Photo credit: Rolling Stone

You can absolutely say that I am a fan of classic grunge music, and certainly, Alice in Chains. You may even recognize my name from a book I wrote a few years ago, Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music. Yes, that was me!

And in 2015, author David de Sola has written a new Alice in Chains book, Alice in Chains: The Untold Story (published by Thomas Dunne Books), and was kind enough to answer some questions for Alternative Nation, including his thoughts on where Alice In Chains would be today if Layne Staley had lived. Where do you think AIC would be today with Layne? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. Read on/rock on!

How did the idea come up to write a book about Alice in Chains?
In 2011 while I was simultaneously in summer school at Georgetown University and working at 60 Minutes, I put on the Dirt album for the first time in a long time. After it was finished, I went online looking for a Layne Staley or Alice in Chains biography, thinking somebody had must have already written something. When I didn’t find anything along the lines of what I was looking for, I decided to do it myself. I started working on it in August as soon as my school and work responsibilities were done.

What was your biggest challenge in writing the book?
Not having cooperation or access to the band meant that some people weren’t willing to talk. Others were skeptical because they were protective of the band and/or Layne or Mike Starr. I would try to convince them that they should talk to me, because I was capable of telling the band’s story in a credible and responsible manner. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes I wasn’t. Beyond that, there was the occasionally tricky question of how I would tackle the drug issue, in a way that was credible without sensationalizing or minimizing it.

Who were some of the top interviews you conducted for the book?
Several people agreed to speak on the record for the first time, which was a very gratifying and humbling experience for me. Jamie, Jim and Ken Elmer (Layne’s sister, step-father and step-brother) are definitely up there, as are Matt Muasau, Bobby Nesbitt and Scott Nutter – Jerry Cantrell’s band mates in the original Diamond Lie when he lived in the Tacoma area. Kathleen Austin (Demri’s mother) was an invaluable source. David Ballenger (Layne and Jerry’s former boss at the Music Bank) had some great stories, as well as documents from his time running the place. I’m also grateful that I was able to get Dirt engineer Bryan Carlstrom on the record a little more than a year before he passed away. I am profoundly grateful to all of my sources, because they are the ones who made this book what it is.

Did the band have any input in the book?
None. I made several unsuccessful attempts to contact them while I was working on it, and ultimately wrote the book without the authorization or cooperation of the band, their record label, or their management.

What is the most misunderstood thing about Layne Staley?
Layne’s substance abuse issues, as well as his death, have overshadowed a lot of other things about his life. Yes, he was a drug addict, but he was also a wickedly funny guy with an amazing voice. He was also very generous, even before he was rich and famous. Drugs shouldn’t define him. They are part of his story, but not the entire story.

Do you enjoy Alice in Chains’ music with William DuVall on vocals?
Yes. I think he was an inspired choice, not a derivative one. From everything I have seen, read, and heard about him, he doesn’t try to be Layne, even though that’s the standard he’s held to. He has his own musical background and upbringing different from his Alice in Chains bandmates – past and present. He’s confident being himself.

I always wondered what would have happened with the Layne era of the band if drugs didn’t play such a big part behind the scenes. What are your thoughts on this?
I think the subject material in a lot of Layne’s lyrics might have been different. Beyond that, the band probably would have been much more active touring. The last really intensive tour they did with Layne was in 1993 in support of the Dirt album – after that they became a studio band for the most part until they regrouped with William in 2006. There might have been a second Mad Season album in 1996-97. Jerry presumably wouldn’t have felt the need to do two solo albums – Boggy Depot and Degradation Trip might well have become Alice in Chains albums. Assuming that Layne was still alive and had managed to kick his drug addiction, I think it’s safe to say the band would have continued to make records and tour. Remember that of Seattle’s “big four”, the only band that has kept going continuously for the past 25 years is Pearl Jam.

I take it as a compliment that bits from my earlier book, Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, are quoted in your book. Just wanted to say thanks!
One of the reasons I was able to do this book is because of books about the grunge scene like yours and several others that have been written over the years. They gave me background information, as well as names of people to look up and leads to try and verify or elaborate on in greater depth. Your book and others – Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town, Pearl Jam’s Pearl Jam Twenty, Charles R. Cross’s Heavier Than Heaven, Jacob McMurray’s Taking Punk to the Masses – were a great road map for me, especially when I was starting out.

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Photo credit: Darren Balch of Virtually Onstage

In an Alternative Nation exclusive, fans recently uncovered an entire Alice In Chains performance from December 1, 1989 at Washington State University. Now, for the first time in twenty-five years, you can witness the show as it happened, courtesy of Tony Harrell. Very special thanks to Lump Head Studio for making this possible. Filmed by Jason Polich. Photography used with permission by Darren Balch of Virtually Onstage. Audio Mastering by Tim Branom. You can also read an exclusive review and retrospective on the show below!

According to author David de Sola, after months of negotiations, Alice In Chains signed with Columbia Records on September 11, 1989. They soon began the recording of their debut album.

