Rolling Stone, October 16, 1997
by Dave Wild
More than a decade ago, JANE’S ADDICTION helped launch alternative rock. Now that it’s over, they’re back.
Inside Flea’s elegant home high in California’s Hollywood Hills, a house where Jim Morrison once frolicked with the Velvet Underground’s Nico, a more ‘90s rock & roll scene is unfolding. Flea and David Navarro – band mates in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and now also 50 percent of the newly revived Jane’s Addiction – are hunched pensively over a Powerbook in the library. A rather sweet-looking older gentleman, who turns out to be Flea’s father, cheerfully helps his Pepper progeny with a high-tech mishap. Even with the younger men’s bare torso, tattoos and, in Navarro’s case, nipple ring, this seems a touching, almost wholesome, scene.
It’s not the sort of post-punk Kodak moment suggested by the music of Jane’s Addiction, a group that formed in 1986 and defined gutter decadence and protogrungy desperation by the turn of the decade on edgy albums like Nothing’s Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual. In an age dominated by embarrassing hair-band goofiness, Jane’s Addiction – lead singer Perry Farrell, drummer Stephen Perkins, guitarist Navarro, and bassist Eric Avery – were an influential outfit that paved the way for the commercial alternative-rock explosion.
Since the band’s breakup, in 1991, Farrell (who founded Lollapalooza that same year) and Perkins have continued to play together, in Porno for Pyros. But now they join Flea and their old mate Navarro for a Jane’s reunion that will find the band releasing a new album, Kettle Whistle, and heading out for six weeks of touring toward the end of this year. The CD is an odds-and-sods retrospective of assorted rarities, demos, live material and, at press time, two “new” tracks: the title song and “So What,” both old Jane’s Addiction tunes that the so-called Relapse lineup has radically reworked.
But anyone who thinks this is a cynical reunion is wrong, according to Navarro. “None of us are hungry,” he says. “We’re not doing this for the cash, and when it’s finally laid out for people, everyone will see that.”
Invoking the hallowed Jane’s Addiction name seems an exciting, if risky, proposition. Since the band’s demise, Jane’s Addiction have taken on a legendary aura. By bringing the act back on the road, the group must now prove itself anew in a world that helped create – one that, after Marilyn Manson, is even less shocking than when Jane’s proclaimed nothing shocking.
Navarro, who after Jane’s breakup joined the Chili Peppers, in 1993, is unconcerned. “I don’t think our intention is to shock,” he says. “But I still maintain that Perry – without sucking his dick – is the most captivating and intense frontman around, bottom line. I’m a huge Marilyn Manson fan, and they’re friends of mine, but I think there’s a little bit of shtick going on there. With Perry, all the captivating qualities that he has are just completely honest. That’s what creates the longevity he has.”
Flea is confident that the tour is not just nostalgia – like the Eagles flying again or Kiss putting on the old make-up. “When reunion tours are met with a certain amount of scoffing and guffawing, it’s because the music and the musicians have become irrelevant,” says Flea, who cops to being honored and a little terrified to be filling Avery’s shoes. “I am a pompous, conceited, elitist rock-star asshole, but I think we’re still relevant.”
“And the fact that we think we’re still relevant,” Navarro adds with a smile, “proves how out of touch we are.”
The following day, Farrell and Perkins sit in their cozy Venice Calif., studio and play a rough mix of “Kettle Whistle” – an impressive piece of trippy tribal world music. An obvious question hangs in the air: Why the relapse?
“I want to laugh and just say, ‘Because we deserve it,’ says Farrell, whose answers have a way of becoming epic journeys to unexpected places. “Linearly, I think it’s because I feel so very tied to Steve. He plays percussion and I sing – that’s the basis of everything. And Dave and Flea are among our best friends, and they’re available now. Why not tour with them?”
Farrell explains that he doesn’t see this convergence as being about an attempt to close some unfinished business.
“Jane’s Addiction is a title for me,” he says. “It’s a group of people I worked with at a time and I’m glad I finished it there, because the work we did would have suffered if we kept going. So there’s no unfinished business with that lineup – although I’d love to work with Eric Avery again, but that doesn’t look like that’s going to happen right now.”
Ultimately, Farrell was more pained that shocked when Avery – who since the band’s breakup has played with Navarro in Deconstruction and with his own group, Polar Bear – chose not to participate, citing his lack of interest in revising past glories. “We called him; we asked him,” says Farrell, looking a little uncomfortable. “But we’re not astronauts, and we’re not going to the moon tomorrow, either.”
Perkins adds, “I wasn’t that surprised, but I was hurt. But when you have Flea as a blessing, the pain goes away. Flea is so into playing that it’s like a vitamin B-12 shot for all of us.”
“When I see Flea,” Farrell proclaims, “I want to kiss him. That’s a great thing, when you have someone show up to your circle, your village, and you want to have some sort of spiritual sex.”
Certainly there’s some spiritual connection between Jane’s Addiction and the Chili Peppers. Flea is no latter-day Jane’s addict. Indeed, he can be heard playing horns on the classic “Idiots Rule,” from Nothing’s Shocking. Since then, there’s been plenty of cross-pollination. Late last year, Navarro and Flea recorded “Hard Charger” for the soundtrack to the Howard Stern movie Private Parts as part of an expanded Porno for Pyros lineup. And with Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith recovering from motorcycle injuries, the bassist seemed the more natural replacement for Avery.
“When I first saw the Chili Peppers, definitely it was competitive,” Farrell recalls. “I looked up to them. Within our circle of friends, they had the most…”
“Chutzpah,” Perkins says.
“No, we weren’t competing with the Chili Peppers,” says Navarro. “Back in those days, I was lucky if I could remember where I lived, let alone be aware of what bands were going on around you.” (Navarro recalls that the Peppers’ 1988 The Abbey Road E.P. was “the soundtrack for me to get high to.”)
One imagines it might be a challenge for the others to get back into the Jane’s Addiction mind-set after some serious lifestyle upgrades.
“The songs that don’t apply, we should discard,” Farrell says. “For instance, this song ‘Whores’ sounds silly right now, right? Am I going to still sing ‘I love the whores’? Do I still love the whores? Well, aren’t I a little older and wiser?” Farrell – as is his oddly charming want – goes into far-ranging discussion of the Talmudic origins of his name and its links to prostitution that may or may not be made even more expansive by that bong hit he’s just done. Finally, he concludes, “Yes, I still love the whores.”
Farrell explains that he doesn’t look at the Relapse Tour as a reunion. “We’ve got Flea and this woman Polywog playing with us,” Farrell says. “We’re also writing at the same time, so we have fresh material. I’m going to emote in a completely new situation.”
“The simple truth is, we’ve got, like 23 dates, and we’re going to do them, then go back to our other band,” adds Navarro. “It’s more a friendship and love-of-music thing.”
Perkins sees the undertaking as a slightly unexpected but highly welcome side trip: “We just went the wrong way and found out there was a cool coffee shop there.”
Finally Farrell is asked whether he’s proud of the cultural impact that he and his great weird-ass band have in the Lollapalooza era.
“I never, ever thought…” says Farrell. “I mean, I lived in a car in a hospital parking lot. Then I lived in a garage. Then things were cool, and I was hanging around with a cool group of artists in L.A. But if I were to judge my influence strictly on those years, I wouldn’t be very proud – yet. Your teen years are your years to do some severe things, but they’re not always going to be your greatest contributions. I’ve got some faith built up, but I’m going to wish that my greatest contributions are still to come.”