Tim Branom is unsung figure tied to Alice In Chains’s history. He produced the first E.P. of an earlier incarnation of the band featuring Layne Staley named Alice ‘N Chains, helped shape the young vocalist’s voice, lived with both Layne Staley and Mike Starr for a time, and played with Starr and guitarist Jerry Cantrell in an early lineup of a band called Gypsy Rose.

Nowadays, Branom records his own music, having just released a music video for his cover of Cheap Trick’s “Taxman”. Branom tells Alternative Nation, “I’m doing the same thing I did way back when, which is record all the instruments myself with a drummer. But this time, the music is much different. I’ve just completed a video for an old Cheap Trick song I recorded with drummer Chris Ross. The original title was ‘Taxman, Mr. Thief’, but I shortened it to ‘Taxman.’ I borrowed some musicians from other bands for the video: guitarist Lance Turner from Atomic Punks, bassist Bumper from Zero1, and drummer Troy Patrick Farrell from White Lion.”

Check out Tim’s new video below and read on for a retrospective straight from Tim Branom focusing on the early days of Alice in Chains, a story which weaves together the histories of several 80’s hair metal bands from Seattle like Sleze, Alice ‘N Chains, Gypsy Rose, and Diamond Lie. Branom’s abridged history includes a few funny stories from his time living with Staley.


 By Tim Branom

Back in high school, my brother introduced me to a couple of his friends. A few years later, those same guys started a band. I was slowly getting known in the Seattle music scene and eventually they asked me to produce their first demo tape: they wanted to do it right, spend some money, and really take some time on it.

The band was originally called themselves “Sleze”. They had musical elements of Motley Crue, Duran Duran, and Poison. They were all very young and very talented and I could see that they were extremely ambitious; the look and style they took on was the current bad-boy approach, which was glam rock.

I started pre-production in early 1986 by recording 17-year-old James Bergstrom’s drums in a tiny room at a rehearsal studio in Seattle called the Music Bank. Their room was so small that the musicians could barely fit in there because the drums took up all the space. There were sixty rooms and most bands wouldn’t start showing up to rehearse until the nighttime, so during the day it was super quiet.

Sleze vocalist Layne Staley would arrive after he got off work at Burgermaster. He would come early to change into his regular clothes and then fix his hair because it had been underneath his hat all day and it was completely flat – definitely not something you let someone see in the “Big Hair 80’s”!

cassette
After we recorded the drums for two songs, I brought the other musicians back to my home to record their vocals, guitars and bass parts on a Tascam 244 Portastudio 4 Track Cassette Recorder.

This session was probably the first time 19 year old Layne Staley ever recorded his vocals. The two songs we started with were “Fat Girls” and “Over The Edge”. The guitarist, 18-year-old Nick Pollock, used my 1969 Gibson Flying V guitar and 1970’s Marshall amp with a Rat Distortion. Nick was happy with the sound of this guitar and amp combination, and would use these later for the studio recordings as well. I wanted to get Layne’s vocals in shape, so for a few months, he would come over and we would work on vocals together.

accidentswillhappen
Vintage Alice ‘N Chains backstage pass, 1987.

I wanted to strengthen his voice so that the studio recordings would go fast and efficient. He couldn’t afford vocal lessons, but I showed him vocal exercises and how to scream and sing with dynamics. The bassist, 20-year-old Mike Mitchell, was a bit more experienced than the others. His girlfriend, “Leigh” Ahern, was responsible for doing everyone’s hair and makeup, giving them their distinct look. Leigh lent them her clothes, including laced Madonna-type gloves, spandex pants, jewelry, scarves and bracelets.

tim branom 1
Your’s truly in 1986.

We soon went into London Bridge Studios utilizing two brothers/recording engineers named Rick and Raj Parashar to record those two songs.

For my 21st birthday, the band arranged a party to show their appreciation for my work on their recordings. Always the prankster, Layne ordered my birthday cake from the Erotic Bakery with a woman’s tits made out of orange frosting. Somebody out there has photos of that night!

A few months later, Mike Mitchell had left the band for some reason and 17-year old Johnny Bacolas was back in the band as the bass player. The band was now playing gigs and had a bigger rehearsal room. They wanted to add one more song to the demo tape before it was released called “Lip Lock Rock”. (Originally spelled “Lipp Lokk Rokk”.) It was sort of an odd cross of three bands: Duran Duran, Led Zeppelin, and INXS. I arranged to have keyboardist Ron Stokes come by and add a “fake” drum roll from his Sequential Circuits Prophet 10 keyboard.

We recorded this keyboard part at Robert Lang Studios (then called Star Trak Studios). We then went back to London Bridge Studio to record the rest of this song and also brought horn players from Shorewood High school to play on the song to give it a fun feel. Drummer James Bergstrom wanted my voice to be used on the sampler to “rap” the title of the song, but I declined and the voice we used was Bergstrom’s. I did, however, sing all the background parts along with the band on all the songs. Layne did his best version of Robert Plant, although I never heard him sing with a Led Zeppelin influence again.

When it came time to mix the three songs, I chose to go to another studio only because Triad Studios had a little bit more outboard gear (reverb and effects). Effects were big in the 80’s and we were going for a big sound with lots of ear candy. Engineer Peter Barnes was a drummer and specialized in drums. I was impressed with his work, so I brought him in to mix the songs to make sure that we had a very good drum track.

But I somehow found myself with nowhere to live, so the band let me stay in their rehearsal room at the Music Bank. They weren’t coming there as often anymore and if they did want to rehearse, I would just put my stuff in the corner while they practiced. About a month later, Layne moved in as well. He took the couch and I slept on the floor with a sleeping bag. We both started working at the Music Bank; we were the guys that held the keys to let everybody into their rehearsal rooms. I think we were paid either four dollars an hour cash or credit towards a room! We usually chose the credit because we could get food and showers from girls. We were always playing jokes on each other, and nothing was really off-limits, although we wouldn’t do anything to physically harm each other. It seemed like every day (if somebody was in the front office), either myself or Layne would try to pick each other up in the air like a little baby… it looked so ridiculous to have a grown man up in the air, held by another guy! I think both of us only weighed about 120 pounds so it was pretty easy to pick each other up.

One time I went a little too far with the jokes… Layne brought this girl in the rehearsal room to have sex with her on the couch and told me not to open the door. But I was working that night and I had the keys for all the rooms. A group of about 12 people stood outside the door, and I waited until the exact moment to open it up. Of course the two “animals on the couch’ were shocked and a certain “thing” went flying across the room. We all laughed hysterically like little kids. Layne never brought it up again but I’m sure he retaliated in some prankster way.

Sleze’s drummer, James Bergstrom, came to me one day and asked me what I thought of the new name they were considering, which was Alice N’ Chains. I assumed the apostrophe came from a Guns N’ Roses influence. They went with the new name and I made some cassettes of the three songs before they were officially finished and gave them to Jeff Gilbert, a DJ at KCRW.  I had known Jeff for a few years and knew he could get some airplay for them if he liked them. A month later in January 1987, the band officially made 100 copies of the tapes, which they gave out to friends and fans.

aliceNchains
The three song demo I recorded for Alice ‘N Chains. “Lip Lock Rock” was added last, despite being first on the tracklist.

In June of 1987, they changed their name to Alice In Chains, yet some booking agents were still booking them as Sleze or Alice ‘N Chains for months afterwards. The band was getting very popular and as those things happen, they were going to a lot of parties and kind of taking a break from working so hard. Towards the end of 1987, Alice In Chains broke up. The band had run its course and everyone pursed other styles of music.

For a period of a few months, nothing musically was really happening in Seattle and it was kind of a dead. But, that made a lot of people start bands and come up with new sounds. I wanted to try to put together a band of really good players around my own age that were serious about the same type of music which at the time was sort of a mix of Whitesnake, Motley Crue, and other bands of that nature. I know today a lot of kids like to throw them all into one category, but to us they were all extremely different.

I had a team called Headhunter Consultants that believed in me and one of them, Samantha Johnson, came up with the band name Gypsy Rose. I had one of the big rooms at the Music Bank to rehearse in with keyboardist Ron Stokes. We found a great drummer named Mike Gersema and started trying out guitar players: Doug Stokely from Sato, Rich Henry from Broken Toys, Brock Graue from Lipstick, and Andy Beach from Wildcard.

headhunter
We had trouble finding a guitarist who would stick around.

We ended up working with Brock because he had dark-yet-simple songs and we just felt like he was one of us. He had also worked with Gersema in a band called Phaze. He suggested that we call Mike Starr (formerly of Sato) to play bass for us because he knew he was available and lived nearby. A local promoter named Bret Hartman (who would later be the MCA Records A&R guy) wanted to do a show with us at The Backstage. He thought we were a super-group of known local musicians and wanted to put our names on the flyer, which we thought was really cool.

sponge
Thanks to Bret Hartman for supporting us early on.

I knew Jerry Cantrell from a band called Diamond Lie and he had a roommate named Brian Herrman who was a keyboard player that was available. So we borrowed him for that show. We had worked with two other keyboard players including John Fryer and Ron Stokes. The details are a little fuzzy, but soon after the show, Brock Graue was out of the band, which was a shame because obviously the guitar player is a big part of the sound.

I then moved in with Mike Starr and we became good friends and spent the summer of 1987 doing all the things you could do in your early 20’s. Starr would lift weights, tan and look to his future. He had a lot going on in his head but wouldn’t usually reveal the details of his thoughts to just anybody. Without a guitarist, we recorded about 20 songs on my four-track recorder in the basement where we rehearsed in Des Moines, WA. I played the guitar parts, keyboards and sang, with Starr on bass and Gersema on drums. The band at this time sounded like Cinderella, Whitesnake – bands of that time.

rehearsal
Myself alongside Mike Starr and Mike Gersema in 1987.

We went to lots of parties, but practice always came first. One night, drummer Mike Gersema and I went to a party at the home of Vinnie Chas (later of Pretty Boy Floyd). Jerry Cantrell was living with him at the time. Jerry pulled me aside and played me a lot of songs on his 4-track. I was shocked at all his guitar harmonies and how far he had come musically in such a short time. A lot of the songs were in major keys and kind of sounded like the band Boston from the late 70s with lots of guitar harmonies. Jerry’s band, Diamond Lie, had just broken up, so he moved in with us in the basement for about a month.

Jerry was very organized and we ended up doing most of his songs instead of the previous direction, which was mostly all my songs. But something wasn’t a perfect fit, and Jerry soon left. But now that I look back, that meant he also had nowhere to live. I’ve seen some interviews with Jerry talking about this, but he is mistaken that he thinks I am the one that “kicked him out” of the band. If you would like to hear 4 songs from this time period, you can hear them here:

At another attempt for a guitarist, we asked Gersema’s friend Tony Avalon (son of Frankie Avalon) to fly up from California for a few weeks while we all decided if it was a good fit or not. I think we both decided it was a clash of styles, but it was fun putting a bluesy spin on our metal songs. But before Avalon left, he went out with Starr and Gersema to the Riviera Steakhouse to see some bands play. I woke up the next morning with a call that Starr and Gersema fought over a girl and Starr was out of the band! It was upsetting, but we found another guitarist and bassist and kept playing shows.

We were really shocked to learn that Starr, Cantrell and Staley were in a band together called Diamond Lie. I had also met Sean Kinney previously. It seemed very bizarre that they all found a common music force. They changed their name to Alice In Chains and both of our bands played one show together, where promoter advertised them as “Diamond Lie”. Playing with them was an awkward feeling – almost like running into your ex with your new girlfriend. Here, Gypsy Rose was clearly stuck in the 80’s, and Alice In Chains was dressing different and doing something new.

diamondlie
AiC were advertised as “Diamond Lie” at some early shows.

The rest is history, I suppose!

Co-written by Doug McCausland and Austin Eddington

Perhaps nothing stood out more in the last decade of the 20th century than its music and video games. Many genres of both were born in those ten years: gangsta rap and grunge, real time strategy (RTS), and the first person shooter (FPS), among others. No game is historically as synonymous with the FPS title than id Software’s Doom series.

Doom was a major step in the evolution of video games, putting the player in the boots of a lone space marine mowing down demons with chainsaws and shotguns in a realistic manner. The player, for the first time in a major release, viewed the action through the protagonist’s eyes. The id Software team is credited with the creation of the FPS when they released Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, but it wouldn’t be until the next year that the genre would be pushed into the mainstream with the release of Doom.

One of the most popular features in Doom 1 and 2 was its hefty soundtrack, featuring digitized and slightly altered versions of popular hard rock and metal songs including, but not limited to, tracks bearing great resemblance to songs by Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, and Alice in Chains. The tracks for the games were provided by composer Bobby Prince, who, prior to being a part of the id Software development team, worked as a lawyer. His experience in the field would come in handy, for when given a stack of heavy metal records to use as inspiration for the soundtrack for the game, Prince knew how much of the music he would borrow without facing legal action.

Doom 2 recently celebrated its 20th birthday on September 30th. In commemoration of this milestone, let’s take a look back at some of the coolest instances of our favorite songs of the era being converted into MIDI for the second title of the “ultraviolent” video game series, plus a few other familiar songs from the franchise’s extensive back catalog…

Stone Temple Pilots – Sex Type Thing (Into Sandy’s City)

A slower take on the melody of STP’s classic “Sex Type Thing”, “Into Sandy’s City” was originally a more blatant copy of the song it was based on, and you can hear this version here. That version of the song was released alongside many other tracks in the “Unused Doom Music Collection”, which also includes a “Dead and Bloated” rip.

