Mad Season was an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1994 by members of three popular Seattle-based bands: Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees. Mad Season only released one album, Above, and is best known for the single "River of Deceit". The band went on a semi-permanent hiatus in 1996 due to the band members' conflicting schedules and vocalist Layne Staley's problems with substance abuse. Attempts were made in the late 1990s to revive the group without Staley, however the band dissolved following the death of bassist John Baker Saunders in 1999.
During the production of Pearl Jam's Vitalogy, guitarist Mike McCready went into rehabilitation in Minneapolis, 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. McCready had played in such bands as Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dog, Martin with Skin Yard and the Screaming Trees and Saunders with blues talents such as Little Pat Rushing, Hubert Sumlin, Sammy Fender, and The Lamont Cranston Band. 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 in October 1994, which turned out to be a big success. The song "Artificial Red", which was also to appear on the album, actually came together during the show itself. Two more gigs were scheduled at the same venue, with the band calling itself the Gacy Bunch, after both the notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacy of Chicago and the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch. On January 8, 1995, the band made an appearance on Pearl Jam's Self-Pollution satellite radio broadcast, a four-and-a-half hour long pirate broadcast out of Seattle which was available to any radio stations that wanted to carry it, performing "Lifeless Dead" and "I Don't Know Anything". 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."
The album, Above, which was recorded in Seattle, Washington at Bad Animals Studio (co-owned by Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart) and co-produced by the band and Pearl Jam sound engineer Brett Eliason, featured ten songs. It also included guest vocals and additional lyrics by Screaming Trees frontman and solo artist Mark Lanegan. McCready said, "We did all the Mad Season music in about seven days. It took Layne just a few more days to finish his vocals, which was intense since we only rehearsed twice and did four shows." The album was released on March 15, 1995 through Columbia Records to critical and commercial success. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic said that the album "sounds like a cross between Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, taking the ponderous seriousness of Alice and PJ's '90s update of winding '70s guitar rock." Staley's lyrics dealt with his personal troubles, with Martin saying, "Layne Staley felt as though he was on a spiritual mission through his music." Over the course of 1995, Above scaled the Billboard 200, eventually peaking at #24 and spawning two singles: "River of Deceit" (#2 Mainstream Rock Tracks, #9 Modern Rock Tracks) and "I Don't Know Anything" (#20 Mainstream Rock Tracks). Above was certified gold on June 14, 1995.
The band continued to play shows during the spring of 1995 before going on hiatus so that the members could return to work with their main bands. During this time the band released the Live at the Moore video, which was a live performance recorded at Seattle's Moore Theatre on April 29, 1995. Also, during this time the band contributed a cover of John Lennon's "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier" to the 1995 John Lennon tribute album, Working Class Hero. In 1996, a live version of "River of Deceit" surfaced on the Bite Back: Live at Crocodile Cafe compilation album, although by this time Mad Season had long been dormant from live work as McCready and Martin went back to work with their respective bands and Saunders joined The Walkabouts.
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. As a result he declined to participate in the project any further, thus leaving Mad Season 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 studio time was hard to come by. Over the course of the year the quartet gradually grew apart, making a Disinformation album all the more unlikely. Another critical blow was dealt to 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) were deeply saddened to hear news of his death. Although no official announcement was ever given, it is widely accepted that Mad Season/Disinformation broke up following Saunders' death.
Following Saunders' death, McCready returned to working and touring with Pearl Jam and also later formed a new side project, The Rockfords. Martin briefly returned to work with Screaming Trees before the band disbanded in 2000. Since then Martin has worked as an occasional touring drummer for R.E.M. and performs with R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck in the band Tuatara. Staley briefly reunited with Alice in Chains in the late 1990s before dropping out of the public eye permanently. His body was later found on April 19, 2002 in his condominium, the victim of an apparent overdose of cocaine and heroin. Lanegan has gone on to a relatively successful solo career, has worked with Queens of the Stone Age, and performed with Isobel Campbell on the 2006 Mercury Prize nominated album, Ballad of the Broken Seas, and as part of a duo with Greg Dulli under the name The Gutter Twins.
Barrett Martin ? drums
Mike McCready ? guitar
John Baker Saunders ? bass
Layne Staley ? vocals, guitar (1994?1997)
Mark Lanegan ? vocals
Skerik ? saxophone, percussion (1994?1995)