"Jane's Addiction are a quintessential Los Angeles band,” said Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello as he inducted the band to Guitar Center's RockWalk in Hollywood on June 1st. “They’re a band that could have happened nowhere else, a band that sounds like the city in which they were formed. You can hear the violence, beauty, ocean, hope, smog, fear, and redemptive power of Los Angeles in Jane’s music."
Jane’s Addiction had just formed when Guitar Center held its first RockWalk induction ceremony in November, 1985. At that time the band’s core members—singer Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, and drummer Stephen Perkins—were not much different from the thousands of customers at the Hollywood Guitar Center who visit the store today to purchase the tools that help them fulfill their creative dreams and music career ambitions.
"This is a big deal for me," admits Navarro. "I was that kid that used to come to Guitar Center to try out all the guitars, amps, and pedals and hassle the employees by playing 'Stairway to Heaven' loudly and badly. Guitar Center has meant a lot to me my whole life. I was actually here when Jimmy Page was inducted to RockWalk, but never did I dream that Jane's Addiction would be honored like that."
"We've been Guitar Center diehards since Day One," adds Farrell. “Every day young kids walk out of here with new equipment. You never know which one of those kids is going to make music for the rest of the world to love, remember, get married to, have children to, and party in the summer to. There may be some kid out there watching us today who is going to be putting his hands in cement 20 years from now. It's really great to have a place like Guitar Center that gives back to the artists and does so much for bands."
Jane's Addiction is helping Guitar Center help aspiring artists by teaming up with them for the latest On Stage promotion. One incredibly lucky and uniquely talented band will win the incredible opportunity to open for Jane's Addiction on their upcoming world tour in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The winning band will also receive $20,000 worth of Gibson and Epiphone gear, a $10,000 shopping spree at Guitar Center, and a mentoring session with Prospect Park, which also manages Jane's Addiction.
"Back in the late ‘80s we opened shows for X, the Psychedelic Furs, Love and Rockets, Iggy Pop, and the Ramones," says Perkins. "Playing those shows really changed our career. We got to play in front of those bands' audiences and steal them, too, because we put on great shows."
"It was fun," Farrell elaborates. "We'd watch their moves to see how they'd work the audience. We also saw what they did after the shows."
"We learned a lot about what to do," Navarro interjects, "and certainly a lot about what not to do."
Those experiences paid off well as Jane's Addiction quickly ascended from a cult Hollywood club sensation in 1988 when they released Nothing's Shocking to the leaders of the alternative rock movement in 1991 when the band headlined Farrell's first Lollapalooza festival, which was also was the band's farewell tour preceding their initial breakup. The band briefly reunited temporarily for the 1997 Relapse tour and again on a longer-lasting basis for the 2001 Jubilee tour, which led to band recording the album Strays. While touring in 2003 to support that album, Jane's Addiction broke up again.
The most recent reunion of Jane's Addiction occurred in 2008 when British music magazine NME honored the band with its "Godlike Genius Award." "It was the first time any American had received this award," says Farrell. "They asked me to perform ‘Jane Says,' but I didn't feel good about getting the award without the other guys, so I asked them if they would perform and receive the award with me. Not only was everybody cool with doing it, they also were interested in getting back together on more of a long term. I saw how people badly missed the band, and I felt we still had lots of music to make."
Since then Jane's Addiction has toured several times, but this year the band is giving fans what they really want—a brand new studio album. Titled The Great Escape Artist, the album took a while to make because the band wanted to make certain it was as good as it possibly could be.
"A Jane's Addiction record does not come together quickly," says Perkins. "Although art can't be perfect, we wanted this album to perfectly live up to the potential we knew it could. Sometimes when you're playing a show you know that the music you're making is unbeatable, but in the studio it's a much slower pace and a lot more decisions need to be made. We can record a song in one night, but will we want it to be on a record that fans have been waiting 10 years to hear? If you take your time and craft something, it's going to be better after a month of working on it."
Another reason for the delay was the band's ever-shifting roster of bass players. Although original Jane's bassist Eric Avery made his long-awaited return for the NME Awards and the tours that followed, he once again departed before the band entered the studio. Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver bassist Duff McKagan briefly took Avery's place, but he also quit a few months into the recording process. Chris Chaney, who has played bass with Jane's on and off since 2002, performs live with the band, but in the studio Dave Sitek, best known for his work with TV on the Radio, has taken over bass duties in addition to co-producing the record with Rich Costey.
