Category: Alice in Chains

Mike Starr, Alice in Chains bassist, dead at 44 in Salt Lake City


Mike Starr, the original bassist for Seattle metal band Alice in Chains who was found dead Tuesday in Salt Lake City, could well have arm-wrestled with Axl Rose and the members of Guns N’ Roses over who most deserved to call an album “Appetite for Destruction.”

Rose was a champion of the group’s debut album, “Facelift,” and when fame hit for the group, the members first reveled then struggled with all the fallout from all that had been laid at their feet.
Starr was friends with Aliice in Chains guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell before the band formed in 1987 with singer Layne Staley and drummer Sean Kinney. But it didn’t take long before Starr reached overload. He quit the band around the time its second album, “Dirt,” was released, a collection that went on to sell more than 4 million copies and which chronicled the dark path the group seemed to be on.

Rolling Stone magazine described that album as "a sustained, unflinching meditation on heroin addiction." Times staff writer Mike Boehm wrote in 1993 that “ ‘Dirt’ scrapes bottom with a litany of complaints sung from a deep pit of despair, self-loathing and never-ending woe.”

Shortly after taking up the bass post in the band in 1993 after Starr left, new member Mike Inez told The Times, “We're four young guys on the road with the whole world by the balls. We're like a pack. Whatever we want, we get. We wake up and we're like, 'What do we want today?' Whether it's food or girls or drugs or whatever, everything is there for you."

Having suddenly vaulted to multiplatinum success, Cantrell said at the time, "It's a weird feeling to go from nobody to everybody. You're known on a two-dimensional level. People yank on your hair, not realizing you're a real person."

Of “Dirt,” Cantrell said, "It’s a dark album, but it's not meant to be a bummer. Those five songs on the second side, from 'Junkhead' to 'Angry Chair,' are in sequence because it tells a story. It starts out with a really young, naive attitude in 'Junkhead,' like drugs are great, sex is great, rock 'n' roll, yeah! Then as it progresses, there's a little bit of realization of what it's about . . . and that ain't what it's about."

Staley died of an overdose in 2002 at age 34. Starr in recent years took his battle with addiction to the airwaves as a participant in the third season of VH1’s reality TV show “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” and spoke about shooting heroin with Staley and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. When Cantrell decided to resurrect Alice in Chains for another go-round several years ago, he tapped Inez rather than Starr to be in the reformed group. A cause of death was not immediately reported.

-- Randy Lewis

Live review: Tool, Linkin Park and Alice in Chains at the Epicenter Festival

Epicenter_linkin_300_ Tool is a band of mystery, of brooding, unsettling rhythm and words of anxiety and decay. But singer and part-time vintner Maynard James Keenan seemed oddly vulnerable Saturday as he waved a crutch from the shadows during the band's headlining set at the Epicenter Festival, apologizing repeatedly for injuring his leg recently while harvesting grapes.

"I want to make sure you get drunk and run into each other," Keenan joked to fans at the Fairplex in Pomona, explaining why Tool didn't cancel. "All I ask for is acknowledgment of my sacrifice."

No apologies were needed for hard rock fans gathered for Epicenter's full day of loudness from varied genres. The festival was co-sponsored by KROQ-FM (106.7), and the lineup represented the harder side of the station's playlist, from the marquee names of Tool, Linkin Park and Alice in Chains to the rising locals Atreyu and Hollywood Undead.

Opening with "Jambi," Tool played a 90-minute set heavy on atmosphere, as shuddering waves of sound unfurled over the crowd. There was thundering prog guitar from guitarist Adam Jones on "Stinkfist" as a ghostly skull-like image undulated behind him. Tool remains an intensely visual live band, with video, lasers and ominous clouds of fog, though the visuals are never used to glorify the players as personalities, only to embellish the music and the band's obsessions with the elements of fire, water, earth and flesh.

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Linkin Park, Alice in Chains and Tool to headline the Epicenter music festival in Pomona


Tool, Linkin Park and a revamped Alice in Chains will anchor a new addition to the summer festival circuit.

Dubbed Epicenter, the rock-focused event is scheduled for Aug. 22 at the Fairplex in Pomona and also will feature Australian metal act Wolfmother and Tom Morello's latest project, Street Sweeper Social Club.

Hip-hop artists Atmosphere and Aesop Rock also are scheduled to perform at the all-day event, as are Hollywood Undead, Atreyu and Sonny.

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Exile on Melrose: MPC maestro comes to Fat Beats


Conduct a cursory YouTube search of  “Exile” + “MPC," and you’ll see the Echo Park-based producer/rapper wielding his Akai MPC sampler as a weapon -- delivering clavicle-snapping drum smashes in a way that transforms the machine from a producer’s best friend into a potent live instrument.

Coupled with his surprisingly adroit rhyme skills, Exile’s stage shows and DJ sets rank among the most entertaining in recent rap memory -- particularly when paired with his partner-in-crime, Warner Bros.-signed Blu.

Best known for producing 2006’s acclaimed collaboration with Blu, “Below the Heavens,” Exile emerged as a viable creative force in his own right on this year’s “Radio,” a found-art opus that found him re-configuring taped snippets of everything from old commercials to evangelical sermons to Alan Watts. Sewing them into the fabric of an instrumental hip-hop album in the vein of J Dilla or Madlib, “Radio,” firmly establishes the Garden Grove-raised producer as one of the West Coast’s leading lights.

With DJ Day in tow, Exile -- the beatmaker born Aleksandr Manfredi -- will perform in-store for "Radio" on Saturday night at Fat Beats. He will be doing his 2 MPC / 2 Turntable Set. There will be 10 cases of Colt 45. Good times will be had by all. He chatted with Pop & Hiss to preview the show.

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A studio visit with Alice in Chains

The band has a new singer and is recording a new album.


The daily ritual is always the same: nine guys kneeling around a pile of money in Studio B at Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood, shouting, cheering and moaning as a pair of dice rolls across the carpet, delivering moments of euphoria and defeat. The members of Alice in Chains are among the group, briefly distracted from their final week of sessions for the band's first album of new material in nearly 14 years. Against the wall is an impressive row of vintage electric and acoustic guitars. Incense is burning and a U.S. flag hangs over a sound partition. But for the moment, the rock will have to wait.

Guitarist Jerry Cantrell looks up from his pile of cash and smiles. "Compared to how we used to have fun," he says, "this is pretty tame." The low-stakes game is Left, Center, Right, and many $5 bills change hands before it's over. The day's winner is producer Nick Raskulinecz, laughing now as drummer Sean Kinney grumbles something about the man's take of "two hundred bucks in the last two games."

The real challenge is still ahead, as the three surviving members of Alice in Chains -- Cantrell, Kinney and bassist Mike Inez -- work to complete new songs as a band for the first time since the death of singer Layne Staley from a heroin and cocaine overdose in 2002 at the age of 34. Their album, still untitled and set for release mid-September on Virgin/EMI, will be another case study of a major group continuing after the loss of a key member. AC/DC managed the transition successfully back in 1980, while others have failed to match their earlier triumphs, including INXS (whose search for a new singer was turned into a 2005 reality TV show) and classic rock acts Queen and the Doors.

"I don't think we ever intended to do anything," says Cantrell, 43, his thick, blond beard marking the months of preparation and recording that has gone into the new album. "With the passing of Layne, all possibility of that went out the window, probably in my mind and everyone else's too."

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