I’m sitting here listening to the just released Deluxe Edition of Mad Seasons magnificent album Above, and it’s putting me in a sentimental mood.
I think I’m gonna get a bit personal. Today is the day two iconic figures from the grunge era died: Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, and Layne Staley from Alice in Chains.
I never had much of a connection to Nirvana, I have to admit, but Alice in Chains, that is another matter.
I still remember clearly the first time I heard them. I had just received a much awaited package in the mail. It was the box for Warhammer Fantasy Battles, and a set of paint to color the plastic figures that came with it. Taking my first steps into painting miniatures I was listening to Top 40, of all things. The list of the most sold CDs of the past week.
Background noise, I suppose. But suddenly the Unplugged version of Angry Chair by Alice in Chains came on.
I was mesmerized. I had never heard anything like it. I was 14, and even though I came into the band late, it completely changed my life. Up till that point I had internally battled the music i tended to like, versus the music I thought I should like. Typical for most young people I suppose. But not anymore. From that point on, music was the most important thing in my life. I somehow gathered together enough money, and the day after I went out and bought MTV Unplugged.
I listened to it without end. Playing it on repeat over and over. Everything had changed. Music was suddenly my passion. It replaced my desire for drawing, which had somewhat defined me till that point.
I saved every coin so I could go out and get a new CD. Every new CD would be listened to till I knew every word from heart. I would pour all my new musical discoveries onto my friends from that point on. Some they liked, some they didn’t, but there is no denying I had turned into a musical fiend, and even with the painfully slow Internet connections we had back then, I would go to a now dead store called CDnow to check out similar artists to bands I liked, and expand my horizon.
Alice in Chains didn’t just launch my passion for music. It helped me through a lot of tough times. That band was there for me when I felt I had no one to talk to. They were there when my grandfather died and I went into a spiral that turned me into a self injurer. I was confused and lost, but listening to songs like Love Hate Love made me feel like I had an outlet. And no matter what their songs were really about, I felt I could relate. That helped more than I can express.
Alice in Chains and Layne Staleys voice were my first experience with how music can be your best friend, your therapist and your savior.
I am not ashamed to admit that I wept, when nine years ago a friend texted me the message «Layne Staley is dead, another dead hero». When someone or something has been helping you through so much, seeing them gone is hard.
Knowing how it feels to have music be your friend an ally through the darkest times, there is nothing that brings more joy to my heart than when I hear someone tell me that my music has done the same for them.
Music is powerful. It’s creators may disappear, but what they created will always live on.
Tonight I will raise my glass to Layne Staley, he helped me out a lot, and God knows where my life would have taken me without the guidance of his voice.