The rocker talks about his demons, his delights, and the importance of black underwear.
There are whispers about Dave Navarro's Los Angeles house. He has a collection of surgical tools, they say. And a table made from a coffin, and blood-red walls. If the "they" in question were townsfolk, they'd say something along the lines of, "That boy's touched in the head," before shuffling off.
So when the Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist answers the door, it's a tad surreal to find that while his furnishings are fairly morbid, his house is actually sort of tasteful--cozy, even.
"Hello," Navarro says solemnly. He is wearing black pants and nothing else. It is clear to see that he makes regular gym visits. "Take a look around." Velvet drapes, a small pile of CDs ("I don't listen to much music--it's like, enough already") and, oh--there's the coffin and a dining table with a gynecologist's speculum and a bone saw on it. The kitchen--an understated pearl gray--is notable for its collection of Rene Russo photos on the fridge (Navarro has a boyish crush on the actress). Everything is spotlessly, medically clean.
"Six years ago my apartment was just full of, like, blood and syringes," Says Navarro, 30, extending a tattooed arm. "Every element of my life was in complete chaos. Now I'm just so aware of the things that happen all around me that I can't control. At least I know this stuff is in order."
Navarro is going to need some serious organizational skills, with three musical projects on the horizon: his former band Jane's Addiction's much ballyhooed Relapse Tour (which kicks off in late October), some heavy studio time with the Chili Peppers and the 1998 release of his side project, Spread, a collaboration with Peppers drummer Chad Smith. But for now, Navarro has a bit of time to choogle around the house.
He heads downstairs to the spare bedroom, which showcases a giant black bed. "In my close I have black T-shirts hanging," he says. "And socks and underwear, which should always be black." Huh? "You never know when you're going to be in a situation where you might have to take them off," he says. "And if they're white, there's a chance they may be...less than clean looking."
Because of the preponderance of photos of Navarro in glamorous situations (for instance, at a fashion show with the model Monet, his former girlfriend, or prowling the runway for Anna Sui), one could assume that he takes himself seriously. "I get a lof of, 'Um, why are you so dark>'" he says. "People are surprised that I have a sense of humor." He's also smart and completely self-effacing. Talk to him with your eyes closed and you'd have him pegged as an articulate computer geek with good comic timing.
"I say really non sequitur stuff to people all the time," he says. "If a waitress comes up and says, 'Enjoy your meal!' I'll look at her and say, 'Don't you ever tell me what to do.' And they're like, uh..."
Navarro pulls on a shirt and a pair of black Gucci work boots. "Don't tell anyone, but I think these are from last spring," he says soberly. "It's just not done. 'Did yhou get a load of Dave? He was wearing last spring's stuff!'"
"Dave's a total clotheshorse," says designer Sui, who dressed Navarro for these pages. "When he came for his fitting, my patternmakers and assistants were standing around just dying because he's so handsome. And he takes off all his clothes and says, 'OK, what are we gonna do?'" She laughs. "He's very comfortable showing his own skin."
He also knows, God bless him, that nothing is more annoying than going to a rock show only to discover that the band is wearing the same jeans and T-shirts you are. His typical stage wear may consist of, say, crotched see-through pants with black nut-huggers underneath, no shirt (to display his nipple rings), eye shadow and nail polish.
For all his joking around, Navarro will tell you himself that he is extremely moody. Given the events that shaped his life, he probably always will be.
In 1982, when Navarro was 15, his mother and his aunt were murdered by his mom's ex-boyfriend. "The guy that killed my mom lived with us for five year," Navarro says. "I loved this guy, you know? That was a huge message to me that people are going to do stuff whether you see it coming or not." He pauses. "I know I had nothing to do with my mom's death, but emotionally, as a 15-year-old kid, I felt responsible for it." The Los Angeles native moved in with his dad and immediately plunged into two things: rock & roll and drugs.
What added to Navarro's agony was that his mother's killer disappeared for eight years. (He was finally caught a few years ago; and in 1993, Navarro, as the only witness to the killing, had to face the man in court.) In 1986, Navarro, by then accomplished and inventive guitarist, joined groundbreaking Jane's Addiction, one of the best bands to emerge from the late '80s. After the band broke up in 1991, he lay low (a side project here, some session work there) until joining the Chili Peppers in 1993.
Although Navarro is an accessible guy (he sometimes gives fans his phone number), he's also something of an enigmatic figure. "I've heard I'm a womanizing a--hole," he says, "and that I was HIV positive. And I heard I was dead. I remember going, 'God, I can't believe there's not more of an outcry.' That was bad, because you realize no one's going to do anything. You turn on MTV to get the report and you get Singled Out."
Fortunately, Navarro's life these days is downright wholesome. His voices are "coffee, cigarettes, physical fitness and sex." He also sees a therapist, "to process stuff that happened to me as a kid and say goodbye to it. And know that's not who I am anymore."
Even though therapy has helped him immensely, Navarro still has his guard up. "I don't trust anyone," he says. "It's not to say that I'm Mr. Depressing Guy. I'm just saying I walk around with an awareness that s--- happens. So when something good happens, I'm happy. In that way, I'm constantly surprised by life."