SEATTLE — A new biography on one of Seattle’s popular grunge bands will be officially released Tuesday.
The author of Alice in Chains: The Untold Story will hold a book signing on Wednesday, Aug. 5, at University Book Store.
A reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a talk and book signing by the author at 7 p.m.
Journalist David DeSola answered some questions about the writing of his first book.
1. How did you choose the topic of Alice in Chains? Were you a big fan?
Four years ago, I was looking for a book about Alice in Chains that didn't exist. It was at that point I got the idea of writing it myself. I wrote this book as an objective outsider, not as a fan and approached it as I would have a biography of a president or prime minister. If I'd written this as a fan tribute, it would have been a very different book.
2. How many times did you travel to Seattle to do research for this book?
I took five or six reporting trips to Seattle from 2011-2014, each one for approximately 7-10 days.
3. What was the most surprising experience you had during your interviews?
I would say it was when I uncovered things that I didn't know about at all and didn't know to look for, that I stumbled onto by accident. The best example of this was when I discovered Layne Staley's original middle name – he later changed it to Thomas – as a result of what I thought was a random follow-up question that wasn't going to lead anywhere. After verifying it with five on the record sources and a court document, I felt pretty confident that I could report it.
4. What's the most fascinating thing about Alice in Chains that you discovered, that even hardcore fans would not know about?
I was surprised at how well-documented their history was, better than I expected, in some cases. I found a complete audio recording of the 1987 Alice 'N Chains (as they were formerly known) show in Tacoma where Jerry Cantrell first heard Layne Staley sing. I also found an article and interview with the band about their first concert, which took place at University of Washington's Kane Hall in January 1988. I found Polaroids from when the band was recording their demo at London Bridge Studios that got them their record deal.
5. What role do you think Alice in Chains played in the Seattle grunge scene?
Alice in Chains wasn't the first grunge band to form or get signed – those distinctions go to Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone – but they were the first to get heavy rotation on MTV (in the spring and summer of 1991), and they were the first to get a gold record from the RIAA for selling more than half a million albums. Alice in Chains opened the door, but Nirvana and Pearl Jam blew it wide open. (It should be noted that Pearl Jam opened for Alice in Chains very early on in their career, before either of the two bands were famous.)
6. How would you describe Seattle's place in music history?
Seattle is one of a handful of cities around the world – along with London, Nashville, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, to name a few – responsible for creating a scene or movement that, for a moment, dominated popular music. The fact that so many musicians and artists have emerged from here over the past sixty years is a testament to the fact that it is an incubator for musical talent, and hopefully will continue to be in the future.
7. Do you think Seattle will ever be at the epicenter of a music movement like that again?
Seattle had a long and illustrious history of producing musicians before grunge – Jimi Hendrix, Heart, Queensrÿche, and The Sonics, to name a few. There have been a few artists that have emerged from the Pacific Northwest in the years since grunge's heyday – Macklemore, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie for example, even though they weren't part of a scene or movement along the lines of what emerged in the late eighties and early nineties. Seattle has the history, infrastructure, and audience to keep producing musicians. Lightning doesn't usually strike twice in the same place, but history has a propensity for repeating itself.
8. Do you have plans to write about more musicians? And if not, what's the next project?
I don't have any plans to write about other musicians at the moment, but I reserve the right to change my mind. I'm currently developing two other projects, both of them very different subjects than Alice in Chains. I'll make an announcement on one or both of them when the time is right.