20 YEARS LATER: LOOKING BACK AT ALICE IN CHAINS’ 1993 EUROPEAN TOUR AND MIKE INEZ REPLACING MIKE STARR

“It’s typically us,” enthuses a tired and weary Jerry Cantrell. “If we were gonna change our bass player then he had to have the same name, the same haircut, dress the same and smoke the same cigarettes.”  Cantrell breaks into laughter, which has been short on supply this past week.

Twenty years ago, Alice in Chains had just played their biggest show ever in front of 80,000 screaming Brazilians. Whilst that in itself could be a celebration of how far the Seattle quartet had come since their breakthrough album Facelift, the show would also mark the final one for original bass player Mike Starr. The details of his exit are to this very day shrouded in mystery. Did he walk? Was he sacked? There is even one theory that voodoo was to blame, when Starr and the band visited New Orleans for an MTV special a few months before the Brazilian shows.

Right after that night’s performance, Starr and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana (who were also playing on the bill) did drugs together, and according to Starr ended up overdosing. His friend and lead singer, Layne Staley, slapped him around and gave him a cold shower in the hotel room.  Starr lived. But his days with the band were numbered.

Cantrell and the band have been in London, England for two days, flying direct from Brazil. Cantrell and Staley are in a west London hotel, a stones throw away from Harrods, and are being interviewed by a British rock magazine about their upcoming European tour- surprisingly the band’s first as headliners.

Throughout Cantrell speaks fluently, only interrupted by Staley’s constant crunching on his cereals (he is eating out of the box). Despite the brilliant reviews for their new album Dirt and their looming tour the interview switches back to Mike Inez- the surprise newcomer to the band.

Inez had met Alice in Chains on the band’s recent tour with Ozzy Osbourne, Inez had been part of Ozzy’s touring band. With Starr already on thin ice, Cantrell and Kinney started talks with Inez, though nothing was finalized until Alice had flown to Brazil. When Inez told Osbourne that Alice in Chains were interested in having him, he said it with trepidation. It was never needed. Osbourne infamously told Inez, ‘do you like hospital food?’, a puzzled Inez stared back. ‘Because’, said Osbourne, ‘I’m gonna ram my foot so hard up your ass, if you don’t take the gig.’ Inez took it and the rest was history.

Inez met up with the band in London, and ‘smoked many joints on my first day,’ according to Inez. From there on in the band holed up in a studio in Finchley, north of London, for rehearsals. Though Inez knew a few tracks, namely Would, he would have to learn  over twenty songs for the upcoming tour and had less than a week to do it.

To prepare Alice announced a gig at the 500 capacity Underworld in London’s Camden. The show was an instant sell out and a success. Kicking off with Dam That River, the set included six songs from Dirt and five from Facelift, leaving the lucky patrons more than satisfied.

That very same night legend has it that lead singer Layne Staley visited the Astoria nightclub in central London and after met up with Kurt Cobain across the road, which housed an 80’s nightclub that was a front for drug dealers. That club was called the back beat, and would go unnoticed for almost a decade after. But how real could that story be?  Nirvana were not on tour, so in all possibility Cobain could have been in London. He was sick of Seattle at that time, and may have opted to fly to England instead of going home.  The story has never been confirmed nor denied.

THE NEXT PART OF AIC’s EUROPEAN TOUR WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY

  • Claire

    Brilliant review David as always, giving us another look into the world of AIC! Thanks for reminding me of all my ‘gig’ watching nights at the Astoria and Underworld in London. Unfortunately, although I never got to see Layne or Kurt in the flesh, it’s great to know that I been in the same venues as they once played in both Seattle and London.

  • Adam

    This was their only European tour, I think. 🙁

  • Kris

    Great article David!

    One of life’s greatest mysteries … why did Starr leave Alice in Chains? With him, they produced their best work and gained fame for doing it. Wish at some point we would know the true story!

  • MJ

    Such a pleasant surprise to come to Grungereport and see another great AIC article by Mr. Bronstein. Only solidifies the fact we need a Layne Staley biography written by him!

  • kingchaz

    Ozzy gives AIC props… love it.

  • Alanis

    Absolutely great article, always great to hear new information about Layne/AIC back in the day. Keep the brilliant articles coming, I’m sure there are so many interesting things about Layne/AIC back then, like when they recorded Dirt, Jar of Flies, touring etc, I hope someday that a book is written about Layne. Looking forward to the next part of the article!

  • Dennis

    Love these articles. Thanks.
    Classic Ozzy line, I had never heard that.

  • mandingo

    I had tickets to see AIC when they were in london at the astoria but i was 15 and the fucking security wouldnt let me in !! Properly gutted , how was i to know i would never get another chance !

  • Dietz

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70ziniVfi_Y

    Anyone know what the above link is all about?

  • Ace

    @Dietz

    Yes, that link is mislabeled bullshit. Definitely not any of the artists listed.

  • Pingfah

    Ahh, people routinely mislabel music in an attempt to get you to listen to their shitty band.