Alice In Chains – Them Bones (Bye Bye American Pie)/Angry Chair (Adrian’s Asleep)

The final products are more obviously inspired by its original song than the “Sex Type Thing” homage, but is that really a bad thing? In addition to “Angry Chair” and “Them Bones”, a decent amount of Alice In Chains-inspired songs went unused and were released as part of the Unused Doom Music anthology. You can check out the following tunes: “We Die Young“, “Man in the Box“, “Rain When I Die“, “Junkhead“, and “Godsmack“. Seemingly not available on YouTube are scrapped versions of “Dirt” and “Rooster”.

Pantera – This Love (Waiting For Romero To Play)

A looped version of “This Love”‘s psychedelic intro, you can also check out a scrapped MIDI version of Pantera’s “Walk” here. The first game also utilized “Mouth For War” and “Regular People“.

Megadeth – Hangar 18 (Running From Evil)

A pretty close take on the second track from Megadeth’s 1990 magnum opus, Rust In Peace.

Slayer – South of Heaven (Shawn’s Got The Shotgun)/Skeletons of Society (Message For The Archville)

Also check out scrapped versions of “Raining Blood and “Silent Scream“, as well as the first game’s version of “Behind The Crooked Cross“.

Black Sabbath – After All (The Demon’s Dead)

“After All (The Dead)” is the second track on Black Sabbath’s 1992 album, Dehumanizer.

Edge of Sanity – The Spectral Sorrows (Endgame Theme)

Most assume the song that plays at the end of Doom 2 is based on “The Spectral Sorrows, a song from the Swedish death metal group Edge of Sanity.



Unused Soundgarden Songs – Rusty Cage, Outshined, Slaves & Bulldozers

These three MIDI tracks inspired by classic Soundgarden tunes went unused in either Doom 1 or 2, but their faithfulness to the originals is astounding.

Tim Branom was an integral part of early Alice In Chains history, being the frontman of a band called Gypsy Rose that featured Jerry Cantrell and Mike Starr. Branom went on to produce the first demo by Alice N’ Chains, a band featuring Layne Staley that would be abolished and rebranded as the Alice in Chains we all know and love.

The multi-instrumentalist Branom has released a cinematic music video for his song “Enemy”. The vampire themed video, based on the classic film Nosferatu, stars James Fox as Nosferatu, Kevin J. Sheen as Jonathan Harker, and Megan Barkley as Lucy Harker. “It’s like a preview to a vampire movie,” Branom said recently while on break at his Los Angeles studio. Intent on creating a horror classic, Branom enlisted acclaimed filmmaker Thaddeus Byrd (Second Coming, Hills of Elysium) to direct the music video. “The story takes place in the 1800s, so I shot on film instead of digital media to achieve an old feel and depth to the characters,” Byrd commented during a break in post-production. “We used a castle for the shoot. The costumes are over a hundred years old. We used three special effects makeup artists to make Nosferatu come alive. I think fans of the horror genre will love it.”

Branom also took the time to clarify a long standing misunderstanding involving a cult 80’s film titled Father Rock, featuring music from an early incarnation of Alice in Chains and a speaking role for former frontman Layne Staley. The film features a scene in which the band performs. Says Branom’s camp, “People always think it’s Layne singing in the movie when it’s actually Tim Branom. At the time, I decided to replace the audio with Tim’s studio recordings which were actually much better than the songs we had of the earlier version of Alice in Chains.”

 

Shaun Morgan discussed Alice In Chains and other Grunge acts in the final part of AlternativeNation.net’s exclusive interview with the Seether frontman. Seether are currently on tour in support of their latest album Isolate and Medicate, recently wrapping the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Tour. Morgan discussed his admiration for Layne Staley.

“I’m a huge fan of Layne Staley’s voice. I think that the story of his life is pretty brutal, and I think how he died was pretty sad. The saddest part about that is that nobody cared enough to find him for two weeks, that’s brutal. I see a lot of comparisons between myself and whatever he was going through at the time.”

He also discussed modern day Alice In Chains and what some Grunge bands are currently up to, “I do like some of the new stuff, I don’t like the new singer, because I think Layne Staley can’t be replaced, to be honest. But it was good to see that Alice In Chains is still around and doing it, as one of the old bands. Like Pearl Jam, and homeboy from Smashing Pumpkins is still trying to do something. But at least Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam have maintained the integrity. Jerry’s still writing the music, and being the main singer on the albums, so it has retained the Alice In Chains sound.”

Watch the interview below, conducted by Brett Buchanan and Elias Fulmer, with previous interview parts under it:



Woodstock ’94 was chock full of memorable moments – Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon hitting the stage in a dress, Green Day getting nutty, the Nine Inch Nails lads showing up already covered in mud, Metallica’s James Hetfield sporting one of the mightiest mullets of all-time, etc. And certainly one of the festival’s highlights was Primus’ early evening performance on Saturday, August 13, 1994, on the “South Stage” (between sets by The Band and…Salt-N-Pepa!).

While most of the renowned artists that played Woodstock ’94 have had their full sets circulating in trader circles for years by this point, Primus’ full set has never been widely viewed…until now. This past Thursday, the trio’s full hour-long set was uploaded on YouTube, in great audio/video remastered quality.

Be sure to keep an eye out for such performance highlights as singer/bassist Les Claypool attempting “The Star Spangled Banner” on his instrument during “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers,” miraculously stopping the masses from tossing mud on stage during “My Name is Mud,” inviting Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell on stage to jam on “Harold of the Rocks,” and closing the set with a brief Metallica cover.

Also, Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde will be appearing this Tuesday, September 23rd at Rickett’s Lab, in San Francisco, CA, to sign copies of the newly released book, Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool. Tickets are required for this event (which begins at 7pm) – call City Lights Booksellers at 415-362-8193 to inquire about ticket availability before dropping by. You can also check out more info about the event by clicking here.

In case you are unaware, in addition to writing articles and conducting interviews for the Alternative Nation site, I am also the author of quite a few books (maybe you heard of a few of the titles – Grunge is Dead, MTV Ruled the World, Overlooked/Underappreciated, etc.). And on September 16, 2014, my thirteenth book overall, Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool, was issued via Akashic Books.

As a longtime fan of Primus and Les Claypool’s many other projects, it was great to get the opportunity to interview band members past and present, as well as a variety of producers, managers, and friends (including some very well known names – Tom Waits, Tom Morello, Kirk Hammett, Geddy Lee, Stewart Copeland, Trey Anastasio, Matt Stone, etc.), and hear many stories that I have never read anywhere else before.

Interested in checking out an exclusive excerpt from the book? You’re in luck! Point your peepers below at a bit from Chapter 13 (titled “Grab Yourself a Can of Pork Soda”), which recounts Lollapalooza 1993, a tour that Primus headlined – over the likes of Alice in Chains, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Fishbone, and Dinosaur Jr., among others.

