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The Journey of “Mad Season”

During the production of 1994’s Vitalogy, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready went into drug and alcohol rehab at the Hazelden Clinic in Minnesota, where he met bassist John Baker Saunders. In 1994, when the two returned to Seattle, Washington, they formed a side band with drummer Barrett Martin. Immediately the trio set up rehearsal time together and wrote the music for two songs that would later become Mad Season’s “Wake Up” and “River of Deceit”, both of which would later appear on the band’s album Above. McCready then brought in friend and Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley to round out the line-up. McCready had hoped that being around sober musicians would push Staley to get himself sober. Despite not having a single song completely prepared (only beginnings of songs, according to Martin) and not even having a name for the band, McCready scheduled an unannounced show at the Crocodile Cafe on October 12, 1994, which turned out to be a big success. The band called itself the Gacy Bunch -after both the notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy of Chicago and the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch-during this gig. After gaining more popularity, the band recorded its only album and changed its name to Mad Season, which is an English term for the time of the year when psilocybin mushrooms are in full bloom and a term which McCready related to “the seasons of drinking and drug abuse.”

In 1997, attempts were made by McCready, Saunders, and Martin to revive Mad Season, although by this point Staley’s health had worsened due to severe drug addiction; he would never perform again after a July 1996 Alice in Chains show. As a result, Mad Season was without a singer. With Staley now out of the picture, the band recruited vocalist Mark Lanegan (of the Screaming Trees), who had previously guested on the Above album (as well as at live shows) as its new permanent singer. With the switch in frontmen, the group also switched names adopting the Disinformation moniker in late 1997. Work reportedly began in 1998 on what would have been Disinformation’s debut album, although between everyone’s busy schedules, it became difficult to meet in the studio together. Over the course of the year, the quartet gradually grew apart, making a Disinformation album all the more unlikely. Another critical blow was dealt with the project in January 1999 with the death of bassist John Baker Saunders from an overdose of heroin. The group (especially Saunders’ long-time friend Mike McCready) was deeply saddened to hear news of his death. Although no official announcement by the band was ever given, Staley confirmed in July 1999 (during an Alice in Chains interview) that the group had disbanded.

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