In Deep With Jane’s Addiction
Rad Rockers Make Big Splash
by S.L. Duff
May 18-31 1987
All About Jane
Let’s get going with some quick facts about Smogtown’s favorite upstarts, Jane’s Addiction. Formed just a year-and-a-half ago, the band has already amassed an impressive list of accomplishments. These include garnering what is unquestionably the most loyal – and probably the largest – audience for a band regularly working the local circuit. Promoters don’t seem to worry (as they do with most scene bands) about Jane’s gigs being a week or two apart at adjacent clubs; they’re confident the band’ll pack ‘em in anyway. They were recently voted Best Underground Band and Best Hard Rock Band (tied with Redd Kross) by the readers of the Weekly, and Music Connection’s annual Pick of the Player’s Poll found them on top in ’86.
Having won over the fans, Jane’s Addiction didn’t do too shabbily within the evil confines of the record business, either. During 1986, they signed with Triple X Records (who also agreed to take the band on as their initial, and perhaps only, management client). Their self-titled debut LP features five electric rockers and five softer acoustic workouts, all recorded live at the Roxy; it should be hitting the racks right about this very second. Thanks to advance pressings, it’s already all over college radio.
All right, already – enough is enough, you say to yourself. But here comes the grand slam. According to Triple X, Jane’s Addiction has just signed with Warner Bros. Records. The ink isn’t dry on the contract (or maybe the pens are still on the way to the paper), but basically it’s all squared away. These things take time, ya know, and we are talking about an 80-page contract. The important point isn’t so much that they’ve nabbed a major deal, but that – for a left-of-center band – signing with WB is the ideal deal. After all, this is the label that let Husker Du self-produce a two-record set, that let Prince slowly develop over four LPs, that had the guts to sign the Replacements. This could be the start of something big.
Jane’s Addiction began to come together after vocalist Perry Farrell (not his real name, it’s a pun – say it fast – get it?) decided it was time to leave his band at the time, Psi Com. Farrell had actually released Psi Com’s LP on his own Mohini Records (and it was recently re-released by Triple-X). “Actually, we were about to do a national tour,” remembers Farrell. “But we had two guys that were really into Krishna, so they didn’t like my pagan lyrics, so I said, ‘Then I’ll go somewhere else’.”
Right around this time, Psi Com were trying out new bass players, and Eric Avery turned up to audition. It wasn’t long before Avery, a punk into funk, and Farrell, himself a big punk fan, decided to start a band. Perry (who seems to be the band’s lead conceptualist as well as its lead singer) promptly named the duo-cum-band Jane’s Addiction.
The search for additional Addictions wasn’t that smooth at first. “Because of our name, we kept attracting some real shady characters to play with us,” Perry recalls. “We went through a couple of heroin addicts.” (“A couple of dicks!” Eric interjects.) “We never stopped playing,” Perry continues. “The first show Eric and I did was just bass and myself, and it was completely improvisational. I think we wrote a song that night that we ended up using, ‘Pigs in Zen’. Anyway, we started that way, and then we were asked to play the Roxy. We were playin’ with this guitar player who was a really cool guy, but he was kinda nuts. I couldn’t decide whether he stunk and couldn’t play or was out of tune or was a genius.”
Soon, an ex-Kommunity FK drummer was holding down the time, but he didn’t share Farrell’s love of constant rehearsal, so the search continued. Eric’s sister was going out with a drummer named Steve Perkins, who, along with guitarist Dave Navarro, had just left a heavy metal band called Disaster. Perkins and Navarro were jamming on blues songs as a duo when Avery and Farrell got hold of them, and the current lineup of Jane’s Addiction was solidified. This was just about a year ago, and continuing the tradition the band had already established, they immediately began playing clubs.
Always Leave Them Laughing
“Out first show was at the Roxy; we were totally unready,” Perry admits. “So what I did was, I said, ‘I got an idea – I’ll just pull my pants down.’ So I did the whole show with my dick hanging out, and got some good responses,” he deadpans. “Nobody noticed the music sucked. Some people actually said they loved it.”
