10 Surprising Stories About Layne Staley’s Reclusive Years

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

mark-lanegan4. Layne and Mark Lanegan Discussed Collaborating

“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.”

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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.

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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.”

johnfrusciantelivesmiling7. Bob Forrest & John Frusciante Visited Layne’s Home

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.

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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.

laynedemri9. Layne Believed Girlfriend’s Ghost Visited Him Just Prior To His Death

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

1967-2002

  • Seola

    I think people are looking at this wrong. He didn’t think he could outlast drugs. He just stopped caring. He *knew* it was killing him. Layne wasn’t stupid, he’d watched many die before him.

    Yes, he went to rehab a lot, but given some family beliefs (not downing them for it), several were incredibly ineffective. Others he didn’t stay for full programs. IIRC, one post from Demri’s mom had discussed they were both going to go to rehab together at one point. Demri ditched, Layne didn’t want to do it without her, so he left.

    Remember, Kurt went to rehab just before he died too. He jumped a fence and left after a day, but it “counts”.

    Demri must have hung the moon for them to have such a short relationship, to have such a big impact on his life. I’m not going to down her here, plenty of fans can dissect the rest. When she died…. so did he. I don’t recall a single effort after that to get clean, go to rehab or anything of the sort. It was at the same time she died, that he became a recluse (her death, Oct 1996, Layne’s recluse started late 96, some claim it was mid, but he did Unplugged in April and was on tour until July 96 when he ODed in KC). I think he wanted to join her, but couldn’t bring himself to something like harming himself directly, like ODing on his own.

    Yes he “officially” died from a speedball, but what’s unsaid – his body and organs were failing and he had untreated Hep C for years, so that body couldn’t process the speedball he took. I think his hep C might have killed him. Once it gets to the liver and damages it, it goes to the brain.

    It creates confusion and disorientation (perhaps why he thought he saw Demri) just before the person goes into a coma.

    Demri herself died “officially” of an overdose, but it was because the drugs she took, took what was left of her functioning, weakened, infected heart.

    For anyone interested, here is the official grading of the brain condition (Hepatic encephalopathy), see if you recognize any of the signs in Layne’s final few years – and easy many signs would have been interpreted as “just the drugs talking”:

    Grade 1 – Trivial lack of awareness; euphoria or anxiety; shortened attention span; impaired performance of addition or subtraction
    Grade 2 – Lethargy or apathy; minimal disorientation for time or place; subtle personality change; inappropriate behaviour
    Grade 3 – Somnolence to semistupor, but responsive to verbal stimuli; confusion; gross disorientation
    Grade 4 – Coma

    *Those with severe encephalopathy (stages 3 and 4) are at risk of obstructing their airway due to decreased protective reflexes such as the gag reflex. This can lead to respiratory arrest.

    • jsspring

      You won’t speak bad about her, okay let me, this will probably get deleted but I don’t care
      This girl was a crack whore who prostituted herself while layne was touring for lalapalooza in 93. She was arrested in several Washington counties and there are records for anyone who wants to know the truth you can look them up.She lied about going to rehab and when Layne came back from his rehab he found her in THEIR bed with someone else leading him back to drugs. Do you know what kind of state that puts a man in? Just out of rehab no less? He broke up with her in 93 then went on to do a FULL rehab in 94. he was sober for all of mad season and that was an epic album. I really think he had cleansed himself of her during this time. I believe Layne was a victim of psychological abuse by this girl. He wrote in river of deceit ” a head full of lies is a weight tied to my waist/waste” that’s one thing he couldn’t tolerate was lies or liars. The alice in chains album title  “jar of flies” is a play on words…”jar of lies” he was talking about himself. He felt he was like a bank where people dropped their lies into him.This crack whore  ( i won’t say her name), his biological father and Mike Starr were very low energy people. I wouldn’t believe a word that Mike said either.
      Layne was very wary of journalists. He said that they never got the whole story right. He would read articles to me and say “see, they always fuck it up,somehow” and warned me if I didn’t hear it from the person’s mouth not to believe it. I’d also heard Kurt saying the same thing in an interview once, how ironic. I never ever thought I would be putting this practice in place so much in my life though!
      Rest In Peace Layne, you sweet,beautiful soul. You continue living in the hearts all the people that truly  love you and there are SO many!

      • Seola

        You are such a liar, jsspring. “Read articles to you”, when you actually made up all this entirely of comments and got even BASIC well-known AIC information wrong shows you for the pathetic wannabe you are. Don’t you have some Little Women show to obsess over and make up more “I know cause I am a…” stories?

        Everyone knows River of Deceit was about himself and the philosophies of the book he was reading at the time… literally referenced in the first line, The Prophet. The entire song was him taking responsibility for his own addiction, which he always did. Including his relapses.