LES CLAYPOOL [Primus singer and bassist 1984–present, Sausage singer and bassist, Oysterhead singer and bassist, Frog Brigade singer and bassist, Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains singer and bassist]: Perry Farrell had been talking about us on Lollapalooza since the beginning. We were on Lollapalooza III. It was almost a given that we were going to be on Lollapalooza. Don Muller was part of it, and he was our guy. We weren’t sure where we were going to be in the bill. They weren’t hammering down a headliner. Don calls me one day and says, “Hey, Alice in Chains doesn’t want to headline. What do you guys think about headlining?” And I was like, “Fuck it, we’ll do it!”

DAVID LEFKOWITZ [Former Primus manager]: The connection with Jane’s Addiction helped us and our booking agents helped us, because there were four partners in Lollapalooza—Don Muller, Mark Geiger . . . our agents, basically, Perry Farrell, and his manager Ted Gardner.

LES CLAYPOOL: To be honest with you, it was the first time people started throwing rocks at Primus. I mean, as far as press—How dare these guys. Who are these guys to headline Lollapalooza? It was really the first time we started seeing negative press. And even the festival itself started getting rocks thrown at it. It’s funny, because now as time has gone by, people talk about how that was the best one, because Tool and Rage Against the Machine were opening, and they were alternating whether they were on the first stage or the second stage. And obviously, Alice in Chains and us, Fishbone, Dinosaur Jr.—it was a pretty amazing bill. But at the time, people were like, What the hell is this? But we did it. [Laughs] And again, we’ve always been so protective—I think it all comes back from seeing friends of mine back in the day getting screwed over by people who were supposedly more knowledgeable. So we always had this attitude of, We’re young, we’re the next generation, we know what we’re doing. Maybe not necessarily consciously, but subconsciously we’re saying this and doing this.

We’re headlining Lollapalooza—what did we do when we needed a lighting guy? We hired Ler’s friend from high school, because he had gone to two hundred and some-odd Dead shows! We figured, This guy’s got to know what good lights look like. Who cares if he actually knows how to run the console. [Laughs] We shot all this footage with this insane rare and expensive camera, with an anamorphic lens, which they probably used to shoot Lawrence of Arabia with. We strapped it to the front of my boat, which mortified Mark Kohr, and zipped it through the bay. A lot of that footage we still use to this day, to project behind us. And we projected this giant . . . It wasn’t just the rear screen, it bled over to screens that covered the front speakers. Once we got it down, it looks pretty cool, but the first few shows it was a mess. It was just us, once again, trying to home-grow everything.

TIM “HERB” ALEXANDER [Primus drummer 1989–1996, 2003–2010, 2013–present]: This tour was so amazing. The lineup was awesome. Alice in Chains, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Fishbone, just to name a few, and we were finishing the night off headlining. But I felt Alice in Chains was the real headliner. I mean, how could we be given the title above so many great bands as the HEADLINER? Definitely felt pressured to do good every night. We made a bunch of friends on that tour, which a band usually doesn’t get to do too often, when you’re in one town and on to the next every day. It would have taken years to tour with so many great bands one at a time. So this was an amazing experience.

Getting to hear Layne Staley every night wasn’t so bad, either. He was definitely one of a kind. I run into Jerry Cantrell every now and then—at, of all places, bowling alleys. Yes, I like to bowl and I’m pretty good. I have my own bag and ball and shoes. But that’s nothing compared to how cool Jerry is when he reaches into the bag and reveals a see-through bowling ball with a skull inside it. WTF! Wicked. I’ve run into him a few times and we even connected once and bowled together. I kicked his ass.

One of the big regrets was when we were in Seattle, Les and Ler said they were going to go hang out at the studio while they were tracking their album with the dog on the cover [1995’s Alice in Chains]. I wasn’t feeling well that night and was tired, and didn’t really think that it was that important. Wow, what a dumbshit move that was. That album grew on me so much. I don’t think people really understand the complexity of that record. The melodies are incredible and the layers of harmony that Layne and Jerry did were like no others. I get chills listening to that record. Although I couldn’t stand the sound of the drums. It sounded like they weren’t mixed or any care was spent on the drum sound—and Sean [Kinney] is a great drummer. Maybe it’s like that to really make everyone else shine even more. Which is what being a drummer is all about.

LES CLAYPOOL: We didn’t know much about Alice in Chains prior to that. They were this kind of “rock band” to us—kind of like, Eh,whatever. But they became really good friends. I don’t talk to Jerry very much, but when I do, it’s always great to see him. I was really bummed when Layne passed [in 2002]—not that I knew him super well, but the times that I did hang out with him, I thought he was a very interesting cat. I know a lot of people like this—they just can’t be social unless they’ve got some sort of chemical crutch. And he was one of those guys. And it took him down.

For the final show, everybody was “gagging,” which you always do. There’s always some sort of shenanigans for the last show. So I said, “Rent me a chicken suit—I’m going out there for ‘Rooster’.” So I put on this chicken suit, and here I come—“Here comes the rooster”—and I come flying out onstage. They were kind of ready for some shenanigans, so they start hurling eggs at me! And I can’t see shit—if you watch the footage, I can’t see shit through the damn chicken mask. I’m out there dancing around, and I can’t dodge these eggs. That was cool and all funny, but the best part about it is I come off stage, and I’m heading back to the dressing room, and Timothy Leary had been out on the tour a little bit. He was a big Primus fan. So I’m walking along, and there’s Timothy Leary walking with these girls. And, forgetting I’m dressed like a chicken, I’m like, “TIMOTHY LEARY! WHAT’S GOING ON, MAN?!” And he just looked like he was scared to death. Like some demon from his past had come back at him or something.

TIM “HERB” ALEXANDER: We also became friends with Tool. Maynard [James Keenan] and I kind of clicked somehow. I think it’s because we are into UFOs and virgin sacrifices. I clearly remember him walking toward our bus to come say hi, and I was thinking, Who the hell is this? He had a Mohawk, sunglasses, and army fatigues on. Remember Taxi Driver? Well, needless to say, I thought he had a screw loose to choose that look to model himself after. Oh great, some loony wants to come and raid our refrigerator or shit in our toilet. I didn’t know much about him at the time.

Tool was playing on a side stage and they got moved up to the big leagues—or the main stage—where the superstars like Primus played. He turned out to be crazy but I still got along with him, and we ended up working together over time. One of the earlier projects was A Perfect Circle. Maynard had called me and said they wanted me to come and work on this music Billy [Howerdel] had been working on. Billy sent up a CD for me to listen to and it was really cool, and had a lot of songs in 3/4, which is one of my favorite time signatures. I went to LA and there I first met Paz Lenchantin, who became a good friend—that I worked with later in our careers. We jammed the ideas Billy had and Maynard would mumble melody ideas as we played the tunes. We even did a two-week West Coast tour, and Maynard was still mumbling melody ideas on some of the songs instead of lyrics. He is very brave. It’s not what you say but how you say it. I think so. More recently I’ve been a part of Puscifer, which is one of his many jobs or businesses. He is the great multitasker.