The band pressed on, with Perry handling the bookings himself. Jane’s unique shows (with Perry’s pecker now securely zipped inside his pants) began to draw bigger and bigger crowds. Word spread quickly that Jane, like a snowflake, never repeats a performance – and the band feels strongly that this freewheeling feature contributed to their initial success. Words also traveled that the band was equally adept at doing long forays into acoustic music and supersonic blast-offs into psychedelic/funk/metal. Sets were mixed and matched, some all-electric, others all-acoustic, still others bits of both; some largely improvised, others worked out to the last detail.
Four Janes Finds Three X’s
Though the Janes never ceased playing out, Farrell was getting sick of essentially managing his own band. They began to search for the real thing.
“We went out seeking managers for a while, and just by coincidence we got the guy to come down who used to manage the Doors,” Navarro reveals. “Everything he said, he would just compare us to Jim Morrison and the Doors. ‘You guys are good, but Jim wouldn’t do that!’”
“A nice guy, though,” Perry muses, adding, “He probably reads Music Connection.”
Charlie Brown, one of three principals of indie label Triple X, spotted Jane’s Addiction one night at the now-defunct Powerhouse club. Brown kept coming back to the gigs, as did his partners, Peter Heur and Dean Naleway, all three of whom had worked at the now-bankrupt Greenworld Records, where they learned the ropes (hopefully not the kind of ropes you hang yourself with).
“Charley said, ‘Look, we got a record label,’” Perry recalls. “I said, ‘Okay, tell you what. We’ll put out one record for you. By the way, why don’t you try managing us for a few months so we can keep the ball rolling’.”
Says Perry about the Triple X team: “Those guys are unbelievable. There’s three of them, so when they show up, they’re all over the place. Every time we’d show up anyplace, there’d be a whole bunch of us, so we still had the upper hand.”
Jane Says (About Music)
Perry: I have some pretty strong ideas in what I think is in the future – where music can be stepping into and with three brave men who are interested in coming up with stuff… We got stuff we’re working on now that’s a little bit different than the stuff everyone’s heard.
MC: Are you really signing with Warner Bros.?
Perry: We think we are. If we don’t sign with them, you’re gonna see three dead bodies.
Steve: With X’s on them.
Perry: The papers are all like there and everything.
Steve: It’s an 80-page contract.
Dave: We’ve seen the contract.
Steve: It’s like a book.
Perry: And we know everything about that contract, too, by the way. Oh yeah, you think anything’s gonna get by us? Man, I’ll watch your spit fly!
Dave: We discussed producers and stuff like that.
Perry: Actually, we prefer a pushover.
MC: Someone you can boss around?
Perry: Oh, fuck yeah!
Steve: We have the best ideas.
Perry: Actually, I shouldn’t say that, ‘cuz hopefully we’ll get somebody who’s a great person to work with us. It’s just that, if a producer thinks they’re gonna go in there and tell us at all what’s the final say, they got the wrong band. They’ll find that out.
The Song Remains The Same
Anyone who has read even a review on Jane’s Addiction has undoubtedly seen the name Led Zeppelin used. The Led Zep comparison is inevitable, in that there are definite stylistic similarities between the humble ensemble and the dinosaur four. Says Navarro, “I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we can go on either end of the scale with our music – the fact that we do an acoustic set. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re actually imitating anything. A lot of times people don’t know what to call us.”
“There’s certain things we do that they do,” Farrell admits, “but I’ll guarantee you that before our career is up, we’re gonna introduce so many things that Led Zeppelin never thought of, just because that’s how it is. You get new pieces of things through past generations. Actually, we have influences that predate Led Zeppelin.”
Navarro (who more than slightly fuels the comparisons with his Les Paul, Echoplex, and cranked-out Marshall) continues to explanation: “Because we’re not exactly punk at all, and we’re not exactly like those metal bands that go from E to A changes all the time, and we don’t dress all glam – we’re more interested in the music – I think people don’t really know what it is. ‘Cuz it’s not punk or heavy metal, and it’s just like rockin’, and Zeppelin is one of the few bands where you can’t really say it’s heavy metal, and you can’t really say it’s funk. It’s just like a rock band.” Steve Perkins (whose syncopated yet thunderous style is not too dissimilar to John Bon-… on ever mind) sums it up like this: “I’d rather be compared to Zeppelin than Cheap Trick!”
Jane’s Addiction have totally won their reputation by playing the clubs of Los Angeles, with a Street Scene or an L.A. Weekly concert thrown in here and there. The show is pretty staggering. Perkins, forever smilin’ and groovin’ is a phenomenal drummer, and the structural freedom contained in his music allows him plenty of room, yet keeps him from seeming overbearing. Avery funks out hard and keeps the low end solid, but he finds room to take off now and then as well. Navarro is low-key visually, but his playing soars. Together, the three basically bear down and rock – no time or room for bullshit. Meanwhile, out in front, Perry Farrell takes on the role of “the entertainer,” but in such a nonstandard manner as to defy easy description. He rocks, dances, says whatever pops into his head, flings his dreadlocks through the air, and gyrates through an assortment of movements that are totally his own.
But Will Perry Play In Peoria?
While someone like your humble narrator (who sees a kabillion bands per year) finds Perry Farrell’s act quite refreshing, there are those in the music business who have raised eyebrows and grave doubts. One observer, who is an A&R bigwig at a major label (not Warners), said he/she felt that Perry’s image simply would not appear to the kids most likely to go for their music. Another observer, who manages a popular local act, simply calls Perry “The Birdman” because of his movements. In fact, everyone I’ve talked to who didn’t like the band basically said they “couldn’t get into the singer.” I ran these possible obstacles to Next-Big-Thingdom past Perry Farrell.
“Look, so what does that mean?” asks Perry. “Does that mean that I should calm myself down? I’m asking you, what do you think that means to me? Does that mean I better like behave myself? Oh, fuck it, I’ve though 200,000 light years past whatever that fuckin’ guy… whoever that guy was. I’ve though and thought and thought, it’s all I do; that’s why I fuckin’ am goin’ crazy. All I do is think. I know hwhat’s up. I think half the people are gonna the my guts and half are gonna like it. You want everyone to like you? If you don’t have controversy in your life, you’re not living, because everyone’s trying to homogenize. So you step out of line, you’re making a problem. It doesn’t bother me. That’s what rock & roll is all about.”
Keeping Ahead Of The Joneses
“We’re gonna come in front of their face and it’s gonna be different,” Perry continues. (He’s on a roll now.) “And you better be ahead of yourself, because you’re gonna be swept right out, man. Because I can rip off whatever you play now. I can go home and learn it as soon as you put your record out. Nobody has to wonder how to do it anymore; everybody knows everything about everyone else. So you better be ahead of everybody – really far ahead – eve to the point of being absurd slightly.”
Forever playing devil’s advocate, I inquire if, in this age of music specialists, the band is perhaps too diverse for their own good. Perry has an answer ready.
“You think about the bands and individuals that were the greatest, and one thing they all have in common is that they all had diversity,” he says. “Elvis Presley could sing a beautiful song and turn around and sing something the kids could flip out to. I think the problem is not with us; I think the problem is that the record industry has tried too hard in the past to predict what other people will like. And, as a result, they’re looking at life like a newspaper does, which is that most people have a 5th grade mentality. Which kinda sucks, ‘cuz you know what it does – it actually keeps you from growing and learning as a race. Hmm…
Sound And Vision
Say what you will, detract if you must – Jane’s Addiction is nothing if not unique, original, and in possession of (or possessed by) a vision. They’ve taken the time and care to present their ideas with a high level of musicianship and professionalism. And like most young men with a vision, they’re staring straight into the future.
“I foresee us getting into anything that’s possible that we want to do, and being accepted for at least trying to do it,” Perry finalizes. “It might not come off the greatest, but I think that half the reason people love bands is simply for the risks that they take.”
Trip away, boys.