Layne Staley possessed one of the most recognizable voices of 90’s rock, singing for Alice in Chains and for the Mad Season album project. Alice in Chains was part of the more famous Seattle Grunge bands along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Screaming Trees.
Each of those bands from the grunge era were lucky to benefit from the contribution of remarkable frontmen. Staley brought an eerie tenor timbre, that could stretch from menacingly low tones, to high belting screams. Unfortunately, Layne Staley also battled personal demons, not unlike Kurt Cobain, the member of another famous band of the time. Staley sadly passed away on April 5th 2002.
Last year rock web sites reported that Staley, prior to his passing was due to become the singer of what would turn out to be Audioslave. Of course, Audioslave did eventually feature Chris Cornell on vocals and enjoyed a good amount of success for their three album run. But it left fans wondering what the sound of the band would have been had Staley in fact sang for them.
The news came as part of a testimony of a personal friend of Staley’s who was giving some insight into the singer’s health in the period not long before his passing. The story was brought by the web site www.alternativenation.net who conducted the interview with Layne’s friend, Morgen Gallagher. Here is what he had to say in the original story: ” 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.”
Regarding joining what would become Audioslave he goes on to say: “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 L.A. to do the audition in a couple of months. He never made it, so Chris Cornell went and got the job.”
Of course, Staley and Chris Cornell’s paths intersected a great deal throughout their respective careers and there is reason to believe that there was shared admiration. Soundgarden was a massive influence on Alice in Chains changing their sound, to the tuned down guitars, the grinding rhythms and the harsh vocals and away from their original musical direction that owed more to glam-metal. Cornell even guested on an Alice in Chains recording. Adding to that, more recently Chris Cornell paid tribute to Staley, singing his vocal part during of a Mad Season reunion concert held in Seattle.
What is most interesting though is the collaboration between RATM guitarist Tom Morello and Layne Staley on the short lived alternative band Class of ’99. This gives a hint into what Audioslave might have sounded like with a different lead singer. The band also featured Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction) and Martyn LeNoble (Porno for Pyros). They recorded “Another brick in the wall”, originally by Pink Floyd, for the horror movie “The faculty”. It’s a great mix of Staley’s trademark raspy vocals and Morello’s riffs.
Upon hearing of Staley’s passing in 2002, Tom Morello released a statement speaking of his relationship with the late singer. “Layne and I became good friends on the 1993 Lollapalooza tour.I will always remember him as the bright, funny and amazingly talented singer who got up there every hot summer day in a gorgeous suit and sang like an angry angel. We would laugh until we split our sides arguing about who was ’more metal.’ I hope now he is at peace.”
Referencing: Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley Planned Audioslave Audition | http://loudwire.com/alice-in-chains-layne-staley-audioslave/?trackback=tsmclip