Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was an outcast surrounded by outcasts. One good thing about this was that I was constantly exposed to good music, that is, when I wasn’t getting kicked out of school for fighting or insubordination. One band that I was really into was Alice In Chains. I remember buying “Dirt” the day it came out, and coming home with it. My parents, bless them, would attempt to censor what I listened to. They took a look at the liner lyrics (remember those?), and immediately told me that I couldn’t listen to it. Which made Dirt the first album that was ever censored by my parents NOT due to obscenity. Yeah, there were a couple swear words, but I still believe they wouldn’t let me listen to it because the lyrics were so drug-infused, depressive, and dark. Now that I’m a parent, I can understand why I wouldn’t want a kid listening to songs like “Junkhead” and “Dirt”, although I would never censor what my son listens to.
Side note: Parents…don’t censor what your kids listen to! They will listen to what they want, whether you “let them” or not. It’s better to be aware of what your kids are listening to, so that you can be informed and offer some advice or perspective on it.
When I went back into foster care, however, I started hanging out with people who were into hardcore and metal like me, and started going to shows. My first concert was Helmet and the Rollins Band, with Sausage (which was a Les Claypool side project at the time). Pretty fucking cool for a first concert, if you ask me. Helmet’s “Meantime” was the first actual CD that I ever bought, and you would have seen me rocking a Helmet band shirt regularly back then. Helmet is still one of my favorite bands. Page Hamilton was a huge influence on my guitar playing, and John Stanier is still one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen perform. And the whole time I was 15, I rocked an Alice In Chains ball cap, because I loved AIC so much.
The reason I’m writing about AIC is because I just read a biography about them, and have been revisiting their music. I recently found out that a group from my hometown of Ann Arbor, Taproot (they were fairly popular in the early 2000’s), was almost the last band to work with Layne Staley. Apparently, the story goes: Toby Wright, who produced AIC’s Jar of Flies, and Jerry Cantrell’s solo stuff, was working on Taproot’s second album “Welcome” (which is a good album by the way). They had an instrumental that went by the tentative name of “Spacey”, and Layne Staley heard it and loved it. He had agreed to put vocals on the track, but ended up passing away before that happened. Although, it was said that “Spacey” was still playing in Staley’s stereo when he was found dead…
Anyway…I thought that was crazy. Dirt is obviously a 10/10 classic, but Facelift and the “Dog Album” had their highlights too. What The Hell Have I is a killer song. Even the new shit with William DuVall is good. The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is a great album and if you close your eyes, you can swear that DuVall is channeling the ghost of Layne Staley. Jerry Cantrell has some mean riffs on there, as well.
One of my favorite AIC songs: