A week earlier, during a private Halloween party at the Weathered Wall in Seattle, the entire band did show up, even, believe it or not, Layne Staley. Staley, who has turned being tardy into an art form, was indeed fashionably late, but he did show, dressed like a photographer and carrying a tripod. His outfit was an inside joke about the title of the new album, which originally was to be called Tripod. As the band members tell me later, Kinney came up with the name but it was ultimately rejected. Though Alice In Chains have one of the longest tenures of any of the current crop of Northwest bands (they began in 1987), their recorded output is still relatively small: this is only their third full-length album, in addition to three EPs. Their last CD was the Jar of Flies EP, which upon release in January of 1994 became the first EP ever to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. During 1994, the band canceled more shows than they played, pulling out of highly publicized gigs like a summer tour with Metallica and Woodstock. At the time an official statement from the group cited "health problems within the band."
Those "health problems" have led to more rumors within the Northwest music community than anyone could possibly keep track of. When Staley went off and formed a new band this year (with Mike McCready, Barrett Martin and Baker Saunders), under the name Mad Season, some thought it was the last anyone had seen of Alice In Chains. When Staley missed most of Mad Season's record release party, many thought it was the last anyone had seen of Layne Staley.
"The rumors are insane," guitarist Jerry Cantrell said a few days after the Halloween party. "A reporter from England just called me up today and told me he'd heard that Layne was dead and we had released this album to cover up his death." Bass player Mike Inez chimes in, "There's a ton of bullshit that's said about us. You just can't believe what you hear."