All posts by Tim Branom

Tim Branom is a Writer, Musician and Music Producer. He spent years behind the scenes working on other artist's music, but is now concentrating on his solo work. He loves ice cream and is currently addicted to making music videos. Fun Facts: While living in Seattle, Tim lived with future members of Alice In Chains and LA Guns. He has been quoted about his involvement with the Seattle music scene in such books as "Alice in Chains: The Untold Story", "Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music", and "Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History Of Grunge". Contact:

Exclusive: Watch Newly Discovered Alice In Chains Footage From 1989

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

Interview: Layne Staley’s Mom Nancy McCallum Talks Layne’s Childhood, Unreleased Music & Final Days

In a rare interview, Alternative Nation sat down with late Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley’s mother, Nancy Layne McCallum, for an in-depth exclusive feature. In this interview Nancy discusses Layne’s childhood, how his voice continues to speak for new generations, his tragic final days, whether there is any unreleased music, Demri Parrot, Layne’s religious views, and a possible Layne Staley poetry book.

Also remember to check out the 2015 Layne Staley Tribute Weekend later this month including a fan gathering at Seattle Center International Fountain on August 20th, acoustic night on August 21st at The Central, and the big birthday celebration on August 22nd at The Crocodile.

Nancy, you obviously have some musical talent. Were you the one who first exposed Layne to his musical abilities?

Everybody in our family has really nice voices (except for a couple of people) and we all just sang. There was always music. My parents had beautiful voices. Layne first heard the most beautiful voice in his environment when I was pregnant with him and I was taking voice lessons at Cornish School in Seattle. My voice teacher had been a voice coach in New York on Broadway for forty years. That was the first really big, full, male voice that he ever heard. I think I would credit that voice more than anybody else’s. I was in choir six years with very demanding choir directors. Thank God for them. David Sanarud was my junior high choir teacher and boy, I’m telling you, my choir teachers expected a lot. If your eyes left them, they stopped the whole practice and said, “From the beginning…” We got A++ for our regional competition. Then I took the year of voice at Cornish. I was chosen to be in the first musical to open The 5th Avenue Theater, but I was pregnant with Layne and it just wouldn’t have worked with me climbing on a ladder. So somebody else got the part and I got Layne.

What were your thoughts when you heard the first Alice in Chains album?

When Facelift came out, and he and I were talking on the phone about it (because, I had listened to the tape several times) I said, “Layne I think there’s a sleeper on this album.” He said, “Which one, Mom?” and I said, “Man In The Box.” And he goes, “Oh that’s our next single.” And I said, “Oh Layne, it’s so beautiful.” And he’s like, “I wrote that, Mom”. So I am very proud of him for that song. He wrote the lyrics, I’m sure, is all I thought he meant. But I don’t know that for sure. I don’t know how much he participated in making the music. So, you’d have to ask another band member about that.

I understand that Layne may have played drums before he started singing.

First he took trumpet, because, in fifth grade everybody got an instrument, and he used Uncle Bob’s trumpet. Our friend, Fred, had a set of drums and Layne was interested and he gave them to us. He loaned them. Then Layne bought a set of drums from the neighbor boy. So that’s how his interest in drums progressed, but I don’t remember him taking lessons.

So he had his own drum set, set up in the house?

Yeah. In the living room, the bedroom and the garage. It depended on where they got the best sound.

My take on Layne was that he was not a very judgmental person. I never heard about him ever getting in fights or even having an enemy. Does this sound accurate?

Pretty much. Yep. He was pretty mild-mannered about that even though he certainly had his opinions about people and things and events; but, he wasn’t a fighter. He didn’t make trouble. Nothing I knew about. I heard later funny stories about naughty things he did. And I went, “What!? I can’t believe that.” But you know, boys don’t tell their mothers all the naughty things they do. I knew of a few things that he did around the junior high age that make me angry. But I guess that’s to be expected.

In your opinion, do you think Layne would have married Demri Parrot?

