paul rachman

Alice In Chains filming Man in the Box. Malibu State Park, 1990.

“I started writing about censorship. Around the same time, we went out for dinner with some Columbia Records people who were vegetarians. They told me how veal was made from calves raised in these small boxes, and that image stuck in my head. So i went home and wrote about government censorship and eating meat as seen through the eyes of a doomed calf.”
- Layne Staley about Man in the Box

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In December of 1990 I directed this music video for the band “Alice in Chains” while I was based in Los Angeles at Propaganda Films.

I had seen the band play one of their first shows in New York City the previous October at the legendary Cat Club, which is now defunct like so many other great clubs in New York.  I was so inspired by the band at  that show that I personally called Kris P. who was the music video commissioner at Columbia records and told her that I wanted to direct their next video.

A few months later I was in discussions with the band and the label about their forthcoming single “Man in the Box”.  This song was written by the late Layne Staley and he was the one I was discussing the concept of the video with.  After a very brief phone conversation with him while he was on tour, I received a “Fax” from Layne with 3 words scribbled on it. “A drippy dark barn”, “farm animals” and “a baby with eyes sewn shut”.  With that for inspiration from the songwriter I wrote the treatment for the :Man in the Box” video and was awarded the gig by the band and the Columbia records. The budget was less than $50K, keep in mind this was several months before Nirvana changed the world of alternative music.

I found an old barn in the Santa Monica mountains, owned by a park ranger, just 45 minutes out of downtown Hollywood.  I remember driving to the set the morning of the shoot and thinking to myself: ” I’m about to film a very cool rock band on a dirty farm with a bunch of cows and pigs!”. “What the fuck is wrong with me!”.  Once the cameras started rolling those thoughts and feelings were history.  We shot for 14 hours on black and white 16mm film which I later color corrected to sepia and also shot with my hand cranked Bolex, ( which I still own and use incidently), as second camera which I loaded with color film.

The video ended up breaking the band, was in the MTV Buzz bin and was nominated for an MTV Award in 1991 which we lost to that Aerosmith that had Alicia Silverstone in it.

This is definitely one of my favorite music videos that I directed. I remain very proud of it. RIP Layne Staley. - Paul Rachman

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This photo was sent to me by Paul Rachman, director of Alice in Chains’ video, Man in the Box.

The photo depicts Paul and his friend, Rezin, who portrayed the hooded man with his eyes sewn shut.

Mr. Rachman directed the MITB music video in 1990 and it was released in 1991. It was nominated for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.

Paul also directed the original version of Alice’s Sea of Sorrow music video and the 2006 feature documentary American Hardcore.

What are your memories of Layne Staley?

Paul Rachman: I remember a few months after the video was completed I was in Seattle directing the video for Temple of the Dog which was a collaboration between Pearl Jam and Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell ( this video was the first time that Eddie Vedder had been filmed). I was hanging out with Layne one night and I could tell that the rock star life style was going to affect him. He was a bit tired and drawn out but still very friendly. He was very sweet, talented, sensitive and inwardly emotional. He was very comfortable and confident with his ideas and his art and music. He never really second guessed himself, he was always forward moving with his thoughts. I don’t remember him as ever hesitant or asking too many questions. He just did it. On that set they were very cooperative and friendly. I mean look at the video. I asked the front man to sit in a corner of a real dirty barn tied up and sing. To most front men that would seem demeaning and negative, Layne just did it and you can see he is in that moment. There is almost a vulnerable sadness in his eyes and face in that scene.