Hit Parader June '94
HP = Hit Parader,
LS = Layne Staley
When one is offered the rare opportunity to converse with Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Staley, that offer always comes with what might be best called a conditional guarantee. Apparently nobody, including Staley himself, knows exactly how communicative the mercurial frontman is going to be on any given day. Much like his fellow Seattle resident Eddie Vedder, Staley lives in a world of his own - a world often inhabited by demons of all shapes and sizes. On some days those demons are friendly, and a quick witted, almost loquacious Staley is allowed to come out and play. But at other times those demons are nasty, and they imprison Staley behind a veritable wall of silence and solitude. So when we sat down with Staley for this interview, to promote AIC's latest EP, Jar Of Flies, it was with the words of the band's publicist still ringing in our ears; "If you find him uncooperative, you can always speak to Mike Starr." Thankfully, ol' Layne was on his best behavior this day.
HP: First off, where did the title Jar Of Flies come from?
LS: It came from a science experiment (AIC guitarist) Jerry Cantrell did when he was in the third grade. They gave him two jars full of flies. One of the jars they overfed, the other jar they underfed. The one they overfed flourished for a while, then all the flies died from overpopulation. The one they underfed had most of the flies survive all year. I guess there's a message in there somewhere. Evidently that experiment had a big impact on Jerry.
HP: How do you think the fans who got off the heavy riffs of your first two albums will react to the softer side of the band presented on Jar Of Flies?
LS: To be honest, we don't really concern ourselves with that. It's great if the fans love what we do and the guys at the record company like it. But the bottom line is that we've got to love it. We had just gotten off the road where we had traveled something like 50,000 miles, and played earblasting music every night. We just wanted to go into the studio for a few days with our acoustic guitars and see what happened. We never really planned on the music we made at that time to be released. But the record label heard it, and they really liked it. It was more their idea to relese it than it was ours. For us, it was just the experience of four guys getting together in the studio and making some music.
HP: Is this more acoustic direction something the band plans on exploring more in the future?
LS: Maybe. We never plan anything like that. When we get together and start writing and recording we never have any idea where it's going. That's part of the fun. You've got as good a guess as we do where this band will be a year from now. My guess is that we'll be cranking it up again on the next record, but who knows?
HP: Alice In Chains have become media darlings over the last two years. Do you enjoy that kind of attention?
LS: Honestly, it really makes no difference to us. If we're on MTV or magazine covers or not has absolutely no impact on the music we make. Sometimes I wish all those people would just go away. Most of them don't really seem thta interested in the music, they just want to stick their nose in where it doesn't belong. We try to be real nice and friendly to people, but sometimes they take advantage of that.
HP: You don't think the press has been fair with you?
LS: I really don't think about it one way or the other. They can say whatever they want. It really has no impact on me. I just don't think they're accurate that much of the time.
HP: What has the success of the band meant to you ? Have you been able to fulfill any of your dreams through the money you've made ?
LS: Yeah, actually it's been kind of cool. I always wanted to build a studio in my home, and now I've been able to do that. When the band has some new ideas we want try out, now we've got a place to do it. We don't have to worry about booking studio time or anything like that.
HP: As you look ahead, when do you imagine you might begin work on a new album ?
LS: We've already started writing new things. We're always writing. We have a few ideas, but who knows when a record might be done? We'll go and record when we feel we have enough material. With us, that could be next week or next year. Actually, I'm pretty sure the way things are going that we'll have a new album out before the year is over.
HP: When you're writing lyrics, what serves to motivate you?
LS: Just about anything and everything. I tend to write about whatever's in my head at the moment. I can't say it's any particular thing. It's not like I pick up the newspaper or watch the news for inspiration. It's nothing that calculated. It could be something I feel or something I notice around me. It's really hard to say.
HP: Do you think there'll be any extra pressure on the band this time around considering how well your first two albums have done?
LS: Why should there be? You've got to notice the pressure before it has any affect on you. We're kind of oblivious to things like that. We don't look at the sale charts to see how many records we've sold. We know when we've done something good. The only pressure this band will ever feel is living up to our own expectations.