Did you know that Alice In Chains used 9 legs worth of dogs in the making of their self titled 1995 album? Or that it would be the final album with vocalist Layne Staley? Which one of the band's hit songs was written as a message to guitarist Jerry Cantrell's girlfriend? Find the answer to these questions and more on...
10 Fun Facts about Alice In Chains' Self Titled Album
1. Nine Legs Worth of Dogs
The idea of using a three-legged dog for the cover of Alice In Chains' self titled album was inspired by a real-life three-legged dog named Tripod who used to terrorize drummer Sean Kinney during his childhood job as a paperboy. Unfortunately, Tripod was either unavailable or unwilling to pose for a photo-shoot, so Kinney hired photographer Rocky Schenck to do a three-legged dog photo-shoot near a playground in Downtown Los Angeles. However, none of Schenck's photos would be used on the album cover because the band decided to use an image of a three-legged dog received by fax because they felt it added an element of "grit" to the design.
This angered Kinney who was upset about wasting time and money on a photo-shoot. Fortunately, Kinney's intended image would finally get a chance to make an appearance in the 1999 box set Music Bank.
An entirely separate dog named Sunshine would appear in the music video for "Grind." So it essentially took 9 legs worth of dogs to create enough material for the band to work with.
2. A Few Months of Humanity
Alice In Chains decided to approach songwriting with an element of spontaneity on their 1995 Self Titled album. Deciding to leave the brooding behind, as singer Layne Staley felt that writing emotional music was taking a toll on his mental health.
Guitarist Jerry Cantrell told Rolling Stone:
"Our music's kind of about taking something ugly and making it beautiful." - Cantrell
Vocalist Layne Staley would add:
"I do that every day when I'm dressing... I take an ugly face and make it beautiful... For a long time I let problems and sour relationships rule over me instead of letting the water roll off my back... I thought it was cool that I could write such dark, depressing music. But then instead of being therapeutic, it was starting to drag on and keep hurting.
This time I just felt, 'F*** it. I can write good music, and if I feel easy and I feel like laughing, I can laugh.' There's no huge, deep message in any of the songs. It was just what was going on in my head right then. We had good times, and we had bad times. We recorded a few months of being human." - Staley, To Hell and Back, Jon Wiederhorn, Rolling Stone (Feb 8, 1996)
Alice In Chains released a mockumentary in 1995 to help promote their self-titled album. The false documentary titled The Nona Tapes stars guitarist Jerry Cantrell posing as journalist Nona Weisbrum as she hunts the Seattle streets in search of members of Alice In Chains to interview.
Studio executives at Columbia were initially upset
with the band for taking their money intended for an Electronic Press
Kit and using it to create The Nona Tapes but later warmed up to the
idea when the VHS developed a cult following. A DVD would later be
included with the 2006 compilation album The Essential Alice In Chains.
4. No Tour Support
Aside from performing a few shows, Alice In Chains never toured to support their self titled studio album as the band fell in to an extended hiatus following the release of the album. The lack of live performances fueled rumors that vocalist Layne Staley or other members of the band were abusing drugs. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell would explain what the experience was like:
"Very frustrating, but, we stuck it out. We rode the good times together and we stuck together through the hard times. We never stabbed each other in the back and spilled our guts and do that kind of bulls*** that you see happen a lot. It’s something I’m proud of, and like I said, we did it from an honest standpoint. No matter what it was about, we were a true band and a bunch of f****** great friends and that’s what I try to keep my head around anytime anything else comes up." - Cantrell, Degradation Trip, Michael Christopher, Pop Matters (Dec 26, 2002)
5. Out w/ the Staley, Inez w/ the New
Alice In Chains' 1995 self titled album is the first full length album to feature Mike Inez on bass guitar, who previously performed with Ozzy Osbourne. The album would also be the last studio album to include vocalist Layne Staley as the band would fall in to an extended hiatus not long after the album's release, which was speculated to have been caused by vocalist Layne Staley's addiction to drugs. However, drummer Sean Kinney would later tell DRUM! Magazine that Staley wasn't the only reason that the band withdrew from the limelight following the release of their third album.