Facelift would not be released until August 28, 1990 – almost nine months after this performance. Alice In Chains was formed at the very end of 1987, and by 1989 were playing shows three to four times a week. But this was their last show for a month, so they could stay up late and have a good time – as long as they made it back to Seattle the next day to sign some documents pertaining to their record deal. The band were in fine form and had much to prove, as they were virtually unheard of outside of the Washington state area.

“My best friend, Ken Cardwell… and Jason Alcott – they were the ones that got in touch to bring them over”, said WSU Student Tony Harrell. “We’d been seeing them since the (former band name) Diamond Lie days. We’d just seen them over the summer in Spokane (July 2, 1989), opening for Tesla and Great White. And we got the idea, ‘Hey, we should bring them down to Pullman.”

AIC 1989 Flyer 2

Promoter Ken Cardwell elaborates, “Later that year, in October of 1989,  I drove from Pullman to Spokane with a buddy of mine, Jason Olcott, to see Tora Tora play. But the band opening for Tora Tora canceled, so Alice In Chains was plugged into the opening slot. Somehow we ended up having a few beers with the band after the show and I told them, ‘Hey, you guys need to play Pullman – there’s not much going on down there and kids would love to see you guys play’. They said it sounded cool and gave me (Soundman) Mark Naficy’s number to call. On the way back to Pullman that night,  I said to my friend Jason – ‘How can we make this work? I’m not sure about the cost, but I have my second semester tuition money I could put up.’ I called Naficy later that week and he said I could have the band for $500 and the crew and sound equipment for (an additional) $600. So I built out a budget to be about $2,000, which was just about every last dime I had.”

“Ticket sales escalated very quickly and a decision was made to try to find a bigger venue’, remembers WSU Student Brian Marin. “That was the only time that I knew of, that a band played the CUB Ballroom.”

1989 12-1- AIC Newspaper “I didn’t have much of an advertising budget”, Cardwell said. “So I worked with KUGR, the campus radio station, to cut some promos and they ran ads promoting the show.”

You can hear the actual radio commercial here:

Cardwell continued, “At the time, Alice had a pretty well-known T-shirt that said ‘Alice in Chains’ on the front and on the back it said ‘So Fuck Off’. Late at night , I’d go on campus and would write ‘Alice In Chains – SO FUCK OFF’ in chalk on the roads leading up to campus with the show date and ticket info. Needless to say, it got everyone’s attention and they couldn’t bust me for graffiti because it would wash off.”

Alice In Chains arrived the day of the show in Pullman, Washington to stay at the home of Cardwell and his roommates. Once they arrived, most of the band took a nap, went to sound check, and then returned to the home.

During the show, fans got carried away and jumped onstage, knocking guitarist Jerry Cantrell out of tune several times. Others got their hair caught in the band’s instruments while getting too close. “I got up on stage so many times that Jerry was pissed off”, Brian Marin said. “On one of the stage dives, Jerry grabbed me by the back and gave me a running head start and kind of hucked me off the stage.”


Alice In Chains opened with “Killing Yourself”, the fastest song in their repertoire. Although it worked and sounded great to start a show, it was not like their other slower Grunge songs that later appeared on Facelift. “Killing Yourself” did however initially appear on the We Die Young EP.

“Man In The Box” This break-out hit is delivered here with the ferocity that made them stars. But this audience had probably never heard the song before.

“Love, Hate, Love” showcases Layne’s haunting vocal abilities. This live version rivals Chris Cornell’s legacy with extreme power and emotion.

“We Die Young” gets the crowd head banging. But when bassist Mike Starr starts his signature move of running in circles, the whirlwind he creates cannot be stopped and Layne soon jumps in the crowd.

“Sunshine” is introduced by Layne saying ‘Always remember, we’re huge in Guam.” You can hear additional Layne humor at the 19:31 mark where he imitates cartoon Chester Cheetah (“Eye-Eye-Eye-Eye-Eye…”) He did the same for the demo recording, but kept it serious for the album recording.

“Queen Of the Rodeo” was written by Staley and Bang Gang singer Jet Silver, carried over from Layne’s previous band. Originally written as a joke, it had a faster Speed-Metal feel and worked great to get the crowds going. Layne introduced it here by saying, “This next song, living out in the sticks, you should be able to relate to this. And if you can’t, fuck you!”

“Social Parasite” had the catch phrase “So Fuck Off!” (which also graced the back of their promotional T-shirts). The song appeared on the band’s 1988 demo that was passed around to Seattle locals and some of the Pullman audience here were familiar with the song.

AIC Flyer

When a girl appeared lost on the stage and refused to move from his spot. Layne urged her to “Jump!”. He then asked her, “So what’s your name?” Someone in the crowd yelled, “Fuck her!” Layne said “What, right here?” They’re just kidding, you’re a sweet girl, I know.” The band then went into “Put You Down” without even a flinch.

