But if you think that there are some secret AIC tracks, Cantrell said that there are no more unreleased recordings with Layne’s vocals. Sean Kinney, on the other hand, didn’t rule out the possibility. “If there is, it’s nothing that we would want, or he would have wanted it released.”

The Rumors Began

By 1998, rumors started swirling around that Staley rarely left his apartment, that he contracted gangrene, and that he lost the ability to ingest food. But Cantrell said that the members of Alice in Chains regularly hung out at Staley’s home. In October of that year, Staley re-emerged to make two tracks with Alice in Chains: “Get Born Again” and “Died.”

Layne Staley with the studio assistant, Elan Trujilo in between takes recording 'Get Born Again.'
Source: Imgur

Also, in October of 1998 was when Layne Staley made his final public appearance on the 31st. He attended a solo concert by Jerry Cantrell in Seattle. Cantrell invited Staley to sing with him on stage, but the singer was in no mood. A photo taken of Staley backstage at that show ended up being one of the last photos ever taken of Staley.

At the Point of No Return

Reports of Staley’s deteriorating condition continued. The people in his professional life were asked how he was doing and where he was. Producer Dave Jerden said: “Staley weighed 80 pounds and was white as a ghost.” While Cantrell refused to comment on the singer’s appearance, band manager Susan Silver said she hadn’t seen him since “last year.”

Layne Staley of Alice in Chains blowing out the candles on his cake in the recording studio during his last birthday.
Source: Imgur

His physical appearance got worse than before: he lost several teeth, he was sickly pale, and he was emaciated. He grew increasingly disconnected from his bandmates and friends, the ones closest to him who repeatedly tried to get him into rehab. But Staley was at the point of no return. But according to his friends, not hearing from him for weeks was pretty common.

Despite His Isolation…

From 1999 to 2002, Staley sunk deeper and deeper into a funk that he would never get himself out of. He rarely left his condo, and very little is known about the details of his life during this period. The story has it that he spent many of his later days creating art, playing video games, and just nodding off on drugs. Staley’s mother told The Seattle Times (in 2007) that despite his isolation, the love from his family and friends never dwindled.

Layne Staley of Alice in Chains.
Source: Tumblr

They would fill his answering machine and mailbox with messages and letters. His mother said she saw her son on Thanksgiving of 2001 and again on Valentine’s Day of 2002 when he visited his sister’s, newborn baby. But that was the last time his mother ever saw him.

Some People are Beyond Saving

Sean Kinney commented on Staley’s final years, saying, “It got to a point where he’d kept himself so locked up, both physically and emotionally. I kept trying to make contact – three times a week, like clockwork, I’d call him, but he’d never answer… Even if you could get in his building, he wasn’t going to open the door… You couldn’t just kick the door in and grab him, though there were so many times I thought about doing that.”

Sean Kinney behind a drum set.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Some people are just simply beyond saving. Staley was obviously heading towards his own self-destruction, and those closest to him had no control over it. He did what he wanted, and no one was going to stop him. By April of 2002, Staley was longer making contact with anyone – not his friends, family, the band – no one.

Getting the Call

On April 19, 2002, Staley’s accountants contacted Susan Silver, who by then was his former manager, and informed her that no withdrawals had been made from the singer’s account in the last two weeks. Silver then called Staley’s mother, Nancy, who then called 911 to say that she, too, hadn’t heard from him in about two weeks.

Alice in Chains in 1990
Source: Pinterest

The police went with Nancy (and her ex-husband Jim Elmer) to Staley’s home. The 6-foot 34-year-old weighed only 86 pounds when his body was discovered. And by the time he was found, his body was already partially decomposed (to the point where medical examiners had to identify his body by comparing dental records). And here’s a touch of creepy: the autopsy revealed that Staley died two weeks before his body was even found, on April 5, 2002 — the same day Kurt Cobain died eight years earlier.

Losing Layne Staley

The autopsy also concluded that Staley’s died from a mixture of heroin and cocaine, commonly known as a speedball. His death was also classified as “accidental.” Years later, Nancy revealed that two days before his body was found, she went to Staley’s home to let him know about the death of Demri Parrott’s brother. But no one came to the door. She had no idea…

Layne Staley and his mother.
Source: Pinterest

There was some mail sitting on the floor next to his door, and Nancy heard his cat meow, which she said alerted her because his cat had never done that before. Two days later, she found her son dead. As for his Alice in Chains bandmates, they released a statement, saying: “Mostly, we are feeling heartbroken over the death of our beautiful friend. He was a sweet man with a keen sense of humor and a deep sense of humanity. He was an amazing musician, an inspiration, and a comfort to so many… We love you, Layne. Dearly. And we will miss you… endlessly.”

The Last Person He Saw

In a 2010 interview on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab, Mike Starr said he was the last person to see Staley alive as they spent time together the day before his death. It was for Starr’s birthday, which was on April 4. Starr mentioned that Staley was very sick but didn’t want to call for help. They argued about it and ultimately led to Starr storming out of the place.

Mike Starr on Celebrity Rehab
Source: VH1

Staley called after Starr as he left and said: “Not like this, don’t leave like this.” Starr expressed his deep regret for not calling 911 and potentially saving his life. But in Starr’s defense, he said that Staley threatened to end their friendship if he did. But the thing is Starr was also high that night and wasn’t thinking clearly.

Mike Starr Followed Suit

Nancy McCallum was also present in that Celebrity Rehab interview, and Starr apologized to her for not calling 911. But she insisted that neither she nor anyone else blamed Starr for Staley’s death. She also told Starr something that very likely helped him sleep better at night: “Layne would forgive you. He’d say, ‘Hey, I did this. Not you.'”

Phil Staley, Jerry Cantrell, and Nancy McCallum backstage.
Source: Pinterest

But nevertheless, Starr still blamed himself and never even spoke about it until that Celebrity Rehab interview in February of 2010. Starr himself had drug issues and, like Staley, succumbed to their power. He was found dead on March 8, 2011, in his home in Salt Lake City as a result of a prescription drug overdose. He was 44 years old.

In Loving Memory

An informal memorial was held for Layne Staley on April 20, 2002, at the Seattle Center, where at least 100 fans and friends attended, including Alice in Chains bandmates Cantrell, Starr, Inez and Kinney, and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Staley’s body was cremated, and his ashes are in a box in his mother’s possession.

Layne and Demri were blowing bubbles.
Source: Pinterest

At the funeral, Chris Cornell, along with Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, sang a version of The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” They also performed “Sand” by The Lovemongers. Jerry Cantrell’s next solo album, ‘Degradation Trip,’ was released two months after Staley’s death, and dedicated to his memory. Soon after Staley’s death, his parents, Nancy and Phil, started getting donations from fans all over the world. The two worked with Seattle’s Therapeutic Health Services clinic to establish the Layne Staley Memorial Fund to help heroin addicts and their families in the Seattle music community.

Reuniting in 2006

As for the band, Alice in Chains remained inactive after Staley’s death. For the next few years, the band refused to perform together as a band – out of respect for their late friend. But in 2005, Cantrell, Kinney, and Inez reunited to do a benefit concert for victims of the 2004 tsunami, with several vocalists filling in.

The new Alice in Chains.
Photo by Picture Perfect / Shutterstock

The band got positive reactions after that tribute concert, and so the band decided to officially reunite in 2006. The Fall vocalist William DuVall was announced to sing Staley’s vocals for the reunion shows. DuVall was a member of Cantrell’s solo touring band who sang Staley’s parts on the Alice in Chains songs that Cantrell performed. And thus, he was fit for the part.

And now for some random but fun facts about Alice in Chains…

The ‘Dirt’ Effect

Many rock fans choose Dirt as their favorite AIC album, but the statistics are out there to support the notion as well. Dirt peaked at No. 6 and was their highest-selling album. But the timing was a bit interesting because it was just around the time that the 1992 LA riots were going on. To spark your memory, in 1992, four cops were acquitted for using excessive force on Rodney King.

Michael Inez, Jerry Cantrell, William DuVall, and Sean Kinney of Alice in Chains performing in 2009.
Photo by Andre Csillag / Shutterstock

The ultimate indictment led to the infamous Los Angeles riots. And Alice in Chains had just entered the studio when the riots began. The band admitted that the fear and the chaos of the riots only added to the level of darkness on their Album. “LA tore itself apart protesting police brutality,” Cantrell told Vice. “We had to try to get out of the town without getting hurt… and just kinda tripped out in the desert until things calmed down. And then, we moved back into the studio and started recording. That’s how Dirt started.”

The Roots Behind Rooster

“Rooster” might just be the band’s most iconic song ever released. And it turns out that the song was inspired by Cantrell’s relationship with his own father, who served in the Vietnam War. The song is actually written from the perspective of his father while he was trekking through the jungles and surviving the war.

Jerry Cantrell and Billy Morrison were performing at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in 2005.
Photo by Alex Berliner / BEI / Shutterstock

Cantrell explained the song and its meaning to Classic Rock magazine. He said: “I certainly had resentments, as any young person does in a situation where a parent isn’t around, or a family is split. But on Rooster, I was trying to think about his side of it; what he might have gone through.” It goes to show you that when you put your heart and soul into something, the work speaks for itself and touches others.

The Girl on the Cover

Rumor had it that the girl on the cover of ‘Dirt’ was Layne Staley’s then-girlfriend, Demri Parrott. And the truth was that Staley and Parrott really were inseparable when the two were an item in the early ’90s. But while many people speculated that she was the model on the cover of Dirt, I’m sorry to say that it’s simply not true.

The cover of Dirt by Alice in Chains.
Source: Tumblr

The model on the cover is actually a woman named Mariah O’Brien, a model who was also on the cover of Spinal Tap’s single “Bitch School.” Photographer Rocky Schenck told Revolver, “Everyone always asks if that is Demri on the Dirt cover. I think Demri’s name might have been mentioned as a possible model once or twice, but it was never a serious consideration.”