“He (Staley) was the focal point, like singers are... So they’d single him out. But the truth was, it was pretty much everybody. I definitely had my hand firmly on the wheel going off the cliff. And the reason we pulled back – you know when you stop when you have two #1 records, it’s not really the greatest career move – but we did that because we love each other and we didn’t want to die in public. And I know for a fact in my heart that if we were to continue that I wouldn’t be on the phone right now talking to you. I wouldn’t have made it. I just wouldn’t have.” - Kinney, Sean Kinney: From The Ashes, Drum Magazine (Jul 19, 2011)
6. Six Million Dollar Man
opening single on the self titled Alice In Chains album titled "Grind"
was written by guitarist Jerry Cantrell as a statement about the various
rumors that surround the band. As Jerry himself explains in the liner
notes of the band's Music Bank box set:
"That was pretty much at the height of publicity about canceled tours, heroin, amputations, everything, thus it was another "F*** YOU for saying something about my life" song. Any single rumor you can imagine, I've heard. I've been dead a few times, Layne's been dead countless times and lost limbs. I get on the phone every time I hear a new one, "Hey Layne, radio in New York says you lost two more fingers." "Oh really? Cool." I'd spoof The Six Million Dollar Man; "Since technology's moved on it only cost us 2 million to put Layne back together and we got better parts." - Cantrell, Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999. (Quoted through WIkipedia)
7. Jerry Cantrell's Ex-Girlfriend
"Heaven Beside You" was written by Alice In chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell following a break-up with a girlfriend he had been dating for seven years. In 1996 he told Rolling Stone:
"the most beautiful girl I've ever seen in my life... I still love her, but I'm too much of a f****** wolf—kill, attack, move on...It's so tough when you're so used to being hard. You can't tell an oak tree to be a pine." - Cantrell, To Hell and Back, Jon Wiederhorn, Rolling Stone (Feb 8, 1996)
He would later go on to explain in the liner notes of their 1999 box set Music Bank:
"Another attempt to reconcile the fact that my life and paths are tearing me apart from the person I love. All the things I write about her are a way for me to maybe speak to her, express things I could never express." - Cantrell, Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999. (Quoted through Wikipedia)
8. Not Again
In Chains have allegedly only performed their hit song "Again" with
singer Layne Staley five times. Once on The Late Show with David
Letterman in 1996 as well as an April 20th performance on Fox's
short-lived Saturday Night Special. The other three times were
during performances supporting KISS who had recently reunited. The band
would later go on an extended hiatus before the eventual passing of
9. Staley's Regrets
It was never any secret that Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Staley was a user of heroin. However, the singer never intended to romanticize the use of hard drugs, and actually felt a bit of regret when he realized that some people took the wrong messages from his craft.
As he told Rolling Stone in 1996:
"I wrote about drugs, and I didn't think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them... Here's how my thinking pattern went: When I tried drugs, they were f****** great, and they worked for me for years, and now they're turning against me -- and now I'm walking through hell, and this sucks. I didn't want my fans to think that heroin was cool. But then I've had fans come up to me and give me the thumbs up, telling me they're high. That's exactly what I didn't want to happen." - Staley, To Hell and Back, Jon Wiederhorn, Rolling Stone (Feb 8, 1996)
10. Over Now
Alice In Chains song "Over Now" which is essentially a song about the
band breaking up would become a bit of an eerie prophecy following Layne
Staley's passing because it would go down in history as the final song
on the final album featuring the late singer. As Guitarist Jerry
Cantrell told Request Magazine:
"That's about the band. It's about the breakup that took place between us. Those lines "Can you stand right here and look me in the eye and tell me it's over?" We couldn't, when it came right down to it. Even if it ended today, though, I love the guys in this band, even if we never recorded again. I would be sad, but if it came down to where it's killing us and we're growing too far apart... It's like that line, "When it's all worn out, I'd rather go without."" - Cantrell, The Dimmer Twins, Marc Weingartner, Request Magazine (Feb 1996)
Drummer Sean Kinney would also add:
"Yeah, the last thing we'd want to do is fall on our faces in front of 30,000 people every night. We didn't want to end up like fat Elvis, doped up on pills, crying onstage in Vegas." - Kinney, The Dimmer Twins, Marc Weingartner, Request Magazine (Feb 1996)
Degradation Trip, Michael Christopher, Pop Matters (Dec 26, 2002) - https://web.archive.org/web/20141024122126/http://www.popmatters.com/feature/cantrell-jerry-021226/
Jerry Cantrell on the Three Legged Dog..., accessed through YouTube (Sep 6, 2017) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaygCfe-_3k
Liner notes, Music Bank box set. 1999. (Quoted through Wikipedia) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grind_(song)
Sean Kinney: From The Ashes, Drum Magazine (Jul 19, 2011) - https://drummagazine.com/sean-kinney-of-alice-in-chains-from-the-ashes/
The Dimmer Twins, Marc Weingartner, Request Magazine (Feb 1996) -
To Hell and Back, Jon Wiederhorn, Rolling Stone (Feb 8, 1996) - https://web.archive.org/web/20071214080250/http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/aliceinchains/articles/story/5934699/to_hell_and_back