  • Dietz

    Thought so, thank you. What about this (see link below) @ 3:03 is there any more footage from the Hollywood 94 show that’s out there?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJJcW_JVsic

  • Clive

    I saw AIC on this tour, just a few days after the Underworld show,at The Town & Country Club( now The Forum) in Kentish Town,London. The screaming Trees were the support and kicked ass as usual. I remember the gig really vividly to this day. During the opening song AIC played behind a huge white dust sheet , which went from floor to ceiling. Behind the dust sheet you could see the silhouette of Layne climbing up a cargo net which was hanging from the ceiling behind the sheet. As they ripped into the second song , the dust sheet fell to the floor and the crowd when absolutely mental. Layne spent the rest of the song hanging from the cargo net . Mike Inez seemed to fit like a glove from the start, and during the encore he left the stage and climbed across onto the balcony and moshed with the fans in the front row. This is one of my favourite gigs of all time. I have seen AIC since then with and without Layne , but in my opinion that night was just extra special. Thanks for the great piece . Looking forward to part 2.

  • Jeanne

    It is a shame we will probably never know the truth about what happened with Starr, Jer don’t seem like the type to spill the beans either. I would seriously give up my whole life to have seen AIC back in the days like 89-93 time frame, I cannot imagine how special it was.

    Thanks David for yet another interesting look at the intrique of what AIC was. 🙂

  • MJ

    As much as I love the album, Layne’s (and AIC’s) performing prime was pre-Dirt. Everything was so perfect in the late 80’s to 1991.

  • MJ

    Or before the heroin.

  • Adam

    From what I heard Starr was doing a lot of drugs and got kicked out…which is saying a lot given AIC’s sad history with drugs.

  • Jeff

    I like Mike Inez. I think he is truly a chill guy who has love for everyone. And I really like that he said that Layne is his favorite singer from the 90s, even before he joined the band. The man has taste.

    I had to chuckle at the line “Cantrell speaks fluently.” That might be code for “Jerry talked a lot” since I think that was around the time the band was doing coke. I mean, we all speak fluently. Unless you’re a robot.

    I have not heard the story that Layne and Kurt met up at an 80s bar. Met up and what? Did drugs together? I did read the story that Kurt gave Layne a ride somewhere once and Kurt talked a lot about Frances and how excited he was to be a dad. Just a few months before his death. I won’t ever forget hearing the news about Kurt. It devastated an entire generation of people. We all just walked around in a daze. A buddy of mine got pretty depressed over it. He kept fixating on it and wondering if he didn’t think anybody cared or if he was murdered. And the girls thinking Courtney drove him to it. I don’t think any of us had any idea of suicide or ever known anybody to do it. It was shocking and abrupt and Nirvana was over in the blink of an eye. Can’t think too much about it or I’ll get to wondering and theorizing, too.

  • Raj

    @MJ, there is a Layne Staley memoir ‘Get Born Again’ written by Adriana Rubino, I have not read the book, but I have read that Layne was interviewed as saying “Don’t try to contact any AIC (Alice in Chains) members. They are not my friends.” That could have been the drugs talking.

  • Soundwave

    No, it was Adriana Rubio talking. Layne’s quotes from that book are completely fabricated.

  • MJ

    @Soundwave: I don’t know, I think that interview was real, up to a certain point. It honestly sounds like Layne: “I didn’t need the public’s thumbs up about this fucking drug use”, “I don’t want to see people anymore, and its nobodies business but mine”, etc. Those quotes sound real. Its just until Rubio starts quoting the song lyrics to make the interview seem longer than it was.

    There was a magazine article that had additional quotes, if only I could find it again…

  • DAVID BRONSTEIN

    MJ-
    I have it on record from Layne’s mother that the whole interview was fabricated. For Rubio it worked nonetheless, she got her wiki moment and we all still speak about it.
    The truth is, Layne’s final public interview was in 1999, on radio. Not with Rubio, who grew increasingly frustrated that she could not secure a real interview with Layne, when she was in Seattle.

  • MJ

    @David: The entire interview? I just have a hard time believing that… Why would Layne’s mom and sister participate in the creation of the book, and then have a reason to say the interview wasn’t real? I know that the whole book in general is not credible, but its not like those quotes are so farfetched to be questionable. Layne’s mom is really protective…

  • MJ

    But then again, I have had doubts about it.

  • DAVID BRONSTEIN

    @MJ-

    Layne’s mother has not heard the interview, no one has ever heard the interview. I would think that Rubio would have let Layne’s mother listen to the interview, no?

    Its like if I had interviewed him, and said oh by the way he said to me that he didn’t want anyone to hear this interview. Really? Its just a cover up, again born out of frustration.

    When in Seattle Rubio pleaded with Layne’s mother to give her the address of where Layne was staying, she didn’t give and this is the result.

    Having studied Layne’s life I have to agree that this interview is completely fabricated. From top to bottom.

  • MJ

    @David: Yeah, Rubio not releasing the tapes is very suspicious. I guess I’m just disappointed its not real. How unfortunate that its been reported by many publications as fact.

  • YUMM

    Yeah it always nnoys me when people quote that book

  • John

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJJcW_JVsic

    Oh man the last seconds at the video are such a TEASE ! Wish this 1996 gig was released in entire in this video quality !

  • Alanis

    @John I agree, I know the footage is out there. The last part shows footage of the Unplugged rehearsal and there’s also a part in the video that shows footage that I had never seen it was a short clip of their show at the Palladium 94 Acoustic Benefit Show

  • Mimi

    With all do respect there was no “replacing” Mike Starr-Mike Inez may have picked up where Mike Starr left off as far as playing the bass for AIC at a certain point in time, but there is no replacing him-not then or ever.

  • Corebare32

    Who wrote tis POS article?? Is it a burned out wannabe band roadie??
    Holy shit is this hard to READ!

    • Corebare32

      David, LEARN TO WRITE before you try doing so. Holy shit does it piss me off when people like you think they know how to write!!!