In 2003, Jane’s Addiction returned from exile to release the long-awaited follow-up to Ritual de lo habitual in the form of Strays. 13 years in the making, and with plenty of time away from the world of JA to reflect, we caught up with the band to find out what was going on in their heads and what it meant to be in Jane’s Addiction at the turn of the century.
A is for… Addiction
Dave Navarro (guitars): “We all had addictive personalities so it was inevitable that all of Janeʼs would get involved in self-destructive drugs because they were so freely available when we were starting off. To a large extent, it was those problems that led to so many difficulties the first time around, but weʼve all grown up since then. Weʼve all found new focus in our lives that means nothing can distract us from making Janeʼs Addiction work again.”
B is for… Bassist, new
Chris Chaney (bass): “Was it daunting? Completely. When Iʼd sit at home and think about what I was going to do it was an awesome proposition, a challenge Iʼd forever regret passing up. Then you jam with these guys who are your heroes and you find out theyʼre the coolest people youʼve ever worked with.”
Dave: “As soon as we started playing with Chris we knew. It was like – whoosh, the ground lifted up.”
Perry (Farrell, vocals): “Chris was the missing piece and heʼs here and our relationship with him is growing all the time, on the road, in the studio, day to day. That gang mentality we had is coming back all the time. It helps that he’s a phenomenal musician, but more importantly heʼs a friend that we want to be with. Thatʼs crucial.”
Dave: “Itʼs not just about how Chris fits with us, itʼs about how we fit around Chris. The whole dynamic now is of us editing each other, it feels like everyone has a say even though Perry is our boss. He always was, he always will be ʼcos we love him and ultimately itʼs his vision.”
C is for… Changes
Stephen (Perkins, drums): “When we started writing the album [Strays] what immediately became plain was that Jesus, we havenʼt just been wasting our time for a decade. Weʼve all got better!”
Perry: “Stephen has always been the most awesome drummer Iʼve ever been with, always able to switch so effortlessly between full-tilt rockʼnʼroll and all kinds of world music, all kinds of funk – heʼs just the best. And Dave came back with the best playing heʼs ever done. As soon as we started jamming again it was like all the weaknesses we had were gone, weʼre all at the absolute top of our game. But all the weaknesses that matter, weʼve still got. Weʼre still suckers for romance. We still think we can make rockʼnʼroll an art.”
D is for… Dave’s Shits
Dave: “Hey, Chris, stop talking to this guy and come here right now, Iʼve got something to show you! [drags Chris off to the bathroom for two minutes, after which they both emerge, Dave giggling, Chris smirking with a faint air of dizzy disgust].”
Chris: “He had to show me this marvellous motion heʼd just accomplished.”
Dave: “Perfectly formed, straight, long, floater.”
E is for… Ezrin, Bob
Producer of the Janeʼs Addiction album, Strays.
Perry: “We were always of the attitude that no one could teach us about our music. We were always resistant to ʻoutsidersʼ ʼcos it was the one thing in our lives we were sure of. But when youʼre dealing with someone like Bob, the man who produced [Pink Floydʼs] The Wall you do kind of have an added respect for his opinions.”
F is for… Fans
Chris: “As a massive fan of Janeʼs I was caught in a weird position: you find yourself torn between trying to forget everything you know about the band ‘cause you want to experience it fresh, and also factoring in everything you know ‘cause it adds so massively to the excitement. But I think every night we manage to shake off the pressures of history and reputation – itʼs like weʼre actually the greenest, most naïve band out there ‘cause the things we still believe in have almost been written out of modern rock.”
G is for… Gap
Not the white trash overpriced rag store but the decade-long gap we spent waiting between Ritual de lo habitual and Strays.
Perry: “People are always asking us stuff about Ritual and those times but that was years ago. I mean, I was a different person. Iʼm not even sure who I was. I personally care a hell of a lot less about the past than I do for the future. People are almost resentful of the fact weʼve left it this long but I think Strays proves that itʼs been worth the wait.”
H is for… Humanity
Always Janeʼs main inspiration.
Perry: “I think weʼre aware of how powerlessness feels. The comedy of it, the absurdity of human life – these are all things that rockʼnʼroll essentially wants to overthrow. Rockʼnʼroll wants to be sure. What people responded to and what people are responding to right now is the fact that when we look at ourselves, we donʼt just see a reason to furrow our brows and whine. Weʼre more likely to laugh or blow ourselves a kiss. Happiness is a rare thing. The bravest thing sometimes.”
