Former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr was found dead Tuesday afternoon (March 8).
TMZ reports that police found Starr’s body in a Salt Lake City, Utah, house at 1:42 p.m. He was 44 years old.
A co-founding member of the pioneering Seattle grunge band, Starr appeared on VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab” in 2009. He was arrested last month for felony possession of a controlled substance. Salt Lake City police said he had several painkillers on him when he was arrested. Alice in Chains have written heart-wrenching and evocative songs about drug addiction.
Former singer Layne Staley died in spring 2002 after overdosing on a mixture of heroin and cocaine, commonly known as a “speedball.” The group mounted a successful comeback with 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue, which featured new vocalist William DuVall alongside guitarist Jerry Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez.
Mike Starr was born April 4, 1966, in Honolulu. He rose to prominence in the Seattle scene as bassist for Diamond Lie, which featured Cantrell and Kinney. Once Staley entered the fold, they changed their name to Alice in Chains and signed a major-label deal. Starr appears on the group’s debut album, Facelift, which produced the monster hit “Man in the Box.” He’s also on the band’s follow-up EP release, Sap, and their second album, Dirt, which was released in September 1992.
Dirt is a hard rock classic, with “Rooster” remaining a radio staple. “Would?” was featured in the movie “Singles,” which was set in the Seattle scene. “Down in a Hole” has been covered by Ryan Adams, Fuel and Demon Hunter. Songs like “Junkhead” dealt with heroin use head-on. The band Godsmack, whose sound owes much to Alice in Chains, took their name from track nine. Cantrell wrote the majority of the songs with some heavy contributions from Staley. Starr is credited as a co-writer on one track, “Rain When I Die.”
Starr left Alice in Chains while touring behind Dirt in 1993. Years later, he would reveal on “Celebrity Rehab” that his reason for leaving was his growing addiction to drugs. He briefly joined former Black Sabbath singer Ray Gillen in Sun Red Sun. Their self-titled debut was released in 1995, two years after Gillen died from AIDS-related complications.
Heroin addiction sent Starr to “Celebrity Rehab,” which was followed by a stint in the spin-off show “Sober House.” He showed up on one episode of the following season of “Celebrity Rehab,” celebrating more than six months of sobriety. He was arrested for possession by Salt Lake City police on February 18, 2011.
Travis Meeks of the band Days of the New was reportedly driving the van Starr was riding in when he was arrested last month. The singer/guitarist found platinum success with his band’s first album in 1997 and a sound that drew comparisons to Alice in Chains. Meeks put together several different versions of the band in subsequent years, and his own drug problems landed him on the A&E show “Intervention” in 2005.
“Hey, officer, have you ever heard of Alice in Chains? I used to be the bass guitarist for them,” Starr said to police, according to a local news report. “We are down here in Utah, me and Travis, putting together a new band.”
According to a Ticketmaster listing, “Days of the New featuring Travis Meeks and Mike Starr” was scheduled to appear March 19 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Mike’s dad told TMZ his son’s death is “a terrible shock and tragedy.”
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