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Some thoughts on the death of Layne Staley

(From "What's Up with Jack," 20 Apr 2002)

Last night while at Soundhouse Studio in Seattle, studio owner Scott came in as I was getting ready to go home for the night. "Some Seattle rock news today," he said with a pained look.

"Who died?" I said. "Guess," he said.

I thought for about a second. "Layne?"

"Bingo" said Scott.

R.I.P. Layne Staley, ex-singer for Alice In Chains and one of the last of that generation of fucked-up Seattle rock stars. Almost everyone else like him is either clean and sober now, or dead. Though I never knew him personally, it was a wide-open secret around here that Layne was in tough shape for the past several years.

Now I'm pissed off and I'm going to blow my cover here. I'm tired of everyone keeping a polite silence about all the goddamned drugs in this town. I never even realized the extent of the problem myself until people started dropping like flies.

Heroin: don't buy into the romantic mythology of it. It's a huge crock of horseshit. A colossal fraud perpetrated on gullible people. Sure, you might make some good music for a year or two... while you're still alive. Dirt's a great record. But ... HELLO?... plenty of people make great music without being junkies... DUH!... and for more than just a couple years or albums. Looking back at the painfully well-documented history of heroin's destruction of so many people's lives, it makes me want to stick my head out the window and yell "WAKE THE FUCK UP, PEOPLE!" I'm just damn glad so many of my old friends and clients got through that period of their lives and are still with us. Losing Kurt, Stephanie, Andy, Baker... it sucked. And that's just the famous people.

Another thing: people are looking desperately for something to blame. [Family? School? Society?] Look, it's not hard. Don't make the popular mistake of underestimating the power of opiate drugs or overestimating the power of will, no matter how good someone's intentions or how smart they think they are. Just put the blame where it belongs: heroin. Why is it so damned hard to do that? Cuz heroin is "hip"? If you blame Layne for anything, blame him for being dumb enough to buy into the mythology and try heroin in the first place. And you might ponder this quote:

Dickie Peterson of the band Blue Cheer, explaining to me why he and so many other 60's musicians ended up as heroin addicts in the 70's: "When we discovered they were lying to us about [the dangers of] marijuana, we figured they were lying to us about everything else."

So blame the drug war.

I've never mentioned this on the website before, but now's a good time. In case anyone gives a fuck, I've been practically "straight-edge" since college 20 years ago, though I was definitely not straight-edge in college. I don't even touch caffeine (it makes my ears ring and screws up my hearing, not to mention affecting me like speed). It was awkward in the 80's when my studio clients were always kindly offering me drugs and beer, but fortunately (sigh) I don't have to make excuses any more cuz they're all 12-steppers now. I don't get that weird suspicious vibe from people any more, like I'm implicitly criticizing them by not getting stoned with them. That sure got old. HOWEVER there is no philosophy or morality whatever attached to my choices in recreational chemistry; what you do is your business, I just don't like 'em for myself anymore, that's all. I like being able to think clearly on demand, rather than having to wait until I get some more "whatever" in me. But I don't care what clients do in the studio as long as they show up and are able to play their instruments, and remain nice people and don't steal the mics. At least weed doesn't smell as bad as cigarettes. But I draw the line at coke and heroin users. Go ahead and waste your time and life and money, but don't waste mine. If you wanna kill yourself slowly, don't make me watch. [And if you wanna kill yourself with meth, please don't flip out and kill me too.] As for weed, they should legalize and regulate it and quit putting stoners in jail next to the genuine criminals who have actual victims. Read Dickie's comment above again.

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