Dave Navarro gets a new lease on life thanks to a Jane's Addiction reunion, Carmen Electra and Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin.
Once a dark and moody guy, Dave Navarro is looking positively happy these days. And why shouldn't he? The buff, goateed guitarist is in great shape, he's engaged to uberbabe Carmen Electra and he's rapidly becoming the dean of the ever glamourous West Hollywood rock scene, jamming with the likes of Slash, Ron Wood, Kid Rock, Macy Gray, Nikka Costa, the Cult's Billy Duffy and Fuel's Brett Scallions under the aegis of his celelbrity pickup band, Camp Freddy.
As if all that weren't enough to put a grin on his face, Navarro has just completed a new album, Hypersonic (Capitol), with Jane's Addiction, the band that first brought him to fame at the dawn of the Nineties. Not only have Jane's Addiction reunited, they're also bringing back the Lollapalooza tour, which they'll be headlining this year. Sharing the main stage are Audioslave, Incubus, Queens of the Stone Age, Jurassic 5, A Perfect Circle and the Donnas. Navarro promises that the fest will be something completely different: "The same Lollapalooza you know--in name only."
It is hard to underestimate the influence Jane's Addiction and Lollapalooza had in shaping the sound and spirit of rock music during the past dozen or so years. By putting a freaky spin on heavy metal riffology, Jane's set the stage for both grunge and nu-metal. And Lollapalooza is the godparent of summer blockbuster tours like Ozzfest and Warped. It was Lollapalooza that pioneered the idea of a second stage for more edgy acts, and alternative-lifestyle booths. Lollaplooza's carnivalesque atmosphere did much to codify the pierced, tattooed hybrid of neo-paganism and trailer park chic that has since become mainstream youth culture. But now that all of that has been sagely congealed and packaged for easy consumption at your local suburban mall, Jane's Addiction singer and Lollapalooza mastermind Perry Farrell has decided it's time to shake things up again.
"Even if Jane's Addiction were just to rehash what we were doing in the Nineties, it still seems fresh in today's climate," says Navarro, comfortable ensconced in the funky-cool environs of Scream studio just over the hill from West Hollywood, where the mixdown of Hypersonic is being completed. "But fortunately," the guitarist adds, "we're not just rehashing what we did in the past. There's still a flavor there that will be familiar as Jane's Addiction, but obviously we've all progressed."
To prove his point, Navarro pops in a CD and offeres Guitar World a preview of some key tracks from Hypersonic. From the first jolting downbeat, the tracks bristle with a focused aggression that Jane's Addiction have never quite achieved before. A song called "Wrong Girl" alternates chunky funk verses--a nod to Navarro's time in the Red Hot Chili Peppers--with classic Jane's Addiction chrouses that set Farrell's cavernous yodel against dramatic half-step chord modulations. Another track, "Just Because," is expansive, heavy and rife with interesting chording and serpentine guitar lines.
"I'm proud of what we did in the past," says Navarro. "But I'm really proud of this."
Hypersonic was produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Nine Inch Nails). It also introduces the newest Jane's Addiction bass player, Chris Chaney. The bassist gets to show what he's made of on a track called "Price I Pay," managing to channel both Paul McCartney and Chris Squire over the course of the song's epic trajectory.
"It's rock, dude." That's how Navarro sums up Hypersonic. "There are interesting parts. Everybody is taking time to think about what they're playing. But it still has that sense of abandon. 'Cause that's what rock is to me: a well-thought-out sense of abandon."
GW: How long did it take to make Hypersonic? DN: About nine months in all. There were two songs left over from the old days--the first incarnation of this band. One is called "Everybody's Friend," and the other is called "Suffer Some." We initially went into the studio with the intention of recording those two songs. And we were having such a good time we continued writing and recording. So basically we wrote this record in the big room at Henson [the legendary Hollywood facility that was formerly A&M studios--GW Ed.]. This record has really taken some different turns. It started out being a little more electronically influenced. Then we just scrapped that and said, "We're the best when we're playing music live." There's still a bit of programming here and there and some fun experimental sounds with computers. But for the most part, it's a live rock band.