LES CLAYPOOL: Tool and Rage Against the Machine were just coming up, so they were like the junior guys of the tour. But I do remember hanging out with Maynard. He was inviting me to come out to his house to see his turkeys—he had a bunch of turkeys at his house for some reason. I was like, Who the hell is this guy? He was always working out backstage. He’s kind of a little guy with bad posture, and he’s back there pumping iron all day long. I was like, This is kind of weird. But they were all great guys.

TIM “HERB” ALEXANDER: We were already good friends with Fishbone, and touring with them again was great. When we first started out we would do shows with them, and they were the best live band I think I have ever seen. That was also the first time I met Billy Howerdel. He was their guitar tech. He was a hard worker and Fishbone worked him hard. He was so clean and organized. I just couldn’t understand how you can do that when instruments are flying across the stage, and Norwood has taken off his clothes and who knows what else. They were all just awesome. Once, Fish, the drummer, wasn’t able to make a show on Lollapalooza, and a bunch of us drummers filled in and played different songs. I think that goes to show just how influential they were to all of us on that tour.Overall, it was an amazing tour and I’m glad and proud I was a part of it.

LES CLAYPOOL: Lollapalooza was amazing. We built some great friendships on that tour. It’s always great to be with the Fishbone guys. But the Fishbone guys were going through a bunch of crazy shit at the time, because that was when Norwood was dealing with that Kendall kidnapping bullshit. It was a little crazy. But Lollapalooza was incredibly fun.

ANGELO MOORE [Fishbone singer and saxophonist]: That was like the brightest moment, when we were playing with Primus at Lollapalooza. I remember being on Lollapalooza with them and being on that stage, and playing “Here They Come” [a.k.a. “Here Come the Bastards”]. I remember the Seas of Cheese, the sun, the air, the energy of the people at Lollapalooza. I remember soloing on my soprano saxophone, and Les playing his bass and lifting his leg up and down, like he was doing some hambone-type shit. We jammed a lot from what I remember. From my perspective, we had a lot of the same flavor and energy when it came to music.

NORWOOD FISHER [Fishbone bassist]: That was a gnarly lovefest. [Laughs] We were all in the mutual admiration club, watching each other every night. It was a lot of fun and I looked forward to every day doing that tour. Going to different people’s dressing rooms, and drinking with them, hanging on buses. We knew the guys in Alice in Chains, but our history with Primus, they were real friends.

ANGELO MOORE: Nothing really reckless—Les Claypool is a pretty laid-back guy. I can’t remember any stories of haphazardness or destruction with Les.

LES CLAYPOOL: I remember Angelo telling me a story about some girl he slept with pissing into a pickle jar.

LARRY LaLONDE [Primus guitarist 1989–present]: It was just a crazy atmosphere—Lollapalooza was kind of a new thing then. Just hanging out backstage, setting up amps, and jamming. It was really like a traveling circus.

LES CLAYPOOL: And we actually got to the point where Tom Morello would come out and sit in with us once in a while—I think on “Tweekers”—and do a little solo.

TOM MORELLO [Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Audioslave guitarist, producer of the Primus songs “Electric Uncle Sam,” “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool,” and “Power Mad”]: On Lollapalooza ’93, we played first and they played last. Often, we were driving to the next city when Primus came on. But that was the Lollapalooza that I think the tour sold out before the bill was announced. There was a new sheriff in town—it was this kind of music, and Primus was headlining. So it was very meaningful that a band that had come from Frizzle Fry was now playing to 20,000 to 40,000 people a night in the headlining slot. It was clear that the times had changed for the better.

As far as on that tour, I jammed with them once or twice. And I remember being very nervous for that, because we were an opening band in clubs at that time, and playing at one thirty in the afternoon, in front of six hundred people eating hot dogs. I forget where we played, but I remember doing some solo—I don’t know that it was my shining moment, but I remember being flattered to be asked, and enjoying doing it.

I don’t know that we hung out that much. I remember talking with Ler. Tim was always nice and clearly a musician’s musician. Ler was always great . . . we did not “bro down” too much on that tour, but he and I have become very good friends. He’s got a lot of metal bones in his body too—we can both discuss with reverence and laugh ironically . . . We actually went to Kiss and Mötley Crüe together the other day! He’s got a good, ironic sense of humor about the music that we love. And Les is a great guy. We didn’t really bond too much on that tour, but we became friends afterward.

To order either the hardcover or Kindle version of Primus, Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight into Primus and the World of Les Claypool, click your clicker here.

Photo by Jay Blakesburg.

A DeathandTaxes blogger admitted a few days ago to his Craigslist listing for the ‘chair’ from the Alice In Chains “Angry Chair” video being a prank he played on fans and internet writers, even listing our story on it.

laynethankyou

He listed several e-mails he got from fans inquiring on buying it, including a personal story from somebody who mentioned his father was sick. Even Lathan McKay, who was set to star in a Layne Staley film that never happened, e-mailed him.

The Chair Pranker said, “I don’t feel bad about tricking the writers. All they had to do to confirm the legitimacy of the post was (a) respond to the listing asking for more details and/or (b) reverse image search that shitty chair image, and find its original source. Option (b) would have taken 15 seconds, at most, which I suppose is too slow for the fast-paced world of internet journalism.”

laynesmoking

“I do feel awful about tricking the Alice In Chains fans.”

laynebigmistake

“As soon as the chair started getting coverage, I received emails from people who wanted to purchase it.”

He later added, “But no matter how many used guitar picks you purchase off eBay, you will never be young again.”

laynefuck

“We all know this, yet regularly buy in. Manipulating this desperate, common feeling is how places like the Hard Rock Cafe and nostalgia-circuit bands like the Rolling Stones cynically make their money.”

layneinsult

davidbowieyoung

David Bowie

prince

Prince

“Prince is probably one of my biggest idols, besides David Bowie. He’s one of the most amazing performers and songwriters of our time, I think, and I’m damn impressed with what he’s done.” (Rage 1993)

sabbath-black-sabbath

Black Sabbath

“I have two sisters, a brother, and my parents. They weren’t very musical. My mom kind of was. She used to sing. I’d say my first influence would be Black Sabbath, then Ozzy, then Ian Gillan with Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. The first record I ever picked up was Black Sabbath. It was either my mom’s or my dad’s album ! I just picked it out of their collection.” (RIP Magazine 1991)

rage-against-the-machine-pic

Rage Against The Machine

“We went on tour with [them] on Lollapalooza, and they were great, an amazing bunch of guys. I made a point to wake up early and go see these guys play, and “Killing In The Name Of” is one of my favorite songs by them, in fact it is my favorite song. By the way Tom Morello, the guitar player, taught me how to play the guitar. So if I screw up, it’s his fault (Laughs).” (Rage 1993)

Ministry-band-1990

Ministry

lordsnewchurch

Lords of the New Church

skinny-puppy

Skinny Puppy

NirvanaRollingStone-wide

Nirvana

“I’m sure these guys are real proud of what they’ve done, and I’m really proud of what they’ve done, for a band that was ridiculed, and made a mockery of by the press. They came back and destroy them with a great album, a great song, and a great video [“Heart Shaped Box].” (Rage 1993)

annandnancy

Heart

Layne Staley Alice in Chains Shannon Hoon Blind Melon

Blind Melon

“I know a lot of people that don’t agree with me that [“No Rain”] is a great song, and a good video, and they can all go to hell, because I think it’s great. Shannon, the singer, is a good friend of mine.” (Rage 1993)

Godsmack is a hard rock group that formed in 1995 and hit mainstream success with their debut self-titled LP. After the release of yet another successful album, “Awake,” drummer Tommy Stewart left the band and was replaced by Shannon Larkin, known for his work in Ugly Kid Joe. With Larkin onboard, the group delivered “Faceless,” “IV,” and “The Oracle,” which all hit #1 on US rock charts. After a hiatus and frontman Sully Erna’s solo album, “Avalon,” the band reunited to record their most recent LP ,”1000hp.” We got to ask Shannon Larkin some questions while the band is on tour for the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR festival.

Uproar-2014-300x300
Promotional poster for Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR Festival 2014

You guys are currently on the Rockstar Energy Drink UPROAR festival. How has it been so far?

Uproar has been overall great. Great crowds, good vibes backstage, and great food and parties.

Godsmack recently released their sixth studio album, “1000hp.” Can you talk about the writing process and how it compared to previous releases?

After taking some time off, when we fired it back up the writing process went very smooth, and with no drama. Everyone came to the table with lots of riffs and ideas and we were all on the same page as to what we wanted to achieve musically.

First Webisode of Godsmack’s series “The Making of ‘1000hp'”

On the last track of 1000hp, “Turning to Stone,” you explored some non-conventional percussion and drumming techniques. What pushed you to experiment with this style?

Quite simply, Sully. Being a drummer himself, he really pushed me hard on this record, wearing his producer hat and bringing out the best of my style and playing.

Godsmack hit the level of being festival headliners within the past few years. What was the band’s reaction to hitting this peak and the success that followed?

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have gotten where we are in this hard as nails business. We are very grateful and take nothing for granted.

Do you find it frustrating to be in a rock band in a society and era that has mainstream focus on pop and hip-hop artists?

Not really frustrating, but sometimes disheartening. We came up in a different era where rock was king, there was no cell phones or internet, and if you wanted to see a band you liked, you had to see it live on stage. But hey, you just roll with the punches and keep bringing it.

Godsmack was compared to Alice in Chains frequently in their early years. What is your take on the comparison and what is your view on Alice in Chains?

Firstly, we all love Alice in Chains. We love great songs, and that is what they’ve always delivered. That said, I never thought we sounded like them. Perhaps the song “Voodoo,” but even that’s a stretch, in my opinion.


Music video for “Voodoo,” the band’s third single off their debut LP

You have drummed for a variety of big-name bands including Stone Sour, Black Sabbath, Candlebox, Glassjaw, and more. What would you consider to be one of the main highlights or memories in your career?

Definitely, the Sabbath gig, talk about surreal! I was a 12 year old kid listening to Sabbath records (that’s right, vinyl) in my bedroom, then fast forward twenty years or so and I’m onstage with em’. Doesn’t get much better than that in the “dream-fulfilling” part of my existence.

Although Godsmack is your main priority right now, what is the status of your other projects like Another Animal and Ugly Kid Joe?

Another Animal was a one off side project, but we never say never. Ugly Kid Joe is still kicking it, having released a new set of songs last year called “Stairway To Hell,” which we are all very proud of. Tony Rombola and I have a blues band we are doing called Blue Cross.

Another_AnimalCover artwork for Another Animal’s 2007 self-titled debut album

What are some bands you’ve been listening to recently?

I’ve been listening to Ramones constantly since Tommy’s passing, and also Seether, who are on tour with us now and kicking ass.

Who are some musicians or bands on your bucket list that you would like to either tour or collaborate with?

All of us dream of playing with AC/DC. We got to play with Metallica and Sabbath, so the only dream left is the thunder from down under, and the clock is ticking.

What can fans expect for the future of Godsmack?

The future of Godsmack is to keep making music and touring until we feel we aren’t (or can’t) give 100%. Only then will we retire. I promise we won’t be old farts giving half-assed shows for the money. As long as we are strong, will will rock on.

151583_082112godsmack3

laynebadass11

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.

Layne Staley Alice in Chains

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.

laynerooster1

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.

laynelanegan

4. 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.”

jerrycantrelllaynestaley1995

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.

laynefunny7

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.”

JohnFrusciante2012

7. 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.

laynesaturday

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.

Rest in Peace Layne Staley

1967-2002

Featuring a heart felt foreword by Scott Ian of Anthrax describing the day he found a Black Sabbath record in his uncle’s collection and discovered his passion for the “weird and dark intensity” of heavy metal bands, Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal tries to pinpoint the origin of the term “heavy metal”. After the initial debate, which features input from several noted individuals like Rob Halford, the late great Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, and Ozzy Osbourne, Louder Than Hell becomes a comprehensive textbook of all things metal, fueled by interviews members from pretty much any metal act you can think of.

Although the book is presented in a chronological order, starting with proto-metal in the late 1960’s and reaching to the recent post-hardcore and “new-wave metal” bands of the late 2000’s like Avenged Sevenfold and Lamb of God, because of its sheer size (the paperback reaching 707 pages, not including the acknowledgements and index) and volume of content, anybody but a really dedicated reader would probably be compelled to read the book front to back. However, the text and language, straight from the metal artists, is accessible for anyone and is a wellspring of information.

In addition to tackling the darker side of heavy metal and hard rock music, the book is filled to the brim with amusing anecdotes and side stories; you’ll read about the time Al Jourgesen shaved Trent Reznor’s head while he was a shy roadie working for Ministry, and the time an angry Slayer fan managed to throw a bucket of pee at Sean Kinney during the Clash of the Titans tour in the early 90’s. The small moments alone make Louder Than Hell an easy recommendation. 

AltNation regulars interviewed include: Alice in Chains, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Trent Reznor, and Richard Patrick of Filter.