Layne and Demri loved each other dearly. They wanted to be clean and sober.

Tell us something we don’t know about Layne.

I think people would be surprised that he was raised in the Christian Science Sunday School for twenty years. They asked if he believed in God? And I thought, oh, for heaven sake, listen to his music. Of course he did. And we’re all challenged to demonstrate our understanding, and I’m sure that he was very shocked to find that God isn’t going to dig you out of every tunnel that you put yourself in to. You’ve got to do that yourself. And I think that was where he was – that was probably in my world, if he is at all like me, he would’ve been very disappointed in himself for getting himself in something that he couldn’t dig himself out of. And we hear about miracles every day. I even struggled with why didn’t our prayers work? Well there’s, you known, there’s – the universe has a bigger novel to write. And we don’t know about the afterlife, and we do not know what he’s up to these days; but, I’m sure it’s full of humor and trying to make things better for himself and others. If indeed there is an afterlife, and I tend to think there is, he better be behaving, because when I get there I’m checking on him.


Tell us something about you that we don’t know.

You know, I spent fifty years taking care of children…and people think, well…? Well, that includes a lot! It’s a really important job. And I worked with five women friends and started the first parent co-op in a public school in the United States (Mountlake Terrace Elementary). We were on national news when we started it, and then again years later when the kids were now going into junior high. That all grew out of the Edmonds Community College Family Life Program, where we had preschool. We had kids in preschool as they were the little lab rats. And the parents were the students. And it’s a fabulous program. I would recommend to young families to get involved in your community college family life program. It’s amazing. And it just took off from there. There’s PTA and there’s Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and all the things that moms do. And camping, well we didn’t go camping but we went on vacations. And mom’s jobs are huge. They’re huge. And they’re multi-faceted and they’re full-time and, you know, you have extended family and church. And so in life I’ve done a lot that just fills me as a wife and mother, homeowner, pet owner, car repair gal.

Layne had some recording equipment at home. Would any of this music be worthy of release?

There is nothing. We’ve listened to everything and — Just because he had the equipment didn’t mean that he had the professional ability to pull it all together. I know that he practiced on it a lot. Just unfinished little ditties. And I don’t even know if he did them. It might have been a friend going “doodly-wop”. I don’t know. His music room was completely pristine and clean even though the rest of the house was an artist’s home. So I value the possibility, but no. Don’t you suppose that after 13 years if there was something valuable, it would’ve been heard by now?

Do you know who may have been the last person to see Layne?

According to the stories, it was Mike (Starr) and he went to the store for Layne. So that’s all I know.

It’s heart-breaking to think it was you, his mother, who was notified by Layne’s management that there had been no spending activity from him in two weeks. You (and Jim Elmer) then went to his home with the police, broke down the door and discovered him lifeless on April 19, 2002. Is there anything you can clear up? You brought him in this world, and you went to save him.

I didn’t know I was saving him when we were checking on him. And the phone call that I got said, “Now, don’t be overly concerned because it’s not unusual for Layne to take out a sum of money and then just use cash”. And when I got there, I had been there a couple of days before; because, Demri’s brother had died in February and I hadn’t known about it and I didn’t know if Layne knew about it, so I had been there a couple of days before to talk to him about it. There was no answer. I think that would’ve been a Wednesday, yeah. Then when I got the phone call to check on him on Friday, I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t an answer. He had a little bit of mail by the door, but the kitty meowed, and she had never done that before and somehow that just alerted me. And when he didn’t answer after a while, I thought, well, I better have somebody come and check on him. So that’s when I made the 911 call. The police first went in and then they said – I said, well, I need to go in and be with him. And they said, “Oh I wouldn’t do that.” And I said, “I can do this.” I’ve always promised myself that if anything happened to my children I would be there for them. And I went in, and he was tiny and I thought at first that he had made like a life-sized mannequin of himself because he had lots and lots of art projects always. And I thought, you know, somebody could have thrown that little guy over their shoulder and walked down the street and nobody would have even know that it was a real person.

