Layne Staley

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Layne Staley in 1992

Layne Thomas Staley (August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002) was an American musician who served as the lead vocalist, occasional rhythm guitarist and co-songwriter of the rock band Alice in Chains.


  • I think our lyrics reflect reality. Maybe not someone else's reality, but definitely ours, you know? I don't write about bullshit and neither does my guitar player, Jerry Cantrell. I have a fascination with how brainwashed people get with religion and how they'll give up their money, their time and their whole life for a cause that they're sure is right, but I'm sure is wrong. I think there's a lot of people who are scared of life and living and they want to make sure they get to Heaven or whatever. I try to stay away from it as much as I can. I was raised in the church until I was 16 and I've disagreed with their beliefs as long as I can remember, so when I had the choice I chose not to believe in anything apart from myself.
  • Once it got really big with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, there wasn't much mentioned about us. All those bands put out records around the same time, and we hadn't put one out in two years. I don't think it hurt us, though. I'm glad we didn't get lumped together with them, because we're not those other bands.
  • The facts are that I was shooting a lot of dope, and that's nobody's business but mine. I'm not shooting dope now, and I haven't for a while.... I took a fucking long, hard walk through hell. I decided to stop because I was miserable doing it. The drug didn't work for me anymore. In the beginning I got high, and it felt great; by the end it was strictly maintenance, like food I needed to survive. Since I quit doing it, I tried it a couple of times to see if I could recapture the feeling I once got off it, but I don't. Nothing attracts me to it anymore. It was boring.
  • From song to song, the album [Dirt] changes from glorifying drugs to being completely miserable and questioning what I thought once worked for me. By the end of the album, it's pretty obvious it didn't work out as well as I thought it would.
  • We [Alice in Chains] don't stuff our personal demons inside us, we get them out. It's therapeutic. I'm sure I'll never be completely 100 percent at peace with myself and the world. I'll always be bitching and moaning about something.
  • [on Dirt] It's simple. One theme is: Drugs are bad. The other theme is relationships, bad. The last theme is: album, good. Maybe something this blatant and heavy and straight to the point might steer people away from being excited about the idea of trying heroin. There was nothing that blatant shoved in my face, discouraging me.
  • Kurt [Cobain] and I weren't the closest of friends, but we ran into each other at shows and hung out a lot. I knew him well enough to be devastated by his death. I just don't understand it at all. The last time I saw him, he gave me a ride from QFC on Broadway to a friend's house, the whole way there, which was about a fifteen minute drive, he talked about his daughter. For such a quiet person, he was so excited about having a child, he really loved that little girl. About a month later I saw on the news, that he was dead.
    • Pandemonium Magazine, Vol#29 - April 1995: "Layne Staley Unchained"
  • I don't think any drug that can cause brain damage, failing kidneys, hardening arteries, pain, and suffering should be made available. Drugs are not the way to the light. They won't lead to a fairy-tale life, they lead to suffering.
    • Pandemonium Magazine, Vol#29 - April 1995: "Layne Staley Unchained"
  • People have a right to ask questions and dig deep when you're hurting people and things around you. But when I haven't talked to anybody in years, and every article I see is dope this, junkie that, whiskey this - that ain't my title. Like 'Hi, I'm Layne, nail biter,' you know? My bad habits aren't my title. My strengths and my talent are my title.
  • I wrote about drugs, and I didn't think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them. Here's how my thinking pattern went: When I tried drugs, they were fucking great, and they worked for me for years, and now they're turning against me - and now I'm walking through hell, and this sucks. I didn't want my fans to think heroin was cool. But then I've had fans come up to me and give me the thumbs up, telling me they're high. That's exactly what I didn't want to happen.
  • I’m gonna be here for a long fuckin’ time. I’m scared of death, especially death by my own hand. I’m scared of where I would go. Not that I ever consider that, because I don’t. I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of where I was going to go if I did follow through with it. That makes me sad for my friends who have taken their lives, because I know that if your time is not finished here, and you end it yourself, then you gotta finish it somewhere else. There was a time when things seemed desperate, and I thought taking my life might be a way out. I made a couple of really weak attempts, mostly to see if I could do it, and I couldn’t.
  • I was sitting with a friend one time, and I blanked out for about a minute. I had no control over my muscles, and it scared the shit out of me because I experienced what I guess could have been hell or, you know, purgatory or whatever. It was freezing cold, and I was spinning like I was drunk and trying desperately to take a breath. There was chest pain like I was gonna explode. If you gotta feel pain here, you gotta feel it somewhere else. I believe that there’s a wonderful place to go to after this life, and I don’t believe there’s eternal damnation for anyone. I’m not into religion, but I have a good grasp on my spirituality. I just believe that I’m not the greatest power on this earth. I didn’t create myself, because I would have done a hell of a better job.
  • At the end of the day or at the end of the party, when everyone goes home, you’re stuck with yourself. There was a time when I couldn’t deal with that, and I couldn’t go places by myself. I needed to call up a friend to go to a 7-Eleven. I just couldn’t approach people when I was alone. Getting a place on my own was a step toward learning how to do that.
  • I met Jerry [Cantrell] at a party, just out of the blue. I didn't think he was the coolest guy in the world or anything. He had no family in the area, so he's kind of struggling, didn't have any money or a place to stay or anything. And me being completely drunk, just offered this total stranger a place to stay and clothes, and food and musical instruments. I think two days later he moved his stuff up into the rehearsal room that I was working [out of]. And he's got himself a little 4-track, and kinda started out there, writing and jamming with some people. He was playing with some guys that I thought... you know, weren't up too pair with the music that he was writing. And I remember meeting Mike [Starr] and Sean [Kinney] prior to that.
  • I know that the guys in this band [Alice in Chains] would do anything for me and I'd do the same for them. I know that I can trust them, and I think now they know that they can trust me.