Somebody is selling the “Angry Chair” from the classic Alice In Chains music video on Craigslist:

For sale, the original ANGRY CHAIR from the famous ALICE IN CHAINS music video for their hit song “angry chair.” that’s right, this is the same angry chair sat in by none other than layne staley! own a piece of rock n roll history!

some background: i was a PA on the video way back when, and after the shoot wrapped, took the chair home. since then, it’s just been sitting in my garage collecting dust. i hate to sell it, but i need to downsize. plus i’m clean now and have two kids, and i’m just not as angry as i used to be.

the chair is perfect for sitting in and just raging out. a few dents, but in otherwise great condition.

$1,500 OBO — if interested, email with your favorite AIC album and why you think you’re angry enough for the chair. money isnt important to me, just want to give the angry chair a good home.

god bless and rock on

laynechair2

laynechair1

William DuVall discussed the challenges that Alice In Chains faced during the first few years of their reunion in the mid 2000’s in a new interview with the Montreal Gazette:

“Not only our inner struggle, but the external debate going on. ‘Do they have the right to do this?’ Trying to shut all of that out and deal with our own thing — which was enough to deal with.”

He added, “Then you had promoters, they weren’t lining up to book this band. We were in the hole financially the whole first two, three years. Some of them were laughing at us. And we’d get there and f–king mow everyone down. It’s always a pretty serious throw-down onstage. That is what forged what we have now.”

William DuVall discussed how political issues influenced Alice In Chains’ recent album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in a new interview with The Chronicle Herald:

“There were things happening that we, as citizens, couldn’t help not only observe, but react to,” says DuVall. “Even if it was just in the moment, watching it unfold. Some of the statements being flashed across the screen and across the nation, made by people who were elected officials on the national stage, talking about ‘legitimate rape’ or wiping out all of the science classes in a particular municipality in Louisiana or someplace like that, these are the kinds of things we were seeing.

“Or some of the things people would say about our president, really irresponsible things flying around and being given a platform of inherent legitimacy because it was on the news or the person saying it was an elected official. Things like that couldn’t help but seep into our process a little bit.”

To celebrate the late great Layne Staley’s birthday today, I have compiled a list of (at least what I believe) to be the Top 10 Layne Staley penned songs! Feel free to post yours in the comments section.

10. Mad Season – Long Gone Day (1995)

This is a beautiful dark jazzy song, featuring some of Layne’s most experimental work melodically, along with Mark Lanegan. It’s a shame Layne only got to scratch the surface with material like this, but we’ll always have Above.

9. Alice In Chains – Again (1995)

“Again” has some of Layne’s most unique vocal production/layering techniques. The way Staley wails during the chorus, harmonizing under his own lyrics, is what makes him one of a kind.

8. Alice In Chains – Love Hate Love (1990)

While Staley was just developing his unique melodic/lyric writing abilities on Facelift, there’s a loose swagger to his voice that is present in his voice on this record, especially on “Love Hate Love.”

7. Alice In Chains – Angry Chair (1992)

“Angry Chair” was Alice In Chains’ first radio hit that was solely written by Staley (music and lyrics). There’s a sense of desperation in the verses with lines like ‘Loneliness is not a phase’ and ‘Saw my reflection and cried/so little hope that I died,’ but there’s almost a sense of acceptance during the angelic chorus.

6. Mad Season – Wake Up (1995)

“Wake Up” features one of Layne’s best lyrics ‘Slow suicide’s no way to go.’ The song is a slow burner, and the type that may take time to grow on you, but once it does it will be one of your favorite tracks off Above.

5. Alice In Chains – Man In The Box (1990)

Arguably Alice In Chains’ signature hit, “Man In The Box” is still heard on radio today, with it’s thunderous chorus being one of Staley’s best hooks.

4. Alice In Chains – Get Born Again (1999)

Arguably Staley’s darkest song is one of the last tracks he ever recorded. Staley sings from a place of utter despair, ‘Can you protect/me when I’m wrecked/I pretend you’re still alive.’ Part of the song touches on religious themes, with Staley also singing about his struggles with his ex-girlfriend passing away. While Staley spent his final years out of the spotlight and struggling with his demons, “Get Born Again” and “Died” show that he still was one of the most creative singers on the planet.

3. Alice In Chains – Nutshell (1994)

Jar of Flies found Staley reach new highs, with his part on “Don’t Follow” being one of his most memorable performances, along with the triumphant “I Stay Away.”  “Nutshell” though is Layne’s most personal track on the album, with stream of conscience lyrics, ‘And yet I fight/This battle all alone/No one to cry to/No place to call home.’

2. Alice In Chains – Hate to Feel (1992)

“Hate to Feel” is another Alice In Chains track solely written by Staley, and it is arguably his best AIC track, with a chaotic energy that escalates throughout the song.  The song tells the story of Layne’s relationship with his father, and his fear of becoming like him.  Layne sings manically, ‘All this time I swore I’d never be like my old man/what the hey it’s time to face exactly who I am/I can see/wish I couldn’t see at all.’

1. Mad Season – River of Deceit (1995)

“River of Deceit” is the quintessential Layne Staley song.  Lines like ‘My pain is self-chosen/at least so the prophet says’ and ‘I could either drown/Or pull off my skin and swim to shore/Now I can grow a beautiful/Shell for all to see’ make this one of the most autobiographical and self-aware songs of Layne’s career.

I’ve read Alice In Chains’ 90’s press extensively over the years, and recently while looking back at several 1995/1996 interviews, I was inspired to put together an oral history of the making of Alice In Chains’ 1995 self-titled album, also known commonly among fans as Tripod. This oral history was put together through several hours of researching Alice In Chains interviews, with pieces by RIP Magazine, Guitar Player, MTV, National Guitar Museum, and Addicted to Noise all being cited.  First off is a track by track look back at the album, followed by stories about Layne Staley’s recording process and the album cover.

alicegrind

1. GRIND

Jerry Cantrell: I think it pretty much sets the tone right off the bat. We just recorded everything on the record, and when you’re done recording, generally then, that’s when you’re thinking about how it all fits together… That one just seemed, after the time off we’ve had, I think the first couple lines and stuff in that song, and the intensity of it, I think that’s what needed to be said. It’s just like, “Don’t count me out! Don’t fuckin’ count me out.” [laughs]” (RIP Magazine 1996, Jennifer Clay)

alice95new

2. BRUSH AWAY

Jerry Cantrell: Yeah [there’s a backwards guitar solo], a third take. The first time I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, the second time I kinda got it, and the third time I still had that feedback where I roll the volume up when I started. I didn’t even know what I did. [laughs] I couldn’t have thought it out. I don’t think technically at all–I just play, you know? I’m not a rube–I can sit down and check it out, but I’ve got no interest for that. I know how to play well enough–that’s all I need. (Guitar Player 1996, Matt Resnicof)