The No More Tours Tour

In 1992, Alice in Chains was invited to open for the Prince of Darkness on his No More Tours tour. But just before heading out on tour, Staley broke his foot in an ATV accident. But that didn’t stop his plans to join the bands. He managed to hobble on stage with crutches and performed on stage as usual.

Mike Inez of Alice in Chains performing in 2007.
Photo by Greg Allen / Shutterstock

That tour was also the reason Mike Inez joined Alice in Chains on bass after Starr left the band. At the time that the band asked him to tour with them in Europe, he was Osbourne’s bassist. “I say ‘Ozzy, I’ve gotta talk with you,'” Inez described of the moment he told Ozzy. “I said, ‘Alice, in Chains guys want me to go to Europe.’ And then he looks me right in the eye and says, ‘If you don’t go we have to go to the hospital.’ I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Because it’s gonna take them about a week to get my foot out of your ass!”

The “Sea of Sorrow” Music Video

Back in 1989, Thad Byrd wanted to make the first Alice in Chains music video for their single, “Sea of Sorrow.” He was hoping he could produce it himself and sell it to the record company that would eventually sign Alice in Chains. Thad already met Staley when he gave him a minor role in the movie ‘Father Rock.’ The band, however, wanted “Killing Yourself” to be made into a music video.

Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains performing in 2019.
Photo by Brandon Nagy / Shutterstock

But Thad stuck to his original plan. Jerry Cantrell suggested his idea of doing it in a spaghetti western style, with a brothel and a gunfight. Mike Starr wanted to add a touch of comedy and play the part of comedic relief. And just as the band was all gung-ho, Thad’s family convinced him that the video wouldn’t make him any money, so he quit production. The later “Sea of Sorrow” music video had nothing to do with Thad Byrd.

Paying it Forward

Bon Jovi’s song “Livin’ on a Prayer” was producer Dave Jerden’s inspiration when he told Jerry Cantrell to use a Voice Box in the song “Man in the Box.” After hearing Bon Jovi’s song on the radio, Jerden told Jerry to buy a Voice Box because it would help make the song a hit. If you listen to the song, you’ll hear the “oooh waah ooh” sound. While it sounds like a guitar, it’s actually a device that distorts the human voice.

David Bryan, Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, Tico Torres, and Alec John Such of Bon Jovi at the Donnington Festival in 1985.

“Man in the Box” then served as the inspiration for Ron Holt, the bassist for 40 Years of Hate, who wrote the song “Tribute.” He stated that the song has musical elements from Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box.” He’s mostly referring to the central guitar riff and not the lyrics written by Layne. But Holt never felt the need to go public about that.

The Origin of “Fear the Voices”

Originally, the song was supposed to be on the album ‘Dirt’ since it was recorded during those recording sessions. The song is unique as it’s the only Alice in Chains song written exclusively by bassist Mike Starr. There was another unreleased and untitled song also written by Mike, but it was never made public. Annette Cisneros, a producer on Dirt, claimed that one of those songs was referred to as “Mike’s dead mouse” by the other band members.

Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Mike Inez, and William DuVall in 2012.
Photo by Picture Perfect / Shutterstock

Cantrell and Kinney both felt that “Fear the Voices” just wasn’t right for the album. Other than Mike, only Staley liked the song. But that changed when Mike told Layne to redo his vocals. Layne then got angry and thus ruined any chance that the song would be on Dirt.

The Music Video You Never Saw

Some say that this feud over the song “Fear the Voices” might have played a part in the group’s final decision to fire Mike from the band (you know, apart from the heavy drug abuse). Finally, “Fear the Voices” was released in 1999, and only after Starr was kicked out of the band. And after the song was released, Mike found journalist John Brandon to help him create a music video.

Layne Staley and John Frusciante
Source: YouTube

The music video consisted of home movies that Mike made while he was still with Alice in Chains. Although the video was sent to his former band members for their use, the clip was never seen by fans and was never even posted on YouTube or any other website.

17 Years Later

Alice in Chains’ first album (post-Staley) with vocalist William DuVall was ‘Black Gives Way to Blue,’ and it was released in September of 2009. It came exactly 17 years after the release of ‘Dirt.’ And in a rather fitting manner, many of the lyrics on the album were based on Staley’s loss, specifically the title-track.

Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley
Source: Pinterest

In an unrelated fact, Slayer frontman Tom Araya did guest vocals on the track “Iron Gland.” Cantrell created the song out of a riff he played that just so happened to really bother the rest of the band. He only included it on the album because he made them a promise that he would never play it again. And he never did.

“Would?” and Andy Wood

The song “Would?” was a tribute to Mother Love Bone’s lead singer Andy Wood, who died when he was 24 years old from an overdose in 1990. The influential singer’s death was also the motivation for the formation of another Seattle band called Temple of the Dog.

Matt Dillon, Bridge Fonda, and Chris Cornell in Singles, 1992.
Source: IMDB / Warner Bros

In 1992, Alice in Chains showed up in the Cameron Crowe film’ Singles,’ where they performed as a “bar band.” One of the songs the band performed was “Would?” which contributed to the film’s soundtrack. The video won the award for Best Video from a Film at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.