It must be true that there's no substitute for experience, as the 2003 model of Jane's Addiction is a lean musical juggernaut. With the exception of new bassist, Chris Chaney, the L.A. band's current line-up is the same as the 1990 incarnation that recorded Ritual De Lo Habitual, their last album. Hypersonic (Warner Bros.), the group's long-awaited new effort, reflects the 13 years of experiences that vocalist Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, and drummer Stephen Perkins have garnered in the interim.
Songs like "Strays," "Price I Pay," "Warm Girl," and the title track feature the quartet combining a streamlined version of their experimental, psychedlic sound with tight, blistering, hard-rocking musicianship. The results are raw, sonically dazzling numbers that recall the versatility of such multi-faceted metal gods as Led Zeppeling and Sabbath.
"We're at the top of our game," Navarro says of the band as musicians. "Individually, we're the best we'eve ever sounded. Chris is such a flexible bassist that I'd never play with anybody else after him. He is the last in the long line of Jane's bassits. And for me as a guitarist, no one pulls more creative stuff out of me than Perry. And now Bob Ezrin."
Besides the combination, of which producer Ezrin says, "The minute they got into one room together it was buzzing with affection, empathy, and mutual inspiration; it was an incredible positive energy around the band," Navarro credits the quartet's seperation and outside endeavors during that time as the source of their growth as a band.
"The four of us all have such full lives outside of here, so we all have many experiences that we bring back into this. Not only from our relationships with our families, but other creative projects," Navarro says. "Perry is always deejaying, and he brings that energy in here; Stephen and I are in other bands, and we get to play with other great musicians. That awakens some part of my creativity that I bring to Jane's Addiction, which is the family unit and the place I want to bring my most wonderful creative experiences."
Other sources of the aural excellence displayed on Hypersonic are producer Bob Ezrin and producer/musician John Shanks (Melissa Ethridge, Michelle Branch). "We were lucky enough to record right across the hall from John's studio [at Henson Studios in L.A.]," Navarro says. "So when it comes to gear, I pretty much had anything I needed at my disposal. Anything from Teles to Strats to [Electro-Harmonix] Memory Mans, old f---ed-up pedals, [MXR] Phase 90s, [Ibanez] Tube Screamers--things I would never use in my arsenal, so it was an invaluable gift to have him there and become friends with him; he's an amazing talent as well."
While the versatile Shanks provided Navarro with a full aresnal of gear, Navarro says he still relied on his tried-and-true setup for the bulk of Hypersonic. "To do a session properly, I like to have a Paul Reed Smith, a [Fender] Strat, and a [Gibson] Les Paul handy; maybe a 12-string or six-string Martin acoustic," he says. "I need a Bogner Ecstacy Head, a Marshall JCM 900, a 50W Marshall combo, and even a Tech 21, one of those little guys, which Bob has. I use a range of strings from .009-.011. I go with the [Dunlop] Hendrix Crybaby--that's my favorite wah pedal. I use a digital delay by Boss, and I use a Line 6 POD, and I'm pretty straight to go."
As for how he achieves the rich, multi-layered guitar sounds that permeate Hypersonic, Navarro says, "Primarily I use just straight distortion out of whatever head I'm using and a little delay. And then for special things, I might dabble in special pedals. But I like to have a combination of amps, 'cause I like to double my tracks--on my rhythms for sure, and I definately want different sounds for that."
When you've waited 13 years between albums, what's a few more months? Although the band has been technically in the studio over a year, Ezrin says they've really only logged four months of studio time. The rest of that period, Jane's has been honoring various commitments, including playing several live dates in the U.S. as well as the Big Day Out festival in Australia.
Though Navarro admits that the stopping and starting might not have been the best situation for Ezrin as a producer, the guitarist says it's helped the band immensely from a recording standpoint.
"For us as players," he says, "to go out on tour, come back, have that energy exchanged between us and the audience, get really fluid with the material, and then come back in the studio is completely amazing. We come back as a better band, and I think the remainder of the recording reflects that."