About Layne Staley

  • It's good to be with friends and family as we struggle to deal with this immense loss... and try to celebrate this immense life. We are looking for all the usual things: comfort, purpose, answers, something to hold on to, a way to let him go in peace. Mostly, we are feeling heartbroken over the death of our beautiful friend. He was a sweet man with a keen sense of humor and a deep sense of humanity. He was an amazing musician, an inspiration, and a comfort to so many. He made great music and gifted it to the world. We are proud to have known him, to be his friend, and to create music with him. For the past decade, Layne struggled greatly — we can only hope that he has at last found some peace. We love you, Layne. Dearly. And we will miss you... endlessly.
  • We are deeply saddened by the passing of Layne Staley, a true original who will no doubt be remembered within the pantheon of rock's all-time greats. We stand in solidarity with our brother Jerry Cantrell in this hour of mourning and send our most heartfelt condolences to all of Layne's family, friends, and fans throughout the world. Today is a tragic day for those of us who know the difference between 'My Sacrifice' and 'Them Bones', between 'How You Remind Me', and 'Rain When I Die'."
  • It's something I'm still dealing with, and I still think like he's here. I miss him tremendously. I love him and have to move on. I'll remember him and respect the memories of what we did together and just enjoy life... and that's all I'll say about it.
  • At first, we were just going to call it "Kurt", but then I was like, "Why am I doing this? Staley dies and he doesn't even get on the front page of Rolling Stone. I have to do something" – not that I matter at all, but it matters to me.
  • Yeah, it was crazy that it's called "The Day Seattle Died" because I didn't mean it to be that. I meant it to be as far as those two losses in Seattle [Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley's deaths] - to me that's the day Seattle died. I wasn't putting that together and thinking about the exact dates.
    I had met Layne Staley before when he was really sick. We were on tour with Jerry Cantrell, and Jerry knew I was a giant fan of Alice in Chains. It was Halloween night, we were in Seattle, and all of a sudden, a little dude comes up and he's got an old fishing hat on and he's kind of dressed up like an old dude - he is dressed for Halloween. I guess he didn't want people to see him because he's Layne Staley walking into a club in Seattle, and that would draw a lot of attention, so he got a little costume.
    He came backstage with me, and it impacted me so deeply to see him in that condition, because he was one of my biggest idols of all time. We opened a bottle of Jack Daniel's and drank it, and I just talked to him about everything for a long time. But the condition that he was in at the time affected me deeply - to see him look years older than what I thought he was. I knew when he left that night, that was the end - that he was going to go. I'm so thankful I got to spend that time with him.
    So that affected me, and I was like, "That's my hero, I'm going to write a song for him." And then the Kurt thing came in too. He was just as influential, but Layne I just felt more of a connection to - he was way darker, and I've always gravitated towards that stuff. Layne Staley's mom actually reached out to us to thank us for the song, and it was really beautiful. So, it had some impact. People really feel that song.
  • The whole thing with the heart... there wasn't a real intention or a reason, it's just a collection of ideas that we put together. To me, we had our hearts broken by losing Layne and losing ourselves. And also it took a lot of that to get through this process and to even take the chance, and to stand-up and risk. It celebrates his life. He didn't get treated too well by the press when he was alive, and when he passed away, he pretty much got swept under the carpet, and the news basically been a punchline or a headline. It's kind of cool, he's kinda like Obi-Wan and death, he became bigger than life and people are starting to take a look at his contribution. It was an unfortunate fact that he had an addiction that ended up killing him, but there was so much more to the man and stuff doesn't go away.
  • “Man in the Box” hit in the middle of the “Clash of the Titans” tour — you talk about a tough fucking tour, opening up for Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. They had a revolving headlining set, but still, Slayer’s fans would out-chant any of the other fans in the arena. “Slayer, Slayer, Slayer!” I remember playing Red Rocks, and the place is built ‘up’ — you could hit the stage with pretty much anything you throw from a certain distance. That was one of those landmark moments for the band. We got fucking massacred, dude. They started throwing stuff from the moment we came onstage. It was un-f*cking-believable. We were playing just looking up — watching shit come down, trying to avoid it, without running off the stage. After a while of getting pelted with all this shit — I don’t know how someone did this, but they snuck a gallon jug of some liquid, and they hocked this thing. It came down and crashed on Sean [Kinney]’s set.
    Layne got fucking pissed. He started grabbing shit and throwing it back at the audience. He jumped the barricades and started spitting back — throwing shit and flipping people off, just like they had been doing to us. So, we all did the same thing — we all followed Layne’s lead. We got right in their face, started kicking the shit they were throwing at us right back in their faces. And we finished our set. We’re like, “Fuck man, we better get out of here — we’re going to get killed.” After that show, there were a bunch of Slayer fans out by the bus. We’re like, “Oh shit, here we go.” We walk up to the bus — they were blocking us from getting to the bus — and they’re like, “You guys are alright. You guys didn’t puss out.”
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