Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley Considered Fronting Audioslave

While late Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley was largely reclusive during his later years, the legendary singer considered fronting the band that later became known as Audioslave in January 2001. Zack de la Rocha had quit Rage Against The Machine just a few months prior, and his bandmates were looking for a new singer. Alternative Nation reporter, and early Staley collaborator, Tim Branom has connected us with Layne’s friend Morgen Gallagher, who told Alternative Nation this exclusive story.

Gallagher had been friends with Staley since 1986, even living with him and Sleze bassist Mike Mitchell for a period in the 80’s. By early 2001, it had been a couple of years since he had seen his old friend, so he was very surprised when he ran into him at a party.

“I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years and wasn’t prepared for it. By this point he had quit [Alice In Chains], he had lost most of his teeth, and weighed barley 100 pounds. We talked for a little and when we parted ways, I cried.”

This wasn’t the last time Gallagher saw Staley. On January 28, 2001, he saw Layne again at a Super Bowl party. “So two weeks later [our mutual friend] was having a Super Bowl party. When I got there, Layne answered the door and he was back to the old Layne. He had just gotten pretty much the entire Nerf arsenal, so we went to war. We were running around like two little kids! Needless to say, we missed the game and kept pretty much everyone else from watching it as well.”

“That day we were talking and he said he had gotten a call from the old Rage Against The Machine members and they were putting together a new project, and they wanted him to audition. He said he was going back to treatment and then going to LA to do the audition in a couple of months. He never made it, so Chris Cornell went and got the job.”

Staley also appeared to have moved on from Alice In Chains, according to Gallagher when Alternative Nation asked if Staley opened up at all about his status with the band, “Not really, he was pretty evasive about it, but it seemed like he was pretty much done with the band at that point. He hadn’t played with them for a while, and he was talking about auditioning for new projects.”

Staley was scheduled to record vocals for the band Taproot in 2002, but died before he could attend a recording session with producer Toby Wright, according to Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. Gallagher also told author David de Sola a shorter version of this Audioslave story, which is briefly mentioned in the upcoming Alice In Chains: The Untold Story book.

Alternative Nation will have up another article featuring insight from Gallagher on Layne Staley from when they lived together next week!

  • Eddie Yarler

    Holy shit, imagine that? I’m used to Cornell I honestly can’t but that would have really been something. This kind of puts me down. Its like when Mike Starr died while he was writing with Travis Meeks. Who knows what wonderful music we lost forever because of fucking drugs. LSMS

    • rustyshackleford462

      Oh man! I remember hearing that Mike was working with Travis and was so excited. Then they (or one or the other) got arrested, and Mike died not long after. What could have been…

      • Joe Costigan

        That was a shame – I was looking forward to that as well. I remember back when the rumors of AIC getting back together began floating around I thought Meeks would of be an amazing addition. Days of the New was one of the better bands to come out of the second half of the 90s after the initial wave of bands came and went.

        Yes I do realize that it would of been a terrible idea as Travis has had both substance abuse and psychological problems of his own. On paper it sounds good though!

        • Eddie Yarler

          Absolutely! Or at the very least I would loved for Days of the New to be an opener for Alice in Chains’ reunion tour. I think he and Jerry would have a lot to talk about considering both can touch an acoustic guitar unlike any other artist from the 90s. In fact followed by heavy STP, I think Days of the New was one of the only bands to naturally sound like Alice in Chains, in that they are close to their league. As opposed to deliberately trying to emulate their sound like Godsmack did. (No disrespect to any Godsmack fans) The font even looks alike for Days of the New, and the old school Alice in Chains name. Haha oh and I’m loving your comments. Its so refreshing to see a true Alice in Chains fan, who is also subjective, and can see the grey area rather just “Jerry or Layne”. Unfortunately Travis Meeks seems to be as bad as Layne lately. I haven’t heard anything since he got arrested. Hopefully he is in rehab.

          • Joe Costigan

            Thanks man. I never understood the whole Layne/Jerry AIC fan divide. Just a waste of time and energy. I don’t really post that much unless it’s something about AIC – they are my all time fav band.

