Late Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley was reclusive his his final years prior to his 2002 drug overdose death, but stories have surfaced over the years about collaborations he discussed, his hobbies, and run ins he had with old friends. Alternative Nation published a similar article in September 2014, but we are now publishing a new version with a couple of new stories.
1. Layne Was A Video Game Fanatic
In Greg Prato’s Grunge is Dead, Layne’s mother Nancy revealed that Layne was a ‘video game freak.’ He had a big screen TV, 5 games 5 different gamers. dawn to dusk. Layne was even wearing a Metal Gear Solid video game shirt in his final public photo from Halloween 1998.
2. Krist Novoselic, Mark Lanegan, Mike Inez & Sean Kinney Tried To Help Layne
According to Greg Prato’s Grunge is Dead and Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, many of Layne’s rocker friends refused to give up on him and still tried to see him during his reclusive years. Sean Kinney would try to visit Layne at his home, and he frequently called him to no avail. Krist Novoselic brought him food, hoping he could save him after losing Kurt Cobain. Mark Lanegan and Mike Inez also went to Layne’s home and bang on his door trying to see him.
3. Layne Was Going To Record With Taproot In 2002
Taproot were recording a new album with Alice In Chains producer Toby Wright in 2002, and wanted Layne Staley to sing on a song, according to Mark Yarm’s book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. Wright contacted Staley shortly before his death and Staley agreed to record the song, privately in a studio in Seattle. Layne told Wright, “Wow, I get to perform again.” Wright was preparing to fly up to Seattle to prepare the studio for Layne’s return to recording when he got the called that he had died.
“We talked about [working together] from time to time,” Mark Lanegan told CDNow in April 2002. “But that was contingent on him having the energy and focus to be able to work, and I guess that didn’t materialize.”
5. Layne Considered Sending A Demo To Jerry Cantrell
Though never verified, there have been rumors that Layne worked on a home demo called “Everyday” that he planned on sending to Jerry Cantrell, possibly as late as 2002.
6. Layne Went To A House Party And Hung Out With Ann Wilson
In the Heart book Kicking and Dreaming, Ann Wilson revealed that Layne attended a party at her home around 1999. She said after most of the crowd left at night Layne was still there, and she wanted to go swimming so Layne followed her to the pool. Layne didn’t get in, but sat in a chair sipping a beer. He told her as a kid that he excelled at swimming, he said “I loved to dive into water.” He said the water felt like a whole other world. As Layne sat there and Ann was swimming, a huge meteor went over them and it lit up Layne’s face. She said he looked like a kid again, and at that moment there was no darkness in his life. Layne said, “Did you see that? How close do you think that was to us, Ann? Do you think that almost hit us, Ann? How lucky are we to have seen that?” Ann responded that it was beautiful, and Layne retorted, “Do you have any idea how rare it is for a meteor that big, and that bright, to come that close to us? We are really really lucky people Ann. You and me.”
Around 1999/2000, Bob Forrest and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante tried to help Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley get clean. Forrest recalls the story in his book Running with Monsters: A Memoir. Forrest had gained a reputation at the time as being someone who could communicate with addicts, he had helped Frusciante get clean in 1997. Frusciante was hesitant to visit Staley because he didn’t think you could really preach to somebody about getting clean, but Forrest was adamant about trying to help him.
Forrest called back Staley’s mother Nancy and told her that they’d try to help him, though he told her he didn’t know if it’d work. Nancy responded, “Layne’s got an odd sense of humor. I told him that John had gangrene once. He said, ‘In his arm? That’s terrible, Mom. John’s a guitar player. He needs his hands and arms. Me? I’m just a singer. I can get by without them.’ I know he was joking, but I don’t like to hear stuff like that. Can you try to talk sense to him?”
Forrest agreed to, and he and Frusciante visited Staley at his Seattle condo. Forrest says that Staley’s mind clearly still worked but that he was “a million miles away.”
Bob: “Hey Layne. What’s going on.”
Layne: “Nothing. I know why you’re here.”
Bob: “Your Mom’s worried, man. You don’t look too good.”
Layne: “I’m okay, though. Really.”
Staley was playing video games while they talked, and “pretended” to listen according to Forrest.
8. Layne Was Heavily Into His Art Work
Layne was very into his artwork during his later years, frequently buying art supplies that were scattered around his home.
According to David de Sola’s book Alice In Chains: The Untold Story, Layne Staley believed that the ghost of his late girlfriend Demri Parrott visited him just days before his April 2002 death. Parrott had died in October 1996.
Layne and Mike Starr were watching television on April 4, 2002, the day before Staley died of a heroin overdose. Layne was flipping through the channels and stumbled on the John Edward show Crossing Over, a show that TV Guide describes as: “A psychic claims to communicate with his audience’s late loved ones. The host focuses on a section of his studio `gallery’ and makes references to those who have `crossed over.’He also conducts one-on-one sessions with audience members and celebrity guests.”
While watching Crossing Over, Layne turned to Mike and said, “Demri was here last night. I don’t give a fuck if you fucking believe me or not, dude. I’m telling you: Demri was here last night.” Demri’s mother, Kathleen Austin, heard this story from Mike Starr after Layne’s death and relayed the story to David de Sola (and it was corroborated by Jason Buttino). She said she believes her daughter was there that night “to be there with Layne as he’s doing his transition.”
10. Layne Might Have Considered Fronting Audioslave
While late Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley was largely reclusive during his later years, the legendary singer considered fronting the band that later became known as Audioslave in January 2001, according to Staley’s friend Morgen Gallagher, who talked to Alternative Nation in August 2015. Zack de la Rocha had quit Rage Against The Machine just a few months prior, and his bandmates were looking for a new singer.
Gallagher had been friends with Staley since 1986, even living with him and Sleze bassist Mike Mitchell for a period in the 80’s. By early 2001, it had been a couple of years since he had seen his old friend, so he was very surprised when he ran into him at a party.
“I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and wasn’t prepared for it. By this point he had quit [Alice In Chains], he had lost most of his teeth, and weighed barley 100 pounds. We talked for a little and when we parted ways, I cried.”
This wasn’t the last time Gallagher saw Staley. On January 28, 2001, he saw Layne again at a Super Bowl party. “So two weeks later [our mutual friend] was having a Super Bowl party. When I got there, Layne answered the door and he was back to the old Layne. He had just gotten pretty much the entire Nerf arsenal, so we went to war. We were running around like two little kids! Needless to say, we missed the game and kept pretty much everyone else from watching it as well.”
“That day we were talking and he said he had gotten a call from the old Rage Against The Machine members and they were putting together a new project, and they wanted him to audition. He said he was going back to treatment and then going to LA to do the audition in a couple of months. He never made it, so Chris Cornell went and got the job.”
Tom Morello later claimed that he had no recollection of ever speaking to Staley about auditioning for Audioslave, so this could be a case of Gallagher misremembering the conversation, and it having more been about Staley considering the idea of calling up the former Rage Against The Machine members.
Rest in Peace Layne Staley