Alice in Chains Forgotten Glam Past
Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories they take a look at Alice in Chains forgotten glam past. It included a band frontman Layne Staley played in called ‘Sleze’ and then ‘Alice N’ Chains.’ Check out the story below!
People often forget that Alice in Chains was the first so called grunge band from seattle to have a record go gold with 1990’s Facelift. In fact, i’ve done a whole video on facelift and the making of that album, the link is down below. But one other thing people often forget about alice in chains is that their roots were a glam metal band. In today’s video lets explore the glam history of Alice in Chains.
The history of alice in chains really started in 1984 when singer when Layne Staley successfully auditioned for a band named Sleaze thanks to his brother who had an in with the band. Originally a drummer, Layne had transitioned to a singer. The audition would happen in the basement of one of the members of Sleze with the Atlantic writing “before playing together, the band members noticed his tall stature, soft-spoken demeanour, and that he was very much dressed for the part of a rock musician, with band names like “Ozzy” or “Mötley Crüe” written on his pants in bleach. This audition was said to have taken place sometime in 1984. The lineup of Sleze was made up of drummer Carl Bergstrom, guitarists Johnny Bacolas, Ed Semanate as well as bassist Byron Hansen. The first song they played with Layne was a cover of the Motley crue song “looks that kill”
The members of Sleaze were blown away by Layne’s audition, not just because he could sing in key, but because he had his own unique style as well. He would get the job as the singer of the band. Sleze mostly played cover songs and was a glam rock band. Sleze’s live shows mostly attracted women and it saw them hrowing roses into the audience to the women and a friend would even come on stage with a mirror so the members could freshen up. Layne would come on stage riding a big wheel that had the word the “Laynemobile”written on it, which was a spoof of Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford riding a motorcycle on stage.
The band’s wardrobe was inspired by a friend of there’s named Lisa Rammell who told David De Sola in the book ‘Alice in Chains the Untold Story.’ “They would wear my pink and black spandex pants. I had a huge collection of belts and lace globes and tank tops and necklaces and sarves. I did their hair, taught them how to do their makeup and they looked like Poison out there.” The band would even meet ahead of gigs at a local Denny’s and plan their onstage moves.
By 1985 Layne had gotten a job at a place called the Music bank, which was a building that housed a number rehearsal spaces that were open 24/7. In addition to that it was pretty common for musicians to live there as well.
And by 1986 Sleze felt confident enough to record their first demo. That dem o would feature glammy songs include ‘lip lock rock’ and ‘fat girls.’ Tim Branom who produced Sleze first demo recalled working with Layne on his vocals telling david de sola
“”I worked with layne for months on his vocals. I was able to afford to go to maestro david kyle for lessons, but layne wasn’t so he would come a few times a week to my house to my house and we could go over the cassette tapes of my vocal warm ups. After he had done this for six months, the notes just flowed out effortlessly. Layne took a serious interest in working on his vocals as well because according to Branom it would save the band money in the studio. “ later on in layne’s career he would study under david kyle who also taught Geoff Tate of Queensryche, as well as Ann Wilson of Heart.
By 1986 the group soon had discussions about changing their name to It is said that credit for the name Alice in Chains goes to Slaughter Haus 5 singer Russ Klatt. At a party in 1986 Johnny Bacolas ran in to Klatt. And according to De Sola the pair chatted about changing Sleze’s name and Layne and Bacolas had previously designed backstage passes for their band that read “Sleze Welcome to Wonderland Tour.” Soon enough the pair were talking about Alice in Wonderland which warped into Alice in Bondage and Klatt said the words ‘Alice in Chains.’ The members liked the name and thought for their logo they could have a women dressed up in bndage but it also raised some concerns about the marketability of the band and some members parents weren’t so thrilled with the idea so they ended up modifying it to ‘Alice N’ Chains.’. Since this happened in 1986, it’s unlikely that guns n’ roses had any impact on the name change since appetite for destruction came out until 1987.
By the early part of 1987 Sleze’s demo was finished and copies were being sent out to friends and even local radio station KCMU played their music. Sleze also ended up having a ameo in the movie ‘Father Rock.’
Life at the Music Bank where Layne was working and living featured a lot of drugs, but one drug that wasn’t heavily used by the musicians living there. Darrell Vernon who played in another band at the time but was living at the music bank told de sola “Back then he was very against drugs, but were doing just about everything else.” In fact Layne’s substance abuse was so alarming to his bandmates that according to the same book in 1987 they arranged a band meeting to confront the singer as it was also affecting his live performances. Fast forward to May 1, 1987 Alice N’ Chains were playing a show at the Tacoma Little Theatre and in the audience that night was guitarist Jerry Cantrell.