“This next song is about a nasty, nasty habit – masturbation – No, I’m just kidding”, Layne said, poking fun at himself of a song in which he wrote the lyrics, “Real Thing.”

“I Can’t Remember”, slow and dark, is said to be one of the first songs that Jerry felt defined the band’s music. In this performance, he seems to be in a willing state of hypnosis.

“Sea Of Sorrow” had an over-zealous fan help Layne sing the chorus before hurling into a power stage-dive. Drummer Sean Kinney plays with power and conviction to lead the band.

“Suffragette City” was the song often used as an encore song and where people were encouraged to come up on stage (such as audience members like myself did at the Backstage show a few days earlier). But wisely, audience participation was not encouraged with such an unruly crowd. On this night, a fan was crowd surfing and not only unplugs Jerry’s guitar, but then gets his hair caught on his guitar tuning pegs. After the song is finished, security tries to step in, and Jerry waves goodbye to everyone and almost walks off the stage. Layne remains calm and Jerry returns to play “Taxi Driver” – a Hanoi Rocks song with a Glam-Punk influence which was most likely suggested by Staley.

After the final song, “Taxi Driver”, and just before leaving the stage, Layne Staley announced to all 450 people in the crowd, “Party at the White House – be there!” ‘The White House’ was the promoter’s residence they were staying at, and about 100 people went back to the six-bedroom house across from the police department.

“Someone locked me out of my bedroom and Mike (Starr) came out later with some girl, said Aaron Taylor, guitarist of the opening band (Four Idiots Without A Name). “Then we ended up playing football in the living room. “Layne was trying to break our Gun N’ Roses mirror on his forehead. And others were taking turns, trying to smash it. At some point later, there was a big line for the bathroom downstairs. When the door finally opened, Mike (Starr) came out with a different girl.”

Brian Marin reflected, “They were poor just like I was – they were all broke, but everybody knew what was about to happen, was starting to happen. Layne, Mike and I all dumped beer on our heads, saying ‘Beer was good for our hair.’ But Layne disclosed something to me that night – that he’d never taken the stage where he wasn’t high on something. I remember thinking how sad that was – that the idea that he didn’t think he could get on stage unless he was using, seemed scary to me.”

“About 3AM, I heard a knock on my bedroom door and it was Mike Starr asking for gas money to get back to Seattle”, said Promoter Ken Cardwell “They said they were promised it by their manager (but never received it). I grabbed $35 out of my cash drawer and gave it to them. With that $35, I literally broke even with the cost of the show.”

AIC1989-1AIC 1989 Ticket A

The Confederate flag and it’s symbolism is the subject and a very heated debate in not only the southern Untied States, but in the entire country. This comes following the massacre of nine African Americans by a Dylann Roof, a white gunman in a Charleston, South Carolina church last month.

Members of Alice In Chains and Pantera took to the internet to weigh in on the recent Confederate Battle Flag controversy. Both had different reactions regarding the subject:

Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott says that the controversy over the Confederate flag is merely a “knee-jerk reaction to something that happened” and it encroaches on people’s freedom-of-expression rights in a new interview with Sticks For Stones

Abbott continued: “Honestly, this country was built on freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and when you can no longer do that, then it is no longer based on that, you know. It’s a touchy thing, you know, and that’s really all I’m going to say about it. I just think that it doesn’t follow what the country was built on [and] what it was based on. To me, that blows, but that’s how it, is man.”

This isn’t the first time the Pantera member went on to defend the controversial flag, In another recent interview, this time with HardRockHaven, Abbott was quoted in saying:

“It’d be like, Would we be flying the Nazi flag? I don’t think so, because flags are looked at whether it be nationalism or symbols of something. Truthfully, it’s like…I wish fucking everyone would get along.”

On the other side of the coin, Alice In Chains frontman William DuVall had differing views on the flag and took to Twitter to make his views known:

“[The flag] shouldn’t represent us in any way,” Tom Petty told Rolling Stone. “It’s like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person.”

Tim Branom, an individual closely associated with the Seattle grunge/metal scene of the 1980’s, has released a music video for his moody and psychedelic solo single, “River to Flame”. You also may remember Tim as a guest contributor for Alternative Nation, you can read his Alice in Chains retrospective here and expect more from him in the near future! Check out the “River to Flame” video below alongside its official press release.

LOS ANGELES – Singer/guitarist Tim Branom, best known for his work with American Idol Finalist Carly Smithson in the early 2000s and cult heavy metal titans Fifth Angel in 2010, is back with a new song called “River to Flame.”

The cut is the third track released in the past six months from Branom’s latest solo project and showcases Branom’s blusier side, with a bit of a Western flair. “River to Flame” follows videos for “Enemy” and his cover of “Taxman, Mr. Thief” by Cheap Trick. “River to Flame” is available for download on iTunes and

As with most of his work, Branom sings and plays all the instruments on “River to Flame” except the drums. Drums were played by Chris Ross, who has worked with artists such as John Waite, Steve Lukather, Mick Taylor, Terry Reid and Joe Cocker.