I is for… Influential
Stephen: “Weʼre always touted as this very influential band. I donʼt see it. I mean, I see plenty of bands claiming us as an influence. But I donʼt see many bands actually taking on what we did and do. I think itʼs ‘cause no-one else in the world is exactly like us, or has this unique mix of personalities and backgrounds that we have. Dave and I are heavy metal kids, full stop. But Perry is a true star. I just think that a lot of the bands who claim weʼre an influence merely like what we did without ever realising the truth of it. And that truth is to be honest to yourself and be ambitious about what a rock band can do and say. Everything thatʼs happened since weʼve been away just seems a little bit too sensible in that regard – a little too self-obsessed.”
J is for… Jane Says
One of the classic Janeʼs Addiction songs.
Stephen: “Itʼs not difficult to reconnect with the old material every night because the whole thing with us live is that itʼs been like a thousand moments happening at once. You canʼt take songs out individually and de-contextualise them. Itʼs the whole experience with Janeʼs, from start to finish, itʼs the feeling it leaves you with. And those are some great fucking songs we did back then. Weʼd be insane to leave them out of our live set. We donʼt do Been Caught Stealing ʼcause we hate it! But everything on Strays stands up to our supposed ʻclassicsʼ – the way the old and new songs work together is great. If you were in a band that had Jane Says in your back catalogue would you leave it out? Cʼmon.”
K is for… Korea
The place where the girls currently performing a pedicure on Dave Navarroʼs feet originate from.
Dave: “Isn’t this great? It doesnʼt even matter if your feet stink! They clean them, buff them, polish your nails, put on your varnish and leave you feeling like you’re walking in Jesusʼ own flip-flops! Do you want one?”
L is for… Los Angeles
Perry: “We had to come from LA. In that we had both the superficiality of the place and the depth of it. We were in love with old Hollywood but horrified by new Hollywood, totally excited by the scene we were in but always aware of the ocean. So you felt insignificant and all-powerful at the same time. LA is always where America runs out of horizon and it has to look at itself and look at the stars and look at the ocean and figure out who the fuck it is.”
M is for… Missed Opportunities
Chris: “My overwhelming feeling as a fan of Janeʼs Addiction was something that I think every fan of Janeʼs Addiction felt at the time. WHY? WHY SPLIT? YOUʼRE THE GREATEST! It was really upsetting at the time ‘cause you felt that this was such an amazing band that were only just starting to really prove themselves. And then, pffft, it all disappeared. When I heard that Janeʼs were thinking of starting again it was like all your Christmases arriving at once. Because you always felt that, shit, here are all these bands carrying on way past their sell-by dates but hereʼs a band whoʼve pulled the plug when theyʼve got so much more to say.”
Perry: “If absence makes the heart grow fonder weʼre all crazy in love for this right now. Nothing else feels as simultaneously cool and utterly releasing as this.”
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N is for… New album Strays
Perry: “Musically itʼs got more variety than weʼve ever achieved. Itʼs a way more focused song-driven record than weʼve ever done before.”
Stephen: “Thereʼs no extraneous indulgence on there, but every song can still go in any direction at any moment. Itʼs got this feeling that anything could happen but also this really concise drive to it. And Perryʼs lyrics are the best heʼs ever done. This fucking guy man, he pulled it out of the fire, and we all did. Weʼre all great on this record! None of us can bitch about anyone else. Although we will!”
O is for… Old Age
Stephen: “[Perry’s] got more to say than virtually every 20-something frontman you can see right now. Dave and me were so fucking young when Janeʼs started; Perry was always kind of our seer. We were willing to be guided by him ʼcos he just seemed to know so much, heʼd met so many great artistic people and absorbed all the lessons they had to give. And itʼs still like that. Ask Dave.”
Dave: “Whoʼs my boss? Perry, without a doubt. We can all have our own ideas and run our mouths off as much as we like but thereʼs no point pretending different: Perry is our guiding light, heʼs the animator, heʼs the person who gets Janeʼs Addiction motoring, heʼs the fire within all of us. Heʼs as old as he makes me feel. Which makes him 15.”
