Almost a year after the April 2002 death of Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley, the final interview with the troubled musician has surfaced in the recently released book “Layne Staley: Angry Chair — A Look Inside the Heart and Soul of an Incredible Musician” by Argentinean writer and music fan Adriana Rubio.
The conversation took place less than three months before Staley died from an overdose of heroin and cocaine (“Layne Staley Died From Mix Of Heroin, Cocaine, Report Says” ), and revealed a broken 34-year-old who had given up the will to live.
“I know I’m dying,” he rasped through missing teeth. “I’m not doing well. Don’t try to talk about this to my sister Liz. She will know it sooner or later.”
Staley, suffering from fever and nausea, told Rubio that his need for heroin was all-consuming, even though the effects of the drug were no longer enjoyable. He added that smack had completely ravaged his system and left him empty and filled with regrets.
“This f—ing 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 sh–. It’s a very difficult thing to explain. My liver is not functioning and I’m throwing up all the time and sh—ing my pants. The pain is more than you can handle. It’s the worst pain in the world. Dope sick hurts the entire body.”
The most chilling passage of the interview reads like a suicide note.
“I know I’m near death,” he said. “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 f—ing drug use. Don’t try to contact any AIC (Alice in Chains) members. They are not my friends.”
In the rest of the interview, Staley talked about his relationship with his family. He stressed that he’s always been close to his mother Nancy McCallum, sister Liz and stepsister Jamie, but that when he was eight years old his father walked out on the family and Staley’s life faded to black.
“My world became a nightmare,” he said. “There were just shadows around me. I got [a] call saying that my dad had died, [but] my family always knew he was around doing all kind of drugs. Since that call I always was wondering, ’Where is my dad?’ I felt so sad for him and I missed him. He dropped out of my life for 15 years.”
Staley insisted he always knew he had the talent and creativity to be rock star, and thought that if he became a celebrity his dad would return. So he started writing songs in his teens and jamming with other musicians. At the same time, he did a bit of research to find out where his father was living and what kind of a man he was.
“When I was 16, I tried to find him without saying a word to my family,” revealed Staley. “I did it for a long f—in’ time, and what I found over the years was not good, so I changed my mind about wanting to see my dad again.”
At that point, Staley focused all his energy on music, reveling in it as a cathartic outlet.
“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.”
Just as Alice in Chains started to take off, the man Staley expended so much energy and anguish thinking about suddenly wanted to become a part of the rocker’s life. The then 21-year-old singer was wary, but he still hoped seeing his dad again would help fill the hole in his heart.
“He said he’d been clean of drugs for six years,” Staley related. “So, why in the hell didn’t he come back before? I was very cautious at first. Then the relationship changed. My father started using drugs again.
We did drugs together and I found myself in a miserable situation. He started visiting me all day to get high and do drugs with me. He came up to me just to get some sh–, and that’s all. I was trying to kick this habit out of my life and here comes this man asking for money to buy some smack.”
Being used by his father was one of the forces that contributed to Staley’s downward slide.
“He finally kicked heroin use, and I’m still fighting,” he said bitterly. “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 remainder of “Layne Staley: Angry Chair” is composed of interviews with the singer’s mom and sister that outline Staley’s childhood, interests, personality, love life and career. The 146-page book also contains the author’s take on the European Renaissance and the history of heroin.
Rubio wrote much of the text in first person and empathized with Staley’s family by comparing her struggle with bulimia to the ravages of addiction. She features quotes and song lyrics by musician John Brandon, who penned the book “Unchained … The Story of Mike Starr,” but did not interview any of Staley’s bandmates, friends, business associates or artists that toured with Alice in Chains.
“Layne Staley: Angry Chair” features 50 pages of photos of Staley’s sketches, diary entries, childhood pictures, art work and his eulogy by his friend and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin.