Alice in Chains in a Nutshell

rip-layne

Alice in Chains’ vocalist (frontman) Layne Staley was found dead in his Seattle home on a Friday evening, the 19th of April 2002; he was 34.  The worst part being that Staley had been deceased since the 5th in his Seattle condo. Staley avoided the media and rarely left his home. He was found dead exactly 14 days (2 weeks) after overdosing. His mother and stepfather had become alarmed when they were notified that Staley had stopped withdrawing money from his bank account. They called the police, who broke into his home and discovered his corpse on the couch, decomposed beyond immediate recognition. Heroin-related paraphernalia was found with the body, strongly suggesting death by overdose and crime scenes analysis proved it was the case and that, ultimately, didn’t suprise anyone. All his close friends and relatives were aware of his crippling addiction but found themselves helpless to help him fight it. In other words, he was completely, totally, absolutely strung out. The fact that he had become pretty much a recluse in itself pretty much explains everything, in particular how come it took 14 days before anyone realised that Staley was MIA.

layne-staley-kurt-cobain-april-5-i5

Coincidentally, two grunge pioneers died on April 5 — Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in 1994, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, and Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley in 2002, from a mix of heroin and cocaine.

Mad Season “Above” Album Cover Based On Photo Of Layne Staley And Girlfriend Demri Parrott

Staley’s fiancee Demri Parrott died In October of 1996 as a result of bacterial endocarditis, as she was also a heroin addict.  Her death is considered to have pushed Layne over the final edge, as he then became a recluse in his own condominium.  A picture made into painting of Demri and Layne was featured on the cover of the Mad Season album.

layne_staley_last_photos_grammy_awards_1997_alice_in_chains
These are the last know published photos of Layne Staley alive taken on February 26 1997 at the Grammy Awards.

With Staley as their scowling, tortured frontman, Alice in Chains claimed a spot as the darkest and hardest band of the early ’90s grunge movement, bringing a healthy dose of metal to the new movement. Born in Kirkland, Washington, in 1967, Staley formed Alice in Chains while still a high school student in the mid-’80s. The singer soon formed a friendship with guitarist Jerry Cantrell, who joined the band in 1987 and provided the other half of the group’s creative core. Drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr (replaced in 1992 by Mike Inez) soon followed, and the band landed a deal with Columbia Records in 1989.

The band’s 1990 debut, Facelift, found a home at both college rock and classic rock radio outlets, chiefly on the strength of the single “Man in the Box.” The album soon went gold, and the band followed it with an appearance on the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s Seattle love letter, “Singles .” With anticipation high, the band delivered Dirt in 1992, pushing AIC to triple platinum status with caustic tracks such as “Angry Chair,” “Rooster” and “Them Bones.” A prime spot on Lollapalooza soon followed, but the trek would be the band’s last major tour and Alice in Chains would be hard pressed to maintain their momentum.

Alice in Chains released the EP Jar of Flies in 1994 and a self-titled album in 1995, but they did not tour to support either offering. During this relatively quiet time, Staley provided vocals for the 1995 debut album from Mad Season, which also featured Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and the Screaming Trees’ Barrett Martin. While rumors swirled about Staley’s declining health and drug dependency, the group surfaced in 1996 to perform on MTV’s “Unplugged” series. Save for a series of compilations cobbled together by Columbia, it would be the last music Alice in Chains would release.

Staley became even more reclusive after this appearance, barely leaving his Seattle condo from 1997 until his death. Staley’s mother owns the last photo of Staley, taken on February 14, 2002, which features him holding his new-born nephew, Oscar. That photo has never been published.

Alice in Chains fans were undeniably upset about Staley’s death, yet despite his immense contributions to grunge music, the media paid only a fraction of the attention to Staley’s death as that of Cobain. Some viewed it as a self-fulfilling prophecy, others say he burned out and faded away. Strangely Cobain, too, was a drug addict, yet many of those who considered Kurt a victim, or at the very least a tragic figure, called Staley a hopeless junkie.

“When Kurt died, he was young, beautiful, and at the height of his celebrity,” explains Mark Yarm, author of the book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. “It was really shocking at the time — I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. Whereas I couldn’t tell you how I heard that Layne had died. By that point, Layne had been out of the public eye for about six years, and basically dismissed as a junkie and a hermit. So, sadly, the way he went wasn’t a surprise — it was really a matter of when, not if. And by the time he passed, grunge’s heyday was long over. His surviving bandmates will tell you that Layne was totally written off — he didn’t even get a mention during the Grammys In Memoriam segment.”

July 3, 1996 was Alice in Chains final performance with Layne at a show in Kansas City, Missouri.  Here’s a clip from that final show.

While Staley’s output had greatly diminished in recent years, his influence hasn’t. Traces of the frontman’s distinct vocal style and Alice in Chains’ thick-as-a-brick sound can be heard in the work of Godsmack, Creed, Staind, Puddle of Mudd, Adema and a host of others. I know for sure that I will listen all my life to Nutshell, as I have since the first time I heard it. I’m so sorry Staley had to go like this and have such little recognition and have brough so much to music.

Alice In Chains concerts in Salem, Oregon and tonight's concert in Seattle, Washington

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24 thoughts on “Alice in Chains in a Nutshell

    1. You are so very welcome!!! I really felt he had a very unfair treatment when he died… If you like the Velvet Underground I gave Nico a special place too.. And I think you would like ”Your Prety Face is Going to Hell” about Lou Reed Bowie and The Stooges.. Just use the keyword search..When and if you want to of course..

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I didn’t know the story until now. I still listen to AIC. I remember the first time I heard them play. I didn’t know their music, and I thought the name of the band sucked, and had no interest in them. I’d guessed they were hair metal. I just saw some dude’s artwork with a girl in chains, and that’s probably why I thought that. I didn’t listen to the radio.

    So, one day while I was in graduate art school, during a crushingly boring seminar, I couldn’t take it. One of my classmate was rambling on and on and on about how “important” this or that social issue was, and I was paying just to listen to her monologue for 2-3 hours. Note that I went to the politically correct grad school from hell, and didn’t fit in at all. So, finally I got fed up, and just walked out of the room.

    Outside I noticed the campus was being invaded by hot girls. Consider I was used to being surrounded by radical feminists who would deliberately subdue any characteristic that might appeal to the “male gaze”. And then some dude came up to me and asked me a fateful question:

    “You want a ticket for Alice in Chians?”

    “How much”

    It was like $10 or twenty. If figured, “fuck it”. I was so sick of the sterile moralizing and alienation of my grad school that going to an AIC concert, which would be a typical white-male thing to do in the eyes of my peers, went along well with skipping out of the seminar.

    So when I saw them play at the university, it was the first time I heard them. I was really impressed. They were the real deal. I’ve loved them ever since. Later, everyone believed I walked out of the seminar in order to see the band play. Nope. Pure coincidence. Or maybe something bigger. I actually really psychologically needed that kind of a break from the beliefs and paradigm of my art program. It was therapeutic.

    Layne is a great vocalist, and because of his music an immortal. I can imagine being at artist, and let’s say I’m pretty old, like 70. Someone gives me the ultimatum that either they kill me and preserve my art, or the other way around. I might just say, kill me, save my art. And that’s because the art represents me more than my body or me just kicking around. So, yeah, Layne lives on in his music, including ever time my MP3 player plays one of his songs (I keep it mostly on shuffle), which is often.

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    1. MAn I will aimply say that this is preclisly the kind of comment that makes blogging worth it. I think it’s the second timke we bump into each other and it always was very ”spontaneously connecting. I always remeber your paintings I saw the first time we talked. I think I introduced you to the world fo Voivod vuz those paintings were so inspiring and in a way Voivoidian! Very few people click on Voivod and you clicked right away. Very few pwoplw are so open minded. Can you imagne when I posted this thing on fb groups, ;ots of ^poeple said they hated them because he was jusr another fucking junkie but they loved Kurt Cobain… They have a right to their opinion but judge the ART NOT THE PERSON…. BTW I posted your article on my fb Loud ALien Noize page. Thanks for this interesting comment. Jar of Flies is one of the album I still play in loop after 15 years!! They really were the real deal. There music was true honest and sincere. Still is. Always will be.

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    2. Hi Tobe:

      Yeah, blogging and social media can be disappointing or even discouraging at times. Not that you said that, but, I gather people expressing hatred of Layne, in response to your sympathetic post, would not be encouraging. I would not have even occurred to me to condemn Layne as a “junkie”. Do we define people by their addictions and illnesses? Sounds like some people have a really pejorative attitude about people who get hooked on drugs, but, that’s easier to say if you are not a part of a lifestyle that includes hard drugs (I’m not. I’m happy with weed.), but I’m not a rock star.

      Incidentally, I regard rock music (and other popular forms) of the last century among the best art produced in any medium. People can really compartmentalize art, in which case they somehow conclude that, say, Jackson Pollock is more profound that the Beatles. Nope. I’ve loved rock since my parents plays 8-track tapes in the car on long rides when I was a little kid. And I’m sure I prefer the rock of the 60s-70’s over the painting of the same period.

      I’m always on the lookout for new music, so there’s no surprise in me checking out Voivod. I like them, and I can tell they are solid and innovative, but I haven’t really gotten into them yet. The songs that I’ve given stars to on my playlist (with nearly 5,000 songs) so far are “Brain Scan”and “The Lost Machine”.
      I’ve assumed since you introduced me to them that I just haven’t quite caught on to them yet.

      And thanks for sharing one of my articles. The world hasn’t caught on to my art yet, and my audience is ridiculously small, so, any extra exposure is appreciated.

