In 1989, Jane's Addiction performed seven straight nights at the John Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles, launching Nothing's Shocking.
We remember the alt-rock crew being announced as "Juana's Adicción," the wild, folkloric stage décor, flying dreadlocks, and thunderous music. The band also offered a glimpse into the colorful visual influences and rhythmic experimentation of its next release, 1990's Ritual de Lo Habitual.
Now, 23 years later, we've caught up with guitarist Dave Navarro, talking about those seminal early shows, the group's new album, and why the media generally annoys the crap out of him.
New Times: I was at two of the seven Ford shows back in '89 and remember them well. What did they mean to you?
Dave Navarro: Glad you remember them, because I don't. The John Anson Ford shows were at the height of my experimentation, let's say. As I recall, I did have to be revived one of the nights, like maybe a half an hour before we went on.
The band has such a long and sometimes tumultuous history. In making a new record [The Great Escape Artist], were there differences that had to be worked out? Or was it all smooth sailing?
I get asked this so many times, and I always fail to come up with a good answer. I've been with this band almost 25 years, and I've worked with all these guys in one way or another over the years on different projects. Also, keep in mind we'd done extensive touring with Nine Inch Nails in Europe in 2009. We'd essentially been a working band for two years prior to even thinking about [the new album]. Relationships were well established, and we just went in and did it. It was pretty natural, and a lot of that comes from intuition. You gain that by spending a lot of time together.
What about the writing and recording process?
There were a number of ways we went about it. But that's the way Jane's Addiction has always worked, in terms of not having a formula. Some came from jamming, some from working on multitrack... It's difficult for me to describe a process which is primarily felt.
Even just imagining you guys jamming and something coming out of that is interesting.
Well, "Underground," the first song, actually came about from an electronic jam that Perry [Farrell] was working on. We reworked it as a band. "Irresistible Force" started literally with me playing an acoustic guitar against a click track because I found a tempo I liked. I pretty much wrote the music to that in a kind of stream-of-consciousness style and everybody jumped on it and added parts. We gave it completed to Perry, who worked on it in his own studio at home and wrote the melody and lyrics. "Splash a Little Water" came about through a live jam session. So there are three extreme examples of songs on this album that were written in entirely different ways.
What made you decide it was time for some new music?
At that point, after doing the Nails tour and the European dates, we were really enjoying the band and being on the road and playing shows. It was about keeping our fans satiated, and we wanted to keep going. It's like any relationship. If you're in a relationship and you and your partner don't create new experiences and have new things to bring into it, it's gonna die. I think that another tour just playing "Mountain Song" and "Jane Says" wouldn't be of interest to us and wouldn't be of interest to anybody else. It's evolve or die. We love playing the old songs, don't get me wrong. But we've added the new stuff. And already it's ignited a sense of urgency and made the flow of the sets feel fresh and new.
You have a lot of things you do outside of the band. Tell us about your [Internet radio show] Dark Matter.
Cool. Yeah, it's Wednesday night from 9 to 11 p.m. [on Moheak.com]. It's music, but it's mainly conversational and phone calls and listener-generated content. If I'm touring, my cohosts Todd Newman and Jessica are always there. The diehard listeners love every member of the show. I do it because I have a love for the medium. I love the immediacy. I love the looseness. I feel that it allows me the opportunity to say what I really think about a number of things. Certainly in this day and age where the Internet and press are so deeply intertwined, we have websites, Twitter, Facebook, and ways to connect with our fan bases. But there's something about speaking directly to somebody at home that can't be beat.
And I love the idea of being able to respond to some of the media slant out there, which is generally inaccurate and unfair most of the time.
The music media?
Just press in general. I have a real love-hate relationship with it. And over the years, it's become more of a hate relationship.
Oh, yeah, you would be surprised how many times I spend half an hour talking to somebody only to have a story come out and it be completely slanted and one-sided.
One of the things I've taken to doing... and I'm not doing it right now, but if I'm home, I'll record the interview while I'm doing it, so when the piece comes out, I'll play it over the radio and show, "OK, this is how it actually went down and here's what you're reading." Then I let the listeners go after the writer. I know it sounds paranoid, but it's entertaining.
You know, anyone can call themselves a writer now. It seems the new generation of writers, they're looking for the buzzwords to get the pull-quote. You could easily spin this whole interview to [say], "Navarro reveals he was unconscious for the first string of shows in 1989-90." Like, that would be the headline.
Yeah, it definitely happens.
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I'm a writer myself. I just take it seriously, and I wish more people did.
Well, it is kind of funny that you were nearly unconscious during those legendary shows. And hey, you were still really good.
Yeah. But probably 90 percent of the audience was too.