P is for… the Past
Dave: “It is kind of frustrating that with such a great new album to talk about all everyone wants to ask us about is the past.”
Stephen: “Itʼs to be expected though, I mean, the story has never really properly been told. The past obviously affects what weʼre doing, but at the same time Strays is a totally fresh thing, itʼs something that takes on everything weʼve done since the last Janeʼs album. I think that this is the album where we have to face all that stuff about the past – but it also wipes the slate clean so that the next time around people will just ask us about right now. ‘Cause thatʼs all that really matters to us.”
Perry: “I donʼt mind talking about the past because at least it is we, the band, who get to set the record straight. I donʼt particularly appreciate the past getting rewritten by people who werenʼt even there, or ex-girlfriends who seem to think they have a better idea about me! It’s like we said in Three Days: “Everyoneʼs talking about the good old days/Well for us, these are the days” – that always was the truest line and it still is.”
Q is for… Quotability
Jane’s Addiction have always supplied memorable soundbites in their interviews over the years. But with none that begin with ʻqʼ…
R is for… Red Hot Chili Peppers
Just one of the bands who took on Janeʼs personnel.
Stephen: “Porno For Pyros, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alanis Morrisette, goddamn Christina Aguilera, solo projects. All that experience playing with other people has totally expanded us, itʼs totally made coming back together all the more easier. Weʼre actually acting like professionals now!”
S is for… Stern, Howard
Perry: “Who in a roundabout way is partly responsible for Janeʼs getting back together. Dave and Flea started hanging out with us with Porno For Pyros after the second album came out and Pete DiStefano was ill. And we decided to do a song together for that movie Private Parts. Eric Avery refused to rejoin so we got Flea in and did the Relapse tour.”
Stephen: “We raised about $120,000 on that tour and we took it to Africa, bought slaves in Sudan and freed them all. We used Janeʼs money to actually do something, and I feel like we could do that again.”
T is for… Ten Years
Perry: “Seems like a long time doesnʼt it? But only ‘cause weʼve been away. The next ten years will be a blur now.”
U is for… Unfinished Business
Stephen: “The weird thing is that weʼre more successful now than we were a decade ago. When I was 18 I thought weʼd be a band whoʼd develop a catalogue, hang around for a decade building up a back catalogue. It never happened like that but now we have the chance to hold on to our vision. Thereʼs never been a better time for this band.”
V is for… Vindication
Perry: “Every night weʼve played Lollapalooza this time around itʼs felt like a victory, or rather a vindication. Lollapalooza was the first US rolling festival and I didnʼt want to watch that phenomenon get taken away from me. The fact that a load of disconnected bands we love can still pull crowds who arenʼt into petty genre distinctions and just want to hear great music is totally cool.”
W is for… Words
Stephen: “What I always loved about Janeʼs Addiction was that Perryʼs lyrics were so important. Theyʼre not just lyrics you can sing along to, theyʼre not even lyrics you necessarily empathise with, theyʼre just him in prose. Theyʼre lyrics in which, if you want, you can see colossal political significance.”
Perry: “Weʼd never be so crass as to issue specific political demands – our tone is way more elegiac than that, weʼre more about remembering a time when humanity did matter, and thatʼs ancient. Weʼre more about a romantic longing for a better world. And donʼt forget, weʼve got songs about girls as well. I canʼt tell you if Iʼm slightly more or less confused about relationships than I was. I think Iʼm harder on myself now. Because Iʼm not surrounded by people whoʼll stand for my bullshit any more! Iʼve grown up, at last. Well, maybe.”
X is for… Xylophones
Which, curiously enough, don’t feature on the album Strays.
Y is for… You
Chris: “The feeling I always got with Janeʼs was that they werenʼt a band for a specific group of people. They were yours, whoever you were, if you just let them into your life. And Strays gives you that feeling in spades. It’s a record you love and who gives a fuck what your friends think. Thatʼs too rare these days.”
Z is for… Zebras
Perry: “I sense youʼre stretching now. No they donʼt have them in Central Park zoo. But they do have poisonous frogs that remind me of that month Stephen and me spent in the Costa Rican jungle. But thatʼs a lifetime away. Weʼre here now.”
This feature was originally published in Metal Hammer issue 119.