      ~ Eric

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    3. I do love your art and I do think I have a good eye for it. Yes you are so right in saying the music from the 60s and the 700s was really something wasn’t it… Well the most interesting thing about Voivod is that their main inspiration comes from old prog rock bands like Magma, Van der Graaf Generator, King rimson, Gong and the likes… Kinda fucked up mix..I like the track ”Golem” on Angel Rat but it’s really hard to name one track in particular since they evovle so much it comes to a point you are comparing oranges with carrots even if it’s the same band… I think Dimension Hatross and the Outer Limits would be the ones I listen to the most. For sure when you listen to Voivod you have to know that the death of Piggy (Denis D’amour) was a huge loss. He died of cancer but had thought of leaving all that was needed for another album with what he had in mind. Katorz (phonetic for “quatorze”, the French word for fourteen.) the album is based around riffs found on the laptop of guitarist Denis D’Amour. Just prior to his death, he left instructions for his bandmates on how to use them. In November 2006, the song “X-Stream” was featured on Guitar Hero II. He also happened to be a friend of mine.

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    4. And yes I was really suprised on how much people are still judgmental, especially people who say they like Nirvana. I think especially teenagers are prone to be VERY judgmental. I have no idea why… Maybe it’s a ”Little Know It All” thing.. But of course it’s not all of them… And it got me sad not really for myself but for the guy ya know… Not only he is not remembered for his work, but he is dissed because of some weakness of his personnality… I didn’t even bother to respond. Maybe I should have but to, if you are condemning such a honest sincere artist for such a thing, you are too far gone for me to waste my time. I don’t think they would have changed their mind anyways.. Fuck’em… The older you get, the less you are inclined to judge because life has it’s very unique way to humble you.

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    5. Yeah, man, you hit it on the head. Those people are just young, or immature for their age. They lack wisdom and humility, and maybe they don’t even know those are desirable traits. I’m sure I was young and arrogant in some ways, and judgemental. The less you know …

      Meanwhile I made a Yoivod playlist with some songs I downloaded. They can really rock out. I’m listening to Tribal Convictions at the moment.

      I think this band is an acquired taste, but there are parts that are really easy to like, such as the crunchy, galloping guitar riffs. They really get a pounding rhythm going.

      I struggle a little with the singing because of the raspy voice, and I can’t really understand him. But, if I look at the lyrics, I can.

      I was watching a video with subtitles of Convictions, and when he sings, “It’s gonna’ be more” the whole rhythm changes. I like those shifts they do.

      I”m getting used to the singer. It’s kind of like early Hawkwind or maybe early Maiden, where the singer doesn’t really have great range (like, Halford or Purple’s Ian Gillian, or, of course, Robert Plant). I’m actually not really a fan of the voice of Neil Young, Boby Dylan, or say, Derek Sulman of Gentle Giant. But, once I get used to them, they are irreplaceable.

      Anyway, the bad fully rocks. Have to give them credit there. I love the videoa for Kluskap O’ Kom & Target Earth.

      Some of the riffs in Klusap O’ Korn made me laugh with enjoyment. When the giant monster feet start stomping cross, the jams are awesome. And, actually, I dig the singing in that song, which also made me laugh with enjoyment a couple times.

      The listened to all of Outer Limits. Yeah, fun, and good. I need to read the lyrics though to really appreciate them. Their covers of early Floyd are also not only good, but a great choice of songs to cover.

      They’re cool. I dig ’em.

      Like

    6. It does show some post nuclear tribal qualities that are very ”Voivoidian” indeed. I really like a painting that plays with time.. Like it could be, at a first, really quick, glance from a real painting that was done back in antiquity but is not and adds something to the vision we have of that era. O really liked Voivod for waking me up to the aesthetic possibilites that something that could be called Post Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Tribe can offer… I find it very stimulating to imagine what will be preserved if we go back to a more primitive way of living, having survived a very tough cataclysm. Do you still check the Voivod group from time to time?? I always find interesting stuff on there ebcause it’s a page that is mainly in charge by the drummer Michel Langevin aka ”Away” who dis and still does all the major artwork of the band. People are so open minded and talented and people would be up for it to check out your stuff because some of it is very Voivoidian. I remeber doing it the first time we met and people were impressed. They still would be!!

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    7. I got off FB after the election, ‘cuz things were just too heated and negative. Artists can be very political, and my friends and family tend to be, so, FB became a minefield of political poison. Now I just have a public page for my art, which only a few people go to. I’ll set up a personal page again soonish, and rejoin the group, now that I have crossed over into getting the music. But, unbeknownst to me when I finished that piece, which was titled, “Missiles of Mercy”, America was shooting missiles into Syria. Looks like more poisonous political times are ahead.

      Yeah, I saw an interview last night where Away was talking about his art. And the drums are amazing in Voivod. For me, at this early stage in my appreciation of them, it’s the pounding rhythms that I am finding addictive.

      Anyway, thanks for checking out my art, and for the correspondence.

      Oh, yeah, I hope we aren’t going into a post-apocalyptic world, but we’re stupid enough to bring that about. It is a fascinating aesthetic, but the reality is too horrendous to contemplate. We can be sure that if we want a post-nuclear zombie apocalypse we have all the tools necessary at our immediate disposal. I hope we don’t take that path.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely Layne. Such a tragic story but he deserves to be remembered for the talent he undoubtedly had. Something very special. For many of us he is remembered and not just because of the way he died. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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