Hit Parader Magazine, July, 1997;
Layne Staley has grown tired of the questions. He's grown weary of what he views as the non-stop invasion of his privacy. And he's grown fed-up with the constant swirl of innuendo that has surrounded his day-to-day existence over the last two years. Yes, Alice In Chains' controversial vocalist has become tired of living in what he believes is a media - created fishbowl -- an uncomfortable place in which the singer's every action, or inaction, is scrutinized, dissected and analyzed for possible insight into queries regarding his health, his current drug status, and the future of the Chains. Staley would like it all to stop ... but he feels virtually powerless to make it so. Never the most out-going of personalities, or the most erudite of conversationalists, Staley has been forced to sit back and remain the unwitting subject of both fan and media abuse, much of which has directly blamed him for the increasingly unsteady state in which the AIC rock and roll machine currently finds itself. "It's been a very tough time for Layne," a band insider revealed. "He's a very shy, very reserved personality, which is perhaps one of the reasons he turned to drugs in the first place. All attention that's been placed upon him over the last two years -- since his drug problems more public -- has definitely had a negative effect on him. He knows that some fans have blamed him for all the band's problems. Those fans don't seem to realize, however, how loyal everyone has been to Layne. He's fought the good fight recently to make sure that he stays clean, but the pressures of knowing that so many people still blame him for the band not being able to tour has been hard on him. Thank goodness the other members of the band have remained so supportive." The fact that Staley's bandmates --Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney and Mike Inez -- have stayed so loyal to their oft-troubled singer through this long, difficult period has perhaps been the group's one true salvation. Their continual dedication to Staley's health and welfare -- particularly by remaining off the road, except for a few well chosen "special events" -- has not only been commendable, it's been down-right laudatory ! If, for instance, the Chains had treated their fallen member with the same backhanded disregard that the Stone Temple Pilots often seemed to provide Scott Weiland during his rehab, there's no telling how far Staley's life perspectives may have fallen. Like so many earlier tragic rock heroes, ranging from Jim Morrison to Kurt Cobain, Staley's fate may have ended in despair rather than hope. But now, at long last, after surviving a pair of near-fatal drug dalliances and a two year period of virtual inactivity, both Staley and Alice In Chains seem ready to move on to the next step in their platinum-covered career. "Of course we wanted to be on the road more," Inez said."But you've got to do what you've got to do. When things are out of your control, what can you do? There was a life at stake, and everything else kind of pales in comparison to that, It was great to play the few shows that we did -- the MTV Unplugged show that we did in New York last spring was one of the highlights of the year. Just being with everyone in the band and making music was incredible! Now it's time to move on. The important thing was for everyone to survive and get healthy. We can move on from there." Move on indeed ! Following an extremely difficult 1996, during which the band saw their most recent disc, "Alice In Chains", stall after attaining million-sales certification (barely a third of what previous efforts like "Dirt" and "Facelift" achieved), the group has now begun to turn their focus ahead, believing that even if Staley's lingering health problems prohibit them from long-term touring in the immediate future, they can at least direct their abundant energies towards the creation of new studio master works. According to those on-the-scene, it still remains unclear as to the exact musical direction the Chains' new music will take, but it seems a safe bet that before 97 draws to a close a new AIC collection will be lining record store shelves around the globe. "We certainly hope that there will be a new album from Alice In Chains sometime this year," a label spokesperson explained. "But we don't have them on any time table, and their release certainly isn't on our schedules as-of-yet. They've been one of our top-selling artists for the entire decade, and we afford them the kind of respect that a band of that nature deserves. We hear that they're working, and we know that they'll go about doing it at their own speed. When they get a new album finished, we'll be more than pleased to work with them to ensure it's the most successful of their career." Of course, the lingering question concerning Staley's health status continues to hover over Alice In Chains camp like a thick London fog. It is known that the singer spent the better part of two months last year in an intensive rehab program, and continues to be strictly monitored by "body guards" hired expressly to keep Staley out of harm's way. Yet, as the old saying goes, "where there's a will there's a way," and unless the vocalist truly wants to kick his nasty habits -- which he has professed to "really enjoying" on more than one occasion -- there's no guarantee that his health will take a marked up-turn in the foreseeable future. It clearly remains to be seen if Staley's commitment to his group will prove equal to the commitment that his bandmates have made to him over the last few years. If a like-minded commitment is there, then Alice In Chains should be guaranteed a long, successful career. If not, the band certainly possesses all the ingredients for disaster. "It's not my job to tell anyone else how to live," Cantrell said. "We treat each other in a way that says that we trust them and respect them. That's all you can do. I'm not gonna start watching over Layne at this point. Making music with this band means as much to him as it does to any of us. We know that. It's up to him to keep his life in order and make sure that music is his priority. If he can do that -- and I think he can -- then we'll be okay."