So, and I sat with him for a few minutes. And I told him that I was really sorry how things had turned out. Because, of course we tried to not pressure him. We always felt like pressure would just push him to the wrong place, and he knew what he had to do. He had to go in treatment, stay in treatment, communicate with his sponsor, stay with healthy people – but the music industry doesn’t afford you the time to do that. And those aren’t healthy people – a lot of them are not. It was pretty tough to get cleaned up. By then he had pretty much secluded, been secluded. So it was shocking to see my child like that. It should have turned out better. And it’s been amazing how many people have expressed their love and support. And they say, “Gee, I hope Layne knew how loved he was.” And I think, Wow, how could he not have known?” I’m sure he did. And then there was the crying and the storytelling and the making the plans. You know I think people who are sweet-hearted deserve to know the truth, and you know, “Warning, warning. Don’t kid yourself. The best of the best succumb to drug addiction.  Stay away.”


Why do we lose certain people?

Once Layne and I were on the phone and he was saying, “You know why, Mom? Why did this happen to me?” And I said, “Honey, that’s a witch hunt. Just go to treatment. And move on with your life. We have no idea. We have no idea of the why.” Believe. Don’t take yourself out to teach somebody a lesson. He didn’t. And I mean, everybody’s circumstances are different. I understand that. Don’t judge somebody else. Don’t think you know things you don’t know for sure. You were not there. But the whole why thing is part of a distraction that the world wants you to get distracted away from your purpose. Let it go. You don’t want to blame – what if you figured out the reason and it was someone’s fault? Are you going to go through life judging and blaming? No. Just drop the why and move on.

There is a small bar next to Layne’s last home called the “Blue Moon”. Did he go there?

Yeah, to just hang out and be around people. To come on down and see a band play.  I think he knew that he was kind of safe there because they knew not to make a fuss over him. Just let him be.

What are your future plans with Layne’s music?

Please clear this up. It won’t be up to me anyway and won’t be new music. It would be anything that he has the copyright to, and it will be up to professionals. I’m not at all capable of making those decisions. The (same) way the people ask about the artwork.

You often get asked about your lawsuit against Alice In Chains. Can you set the record straight here for all those who ask about the outcome?

It really isn’t anyone else’s business, is it?

Do you have any plans to officially release any artwork or photos by Layne?

Well, I think that it will be up to someone who promotes and that’s probably part of the future. You know, I once asked someone about poetry because we’ve received so many poems. And he has some lyrics that are just – they’re poems, they’re not lyrics. And I thought, well somebody would love that in a poetry book. And I talked with someone who publishes and he goes, “No, we don’t do poetry books.” They just don’t sell very well.” So it has to be a self-published thing or…I don’t know. Until I knew what the parameters were of what my rights are, I really couldn’t make a plan around future projects. He does have some interesting art. And of course he didn’t release it, so did he want it to be released? Those are decisions that are hard to make. I wasn’t a part of his business, and when he came home, it was brownies or chocolate chip cookies and meatloaf and the longest nap he needed and a hot long shower and no interruptions and just visit about other things, be around family and the pets and be home. And so, it wasn’t a lot of talk about business.

The 14th Annual Layne Staley Tribute is coming up in August with three locations of memorials and celebrations. I assume you will be at all three events, but will fans have easier access to meet you at the first gathering – the Fountain?

Absolutely at the Fountain.  Because it’s quiet there. At the other events, fans come up and they want to tell me stuff and it’s like, “Hey, I want to hear the bands that we’ve asked to come and play.” I want to hear their music and their renditions, and by the end of the night if I have to talk to people I have such a sore throat. And so if you want to come and visit, come to the Fountain and then we can really visit. And there is always a little acoustic time where we hang out underneath the covering by the Fountain and people bring their guitars, and they bring their cell phones so they can read the words to the music and it’s a sing-along and it’s really sweet. Prior to that, people visit. So that starts around 7pm at the Seattle Center International Fountain.

