Jerry Cantrell recalls how Tom Morello inspired Layne Staley to step up his guitar playing

Layne Staley and Tom Morello
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns / Gie Knaeps/Getty Images)

During a conversation with Tom Morello on his Maximum Firepower podcast, Jerry Cantrell has recalled Layne Staley’s early fascination with the Rage Against the Machine firebrand’s guitar playing.

Alice in Chains and RATM were both part of the bill at Lollapalooza 1993, an experience Morello cites as formative given it was the politically charged outfit’s first major tour, but it also marked an influential time for Staley’s development as a guitar player.

“I remember, during that tour, Layne really had a shine for you,” Cantrell recalls. “He wanted to play guitar more, and he was kind of intimidated because he didn’t play that much guitar, but he really was turned on by how you played guitar – I was a little hurt by that. [Laughs]”

“But I remember that, and you gave him the spark to learn how to play guitar and write more songs.”

Staley, who favored Gibson SG and Les Paul models, wrote and played guitar on Alice in Chains’ Angry Chair, Hate to Feel and Head Creeps, and also performed on Mad Season’s I Don’t Know Anything during their performance at the Moore Theater in Seattle.

Elsewhere in the interview, Morello shared some of his own memories of Staley during the run.

“He and I had a lot of laughs on that tour, man,” he enthused. “We would have a daily argument of who was more metal: him or me. It would be part metal trivia and part posturing, but I remember that very very fondly.”

Staley and Morello would eventually join forces in supergroup Class of ’99 to record a cover of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) for 1998 sci-fi horror flick The Faculty. It became one of Staley’s final studio appearances prior to his death in April 2002.

To hear Cantrell and Morello’s conversation in full, check out Tom Morello’s Maximum Firepower podcast.

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.