        Do you just make this stuff on the fly, or do practice and see what could pass?

        Layne did drugs because Layne’s family life sucked, his mother was a Scientologist (and utter nutcase, who attempted to shift to “Christian Science” to hide the lunacy and fruitlessness of his rehabs) and the vast majority of Layne’s rehab attempts were the stupid NarcOnon through Scientology which has a 94.4% failure rate (in fact, the worst rate possible, of all major rehab programs for addicts). That is also why he was “treated” as an adult when he was a teen and why she kicked him out as a minor – because that crazy cult thinks kids are just adults in immature bodies, and kids who disobey are suppressive.

        Yeah, Demri’s the “bad one”, while by EVERY account, he was pretty much doing everything BUT heroin already while living at the Music Bank before even meeting her. I’m sure he’d totally have never touched the stuff that eventually touched every single Seattle band, if only he hadn’t met the “bad seed”. What shade of red are those rose colored glasses?

        Not to mention his junkie father (and we know addiction runs in families), who would drop by with a little taste, get Layne to taste – a kid who was so desperate for parental affection, he’d go back on sobriety to hang with his dad, then furnish the cash for their binges.

        Hilariously you want to canonize Layne, but call her a bunch of dumb junk. She wasn’t perfect, but Layne loved her. If she was all those terrible things (which she was), then how did “perfect” Layne get with her, stay with her, then fall for her trappings every time he saw her after they broke up? Hm?

        I can’t even get over the idiotic rationale you had to use, to say that all three junkies around the junkie were “awful”, but believe Layne was a saint. He was a tortured genius, with an other-worldly voice, a sweet smile, a good heart – and a bad, bad drug problem…. like all his friends and girlfriend and some of his family, which also caused him to commit crimes, like the other “ermahgerd, bad junkies”.

        And your Jar of Flies little “play on words” is a complete fabrication – though he did write about her, such as in “I Stay Away”, it’s literally about a Jar of Flies, that Cantrell did for some experiment in grade school. Or was Jerry and Layne lying about that to literally everyone and their brother? And you were some super secret confidant (that he didn’t even have in his reclusive years, other than some offhand comments to Nancy Wilson).

        I adore Layne. The pathetic part is, you pretend to, to look high and mighty, get half the crap wrong and think it’s down to one girl on why he ended up dead, a plunger smashed down into a needle in his arm, sitting on a pile of used syringes – 6+ years after Demri died.

        The fact that every, single, person, ever, around Layne openly stated that he would have been on heroin sooner or later, because they ALL were, and that not a single one of them (other bands, other friends, other family, other execs) blames Demri, should tell you far more than your little “it’s everybody else’s fault” theory.

        Just the fact that Demri was partying with mutual friends and Layne and she was a severe user, should tell you about the company they kept and that it would be there before Layne at some point.

        • Alana

          Every relationship has their ups and downs. After all they did call off the wedding. Songs like ‘Above’ give us a bit of inside on what was happening between those two in the end. Several times AiC themselves confirmed on the record (radio interviews etc) that interviews became so boring that they would come up with absolutely random answers to typical questions, such as ‘where did the name of the album come from’. So i don’t think arguments like that are valid anyway. While it’s likely to be true, we just can’t know for sure when the boys felt bored and gave interviewers some random story and which story is factual.
          i agree that Layne died when Demri did. From that point on he likely couldn’t find a reason to fight addiction or even to live. Probably didn’t even look for one. He loved her, no matter what she did and who she was. All hopes of seeing Layne get well were gone after October 1996. Slow suicide ended up being his way to go in my opinion. We will never know what exactly was going on between those two, we’ll never know what kind of person Demri was, even though there are arrest records and so on. But Layne was a grown man, capable of making his own decisions. Maybe Demri should’ve moved away somewhere to make sure there was absolutely no contact between them, if she cared of his well-being while she chose to keep doing drugs..While i believe Demri and her behaviors was one of the major factors in his continuous drug abuse, but then there’s his addict father, his not too affectionate mother, his user friends and other factors that would make his way to recovery extremely hard anyway..maybe, what If blah blah.. Drugs make people do all kinds of things they wouldn’t even consider if they were sober. We shouldn’t judge neither of them, one’s personal life is no one else’s business imo. And addiction is very personal. One thing we know for sure is that he loved Demri..
          Layne said that his addiction is not what defines him, his strengths and talents are. Let’s not forget that, and instead of arguing over assumptions and rumors, let’s just enjoy the gift he left for us. I’m genuinely tired of reading drugs this junkie that EVERY time Layne’s name is brought up. When did the drugs become so much more important for sober people than music, art and personality?