GW: How did Bob Ezrin enter the picture? DN: We were given a list of producers to choose from--suggestions from our management. And as soon as we saw Bob Ezrin's name on there we didn't even look at any of the other names. it was a good marriage from the start. Bob is a very skilled musician as well as producer, so he brought a lot to the table. He was very much a part of the writing process with us--more so in the direction and arrangement than anything else.
GW: Is The Wall really your favorite album, as you stated on the Jane's Addiction web site? DN: It really is. There's a couple, actually. The Wall is up there, and I would say the original recording of the Who's Tommy is up there, too. And David Gilmour is just one of my favorite guitar players of all time. What I like about The Wall is how deep it is. You can hear something new every time you listen to it. It's pretty cool to hear stories from Bob about recording that album. Actually, for my birthday last year, he gave me an amplifier that David Gilmour used for The Wall. It's still marked with the settings for particular songs from the album. It makes you feel kind of cool to be friends with Bob Ezrin. I answer my cell phone and it's Bob. I've been talking to him for a year now, but I still hang up and say to myself, "Wow, the guy who did The Wall just called me in my car! Fuckin' rad."
GW: Do you think the time is right for Jane's Addiction to reemerge? DN: I really do. Music's at a place right now where it's ready for just about anything. Something new, fresh and exciting.
GW: In other words, everything sucks right now? DN: Well, I'm not saying that. Bands are writing very well these days, it seems. But I miss musicianship. Everything seems to have gotten very electronic and Pro Tools. Even rock. I mean, electronic music is great. But when people started applying it to rock, it became very compartmentalized and packaged. But Jane's Addiction is a band full of great musicians. We're like the Chili Peppers in that way. We're true players. That's the kind of thing we'd like to see come from the forefront on the Lollapalooza tour, with bands like Audioslave and Queens of the Stone Age on the bill. Tom Morello is one of my favorite guitar players of all time. He does something really different with soungs and soloing. His parts are amazing.
GW: Obviously Perry and everyone felt the time was right for Lollapalooza to reemerge as well. DN: This has been the master plan since [2001's] Jubilee Tour. So it's really exciting to see it come to fruition. The tour's going to be wired. There's going to be a lot of new technology used. it's still called Lollapalooza, but it's a brand-new festival with a whole new attitude.
GW: Do you like touring? DN: I've started really enjoying it. It used to be that I only enjoyed doing shows, and I didn't like everyhing that came in between shows. But now we have touring down to a science. We've come to a place after all this time where we have very similar interest. So whether it's the gym or movies or sightseeing, a bunch of us go and hang.
GW: You must have to bring your weights with you. DN: No, I use hotel gyms. And to be honest with you the shows are enough exercise on their own. I always end up losing weight on tour. Being onstage is like an hour and a half of cardio exercise every night. So if I do anything else, it's more like yoga, so I can stretch out. Our bass player, Chris Chaney, is a devout vegan and yoga master guru-type guy. So he's very inspiring. He's in unbelievable shape and he eats really well. He kind of kicks it up another notch. So it's not like there's Twinkies lying around on the bus. It's more like handfuls of driend granola and lecithin.
But really, the best thing is that we're on a big enough tour where, if we want our loved ones near us, we can have that. My girlfriend can fly out whenever she can. It's nice because Perry's got a wife and two kids. Chris has a wife and a kid, and another one on the way. I'm engaged and [drummer Stephen Perkins] is married. So it's really kind of like a family.
GW: So you're still with Carmen Electra? DN: Yeah.
GW: Do you share the same tastes in music? DN: Not always. Like, there are three guitar solos that are my favorite, like on the radio. Everytime one of those songs come on I turn it up. And she's like, "Honey, do we have to listen to that?" I'm like, "Honey, this is the shit! Listen to this guy!" She just rolls her eyes.
GW: Okay, what are these three guitar solos? DN: They're weird. I've never told anyone what they are before. One is the guitar solo for Eddie Money...what's that song? GW: "Two Tickets to Paradise"? DN: Yeah. That guitar solo is unbelievable! It's perfect. Listen to it carefully. And then another one is that song "Baker Street." Who does that song? I don't even know the guy's name. GW: Gerry Rafferty. DN: Yeah. [whistles solo] And the third one is "Magic Man" by Heart. Unbelievable. If you really listen to what those guitars are doing, it's brilliant.