Up until this point Jerry had bounced between Washington State and Texas before coming back home to Tacoma. By 1987 he played in band named Phoenix, before they changed their name to Diamond Lie. Several months after seeing Layne perform live for the first time It was around this time Jerry suffered to family tragedies in his life, first his grandmother died and then his mother passed awa six months later, from cancer. Apart from suffering from depression due to these life changing events, Cantrell’s bandmates noticed two distinct changes to the young guitarist’s personality The first, was that his songwriting got much darker and rather than writing songs about partying, he soon started writing songs about the harsh reality of life. The second was that he had great foresight when it came to rock n’ roll and what the net big thing was going to be.. While his bandmates were worshipping Kiss he knew of up and coming bands like Guns N’ Roses and Poison long before they blew up. It was Jerry’s dominating demeanor according to his bandmates that resulted in Diamond Lie breaking up. Most of the songs the band had been working on sounded like Dokken and were mostly the creation of Cantrell. In the aftermath of Diamond Lies breakup Jerry soon found himself playing in a different band called Gypsy Rose with bassist Mike Starr. Their time in the band was pretty short lived as both members would be fired for not having good enough equipment.
By August of 1987 Layne met Jerry at a party and it was around this time Jerry was homeless after being leaving his family’s house. Layne would recall in a mid 90’s interview “I met jerry 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 an mone or a place to stay or anything and me being completely drunk just offered a total stranger a place to stay and clothes and foo. I think two days later he moved his stuff into the rehearsal room that i was working out of” he’d remember.
Not long after Jerry started crashing at the music bank that Alice N’ Chains broke up. Layne’s drug use was cited in the same book as one of the reason’s the band called it quits. Soon after Layne drifted into another band with his Alice N’ Chains bandmate Carl Bergstrom who joined another musician named Terry Holt who was from Los Angeles whose music was described as “semi industrial, kind of hard funk, heavyish rock combination”.” There band would be called 40 years of hate. It was also during this time that Jerry wanted to start a new band. Layne gave Jerry the name and number of drummer Sean Kinney and hooked up again with bassist Mike Starr. It was a small world given that Kinney at the time was dating mike starr’s sister. And Layne would jam with the band on the condition that jJerry play guitar in his new project. Jerry and Mike and Sean wanted layne to join their band full-time but layne was still playing in his other band at the time.
During the time Jerry and Layne were playing in 40 years of Hate Holt was going back and forth between LA and Seattle playing in another band at the time and disappeared to LA for almost nine months With Layne still having committed full time to Jerry, Sean and Mike they devised a plan to get Layne to change his mind. They would tell Layne they were auditioning full time singers and well i’l llet Jerry Cantrell to tell the rest of the story. ok. So we’re like how do we get him to quit the rest of his side projects or whatever and we’re like let’s just start trying out singers in his room. Hahaha Cold blooded. You know, but he couldn’t really argue with it either. He wasn’t really mad about it, but he was kind of a little irked i think, but we put an ad like in the i think in the Rocket, the local music mag or whatever you know band looking for blah blah blah, must have equipment so we we we had a couple of days where we just had a trade of idiots come in into the room that were just horrible. One guy was like a male stripper he was like bright red hair and he had the spandex and the handkerchiefs all the way down to his feet kind of trying to be a knock off David Lee Roth, but just horrible couldn’t sing worth a . We tried out a couple guys out and he was like the last one and Layne was working the desk so these guys would walk through and then he’d get to hear through the wall us kind of trying to play with him and after that last dude, the male stripper guy he came down and said he said alright i’m in. Alright, I can’t let, i can’t let you guys be playing with these  guys. You know and we’re like we weren’t really serious, we just wanted to get you pissed off enough to join and he’s like well you got me i’m so he quit all his other bands and that’s how we started.
It was during this time that the band called themselves several names including Jerry’s old monicker Diamond Lie before finally landing on their name Alice in Chains. Once Layne committed the band recorded a demo at a studio in a tree house. This demo would be recorded in 1988 and become known as the tree house tapes. By 1989 Alice in Chains was generating airplay on local station KISW and gaining buzz in various musica publications as the next big band to come out of seattle. However there was one seattle publication, the rocket who despised the band, so much that they didn’t give the band any press coverage in hopes of stifling their career. In fact Grant Alden who worked for the rocket would tell author greg prato in the book Grunge is Dead “i thought Alice in Chains were posers. There was an organic scene and sound, which did develop in seattle, alice in chains looked around at what was happening and changed who they were. It was like soundgarden-lite. They had the same management they’d clearly been watching soundgarden a lot it was the same stage movies. It just wasn’t honest.
Jerry Cantrell would refute these comments in the same book saying “everybody starts emulating someone else, that’s just the way it is. You take the best elements of stuff that turns you on and you add your own thing” he’d say.
Local music managers Kelly Kurtis and Susan Silver who managed Mother Love and Soundgarden helped Alice in Chains land a deal with Columbia Records in late 1989. But it wasn’t an easy negotiation. The band spent almost half a year negotiating with the label and in the end they walked away retaining 100% of their publishing, something a lot of other bands didn’t get.That does it for today’s video guys thanks for watching. If you want to know what happened next to Alice in Chains check out my video on the making of their album Facelift and their subsequent EP SAP.