You have been known to get up on stage and sing the Mad Season song, “Wake Up.” What are your personal reasons for this choice of a song?

I can’t sing most of Layne’s songs. They’re too hard. But I do love them, and I don’t know the words, you know, I’m Layne’s mom. But, I’m talking to the audience. He was. This is the song that mom would sing to this young crowd of people who think that drugs are recreational. They are not! Wake up. He was singing it to them. And I would sing it. It’s you know, I’m not a showman; so there is some music in there where I just sort of hang out on stage and wonder what should I do with my microphone.

But it’s a beautiful song and it means a lot, and you know, it says ‘10 long years of leaves to rake up.’ There’s a Bible verse that said that ‘the leaves were for the healing of the nations’. Our purpose is to be healers and be helpful and be kind and live quietly in your heart and love other people and don’t blame them and don’t judge them. People ask sometimes about, “Oh, did you forgive whatever so-and-so for whatever?” And I go, “You know, to forgive means I had to have judged”. I’m not a judge. And everybody has to square things up with the universe themselves.

So, I kind of love that song for a lot of different reasons besides the fact that it’s easy to learn and I can sing it. But since then I’ve actually learned more of the songs just because of repetition and the environment. You know, I hear bands playing and if I go to a show and they’re on the radio and once in a while I put the music in myself; but, it’s very painful most of the time. And I don’t watch the videos because people say, “Oh, but you have all those videos”. You can watch them. It’s like, do you know what it’s like to see him there and not have him in my world just for everyday stuff?

And besides, that guy onstage was only part of Layne, and he was so many other parts. And he meant so many other things to other people for other reasons.

What else can we expect at a Layne Tribute?

At The Crocodile, two years ago, it was such a spiritual experience. I cannot describe it well enough, but I can tell you that when everyone sang along, it sounded like a choir, like a church. And at the end of the night I jokingly, but not really, I said, “You know it felt like going to church with Pastor Layne presiding”. It was amazing. And people who had been to many, many concerts said they had never had that experience before. So bless his little heart, if that’s what he does. He brings people together to love one another and have a happy memory, and make happy memories. We do little things different every year; but one year, I just said, “You know if you’ve lost a friend to addiction, call their name out. And that was a really sweet few minutes where people just called out their dear friend’s name and everybody was flicking their BIC’s. I don’t know if you can do that anymore because Washington is in a drought. If you want to bring a glow stick, oh, Layne loved glow sticks. Everybody bring your glow sticks. That would be so cool. I also have a friend who wrote a beautiful song for Layne and it’s my understanding is that it will be played at the Crocodile. And I’ve heard it and it’s gorgeous.


Do you have a message you wish to give to fans of Layne’s?

What would Layne say? He said it in his lyrics. He warned you. He described what he was up against. He said stay away. Don’t follow. And in the end, he said we’re alone. And I say we’re all alone together. Each of us has our own experience and past; but, we are walking alongside one another. And ask for help, for heaven’s sake. And for heaven’s sake go to 12-Step if you need help. 12-Step for anything. I don’t care what your obsession is. If your obsession is green and you can’t stand it anymore, go to a 12-Step program. It doesn’t matter what your obsession is. The 12-Step program is the same. If you do too much for others, if you don’t do enough for others, if you smoke, if you gamble, if there’s a sex addiction, if there’s a drug addiction or alcohol, or you can’t talk to people because you sweat, I don’t care what it is, the 12-Step problem solving process is for everyone and for everything. We all have parts of ourselves that are not socially acceptable, that scare us in ourselves, that might not be acceptable in our families, or things that are hidden; because, we don’t want to talk about them or relive them or whatever. But I think that’s the nerve that Layne hits for some people in his music, (but) not everybody. I’ve heard people who said, “Oh, I get so much joy out of his music”. I thought, ‘Do you listen to the words? Because they’re not nice stories.” We know what was going on in some of that and it was very painful. And it’s a part of ourselves that need release and relief. Not that we had to go crazy and wild about, you know stuff, but stuff has to have some kind of outlet. You know maybe you just – maybe you cook or maybe you bang on the drums or maybe you run or ride your bike, whatever it is – stuff has to have an outlet.