The video for “River to Flame” was shot in the hills of Southern California. It was directed by JJ Vazquez and filmed by Michael Flotron. The song was mixed by Jonathan Plum (Pearl Jam, Queensrÿche, Candlebox) and mastered by Claudio Cueni (Beware Of Darkness, 2Pac).

“After working with JJ Vazquez on ‘Taxman,’ I wanted to make another video with him again, but do something completely different,” Branom explained. “It’s my nature to go against the grain and as you’ll see, I think we accomplished that with ‘River to Flame.’”

In addition to his work as a solo artist, Branom is an accomplished session musician and producer. His early credits include producing demos for Layne Staley’s first band, Alice ‘N Chains, and Gypsy Rose, a short-lived Seattle-based band that featured the late Mike Starr. Branom has also played guitar on two songs of Days of the New’s 2001 self-titled album (although his contributions never made the final mix).

“I love working in the studio with other artists, but it’s time to get my own music out there,” Branom added. “’River to Flame’ has a much different sound than you might expect from me, but it will make for some interesting listening. All these singles will eventually be part of an album, but we are finishing them one song at a time.”

Looking ahead, Branom has plans to release new material and more videos throughout 2015. He’s available for interviews via phone or email. For more information, visit

After the massive success that was Ten of the Heaviest Bands From Japan, Anthony Carioscia chose to do a list that is more Alternative Nation friendly (minus Billy Corgan); here he talks about some of his favorite grunge albums that predate the popularizing of the genre in 1991 with the release of Nevermind and Ten.

Skin Yard – Skin Yard (1987)

Mother Love Bone – Apple (1990)


Screaming Trees – Buzz Factory (1989)


Tad – God’s Balls (1989)


Mudhoney – Mudhoney (1989)


Soundgarden – Louder Then Love (1989)


Green River – Rehab Doll (1988)


Alice in Chains – Facelift (1990)]

Nirvana – Bleach (1989)


Melvins – Gluey Porch Treatments (1987)


YouTuber Joey Siler has put up a new feline parody of Alice In Chains’ classic “Man In The Box.” The parody is appropriately titled “Cat In The Box” by the even more appropriately titled “Kitties In Chains”. Check it out below:

This article is in loving memory of William Patrick Corgan’s cat Sammi who passed away last week.


RIP Sammi

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the Nirvana Legacy site about my 2009 book, Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, by the author of the forthcoming Nirvana book, I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana, Nick Soulsby. Some tidbits included the following:

Nick Soulsby: When was your first contact with the grunge scene, how did it come about?

Greg Prato: The first grunge band I fancied was Soundgarden, first via seeing the “Hands All Over” video on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, but I truly became a big-time admirer of the band after seeing them live in Brooklyn, NY in March 1990, on a bill that also featured Faith No More and Voivod (the latter of which headlined!). I then bought Mother Love Bone’s ‘Apple’ later in the year (after reading great things about it in Rip Magazine), followed by Alice in Chains’ ‘Facelift’ in spring 1991. From there, I discovered Nirvana and Pearl Jam just like the majority of other non-Washington folks did…

Nick: Similarly, at what point did you decide that the kind of epic work you must have put in to construct “Grunge is Dead” kick in…?

Greg: I felt very disappointed that seemingly as soon as Kurt Cobain died, rock music regressed to the largely unoriginal copycats that plagued rock music in the late ’80s (and that the very progressive way of thinking that Nirvana and Pearl Jam championed had regressed back to the groupie/rock star vibe of the Sunset Strip in the ’80s). This only seemed to get worse throughout the late ’90s and early 21st century (Creed, Kid Rock, etc.). While there were a few books written about grunge before ‘Grunge is Dead,’ many were either hard to follow chronologically or were written before main events took place (Cobain’s death, Soundgarden’s split, Layne Staley’s death, etc.). So, I set out to put together a definitive book that told the complete history of Seattle rock music, and interviewed as many people as possible.

Nick: Is there an interview you were particular proud to acquire and why…?

Greg: Without a doubt, Eddie Vedder. To the best of my knowledge, his interview for ‘Grunge is Dead’ is the only time he was willing to open up and recount Pearl Jam’s early history (he declined to do so for a Rolling Stone cover story around the same time) – years before he was interviewed for the book that Pearl Jam eventually did, ‘Pearl Jam Twenty.’ He was also kind enough to be interviewed for nearly 2 hours, willing to give thorough answers to all my questions. It remains one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever conducted (and having begun doing interviews in 1997 as a journalist, I’ve done hundreds over the years).

Keep your peepers peeled to this site, as I will soon be returning the favor, and interviewing Mr. Soulsby for Alternative Nation about his book!

To read the rest of the interview, click here.

For ordering info/read some samples of Grunge is Dead, scoot on over to here.

