BAM – April 9, 1999
Dave Navarro Spreads His Wings
By James Oliver Cury
Pgs 46, 45
Dave Navarro is not wielding a guitar for Jane’s Addiction or the Red Hot Chili Peppers anymore; now he’s spreading his talents across a few different projects. Navarro’s got a solo CD in the works, his own record label, a book-in-progress and a website (www.6767.com) – all part of his “Spread Entertainment” multimedia empire. While he refers to himself as “missing in action” for the last year, he’s really be buy experimenting with new media. In conversation, the 31-year-old Navarro can shift instantly from earnest, self-depreciated artist to sarcastic, jokey rock star. One minute he’s talking about how his music touches people, the next minute he’s explaining how he tried to tell dirty jokes to Jewel. Regardless of the mood shifts, he is relentlessly reassessing his goals, achievements and place in this world – whether as a musician, celebrity or spiritual being.
What exactly is Spread Entertainment?
It’s a record label, a web site, a band and a book. It’s about entertainment. Apart from being a pun, which I didn’t plan on – I didn’t think of Spread Entertainment as in “spread it around.” It made me vomit when I realized it. Instead of referring to all those things at one time, you can just say a multimedia direction.
How and when did Spread launch?
Spread launched in 1997. It started with [drummer] Chad [Smith] and me killing time. There was a lot of down time in the band we were in, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chat was my closest friend in the Chili Peppers and it was that way because we had the same schedule. [Chad’s no longer involved with Spread.]
Who runs the show?
A lot of people get involved as they day goes on it seems. But as it stands, it’s certainly a dictatorship. Two kids run the Spread site. I chose them to help me with it because they were into it, rather than cashing the check. But I [also] wrote code. I do it in simple text.
Who’s in the band?
No one. I play everything on the record. I’m still working on it. I had to replace Chad, the drums, for starters. I’m getting Kenny Aranoff to come in- he’s from Smashing Pumpkins and John Cougar Mellencamp. He’s probably one of the greatest drummer session guys around. I’m also going to New York and working with Mark Plati – he [co-produced] the last Bowie record.
When will the solo CD come out?
We’re looking at April. And the way things look now, that’s not too realistic so we’re shooting for before the summertime. I’m not gonna rush it. I’m actually finding another direction and putting new songs in. But, ultimately, I’ve had these kids [fans] waiting. You know? The ones that care are getting kinda tired of this crap. I don’t blame them because so am I.
Can you describe the music?
It won’t sound like anything we’ve heard before. I’ve never been in a band that uses a lot of electronics. And there are a lot of electronics on the record. I use a lot of programming and sequencing, combined with instruments – guitars, bass, drums. Human drums with programmed drums. It lends a quality that I find evens it all out. It creates a cohesive line throughout the album. But if you were just driving around the street to get a pack of smokes, and one song was playing and you got in and then you drove back up the street and another song cam eon, you might feel a little strange. I’m also scratching on the record. I have a turntable setup with a mixer between ‘em. It’s real orchestral in some ways. For me, it’s just exciting to play with new toys. I get tired of tuning a guitar. I need to be stimulated in a creative mental way, like in a intellectual sense, in a thinking way rather than a feeling way with cheap diazepam. To approach mechanical drums on computer is real intellectual and exciting. I can’t find that emotional place anywhere. So it’s kind of nice, redoing it the way I wanted to do it in the first place.
Why are you re-releasing Lou Reed’s classic Metal Machine Music on your new label?
First of al, to have any working connection with Lou Reed is… I don’t want to say a dream come true ‘cause that sounds sappy, but it’s an event for me. It’s an accomplishment. I really felt like there wasn’t a lot more I could accomplish in my musical life. I went through a long time when I was very depressed, because I had no idea what else to do as a guitarist. I played the Forum and the Rose Bowl and Madison Square Garden, even played on the North Pole, been in the Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction, worked with this guy and that guy. The goals I had as a kid I’d met. It was very hard for a while. I was scared. I hoped something would come up that I would want to be passionate about. And it did show itself.
[Metal Machine Music] will be available on my web site. Nowhere else. Vinyl only. But who’s gonna play it? It’s unlistenable! But it really is worth listening to all the way through. It does have its moments. He wants me to mix it in quadraphonic sound, as it was originally made. He really wants this to be right, and I think that’s so awesome. I’m so excited to hear that the guy cares about it. Proceeds will go to a charity called Witness.
Why vinyl only?
Apart from the fact that it’s the original format, they might come mounted or framed in a way that they can be an art piece as well. For me, I’m just gonna hang it on the wall. It’s a collectible. I think that’s one of the more important historical moments in rock ‘n’ roll. And as an artistic stand.
Why did you create the web site?
Well, my parents didn’t listen to me as a kid. Why do you entertain people? Why do you try to invoke a reaction in anybody? That’s the same thing to me. Why do a web site, why make a record, why act? To me, it’s because my parents didn’t listen to me. Here I am, an only child, and I’m sitting in my room trying desperately to have someone understand what I’m saying. And they’re just not getting it. So I turned to other avenues, and I turned to guitar. Another answer would be: It’s interesting and its fun. In a sense, it’s almost like a drug. It’s a way to check out of your daily life. A way to turn off the thinking. I zone out in front of the screen for hours. I’ve been on a computer for 24 straight, and I’ve also gone two weeks without doing it. Lately, it’s been about two or three hours a day. I added it all up and I had like 12 computers in the past couple of years, [with] and ISDN line and 56k modems.
When did the power of the Internet first hit you?
A cousin of mine got a laptop computer and I didn’t give a shit about it. He brings it over to my house, we plug-it in, we go into this chat room. It took m ea few moments to understand that these are people from different places all over the world, actually sitting at their computers at the same time. Then the second time was to do a chat with the Chili Peppers. A guy came to my house and typed for me. As soon as this guy pulled up a web site about me, I was like, “Wow! I gotta get five of these!” I’ll be honest, the nature of most artists is that they are truly the most self-centered people in the world. I would wake up every morning and look me up. For months! Then I came across the “We Hate Dave” page, and they used the international no-smoking circle with the line through it. They used that with a picture of me. But I’ve since developed thick skin.
What excites you about the cyber stuff?
I collect cuckoo clocks. I had six clocks and I thought seven would be better. So I looked it up online, found it, ordered it and had it shipped to me. I basically do a lot of shopping online – computer gear, scanners, monitors, often at the Apple store. You can buy anything. You can order dinner around here, you can fall in love, you can have sex. It’s weird because if you go to a sex site with a “live girl!” or “live couples,” you’re paying $1800 a second and you realize you could have rented a porno for $1.25 and you could see it totally clear, as many times as you want. No squinting, no terribly frame rates. I tried it once for the novelty of it.
I also intend to [keep] cameras in my house. It will be two hours every other day and I’ll have someone over. It’ll have audio too, like Navarro TV, I want to do that when the record comes out. The book is online, too. That’s an advance chapter I’m doing with Neil Strauss, writer for the New York Times [and Marilyn Manson’s biographer, too]. It’s not about me, but about the events and the people in the house.
Do you keep in contact with celebrity pals via the net?
I kinda feel creepy saying this. Well, do the readers want me to have celebrity friends? OK. Then [Marilyn] Manson people, Courtney and Eric from Hole, they’re my local world here.
I noticed you have a few videos online – including on with Jewel.
We were backstage at a Jane’s show. She’s friends with Flea. I forget why. And I said, “I have a magic trick. I’m gonna make part of my body disappear into a part of yours. How’s that for a trick?” I thought it was so clever. Her response was: “Predictable.” It tore me apart. There’s another video where I have the flu.