Is it true that eventually you answer all fan emails sent to you?

I do. Thirty-one thousand so far and counting. I have one thousand waiting for me at home, but only about three-hundred haven’t heard from me. And I’m still trying to catch up with them. So have patience, and don’t change your e-mail address. Plus a few thousand letters (to answer) because not everybody you know has computers or they want to write. It’s really sweet.

You went to Layne’s twenty-year high school reunion. How was that?

I asked people, “Is Calvin here? Is Calvin here?” (Because he had a friend Calvin that I had never met; but, he used to talk about him). Well several people said, “Layne Staley was Layne Elmer!?” (Because he went to school with his stepdad’s last name). “He was the quietest boy in our class!” So I’m going out, Calvin is coming in, and someone said “There’s Calvin.” And I went up and I said, “I’m Layne’s mom. And I know that you were Layne’s friend.” And we started to talk, it’s kind of a narrow hallway and his back was leaning against one way and I’m facing with my back against another as people are going through, and he said, “That kid could not run a drill press.” And I said, “Well you know people are telling me that he was the quietest kid in class.” And I said, “But once he got out on that stage, he used it for other things.” And Calvin said very seriously and sweetly to me, he said, “Nancy, Layne did it for us all.”

I was surprised to hear that you still go to concerts. (Referring to House of Blues, Fri., July 19, 2015)

The band was Michael Grande’s band, Memory Layne.  They played “Queen of the Rodeo” at the House of Blues on Friday night. That‘s a funny song.  And it’s on (Alice In Chains’) live album, which is my favorite album; because, it’s so causal. The audience is right there and the guys are wearing their cowboy hats, and then they do “Queen of the Rodeo” in Texas. I just think that’s funny. I also attended the Mad Season concert at Benaroya Hall recently, in Seattle. What a night!

Washington State has now decriminalized recreational marijuana. What are your thoughts on this?

Any state that decides to legalize marijuana is asking for what they get.

It’s interesting that donations for the Layne Staley Memorial Fund go to the Therapeutic Health Services – the very same company you were working for when Layne passed.

When I worked at THS, it was a brand-new job. I had been there three weeks (with) my girlfriend (it was her first job out of high school). And THS had been in existence for over forty-some years now. They have seven locations. They do alcohol and drug addiction including heroin. They also have family programs for moms who are pregnant and are using, and for the addicts, their support system. All of the counseling includes a support system for those people who want to help. Most of their locations have heroin treatment. They do co-presenting, which means that if you have a drug addiction and something else going on, a mental health issue, or physical, they coordinate the service. So that is the whole approach. Oh, I feel so lucky. I got to know many people at THS in my short, well, I was there two years altogether. And I got to know the administrators and the Executive Director, and these are some of the finest people you could ever work with and they love everyone who comes there. They will do whatever they can to accommodate any kind of financial need, because people think, “Oh, I don’t have any money for treatment.” Well, if you don’t have personal money and you don’t have insurance and your company doesn’t have insurance for you now, there is Medicare, Medicaid and ACA, which is the Affordable Care Act. And there’s funding from the cities, counties, state and feds through grants that the facility applies for and uses on behalf of people who cannot pay for their own treatment in one way or another. So there’s – I mean there’s ten different ways that the treatments center will try to make treatment possible. And yes, it’s a revolving door proposal once in a while, and yeah, you might have to go back a few times. But stay as long you need and get the help that you need. And don’t give up on yourself because everybody has a clean and sober core.