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alice in chains

Alice in Chains has just announced a headlining US summer tour. The grunge group will embark on the road starting on July 17th at the Starlight Theatre in San Diego, CA and finish off at Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. As of now, there has been no opener announced for the 20-date tour. Ticket pre-sales begin tomorrow (Tuesday, March 10th). Also, the band is donating two dollars for every pre-sold ticket to a memorial fundraiser. You can view the full list of tour dates in the image or text below:


Alice in Chains tour dates:
7/17 – Pala, CA – Starlight Theatre
7/18 – Las Vegas, NV – The Pearl
7/20 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
7/21 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
7/22 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory
7/24 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre
7/25 – Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Casino
7/28 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
7/31 – Tulsa, OK – Brady Theatre
8/1 – Thackerville, OK – Winstar Casino
8/3 – St. Louis, MO – Pageant
8/4 – Milwaukee, WI – Eagles Ballroom
8/6 – Cincinnati, OH – Horseshoe Casino
8/7 – Nashville, TV – Ryman Auditorium
8/8 – Nashville, TV – Ryman Auditorium
8/10 – Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live
8/11 – Hollywood, FL – Seminole Hard Rock
8/14 – Mashantucket, CT – Foxwoods
8/15 – Atlantic City, NJ – Taj Mahal
8/16 – Bethlehem, PA – Musikfest

Recently, yours truly interviewed In Flames singer Anders Fridén for the Songfacts site, and when I asked what his fav songwriters and singers were, he chose a few that are surely well known by Alternative Nation admirers.

Songfacts: Who are your favorite songwriters and also singers?

Anders: Trent Reznor is a big inspiration for me. I would love to sit in the studio with him, pick his brain, or just be a fly on the wall, seeing how Nine Inch Nails’ productions go down, or any of his productions, really. I think Martin Gore from Depeche Mode is an amazing songwriter. Layne [Staley] from Alice in Chains, he was a big inspiration for me in the beginning. I thought his lyrics were very dark, but yet very beautiful and sad, I mean, if you can put those two words together. He described this black, black hole with enormous passion.

Songfacts: A word I always use to describe Layne Staley’s singing is “soulful,” which some people I guess don’t really associate soulful type singing with heavy metal or hard rock.

Anders: No, but he definitely gets to the point. Also as a singer. I don’t aim to be the best singer in the world – I know I’m not. And when we record, we’re not after perfect pitch all the time. It’s more about getting the right emotion. I want the listener to feel something: “Does this feel right?” “Yeah.” “Okay. Cool. Then that’s a good take.” Because I think sometimes perfect pitch can be awfully boring.

But if you have some soul in there and you want to hear the person sing – that’s something that Layne really, really did.

Anders discussed his admiration for Layne’s singing further in the interview, which can be viewed by clicking your clicker here.

In Flames’ latest album is titled Siren Charms, and the band is currently touring the US with All That Remains and Wovenwar. A list of remaining dates can be viewed here.

Yesterday, correspondent Dustin ‘Whip’ Halter was able to ask Alice In Chains’ singer/guitarist William Duvall a couple of questions via Duvall’s Facebook. Here are Dustin’s questions and Duvall’s answers. It should be noted that Duvall responded in multiple Facebook posts.

Halter:When I was 14 years old I was accosted, attacked by 4 black MEN on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (no less) for no other reason than the fact that I was white. I was punched, kicked, STOMPED– who knows what else because I blacked out after the stomping. This was never made a national case. I didn’t protest, hell, there wasn’t even an article in the city paper. And this is why (or a large majority of why) I have zero pity on the “plight,” of a people that think they are all innocent, falsely accused, and condescended upon without reason. SO while the penalty for the actions of some is severe, the penalties for MOST is none and karma has a way of working that out– and that goes for all races, genders, creeds, and especially the ones that think they don’t deserve it. I agree completely, while individuals shouldn’t be boiled down to one thing because of their race or sexual orientation, etc., statistics don’t lie, nor is it racist, sexist, or otherwise to use them, OR to take them into account when you’ve got nothing else to go by.

Do I want justice for the broken bones, brain damage, and emotional pain that I was subjected to some 17 years ago AND still suffering from today? I’ll never get what I deserve and it’s never going to happen anyway, so why rile a bunch of people up, potentially bring about the destruction of the homes and businesses of innocent people, and risk the lives of our public servants all for me? Plus.. black on white crime isn’t really that interesting, so I’ve found.  I love Alice in Chains, but the intended (and even unintended) reaction from this little nugget really turns my stomach, William Duvall. We all have a cross to bear, but it doesn’t mean you have to go hang yourself on it. Also, sorry my first comment on your page is this one because I have so much love, admiration, and respect for you for helping keep my favorite band in this world going. All social BS aside– you are beyond awesome at your job.”

