Tag Archives: Mike Starr

017 Alice in Chains

They're so metal, they even have a patch for your denim vest, dude.

We love Alice in Chains! And we were so inspired by Requiem Metal Podcast’s Alice in Chains Episode 164 that we wanted to do our own tribute to Layne Staley and the boys. Consider this a companion to the Requiem episode, and we guarantee that there’s no overlap in songs. AIC was the most metal of the Seattle grunge bands, naturally, and deserve lots of love from Metal Urges!

Look, ma!  A cassette tape!  How does that even work?!

Look, ma! A cassette tape! How does that eve work?!

“Whatcha Gonna Do (Demo),” 1999’s Music Bank (originally from 1988’s Treehouse Tapes)
The band was first called Diamond Lie before changing it to Alice ‘N Chains. Treehouse Tapes was AIC’s third demo as a band but their first as Alice in Chains (the band was called Alice ‘N Chains on the first two demos)—and their first to feature the classic line-up of Layne Staley (vocals), Jerry Cantrell (guitar), Mike Starr (bass), and Sean Kinney (drums), Four of the eight cuts were compiled on 1999’s Music Bank box set, and our pick, “Whatcha Gonna Do,” shows Staley’s obvious worship of Guns ‘N Roses’ Axl Rose (maybe Alice ‘N Chains was titled after G’NR?).


“It Ain’t Like That” and “Love, Hate, Love,” Facelift (1990, Columbia)
The band’s debut album, Facelift, went gold after the video for “Man in the Box” went into heavy rotation on MTV. They opened the Clash of the Titans tour for Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer and also opened for Van Hagar on their For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour. Sadly, AIC lost their Best Hard Rock Grammy to Van Halen that year, mimicking a hauntingly similar upset during 1989’s Grammy Awards when Jethro Tull’s Crest of a Knave won over Metallica’s far superior …And Justice For All.

“Right Turn,” Sap EP (1992, Columbia)
This acoustic EP was an interesting shift for the band, released at the same time when Nirvana’s Nevermind was at the top of the charts, thus augmenting their grunge cred. It featured contributing Seattle mega-stars: Heart’s Ann Wilson, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, and Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. “Right Turn” was credited to Alice Mudgarden in the liner notes because of Cornell and Arm’s vocals. AIC were featured as the bar band in Cameron Crowe’s 1992 movie Singles, and they recorded the classic “Would?” for its soundtrack.

Dirt Image

“Rain When I Die” and “Dam That River,” Dirt (1992, Columbia)
This was a busy year for the band: after mega-success with the Sap EP and Singles, they released their sophomore album Dirt, which turns out to be their defining album. It sold quadruple platinum and is the most popular album of their career. Slayer’s Tom Araya lent his screams to “Iron Gland.” AIC were one of the top featured bands on the Lollapalooza summer tour in 1993 but refused to headline; Primus gladly accepted. They opened for Ozzy Osbourne on his No More Tears tour. Bassist Mike Starr was having drug problems, so he was replaced by Ozzy bassist Mike Inez.

“What the Hell Have I? (Remix),” 1999’s Music Bank (from 1993’s Last Action Hero)
This was a predominantly metal soundtrack to Ahnold Schwarzenegger’s box-office flop. It featured non-album tracks from Megadeth, Anthrax, Tesla, Queensrÿche, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Fishbone, Aerosmith, et al. and spawned five singles in its wake! AIC was the only band featured to have two songs—this one and “A Little Bitter”—and were the only reasons to keep the CD until both tunes were compiled on 1999’s Music Bank.

“I Stay Away,” Jar of Flies EP (1994, Columbia)
This was first EP in rock history to hit #1 on the Billboard charts. After extensive touring in support of Dirt, the band decided to return to the studio and record acoustic songs like on Sap. Jar of Flies produced AIC’s first #1 song, “No Excuses”; second single was “I Stay Away.” Their summer ’94 tour was scheduled with Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies, Danzig, and Fight, but Staley’s heroin addiction flared and the band backed out one day before the first gig; they were replaced by Candlebox, which proved to be pivotal for that band’s career.

“Again,” Alice in Chains (1995, Columbia)
Before recording this album, Staley joined Mad Season for a one-off album, Above, which featured members of Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, and the Walkabouts. That album produced a #2 single, “River of Deceit.” Staley rejoined AIC to record their self-titled album, also called the “Tripod” album because of the three-legged dog on the cover. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, though the band didn’t tour in support of this album because of Staley’s drug problems. Staley overdosed and died on April 19, 2002. Cantrell dedicates his second solo album, 2002’s Degradation Trip, to Staley.

“Check My Brain” and “A Looking in View,” Black Gives Way to Blue (Virgin, 2009)
After a few one-off shows with Comes With the Fall vocalist William DuVall, AIC begins to write brand-new material, the first without Staley at the helm. BGWTB is released in 2009 on Virgin, the band’s first non-Columbia release. “A Looking in View” and “Check My Brain” are the first two singles, respectively. Heavy touring followed, including the Blackdiamondskye tour with Deftones and Mastodon.
On March 8, 2011, former bassist Mike Starr died from a drug overdose; he had been the subject of a MTV reality show called Celebrity Rehab.

“Stone,” The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here (Columbia, 2013)
DuVall & company follow up BGWTB with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, back on Columbia, and the album peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts. The title is a reference to a religious belief that Satan buried dinosaur bones in the earth to confuse believers.

Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

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