Alice In Chains’ late leader Layne Staley tragically lost his fight against addiction on April 5th, 2002. Despite his numerous attempts to get clean, Staley’s body was discovered in his Seattle condo, with toxicology reports finding his death was the result of an accidental overdose.
The group didn’t release another album with Staley following their eponymous third studio album in 1995, which gave Alice In Chains their first number one record in the United States. In 1996, Staley’s life was turned upside down when his former fiancée, Demri Lara Parrott, died of a drug overdose and when she passed, so did a bit of Staley. Following his death in 2002, Screaming Trees frontman told Rolling Stone, “He never recovered from Demri’s death. After that, I don’t think he wanted to go on.”
During those years, Staley became a recluse and barely left his apartment. An indicator of that drop in regard for himself was when, in 1998, he contracted gangrene as a result of his lifestyle. On top of this, Staley had lost his ability to ingest food and survived off supplements for the last few years of his life. The last public appearance he made was almost four years before his death when he attended his bandmate Jerry Cantrell’s solo concert in Seattle on Halloween in 1998. Staley couldn’t bring himself to join Cantrell on stage after being asked, and a photo taken of him backstage is the last image of the singer before his death.
A year after his death, a rare interview emerged with Staley that he’d given with Argentinean writer and music fan Adriana Rubio, titled Layne Staley: Angry Chair — A Look Inside the Heart and Soul of an Incredible Musician. His comments given to Rubio show that Staley was aware that his mortality was on the horizon and had accepted his fate.
“I know I’m dying,” he starkly told Rubio. “I’m not doing well. Don’t try to talk about this to my sister Liz. She will know it sooner or later. This fucking drug use is like the insulin a diabetic needs to survive,” he said. “I’m not using drugs to get high like many people think. I know I made a big mistake when I started using this shit. It’s a very difficult thing to explain.
“My liver is not functioning and I’m throwing up all the time and shitting my pants. The pain is more than you can handle. It’s the worst pain in the world. Dope sick hurts the entire body,” he horrifyingly shared.
“I know I’m near death,” Staley continued. “I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way. I know I have no chance. It’s too late. I never wanted [the public’s] thumbs’ up about this fucking drug use. Don’t try to contact any AIC (Alice in Chains) members. They are not my friends.”
Staley then delved into his family life and how his father passed away after falling into a drug-filled route, with the two growing estranged. The singer spoke about how he went on a journey when he was 16 to find his father, but what he discovered made him not want to look any further.
“I was about 20, and music became my only obsession to stay alive,” he said. “I had the chance to throw out all this anger by the music in order to help others. It was therapeutic and worked [for] me for a while until my dad saw my picture printed on a magazine.”
The singer divulged how his father became a bad influence on him. His father was six years clean when they rekindled their relationship, but he soon started using again, and the two of them were getting high together. Staley remembered, “I was trying to kick this habit out of my life and here comes this man asking for money to buy some smack.”
“He finally kicked heroin use, and I’m still fighting,” Staley said resentfully. “I invested a lot of money on treatments. I know I did my best or what I thought would be right. I changed my number. I don’t wanna see people anymore and it’s nobody’s business but mine.”
The singer’s life was full of trauma, and drugs, at first, offered him an escape from his pain. But soon he was caught in an inescapable trap that led to his premature death in 2002. Addiction was a constant throughout Staley’s short life, which he tried his hardest to break out from but sadly didn’t make it, and his music serves as a memory of his distinct talent.