Duvall:I am truly sorry for what happened to you. And you seem to be a thoughtful person. But your analysis of the big picture completely discounts the entire history of this country. In so doing, it discounts how that history, now hundreds of years long, DIRECTLY impacts what is going on today. The thousands of people demonstrating across this nation right now are not doing so over nothing (anymore than they were 50 years ago or 100 years ago, when they were also berated with cries of “race-baiting” and “crying over nothing”). This is a SYSTEMIC problem. It is centuries old. There are plenty of sources and statistics I could cite to illustrate this. But, beyond all the numbers and the rhetoric, there is this simple immutable reality: You have to IMAGINE a world where you, your father, or your son could be choked to death by 6 police officers on national television and there is not even an INDICTMENT brought. I have to LIVE in it.

Halter:I appreciate your empathy, William Duvall, I honestly do. The fact is, though, I grew up in a town where blacks loathed whites, beat them up without provocation, and destroyed the once-beautiful town that my parents inherited from theirs. When I was about 9 or 10 in the late 80’s my question to my mother was, “why do black people hate us so much?” The black and white population ONLY began to bond when an influx of Mexicans came for the many nursery/landscaping jobs in the area. Suddenly the hate, the spittings, the beatings, were all directed towards the illegal immigrants and Joe White was suddenly good enough to give a nod and “sup, homie.” I’m talking about a mostly low-middle class suburban town. Now I can walk down the street without being too worried about being jumped because it’s MLK day or what have you, but what of the new guys? And I KNOW that not all black Americans are this way. Not all are violent. But my eyes have seen things that are unseeable. I’ve been a victim of angry, hateful black men and literally had a learning disability beaten INTO me.

For me, I can say that the fears that whites have of blacks are warranted. Once I get to know you it’s a different story entirely– I’m not a blatant racist. But when I’m walking down a Philadelphia street alone and approaching Joe Black on the corner, I’m going to puff up like a damn blowfish and get to stepping like Carl Lewis. I know you’re talking about the police here and I’m just talking white/black relations in general, but white people have a side in this that isn’t just oppress, oppress, oppress. I can’t change what your father or his father went through, Will. We both can, though, raise our children to be kind and respectful to all colors. I really do believe that kind of life is on the horizon, or at least one close to it. There are still a lot of grandmas filling their grandchildren’s heads with bad ideas out there right now and I understand why, but time is going to be the ultimate healer in this, Will. We both know that change cannot be forced. Thanks for the reply, dude, and again, all “social” stuff aside I have a multitude of respect, love, and admiration for you.”

Duvall:Dustin, your story is deep and I appreciate you sharing it because it touches on some of the economic and human nature elements that lie at the heart of this entire conflict.

From what you’re describing, it sounds like you became the minority (or at least less of an overwhelming majority) in your neighborhood and, because of longstanding resentments felt by some of the black people there over what they’ve historically endured, you got scapegoated. That absolutely should not have happened. It was wrong. You were just a kid. You had no understanding of the insane dynamics at play in your neighborhood, let alone in the wider world. Any group of grown men who would gang up to attack a lone 14-year-old obviously have personal problems that go beyond the systemic issue I’m trying to address. Those people are just crazy. Cruelty comes in all colors and my guess is those guys would be bullies regardless of what they looked like and regardless of what was going on in the world. But I can assure you that you’re correct when you say that “not all black Americans are this way.” In fact, most certainly, the vast majority are not. Nevertheless, what happened to you was a shame. You say your story didn’t even warrant a mention in the police blotter. That’s yet a further shame, adding insult to injury. It was like it didn’t matter. It was like YOU didn’t matter.

Brother, all I can say is, I understand. Because that is how most black people in America feel every single day. That is the climate in which we’ve lived and raised our children for centuries, since the founding of this country when, by law, we were considered just 3/5 of a human being with no rights whatsoever, right up until today when I can watch a video of 12-year-old Tamir Rice get blown away by the cops right across the street from his home for playing with a toy gun. That boy wasn’t given the slightest chance. He was dead practically before the police car came to a stop. That’s not just a “crime.” That’s state-sponsored murder. And, for black people, this is nothing new. We have endured our children, particularly our men and boys, being demonized and summarily murdered by the state (or vigilantes protected by the state) for hundreds of years. And for most of that time, with untold thousands killed – shot, lynched, stabbed, burned alive, mutilated, dismembered – there was no news coverage. If it DID make the paper, the killers themselves might be seen in a photograph smiling around the mutilated body like it was a trophy. Either way, the victims were often faceless and nameless. Their true number will never be known. No matter what they were accused of doing, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the evidence (or lack thereof), the explicit understanding was ALWAYS, “They had it coming.” And the killers – even if they admitted it, even if they bragged about it, even if they were photographed smiling over the body – walked away with no consequences. It was like it didn’t matter. It was like WE didn’t matter.”