            I enjoy your posts as well.

  • Thelonious Funk

    Staley was going to record vocals for Taproot? Laaaame

    • LaVonne Demers

      Yeah its in the grunge is dead book.
      Layne’s agent / producer ( haven’t read in awhile ) were actually on the plane on their way to Seattle to get Layne ready for recording again when they heard about his death. Read the book it’s pretty good.

  • Boom

    Boom misses the Staley voice. The music was the pure best.

    • dakotablue

      Agree with Boom. So true, so true, so true.
      Cornell probably the second-best voice in Seattle, although Lanegan is right up there too.

  • Shane99

    I hate these “What ifs”. This would have been Goddam Fantastic!

  • Corndog

    I wonder how loosing his teeth (or having them replaced?) would have affected his voice?

    • jAWAs

      Scott Weiland seemed to have his replaced when I saw STP in 2008, and I think he sounded the same. He’s another one, though I don’t feel much sympathy for him after years of stories of him being an a-hole to those around him.

  • stayl

    Are the members of AIC contributing to de Sola’s book?

    • Joe Costigan

      I don’t think so. I do however feel this book will be a lot more well done than that Rubio book.

      I’ll end up getting this book – if anything just to read about Layne as he was as a kid and into his early 20s leading the best band in the world. I struggled for a lot of years to come to my own peace with his death and wondering what happened during the 96-02 period with the band. I read “this is our town”, “grunge is dead” and some other random books to get an insight into Laynes “reclusive years”, I scoured the Internet to find stories of Layne sightings – I don’t wanna say it was morbid curiousity All I can say is I really admire how the band respected each other enough to keep their issues between themselves.

  • Hendrix

    Layne recorded another brick in the wall with the rage guys, it was one of the last projects he ever did. Best cover of that song in my opinion. Can we show some respect for him by not performing a journalistic autopsy of his body disintegrating? Is this why some of the best singers are the most reclusive? Many renowned pianists were extremely reclusive also, barely left their homes and would only perform in their own living rooms for a select few ears to hear. Must be difficult having so much talent and being reluctant about the attention that comes with it. I respect Layne for seeing through the trappings of fame, so let audioslave go to Cornell who so transparently relishes the wrong kind of attention from the wrong people.

    • Chris Portugal

      It was just Tom Morello in Class of 99, the bass player and drummer were from Porno for Pyro’s

  • evergreenLayne

    It’s a trip that he was both reclusive and social during the last few years. There’s the story of him at a party at Ann Wilson’s house where he was the last one to leave and was hanging by the pool and marveling at shooting stars with Ann. He also went down to his local bar all the time and sat in the back by himself drinking soda. He needed people all the way to the end. I’m sure he was embarrassed by his appearance but being around others was still important.

  • Joe Costigan

    That’s pretty cool! Would of been a whole different dynamic. It’s a shame he couldn’t keep himself clean though. Being a huge Alice fan its also a downer seeing him as moving past the band. On the other hand I also heard rumors that he was supposedly going to reach out to Jerry during the deg trip time period.

    I just think the band had a falling out. Jerry was using, layne was using and I just think it came to a head. I think the only way that they all would of gotten back together was if they both managed to get clean and make amends. I’m glad Jerry got clean and is still the driving force behind the band.

  • Raj

    That would have been interesting but Layne weighing 100 pounds and and being addicted to heavy drugs to go join a new project, record a new album and then go on a full tour would not have been in his best interest. If Jerry Cantrell got fed up with Layne not wanting to partake in recording and then not touring an album it would have been only a matter of time before the RATM members would have felt the same way. He needed to get clean first before joining Audioslave.

    • Joe Costigan

      Well Gallagher did state that Layne was planning to go to rehab before meeting with the RATM guys.

      • Raj

        Yes, I read the same article. Layne was in bad shape during Chains they couldn’t tour the Tripod album and he was in bad shape during AIC unplugged. Layne screwed over Alice in Chains but after Layne died everyone attacks Jerry for going on. AC/DC kept going with a new singer and no one attacks Angus.