"Rich, who is friends with Dave, recommended him," says Navarro. "Dave has a really unique way of writing, recording, and producing. We often write songs by jamming together with ideas coming from a guitar riff, bass riff, or a drum pattern. It's a challenge to do that when you don't have that third instrument and its bottom end, so we jumped at the option to have him do some creative work with us. Even though he's not in the band he's dedicated a lot of time and worked really hard for us. In fact, I consider Dave Sitek one of our most inspirational and effective contributors of all time."
"Working with Sitek is like putting a drop of blue dye into a cup of water," says Perkins. "The whole water turns blue. Dave, Perry, and I have worked together for 25 years compared to two months of working with Sitek, but he really made a huge ripple on our work."
Costey, who previously produced Navarro's Trust No One solo album and has worked with Muse and My Chemical Romance, also collaborated with the band more like a member than the usual aloof producer. "Rich just hears things differently than all of us," raves Perkins. "When Rich walked in to the first sessions, I had never seen so many engineers and microphones on one drum set. He had four or five snare mics, six bass drum mics, and three mics on each tom-tom. When we cut the drums we spent a lot of time exploring drum sounds and rhythm. It sounded unbelievable when he played back what he had to offer. A simple drum sound turned into something that could be a wall of sound or a tiny little thing like you'd hear on a Steely Dan record. It was all right there at his fingertips."
While Jane's Addiction has embraced technology over the years—Farrell in particular is a big fan of dance and electronic music production techniques—the album was recorded somewhat traditionally to tape. "Nothing sounds better than reel-to-reel tape when you're tracking drums and bass," says Farrell. "Tape saturation makes a big difference. It's expensive to record that way, but we wanted the highest sound quality possible."
However, the band also relied heavily on computers, especially during the songwriting process. Farrell also recorded all of his vocals to a computer at his home studio, working with engineer Dustin Mosley. "During the recording process the tools of your craft become a silent member of the band," explains Navarro. "We'd write songs in the traditional way by jamming, but sometimes we'd plug into the computer and work out ideas there."
"After recording hours and hours of jamming, we'd grab the best pieces," says Farrell. "That might be only 10 seconds out of a two-hour jam, and then we'd start to develop that idea by smashing and mashing up the pieces. While that was going on, I was keeping my songwriting journal and writing about my experiences. I'd get the demos and start rifling through my journal to find something that fit."
Navarro says that the process of recording guitars for The Great Escape Artist was vastly different than anything he's ever done before. In the past, he relied mainly on his stage rig, which consists of his Paul Reed Smith signature model guitar, a Marshall JCM900 amp, and a handful of effects pedals. This time around he experimented with using different amps, including a Fender Twin Reverb that was used for most of the clean guitar tones, and a lot of different guitars, including a Gretsch White Falcon and several Fender Telecasters, although his PRS still remained his main instrument.
"I've used PRS guitars since the opening night of Lollapalooza when I threw all of my guitars into the audience as an act of rebellion," says Navarro. "Chris Haskett from the Rollins Band loaned me one of his Paul Reed Smiths and I loved it. He put me in touch with PRS and they started making guitars for me. It's an honor to have a PRS signature model and to be ranked among some of the greatest guitar players in the world."
Whereas many bands that have been around for 25 or more years are content to keep performing their old hits and rehash past triumphs on their studio albums, Jane's Addiction continues to be as ambitious as ever. That's a huge challenge for a band that has spent more years apart than it has together over the last 25 years. "It hurts to go forward," admits Perkins. "It's like breaking out of an egg. We want to go past sounding like retro Jane's Addiction and break new ground. That's why we spent our time making sure this album was right and we went through the growth that we needed to experience."
"I'm certain we'll always end up working together as Jane's Addiction," adds Navarro, "even though we've all made different records and participated in different projects with different artists. Right now we're very dedicated to this record, but if any frustrations or tensions should arise we're all able to go off and do something else for a while before coming back."
"We didn't take the easy road when we made this album," says Farrell. "I think our fans are going to be happy that we recorded another album even though we didn't repeat what we've already done. We're not resting on our laurels. We're creating new sounds and making music that is very much in step with today's music."