Duvall:Now, we have video capturing entire incidences from start to finish and it STILL isn’t enough. In the last few weeks alone, in addition to Tamir Rice, we have John Crawford getting blown away in a Wal-Mart by Beavercreek, OH police. His offense? Talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone while holding a toy gun sold at the store. The video shows him getting shot from behind. He never even saw them coming. He never stood a chance. It was an ambush of a consumer in a store. The guy was a father of two children. His own father and his girlfriend had to listen to him die over the phone. They were forced to wait two weeks to even see the video. There were no charges, no indictment brought by the grand jury against the officers. Then we have Eric Garner getting wrestled to the ground and choked to death by six cops. He’s unarmed and not aggressive toward the officers in any way. Yet he’s put in a chokehold and taken down, gasping for his life. And then he’s dead. His offense? Allegedly selling loose cigarettes. He was a married father of six. Once again, there isn’t even an indictment brought. We’re not talking about Mississippi in 1914. We’re talking about New York City in 2014.

I will say, however, at least now some of these stories take center stage on the national news. That almost never used to happen. It’s an improvement I’ve witnessed first hand. But that comes with a price as well. Because, on TOP of not getting any indictment despite having everything on video, we also have to listen to a cavalcade of media pundits, activists, politicians, cops, ex-cops, medical examiners, and legal analysts interpret and DEBATE WHAT’S IN THE VIDEO. “He was resisting arrest/He wasn’t resisting arrest. It was a chokehold/No, it wasn’t a chokehold. He went for the gun/No, it was a summary execution. He was a hulking menace/No, he was a weakling. The police acted excessively/The police did nothing wrong (and even if they did you can’t blame them).

And then there is always the routine attempt by some to wage character assassination on the dead boy or man (or his family). Unless it can be proven that he was nothing but an angel-kissed choirboy every split-second of his life (as if any teenaged boy is), then he must have been a freakishly strong Super-Thug who made his killer “fear for his life” and therefore “He had it coming” like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Can you understand, given the history and context behind these episodes, the endless replays of basically this same scenario over hundreds of years, why we might have more than a little difficulty believing an Officer Darren Wilson or a vigilante George Zimmerman, particularly when they both emerge from their supposedly death-defying struggle with these “demonic Super-Thugs” with barely a hint of a scratch or a bruise?

Cases like these don’t happen in a vacuum. They are supported by a long tradition of history and practice, not just in terms of police but the entire legal and penal system. This has been status quo for black people since our arrival on this continent. Can you understand how that might create simultaneous currents of hopelessness, fear, anger, and outrage?”

Duvall: But if we say or do anything in protest or opposition, we’re told by some people, “What the hell are you crying about?! There’s no problem here! Racism is over! YOU’VE GOT IT GOOD NOW!! How can you even say there’s still racism?! America just elected a black president! Twice!! Quit playing the race card! Quit being ‘divisive’! Hell, a lot of you have it better than me and I’m white! Quit preaching hate! YOU’RE JUST MAKING EVERYTHING WORSE!!

In reading your reply to me, I stand even more by my initial assessment that you’re a thoughtful guy. I really appreciate your candor about your reflexive fear of “Joe Black.” That’s more honesty than most people are willing to share. And, given what you say in your story, your fears seem understandable. My guess is the guys who attacked you were transferring some of their trauma, both personal AND systemic, onto you. It was completely wrong. But that’s what happens with trauma and violence. It begets more trauma and violence. My hope is that you can take your feelings of fear, anger, and resentment over the attacks you suffered, both physical and psychological – those “unseeable” things you saw, the feeling that you were being demonized, under constant suspicion no matter what you did (or didn’t do), the dread and looming danger of further abuse and bodily threat that could visit you any second (provoked or not), the overall feeling that you didn’t matter, and the stress of having to swallow those feelings every minute of every day just to survive and move forward with your life – and imagine how millions of black people have felt, generation after generation, for hundreds of years.

You also describe a lower middle class neighborhood with what sounds like increasingly scarce economic opportunity. That really gets to the root of ALL these problems. When people see the pie shrinking and find themselves fighting for crumbs, that creates a bedrock foundation for scapegoating. You said that the tension between the black and white people in your neighborhood only lessened when the Latinos moved in and suddenly there was a new scapegoat against whom you could both unite. That really sums up our species, doesn’t it? Terribly sad, but true. And, again, you can trace it back not only to the beginnings of this country but the beginnings of humanity itself. Just like violence and trauma, scapegoating begets more scapegoating. We’ve got over 500 years of documented history of that on this continent alone. Dehumanization of an entire group of people always has an economic agenda attached to it.

The first diary entries of Columbus’s sailors show complete fascination, even envy, toward the Indians. The sailors describe their awe not only at the native people’s physical beauty but also their entire civilization and their intuitive sense of harmony with one another and the earth. But when it came time to make the grab for gold, the beautiful, fascinating, intuitive Indians suddenly became “savages.” In the pursuit of wealth, it became okay to mutilate, rape, and murder.