AliceinChains19952

3. SLUDGE FACTORY

Jerry Cantrell: Another riff that came out of the demo sessions I had done earlier in the year. Its actually an old riff, maybe seven years old, from the first year we were a band. Its from the same period as ‘Love, Hate, Love.’ But the rest of the song, not that main riff, always rubbed Layne in the wrong way. So it took me about seven years to get it right. It probably sounds so brutal because it had been waiting seven years to get out of its cage and onto a record. {laughs} (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

aliceheavenbesideyou

4. HEAVEN BESIDE YOU

Jerry Cantrell: A lot of the stuff that we right ends up having kind multiple meanings, (laughs) whether we mean it to or not.  But that one is pretty specifically about my relationship with my girlfriend, which I’ve pretty much wrecked for the last time I think.  It’s basically about having pretty much the most beautiful thing in front of you, right within your grasp, yet your still welled inside your own little ball of hell.  All you’ve really got to do is slap yourself awake, and reach out and grab it, but that’s a hard thing to do. (MTV 120 Minutes 1995, Matt Pinfield)

alice961

5. HEAD CREEPS

Jerry Cantrell: Layne came up with that, and its a good fucking riff that turned out more brutal than I expected. I added that real stupid metal guitar to it to make it heavier. Layne’s been playing more and more guitar lately, which will help me out when we play live again. (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

aliceagain

6. AGAIN

Jerry Cantrell: I had the riff for that one and an idea for the vocal, and then Layne came up with something so much better that I decided to throw mine right into the fucking trash. (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

laynedog1

7. SHAME IN YOU

Jerry Cantrell: Mike, Sean and I came up with that riff in out early playing around between January and March. Sean will probably kill me for saying this, but he though it was too ballady. Its in that open tuning, and has that big mondo ending and some cool chord changes, but the lyrics hold it together and make it tough. (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

alice_in_chains_again

8. GOD AM

Jerry Cantrell: The best part of this song is how disjointed it is, but it still flows. I think it’s a great song. I used a Sustainiac on the backing chorus, so that whole part was done with the left hand. (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

aliceinchains96new

9. SO CLOSE

Jerry Cantrell: The last track we cut. It was something we hadn’t gotten to, and we got to the end and we were burned out, finished. But we listened to it for about a week and said we should add it. It was a song waiting for lyrics. I cut it with that vintage Strat that I bought. (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

aliceunplugged3

10. NOTHIN’ SONG

Jerry Cantrell: One of the open-tuning songs that has a real Pagey riff. One of the great things about this record for me is that a shitload of my influences came out on this record, more so than on any record we put out in the past. You can pick stuff and say this sounds like Iommi, or this sounds like Gilmour. For me it is cool to listen to my influences coming out unconsciously and clearly: Brian May, Toby and Darrel and Tom were listening to me cut the solo, and its had this certain tone. When I finished they all yelled “Brian May” [laughs]. (National Guitar Museum 1996, HP Newquist)

Layne Staley Alice in Chains

11. FROGS

Layne Staley: It was written about those little green, slimy, animals. They’re related to the newt. You know what, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t even tell you what the lyrics to that song is right now. (Rockline 1999)

layneletterman

12. OVER NOW

Mike Inez: That’s Sean, Sean had that idea [for the title]. I think it was Sean or Jerry that came up with that. I told them that people are gonna read a lot of shit into it. Maybe that’s our joke on all you guys? So, I don’t know. “Yeah, it’s over now/But I can breathe somehow.” There’s some cool lyrics in there. I never asked [Jerry] this question, but how do you know he’s talking about the band? Maybe he’s talking about a relationship, or he’s talking about something else,. Who knows what it means? (RIP Magazine 1996, Jennifer Clay)

laynesaturday

LAYNE STALEY’S RECORDING PROCESS

Sean Kinney: Layne would come in, give an opinion, find more things he wanted to work with and go from there. (MTV OnLine 1996, Tom Phalen)

Layne Staley: If I go to the studio when the music is done, and I just have the producer set up a microphone in the engineering room, and set up an open track, and show me what buttons to push to record, I go in the engineering room myself alone, and just toy around with the song for a few minutes and figure out a melody line.  Once I figure that out, I just pick the first thing that pops into my head, and I write a verse and a chorus, and I’ll record those and have the band come in and listen.  If they like the direction I’m going in, I do the rest of it. (Alice In Chains 1996 Promo CD)

Jerry Cantrell: Sit down behind the board, give him a mike and come back in an hour or two later and he’s got the song down, pretty much. (Addicted to Noise 1996)

Layne Staley: I would be singing, and I would hear my voice doing something that I thought I could accomplish with some of the stuff I had at home.  Like my pig nosed guitar amp, a crate guitar amp, a Jimi Hendrix fuzz face effects box, a flanger, and a phase shifter.  I used a wah wah during some of it.  I just tried a lot of different guitar effects. (Alice In Chains 1996 Promo CD)

Jerry Cantrell: I don’t need to know what he’s doin, man. He’s fuckin’ great. I know he’s going to do something great every time. I’ve got that faith in him when we work together. So it’s like, what’s he going to come up with next ? Then you hear it and it’s like, “Fuck, that’s cool, like always.” He can sing like a lark, eat like a horse. (Addicted to Noise 1996)

Layne Staley: The producer found this microphone for 15 dollars at a pawn shop.  It was this plastic, AA battery operated square mic like the Elvis type mic.  It was totally distorted, it sounded like an AM radio thing.  You couldn’t sing too loud in it, because it just sounded like it was going to blow.  Stand way back from that and hook that it into the fuzz face, and take all of the low end out, and crank the mid range and tone treble all the way up, do some doubling effects with that.  I just wanted to just make it more interesting.  I’ve kind of denied myself doing that just because other people were doing it.  I just figured I’d wait til they weren’t (laughs), and I could do it. (Alice In Chains Promo CD 1996)

alice3leggeddog

THE THREE LEGGED DOG

Jerry Cantrell: The front [album] cover is Sunshine and we found her down in L.A. And Sean our drummer did most of the art work for the record and did a really fine job. But he’s got this recurring psychosis, and I guess that keeps hitting him about this 3 legged dog that used to chase him around as a kid named Tripod, I guess, the evil 3 legged dog of the neighborhood. When he was on his paper route, he used to terrorize him something fierce, I guess. I don’t know. Anyway, that’s where the idea came from so. (MTV Week In Rock 1995)

Sean Kinney: It’s kind of funny. But then it summed up what we were going through. It’s funny in a sick way, a fucked up way. (Addicted to Noise 1996)

Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez has claimed in a new interview with MLive that Alice In Chains is not a Grunge band.

“We never once considered ourselves grunge,” he said. “That was a marketing tactic; we were just a rock and roll band.”

The (anti) Grunge rocker also discussed replacing Mike Starr in 1993, “Mike wanted to go home for a while and after a few rehearsals in London, we did 27 gigs in 32 days in 16 countries,” he said. “There was no thinking about it too much and after 21 years in the band, it’s still just kind of like ‘keep it simple.'”

The article also falsely states that the late, great Layne Staley died in 1996.