        • Joe Costigan

          Layne did look rough during the kiss tour. Totally agree with people who speak out against Jerry keeping the band going though. I don’t think that Layne screwed the band over though – they were all doing shit – Layne just couldn’t kick his habit and the drugs won.

          At this point it is what it is – I love the new incarnation of the band, the new albums have been great (TDPDH) is underrated much like Jerry’s Deg Trip masterpiece is. The spirit of the band lives on – new fans are being exposed through the newer music to go back and discover Alice’s amazing earlier stuff with Layne.

  • mo

    pooe Layne <3 would've been awesome but doubt he could've handled it, who know's?! Worked out for music fans because Audioslave rocks

  • dakotablue

    I remember reading how Layne really liked Rage when they were both on the 1993 Lollapalooza tour. He watched them from backstage and maybe even sang with them (?) a few times. I don’t blame Jerry for going on but obviously something major happened between him and Layne. They were best buddies who lived together at the Music Bank, then collaborated on fantastic music–and then were not speaking to each other. I think Layne wanted to quit the band and did, after fulfilling the last requirement of their recording contract. Don’t know if this was because of the drugs but that was most likely a major part. Great job on this exclusive, Brett!

    • Joe Costigan

      Yea I think it was Layne’s health and addiction that prevented them from touring and recording. I remember reading either here or in one of the books that during the Died/Get Born Again recordings Jerry was basically in control and Layne was just like a little boy being told what to do. I think it was just frustration on Jerry’s part that boiled over.

      Listen to Bargain Basement Howard Hughes – it pretty much spells it out:

      Stubborn bastard, hard head knocking

      We had our good years too

      Though apart, you’re still in my heart

      I’d give anything for you

      • halcyon

        Dealing with drugs and health issues might not have been the only reason. Layne couldn’t tour but he was also rather unwilling to tour and not only because of his drug addiction. It seems that Layne and Jerry had different views on how the band
        should work. Jerry wanted (and quite understandably so) to tour extensively and
        present their music to people, whereas Layne started to hate touring at some
        point and would probably have preferred working a bit differently. I don’t say
        at all that he hated to perform in general (he obviously did not, as evidenced, for instance, by his participation in Mad Season), but it seems
        that the band’s extremely busy touring schedule (up until around ’93) was
        something which was unbearable to him, as it was (as he said himself) both physically and emotionally demanding (and he found himself in a highly risky environment as regards drugs availability) which made him more susceptible to succumb to drugs again despite his efforts to stop. I guess the fact that he felt unhappy about touring had a lot to do with him being rather withdrawn and dealing with depression and anxiety (which may sound odd because Layne actually managed to come across as quite confident and reasonably sociable). Jerry might not have understood that, I mean he probably did not realize that Layne might have had trouble touring because of his depressive disposition (which he probably tried not to show) and that Layne’s drug addiction was actually the consequence of him trying to deal with his inner turmoil in a very unfortunate way rather than the cause of his issues (which it obviously was, too, but not as the primary cause). And they probably never talked about it, either (for Layne’s fear of looking weak, I suppose), so Jerry assumed that Layne’s drug addiction was the only (or the main) thing which prevented the band from touring and being active and that Layne should be able to kick it off or, at least, control it to some extent – as the other members did – to keep the band going. But even if Layne had overcome his addiction, his problems would not have gone away and it is very likely that he would not have been willing to tour as extensively as Jerry wanted him to. It would have been destructive to him (ironically, the actual scenario of the band being on hiatus was equally destructive to him). I guess this was one of the reasons (apart from the very obvious ones) why it was so hard for them to reconnect and work with each other again. And I actually think they both genuinely tried.

        • Joe Costigan

          Well said. I totally agree with you. There was so much more to it than meets the eye.

  • Ben

    It is hard to imagine… but would have been truly amazing!

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  • Alberto Bootzz Sandino

    i think layne was in cornell’s shot…the reflection shows he doesnt care though…