The alternative rock pioneers are prepping the release of "The Great Escape Artist"
CNN visits band during video shoot for new single, "Irresistible Force"
Lead singer Perry Farrell says the song chronicles how the universe was created
If you didn’t know that Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins were members of Jane’s Addiction, you might think they belonged to three different bands – and Farrell is the first to admit it.
“One guy’s just a ball of sunshine. That’s Stephen,” the singer said. “Then Dave is like a black hole sometimes, like places where he goes. And me? I’m just like a pingpong ball put in the cosmos, man.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, pretty much sums up the genius of Jane’s Addiction – the friction of three disparate parts rubbing together, until finally, it explodes into a glorious musical fireball. It’s a chemical reaction that, throughout the band’s 26-year-history, has all too often imploded as well.
“I’m not really sure how many times we’ve parted ways,” said Navarro, the group’s guitarist. “I wasn’t really one of the people who thought we wouldn’t be back together, primarily because we’ve gotten back together so many times over the years. We don’t break up anymore. We just go on five-year hiatuses.”
The alternative rock pioneers are prepping the October 18 release of “The Great Escape Artist,” their first studio album in eight years.
“The sound is definitely updated on this album,” Farrell said. “The differences are that we are now working with synthesizers and computer software that goes with guitars, so you’ll hear a lot of very modern sounds mixed in with what people call the ageless, or timeless, sound of Jane’s Addiction.”
With original bassist Eric Avery, Jane’s Addiction put a soundtrack to the gritty Southern California underground arts scene of the late 1980s. The group’s first studio album, “Nothing’s Shocking,” was an examination of love, lust, violence and drugs. By 1990, the band was all over rock radio with “Stop!” and “Been Caught Stealing,” a pair of hit singles off its sophomore disc, “Ritual de lo Habitual.” The new CD is only the group’s fourth studio album.
“We pull from the environment,” said drummer Perkins. “Jane’s Addiction wrote our (first) music in Hollywood in 1986. You hear Los Angeles. You hear that Mexico is only 100 miles away from us. You can hear the struggle, and also the glory, of being a musician in L.A. Our music was never negative, but it had that strong urge. You wanted to go f**k, not to go punch. And I think Jane’s still has that.”
CNN visited the band during a video shoot for the new single, “Irresistible Force,” on a Hollywood soundstage. Farrell, the lyricist, said the song chronicles how the universe was created. “I say the big bang was actually a conscious act of cosmic lovemaking.”
Perkins, the pragmatist, has a different interpretation. “To me, the ‘Irresistible Force’ is what pulls me, Dave and Perry together. Ever since I was 13, I’ve been playing with Navarro. I met Perry when I was 17. And no matter how much we stopped playing with each other, and tried to get away from each other, it’s the magnet – it pulls us closer.”
The band members discussed their reunion and new album and how they’ve avoid fistfights for nearly two decades:
CNN: How does it feel to have Jane’s Addiction back together again?
Perry Farrell: I love performing with Jane’s Addiction. I hope I get to do it all my life. It’s healthy for bands to take a break every now and then. People are really looking forward to this new record because they’re a little starved. I’m pulling the old woman’s trick of making them want, and want, and need and desire.
CNN: Who’s the peacemaker who calls and says, “Let’s try this again?”
Dave Navarro: I don’t really know how it happens. I’m all about peace, but it’s like with any family. If there’s a conflict in a family, and it’s Thanksgiving, and everybody gets together, and you have a few drinks and you start chatting with the family member that you have a problem with – next thing you know, it’s all water under the bridge.
Stephen Perkins: If we’re not getting along, we don’t just stay together because we’re getting paid for it. But when we like each other, the music sounds better, and it feels better to cash those checks when you’re doing it with friends.
Navarro: The old stuff percolates, of course, but the tools we have as adults are different to handle it, you know what I mean? When you’re younger, you’re not as equipped – or at least we weren’t equipped – to handle diverse personalities. What seemed a big deal at 19 is way less of a big deal in your 40s.
CNN: So no awesome fistfights lately?
Navarro: No, no. People keep asking about that. That was done in like ’91. That was done a long time ago, and I don’t even have any recollection of that.
CNN: Maybe that was part of the problem.
Navarro: That probably contributed to the problem. (Chuckles)
CNN: Do you think you’d still be making music if you had continued to live the way you were living?
Navarro: Well, I can’t speak for anybody else about that, but I certainly feel that any day above ground is a blessing. Been through a lot.
CNN: How do you think you guys would have held up through the scrutiny that’s part of today’s culture?
Navarro: When Jane’s Addiction got started, it was the ’80s, and there weren’t cell phones, and there weren’t people chasing people down the street with cameras, and there wasn’t the Internet, and there wasn’t cable news the way it is now. And I don’t know if we’d be where we are, quite frankly, if there was, because we had some what I’d like to call ‘colorful times.’ You know, the less widely reported, the better.
CNN: In order to generate press sometimes, you can’t be just a musician. You have to be a musician/celebrity.
Navarro: I didn’t write the book, but I read the book that earlier had been written by Tommy Lee.
CNN: Are people meaner now?
Navarro: Back in the old days, there was no “commenting” section. Whatever comments you had were up here (points to his head), or you told your friend. It wasn’t like public fodder. So yeah, people are meaner now. Sure. But you’ve got to take the attitude of, “OK, we’re in a blessed position.” You can’t ask the world to entirely love you.
CNN: The story of Jane’s Addiction is very rock ‘n’ roll.
Farrell: We’ve definitely had some dark moments. What would a story be without the dark moments? Part of the greatness of any story is that you can rise up out of that darkness and shake off the dust and the dirt.
CNN: How are things different now?
Farrell: Socially, we’ve never really hung out, although these days, I’m inviting the guys to things that I do just because I love ‘em. But we definitely go to different parts of the universe. Some bands, they all have to like the same thing, and as a result, the sound is very linear, and once the time passes, they sound dated. When it comes to our prescription, we like to have different elements of music and influence coming together. That’s what makes a new sound.
Perkins: Jane’s Addiction used to be the only thing in my life, and now, I’ve got so many other things. My pie has got a few slices. There isn’t just one slice. But it’s always got whipped cream on it, and it’s always really warm, and I can’t wait to get another bite of it.