But I am not involved at all in the (Layne Staley Memorial Fund) finances anymore. The only thing that I get involved in is if there’s a copyright issue. At the end of the Hungarian tribute, the Italian tribute, the Swiss tribute, the Bulgarian tribute, Seattle’s tribute and anyone else’s, it’s up to the coordinators to pay their expenses and then any money left over, goes to THS. And then if I find money on the street, it goes in an envelope. At the end of the year they get that along with any checks that people have sent to me, because sometimes a letter will include a donation check. But it should be made out to THS (Therapeutic Health Services). And I think people need to know about the website, because it really is a gift of love. One woman said, “I went to the website.” And she said “I thought it was really kind of weird”, and then she said “I realized how much you love us”. Please spell his name correctly, because he just hated it when people spelled his name wrong.

What made the Seattle scene so special?

Because you were all brothers. That’s what made this Seattle scene so unique. They weren’t competing. They weren’t undercutting one another. They cared about one another and they shared musicians and instruments and practice space, and it was a brotherhood. It was like Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men.

How were Layne & Mike Starr together?

They were funny together. They were a comedy team – the two of them. But you should talk to Gayle Starr about that.  Because she had more experience with them sitting at the piano bench and you know, being silly.


People sometimes name their children after Layne.

We have Layne, Delayne, Elayna, Dalayna, Alice in Chains – that’s the cat. All these parents send me pictures of their babies that they’ve named for Layne. It’s really sweet. And they’re the cutest little kids. And sometimes they send me Christmas cards later. And they’re growing up. Now they’re four and then they’re ten, and it’s just precious. One little boy’s name is Layne Staley and then his family’s last name. It’s humbling. It’s very sweet.

Originally, your last name was Layne?

Yeah. It’s my maiden name. And my dad had three daughters. So when we had Layne, I thought that that’s kind of a cool first name and it carried the name another generation, Then Layne chose his middle name, Thomas, when he got a little bit older.

To donate to the Layne Staley Memorial Fund, please visit:
Therapeutic Health Services

Donations also accepted by mail:
Therapeutic Health Services
1116 Summit Ave.
Seattle, WA. 98101

Upcoming Events:
The 14th Annual Layne Staley Tribute

Thursday, 8/20/15, Fan Gathering at The Fountain
Seattle Center International Fountain, Seattle, WA 98109
7:00 pm

Friday, 8/21/15, Layne Staley Tribute (Acoustic Night)
Jar Of Flies, Outshined, Poottana Play for Money
The Central, 207 1st Ave South, Seattle, WA  98104
(206) 622-0209
9:30 pm

Saturday, 8/22/15, Layne Staley Tribute
(Celebrating the lives and legacies of Layne Staley, Mike Starr, Kurt Cobain, Andrew Wood, and more.)
Jar Of Flies, Outshined, Poottana Play For Money
The Crocodile, 2200 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA  98121
(206) 441-4618
9:00 pm
$15 Advance
$20 Day Of Show
Tickets available at


Top 10 Reasons That Bands Hate Their Singer

It’s uncomfortable and a subject few musicians talk about openly, but the behavior of a lead singer in a rock band can gravitate to new depths never imagined. Let’s explore the many paths that can be presented that divide a band and help give the singer a stage name that even their parents reluctantly call him.


At some point in achieving a bit of success, the singer gets a sudden burst of undeserved confidence that rubs everyone the wrong way. He turns into a controlling egomaniac. For this condition, there is no known cure. This is called LSD or “Lead Singer’s Disease.”


Unexpected Stage Attire

At the last minute, your singer shows up on stage wearing something totally wrong for the band. It could be green hair, a mustache, or even the dreaded flaunting of a Scottish kilt.


I’m A Singer, Now I’m the Producer

Eventually the singer starts telling the band how to play their instruments in the rehearsal room. But it’s when they enter a recording studio, that they think they have become a recording genius, using phrases such as “I think the guitar should go duh duh duh duh, chunka chunka chunka…”


The Late Show

If it’s a rehearsal, your singer may not even show up. He will use the excuse, “You guys need to work out your parts and get tight.” But what’s really annoying is when they show up fashionably late for a big show, forcing the band to play a twenty-minute intro until he appears on the stage.


