Mike Portnoy: ‘Layne Staley’s Vocals Were So Unique and Original’
On April 5, 2002, the music world sadly lost another great talent with the death of Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley. Loudwire had a chance to speak with several musicians about Staley and the musical legacy of Alice in Chains and in the video above drummer Mike Portnoy reflects on both.
Speaking about Staley, Portnoy states, "Layne's vocals were so unique and original, but as awesome as Layne was, you've gotta give much credit to Jerry [Cantrell] as well. I think a big part of their sound is Jerry's voice." The pairing definitely had a unique feel that most acts didn't have. The Winery Dogs drummer points to Dirt as his favorite Alice album, adding, "It's just so dark. The melodies and harmonies are just so unique and dark and it's a timeless album."
While many regard Facelift as Alice in Chains' first album, the band existed prior to their breakout success for a few years and took a while before they found the sound that so many have come to love. Portnoy speaks about how blown away he was the first time a record company friend played him some of Facelift before it was released. "They went through a huge change in style when they came out. It was kind of like Pantera. Pantera went through this huge change and then they blew up. Alice in Chains was similar. Suddenly, they were more of the Seattle thing," recalls Portnoy.
It wasn't long before Alice in Chains caught one of their first big breaks on the road. Portnoy recalls seeing them on the "Clash of the Titans" tour with Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. "They didn't really fit in at first, but it was one of those things where they were undeniably awesome," says the drummer. "It's funny. They came in as the underdogs on that tour and then totally eclipsed all of those bands and their whole movement kind of left the thrash bands in the dust and paved the way for the rest of the '90s."
In the clip above, Portnoy, who had his own battles with sobriety, also speaks about the tragic loss of Staley and fellow Alice in Chains alum Mike Starr and says he's fortunate to be alive and has compassion for those who did not make it. Stay tuned for more reflections on late Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley coming soon on Loudwire.
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