A little over a hundred years later came the African slave trade. Despite the sophistication and grandeur of that continent’s many ancient kingdoms, including Egypt, which was the light of the world for several millennia and still captures the imagination of many today, the justification for the slavery of Africans, whose free labor literally built the American economy, was that all black people were savages. They were considered animals who wouldn’t even know what to do with themselves if they weren’t slaves. But going back even further, long before America, we know that slavery was commonplace in countries and empires all over the world. In fact, many of the slaves who were brought over to America were purchased by the Europeans from other Africans. They were often defeated captives of various tribal and territorial wars. And, if they survived the journey to America (which many didn’t), once they arrived the abuse was so severe that, even while hating their condition, many slaves themselves helped perpetuate it – assisting in the abuse of other slaves, helping chase down runaways, ratting out potential rebels, etc. They did this to survive. Some even justified the institution in their own minds. You describe having a learning disability “beaten into” you. Once again, in sharing your own experience, you articulate the condition of millions of black people. And, once again, scapegoating begets scapegoating.”

Duvall: “Even today, some black people will say and do things that, in the opinion of many other black people, contribute to and validate the demonization aimed at us by the larger society. To get back to the police issue, we’ve got black cops who will admit they are afraid of other black men. In the Eric Garner video, we see a black female officer standing in the background who was apparently the supervising sergeant. She’s just standing there watching this man get killed. That’s just one example of many equal or worse ones. It’s not just white officers acting out across color lines. And whenever the police are questioned or challenged about a particular action, particularly one involving them using lethal force, more often than not, we see that blue trumps black or white. It becomes officers on one side, citizens on the other. This despite the fact that there are black cops who say THEY’RE afraid of being criminally profiled (and possibly killed) by other cops when they’re out of uniform.

We have a serious problem. The victims’ families are not making this up. The thousands of people out there demonstrating in the streets all over this country are not making it up. All the athletes and artists voicing their support, including myself, aren’t making this up. When the Mayor of New York City gives a press conference on television with his family and says he’s afraid for his bi-racial son’s life with regard to the police, he’s not making it up.

As you can see (and have experienced yourself), these issues are incredibly complicated: Cruelty comes in all colors. Color is often secondary to Economics. Racism is merely one rationale to justify cruelty. But we’ve still got to deal with the fallout and ripple effects of both.

Like I said in my statement the other day, we’ve made some tremendous strides as a nation. In terms of race relations, this is a better America than the one in which my parents grew up. But that’s only because black AND white people all over this country stood up, admitted there was a problem, and forced the issue toward change. We fought a civil war over slavery. Then it was another 100 YEARS before I could so much as sit at the same lunch counter or drink from the same water fountain as you in the very city from which I write to you now. We’re talking about the 1960s. That’s within my lifetime!! And, even then, it took a complete social upheaval just to effect such basic changes. People – both black and white – had to get beaten, jailed, and KILLED just to make those simple things happen. And what were those people getting beaten, jailed, and killed being told back then? “What the hell are you crying about?! There’s no problem here! Slavery’s been over for a 100 years! WHY CAN’T YOU ALL JUST GET OVER IT?! YOU’VE GOT IT GOOD NOW! Hell, some of you have it better than me and I’m white! All your RACE-BAITING isn’t going to solve anything! You’re just making trouble! Quit preaching hatred! YOU’RE JUST MAKING THINGS WORSE!!”

See a pattern here?”

Duvall: “Some have tried to characterize what I’m saying as a diatribe against all police officers. It most certainly is not. I’ve had members of my family and good friends who have served on the police force. They have a tough job, one that I certainly would not want to do. I’ve had positive encounters with police all over this world. Nobody appreciates good policing more than me. Good cops are heroes. Some have tried to characterize what I’m saying as a diatribe against all white people or all white males. Just think about that for a second. Look at the band I’m in now. Look at every band I’ve been in over the course of more than 30 years playing music. Look at my audience. My own family is full of white, black, brown, and bi-racial people. My inner circle of closest friends splits right down the middle black and white. All I know is the rainbow and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I don’t have any easy answers. I don’t think they exist. All I know is I want to leave this world a better place than I found it, like my parents and grandparents did for my generation. This is not about ME. As I’ve said many times, I’m doing better than most. This is about ALL of us – black, white, brown, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, male, female, LGBT, etc. Because we all suffer under a system that seems to value the lives of one group of people over another. And this is mostly about the children coming after us. I see a national conversation taking place about an historical injustice that resonates with my own life experience. I’ve been waiting, along with millions of other people, to have this conversation for a VERY long time. I believe we may have reached a point to finally effect some meaningful positive change. I spoke up because there was no way I could remain silent.

I know this was long but I just had to say it. I hope you’ll read it in the spirit with which it was intended.

I want to thank you again for this exchange. It’s been meaningful for me and I hope it has been for you as well. I wish you peace and continued personal recovery on your life’s journey.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.”

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’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.


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.”


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


“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.”


“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.”



David Bowie



“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)


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

“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)




Lords of the New Church


Skinny Puppy



“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)



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.

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.



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.


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.


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.”


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.”


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.


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


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.