You Lift Equipment, I Just Sing

A singer never helps to carry equipment to the gig and doesn’t even own a microphone. While humming a song from the band’s repertoire and galloping like a horse, he will stride past his band members who are lifting Marshall amps with sweat degrading their Affliction shirts.


Let’s Name The Band After Me

All too often, a singer thinks the best name for the band would be their own last name. Unfortunate cases are the bands called “Glasscock”, “Mangina”,  “Stroker”, “Morehead”, and the incomparable “Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele”.


I Wrote That Song

Singers love to tell fans that an entire song was written by them, forgetting to mention that they just wrote the words, and actually had help with the words too.


Stand Behind Me

During a band photo shoot, and without any warning, a singer suddenly steps in front of the entire band to look bigger and more important. Then he points and spreads his arms out in an attempt to take up all the real estate allowed on an 8×10.


I’m The One With The Microphone

When a singer gets the urge, his opinions can really shake up the band. It could be an alcohol-induced political rant or the dissing of a singer in another band. Everyone naturally expects the band to agree with him and there have been many performances when bandmates have come to blows onstage. The scene plays out like a lightweight edition of the WWE: hair pulling and men in tights.


Your Girlfriend Wants Me

Those pelvic lunges and seductive stares are no stage act. The singer honestly believes he has the looks and talent to take any girl. It gets really ugly when the band’s girlfriends are in the front row to witness the gyrating moves of someone who has studied every detail of a Miley Cyrus concert.


Interview: Queensrÿche’s Michael Wilton Talks New Album, Praises Soundgarden & Alice in Chains

Going strong over thirty years, with sales in excess of 20 million units, Michael Wilton is the co-writer of such Metal classics as “Operation: Mindcrime”, “Walk In The Shadows”, “I Dream In Infrared”, “Revolution Calling”, “Empire”, “The Needle Lies”, “Blinded”, “Nightrider” and “Roads To Madness”.

Queensrÿche has set up a campaign with PledgeMusic where fans can pre-order the new Queensrÿche album and also join the fan club for free. Other perks include the opportunity to book the band at your event, signed merchandise, and even equity in the band’s future revenue.

Currently on tour, the founder and original guitarist for Queensrÿche gave us this exclusive look into his immediate and future plans.

Michael, you are working on the 15th Queensrÿche album. Do you have any info about the album you can divulge? 

Yes, we are just about finished recording the next Queensrÿche album. Stay tuned for any sneak press releases from Century Media Records, as well as Queensrÿche Official.

Producer Chris “Zeuss” Harris (Rob Zombie, Hatebreed, Soulfly, Shadows Fall) has been selected for the new album. How is he different than your last Producer, James “Jimbo” Barton?

Zeuss was the right fit for this body of music. Zeuss brings a modern, mobile recording technique, which is perfect in this high tech age of recording. He works long hours, is efficient and detailed and is dedicated to making the band sound like Queensrÿche.

You’ve recorded in many studios around the world. This time around you will be at Uberbeatz Studio in Lynwood, Washington. It must be very convenient to record close to home.

Mobile recording is a great fit for Queensrÿche these days because we are always touring. We only have allotted pockets of time, rather than 6-8 month stretches. It’s more efficient if a Producer comes to Seattle, rather than us traveling to a recording destination. There are plenty of great recording studios in Seattle area to choose from. For us it’s just about practicality and availability.

How have you been writing songs for this album? is there a process?

Writing music is very right brained for me. I just get bursts of inspiration and build upon ideas. Time reveals if the idea is a keeper or just crap. I have been doing it this way for over 30 years.

