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TOP SEATTLE ROCKERS FORM A NEW BAND

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It's been a Mad Season for two of Seattle's best-known rock musicians.

About two months ago, Layne Staley (singer and guitarist for Alice in Chains) and Mike McCready (guitarist for Pearl Jam) formed a new band with drummer Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees and bassist Baker Saunders from Minneapolis.What started as a side project is now gaining momentum.

Mad Season, formerly called the Gacy Bunch, has only performed three shows, all at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. But this week the group was at Bad Animals/Seattle finishing up an album that could be out by February.

Among the songs on the new album are "River of Deceit," "Lifeless Death" and Staley's "I Don't Know Anything."

"Since the shows (at the Crocodile) went so well, I said, `Let's just go into the studio.' We cut 10 songs in about seven days. It's the quickest thing I've ever been involved in. I don't know why it happened so fast."

Mad Season was McCready's brainchild. The idea came to him during a stay at a Minneapolis drug and alcohol rehab facility, where he met Saunders.

"I always wanted to get together with Layne, and I've always enjoyed Barrett's drumming," McCready said. "And I had some time to analyze things while I was out there in Minneapolis.

"I've always had this term `mad season' in my head. It's the time in England when the psychedelic mushrooms grow up. They call it the mad season. It also has to do with my years of abuse and everything - and Layne's and everybody else's in the band. The music has all arisen from our thoughts about going through rehab.

"It's kind of a cathartic thing, a release of all this energy and emotion that I hadn't released in years because I'd been drowning them in alcohol for so long."

Because of its dispute with Ticketmaster over service fees, Pearl Jam hasn't toured for months, giving McCready some extra time.

Though open about his own alcohol and substance abuse problems, McCready is tight-lipped about Staley's.

Staley was unavailable for comment.