LAYNE STALEY Biography - Musicians


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Name: Layne Staley                                                                         
Birth name: Layne Thomas Staley                                                           
Born: 22 August 1967 Kirkland, Washington, U.S.                                           
Died: 5 April 2002 Seattle, Washington, U.S.                                               
Layne Thomas Staley (August 22, 1967 - ca. April 5, 2002) was the lead singer             
and co-lyricist of the rock group Alice in Chains and the short-lived                     
supergroups Class of '99 and Mad Season.                                                   
Layne Staley was born to Phil Staley and Nancy McCallum (nee Layne) in Kirkland,           
Washington. He was eight years old when his parents divorced, after which he               
was raised by his mother and sisters. In early 2002, shortly before his death,             
he would describe the experience of witnessing his parents' divorce: "My world             
became a nightmare, there were just shadows around me. I got a call saying that           
my dad had died, but my family always knew he was around doing all kind of drugs.         
Since that call I always was wondering, 'Where is my dad?' I felt so sad for him           
and I missed him. He dropped out of my life for 15 years." In that same                   
interview he also said that he was convinced that if he became a celebrity his             
dad would return.                                                                         
Staley began playing drums at age 12; he played in several glam bands in his               
early teens, but by this point, Staley had aspirations of becoming a singer. His           
bandmates found this amusing, and they would poke fun at him, which infuriated             
him. He proceeded to trade in his drum set for a microphone and started the               
band Alice In Chains with co-founder Jerry Cantrell.                                       
Like several other musicians in the Seattle grunge scene, Staley was a heavy               
user of heroin. He had started with marijuana and LSD in 1980. He was introduced           
to cocaine in 1982 and soon after stole heroin and ecstasy. He became addicted             
to heroin in 1991. By the 1990s, Staley was battling a severe addiction. The               
darker side of addiction had its influence on Staley's lyrics; The Alice in               
Chains album Dirt showed this preoccupation in songs like "God Smack" and "Junkhead".     
The other members of Alice in Chains, seeing Staley's deteriorating condition,             
opted not to tour in support of their 1994 EP Jar of Flies. Following its                 
release, Staley entered a rehabilitation clinic and began to work on a side               
project with several Seattle musicians, including Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and           
Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees. The band worked on material for several             
months and eventually scheduled a show at the Crocodile Cafe under the name The           
Gacy Bunch. Within a few weeks, the band changed its name to Mad Season. In               
January 1995, Mad Season performed two songs on Pearl Jam's Self Pollution Radio           
broadcast, "Lifeless Dead" and "I Don't Know Anything". The band completed an             
album, titled Above, which was released in March 1995. The first single, "River           
of Deceit", became a modest success on alternative radio, and "I Don't Know               
Anything" still receives occasional airplay. A live performance filmed at the             
Moore Theater in Seattle was released in August 1995.                                     
During Alice in Chains' hiatus, reports of Staley's addiction began to gain               
widespread circulation in fan and media communities, in part from changes to his           
physical condition brought on by prolonged heroin abuse. Referencing Staley's             
guest-singing appearance with Tool on the song "Opiate", the Seattle Post-Intelligencer   
reported, "At KISW-FM's 'Rockstock' concert at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in           
Bremerton in May 1994 -- just a month after the death of Kurt Cobain -- Staley             
made a surprise appearance. He looked sickly and wore a wool ski mask to hide             
his face. Some of the more persistent and unsubstantiated rumors, ranging                 
from gangrene to missing fingers, surfaced during this period. Mark Arm of                 
Mudhoney is quoted as saying: "I remember seeing him in '95 ... he turned up and           
was totally green, and my stomach turned at that point watching somebody on a             
track that they couldn't get off."                                                         
Alice in Chains regrouped to record an eponymous album, sometimes referred to as           
"Tripod," (largely due to the image of the three-legged dog, Sunshine, featured           
on the cover) released late in 1995. To accompany the album, the band released a           
home video, The Nona Tapes, in which they poked fun at the rumors of Staley's             
addiction Charles R. Cross would later say that they had Staley's obituary on             
stand-by at The Rocket but the band lapsed again, failing to complete tours               
planned in support of the album. When asked about the frustration of not touring           
to support the record, guitarist Jerry Cantrell provided some insight into how             
Staley's addictions led to repercussive tensions within the band: "Very                   
frustrating, but we stuck it out. We rode the good times together, and we stuck           
together through the hard times. We never stabbed each other in the back and               
spilled our guts and do that kind of bullshit that you see happen a lot".                 
During the band's appearance on MTV Unplugged, Staley was visibly weak and                 
emaciated and had problems singing at times, including stopping songs due to               
forgetting the words. He was nevertheless received by the audience with loud               
applause. He made his last performance on July 3, 1996, in Kansas City, Missouri,         
while Alice in Chains were touring with Kiss after their Unplugged appearance.             
In October, Staley's former girlfriend, Demri Lara Parrott, died from secondary           
complications caused by drug use (bacterial endocarditis). He was reported to             
have been placed on a 24-hour suicide watch according to NME, which quoted, "a             
friend saying Layne was taking Demri Parrott's death 'extremely badly' and had             
fallen into a deep depression".                                                           
On April 19, 2002, an unidentified person placed a call with 911 to say "She               
hadn't heard from [...] [ Staley] in about two weeks." Staley was found dead               
in his home after "his mother and stepfather went to his condo with the police".           
As reported by Rick Anderson of the Seattle Weekly, his body was surrounded               
by various drug possessions and paraphernalia: "When police kicked in the door             
to Layne Staley's University District apartment on April 20, there, on a couch,           
lit by a flickering TV, next to several spray-paint cans on the floor, not far             
from a small stash of cocaine, near two crack pipes on the coffee table, reposed           
the remains of the rock musician." He was 34 years old. The autopsy report                 
later concluded that Staley died after injecting an extremely large mixture of             
heroin and cocaine known as a "speedball".