Your last album, 2013’s “Queensrÿche”, sounded like the band in the early days and surprised even the most hardened critics when it reached #6 on the iTunes Top Rock Albums charts.  What can we expect with the new album?

Queensrÿche has always been about evolving its music but never losing sight of its roots. I try not to describe our music because it is so personal to me. I leave that up to the listener.

You met former Crimson Glory vocalist Todd La Torre when he randomly approached you at the 2012 NAMM show. Since joining Queensrÿche, your audience strongly embraces him.  Todd is also an accomplished drummer. Has his drumming ability influenced the band in any way?

Todd has influenced the band in many ways, he has many creative strengths, he has a 5octave vocal range and is an accomplished drummer, so his timing is impeccable, and he can get his way around on the guitar so communication is on the level of a musician rather than just a lyricist.

The general feeling is that with Todd, there is a fresh quality to the band. It reminds me of a time as a young boy, when when I heard about this amazing new band from Bellevue with just a four-song demo. Do you and the band also feel like this is a new beginning for Queensrÿche?

I have met so many fans that have not seen the band since the 80’s and 90’s and tell me they love ‘The new Queensrÿche’. I also get a lot of ‘Thank you for saving the band’ comments. I say ‘Thank you for believing in this band’!

You were discovered by the owner of a record store, and he also became your manager. Now that record stores are rapidly disappearing, it seems young bands must use YouTube for exposure. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s really difficult for new bands to make it these days. The industry drastically changes every year. It’s been an eye opener for us to change the way our business runs as well. I think it’s about using all the individual resources you can no matter how fragmented the industry is. “Getting signed ” is not a sure thing of making it anymore.

I understand you may be releasing a documentary DVD including footage from the very first performance with Todd, when you billed yourselves as Rising West…

We have documented many events over the last few years. It’s just a matter of time when we will put it all together.

You’ve been known lately to play songs that have rarely been played live or have never been played live. Will you be surprising us this time around?

We have had such great success with the set lists we have been playing especially for those who have not seen us in a decade or more. I think if we do pull different songs it will be from the first 6 albums. It’s always fun going back and re-learning the old songs.

And while on tour, you will be playing songs from Operation: Mindcrime?

We always include songs from Operation: Mindcrime in our set. We try to balance the set list so we are playing songs from the first 6 albums, as well as the latest Queensryche release.

Do you still stay in touch with (former guitarist) Chris DeGarmo?

Yes, I stay in touch with Chris, we have always been close friends.

Let’s talk more about you. When you first started out, Judas Priest was an obvious influence. Who are your influences now?

My favorite recent CD’s are Mastodon, Soundgarden, Rush and Alice In Chains.

How did you get the nickname ‘Whip”?

I got the nickname ‘Whip” when I was a teenager because I whipped on the guitar.”

You have your own beer called “Whip Ale” and it is now available in AZ, CA, DE, FL, NJ, NV, SC, and VA or can be delivered anywhere online. How did you come to own your own beer?

Whip Ale has been available since 2004. It was at first a promotional idea I did with Lazy Boy Brewing, the owner wanted me to make my own recipe so I patterned it after a pale ale that I liked. There are 3 different incantations, the first: Lazy Boy Brewing, the 2nd: Diamondknot Brewing and now currently with Northwest Brewing Co.

Last year, you re-released the Soulbender album with bonus tracks. Nick Pollock (My Sister’s Machine) is the vocalist on the CD, but you have also worked with Travis Bracht (Second Coming) and Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen). Are there any plans to release the demos you did with these other singers?

Any of my side projects demo material shall not be released unless it’s instrumental and just me.

You have another band called Wratchet Head. The single “Coming For You” is available on iTunes. Who are the musicians and when will an album be available?

Wratchet Head is side lined because I am so consumed with Queensrÿche. I have no idea who the musicians will be, but I would like to keep it semi local.

Michael, I want to thank you for fitting me in your busy schedule. The best of luck to you and the band.

Thank You!

Further links:

Edited by Doug McCausland