In 1986, Layne Staley formed a band called Alice N' Chains. It eventually folded but before it did, Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell. The two soon became roommates and months later they formed another band, this time with bassist Mike Star and drummer Sean Kinney. They called this new venture, Alice in Chains.
On the day the foursome was to record a demo, the studio they were going to use was part of Washington State's biggest pot raid. Despite the setback the band eventually got back into the studio to record. The resulting demo was so well received that it helped them land a recording contract with Columbia Records.
The band released its first album, Facelift, in 1990. It performed sluggishly until "Man in the Box" began to appear regularly on MTV. The band's next release was an acoustic EP called "Sap" (1992). The idea for the project came from a dream by Sean Kinney. The EP featured guest appearances by Ann Wilson of Heart and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden. Also in 1992, Alice in Chains appeared in the movie Singles, a Cameron Crowe film about the grunge scene in Seattle.
The band released its second full length album, Dirt, in September of 1992. Dirt peaked at number six on the album charts, spawned five top 30 singles, and went on to be certified quadruple platinum. During a tour with Ozzy Osbourne, Starr left the band and was replaced by Mike Inez. In January of 1994, Alice in Chains released their second acoustic EP, Jar of Flies. It became the first EP to ever top Billboard's main album chart. The band's third full length, self-titled studio album was released in 1995. It debuted at number one.
From 1996 through 2002, the band entered into a quasi-disbandment phase which was punctuated by the death of Staley. He died on April 20, 2002 from a drug overdose. Staley had battled addiction for years. The band reformed in 2005 for a series of benefit and tribute concerts. In 2006, William Duvall joined the band as singer and rhythm guitarist. Three years later the band released its fourth studio album and the first with Duvall, Black Gives Way To Blue.
Besides being one of the seminal bands of the Seattle-grunge scene of the early 1990's, Alice in Chains has also sold more than 40 million albums and earned seven Grammy Award nominations. Musically, the band is more heavy metal than anything else but their songs have a post-punk aesthetic that appeals to grunge fans. Their dark subject matter also fuses well with their many forays into their acoustic sets.