Jane’s Addiction guitarist talks about his life and group’s Rock Hall nomination
By Gary Graff
October 21, 2016
Dave Navarro has done a great deal in his career, from a short-term stint with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and membership in other bands such as the Panic Channel, Deconstruction and Camp Freddy to assorted session work for the likes of nine inch nails, Marilyn Manson, Alanis Morissette and even Janet Jackson. On TV he’s played celebrity poker, judged for Ink Master and Spike, and helped choose a new singer for INXS on Rock Star: INXS.
But it’s Jane’s Addiction, which Navarro co-founded during 1985 in Los Angeles, that’s his greatest claim to fame — and maybe just be the guitarist’s ticket into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group is one of 19 on the just-announced ballot for the Rock Hall’s class of 2017; inductees will be announced during early December, with the ceremony set to take place during April in Brooklyn. The announcement coincides with this week’s release of Sterling Spoon, a new vinyl box set containing all of Jane’s studio albums as well as a rarities collection and an unreleased live concert from 1990. With all that going on, it seemed like a good opportunity to relapse and talk about our favorite Addiction…
FGPO: A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination…How’s it feel?
Navarro: It’s hard to say, because it’s a nomination. Of course it’s very much an honor. I’m very excited about it and couldn’t be more thrilled about it. However, it’s a nomination. The jury’s still out.
FGPO: So…cautious optimism?
Navarro: [laughs] Cautiously optimistic — but secretly psyched to be nominated. You don’t want to speak before everything is said and done, but we’re super excited. We’d love to be in the Hall, but also we don’t want to jinx it. We’re a three-time Grammy-nominated band that has never won a Grammy, and here we are now with another nomination. It’s hard to pull the trigger of excitement just yet — but we’re excited.
FGPO: The company on the ballot isn’t too shabby, either.
Navarro: It’s pretty spectacular. I mean, they’re all bands that I either grew up with or grew up listening to. So to be in the same category as these bands…It’s a pretty big deal for me to see the MC5, the Cars, Journey, Pearl Jam and Jane’s Addiction being mentioned together. It’s pretty surreal. It’s pretty hard to digest, to be honest with you.
FGPO: What does it say to you about your own achievement, or the band’s, over these years?
Navarro: Music has saved my life in more ways than one. It’s given me a direction. It’s given me purpose. It’s given me self-worth and esteem and has given me an opportunity to touch millions of people. And to be able to do that along with the bands that did that for me and to be considered one of those bands is something that, honestly, makes me want to cry. I’m literally getting choked up thinking about it. I mean, you think about Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour…I think about these guys and the profound effect their work had on my life and shaping me and how powerful that is. So to be considered one of the bands that has done something for this genre of music that has changed the course of my life and to be able to feel that we contributed to that is pretty overwhelming.
FGPO: How did guitar become “it” for you in the first place?
Navarro: It was mostly through my cousin Dan Navarro. He was a musician and a guitar player. He taught me my first chords when I was a child, and then I think just as I evolved and my tastes grew and I started buying records and equating what I was doing with what they were doing, it was a passion that just kind of evolved.
FGPO: What was that allure you felt towards music?
Navarro: I think probably more than anything the bands that I was listening to really tapped into a place in my heart that nothing else in my life was tapping into. My friends weren’t. My family wasn’t. School wasn’t. My teachers weren’t doing it for me. Religion wasn’t doing it for me. I would put on records and that would access part of my spiritual makeup I could not have otherwise accessed. I think that’s what music is for a lot of people, and I think that’s why I gravitated towards it. It was escapism. It was a way to escape, but intensely fixed within the now while escaping.
FGPO: Who were the players who had the most impact on you?
Navarro: Everyone, man! And the guitar players I adored were vastly different. Jimi Hendrix was the No. 1, like my first guitar player crush, if I can use such a word.
FGPO: There’s so much going on in your playing. Is it an amalgam of all these players you grew up listening to?
Navarro: Yeah, absolutely. It was Jimi Hendrix. It was Jimmy Page. It was David Gilmour. Then it was Edward Van Halen for awhile; I became a Van Halen fanatic. Then in my high school days when [Jane’s drummer] Stephen Perkins and I were playing together, it was all metal, all the time, as Iron Maiden as you can get. The more Iron Maiden, the better, that’s the way we looked at it. Then I got into the English players like the punk and the post-punk era with Robert Smith [of the Cure] and Daniel Ash [Bauhaus, Love & Rockets], Johnny Marr and guys like that and their simplistic style. My playing just kind of evolved through what I was listening to.
FGPO: The inspiration probably never stops, either, does it?
Navarro: What’s so great is that the older I get, I find new things. I get inspired by new artists, of course, but I can always go back to the classics and the things I came up with. They always take me to a special place, but I always create new experiences with them. There’s nothing in the world like that. I mean, I’m a huge cinephile, but you can’t put on a film and drive to the beach and have it become a new experience for a new soundtrack for you like you can with music.
FGPO: How much do you work at your playing nowadays?
Navarro: God, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I think I go through phases where I’m just playing constantly, all the time, all the time. And then other times, I don’t touch the thing for two months. [laughs]
FGPO: You just came off the Sterling Spoon Tour with Jane’s, celebrating Ritual de lo habitual and the 25th anniversary of Lollapalooza. How was it?
Navarro: It was pretty great, man, I gotta say. There was a bit of nostalgia having the three bands [Jane’s Addiction, Dinosaur Jr, Living Colour] play a tour, but there was also something to be said for the fact that everybody on the bill had a unique voice and were incredible artists and musicians. I feel like we were all peers coming up, and the fact that we’re still playing together was pretty exciting. And obviously for me as a guitar player and such a guitar nerd and fan, I got to play on the same stage as Vernon Reid and J Mascis every night. It was pretty inspiring and motivated me to be better every night.
FGPO: So what’s next for Jane’s?
Navarro: I really don’t know. We wrapped that tour [on September 23] at Irvine Meadows in Los Angeles, where the first Lollapalooza took place in 1991, and it was shutting down. We actually shot that concert for a live DVD that’s coming out, so that was pretty historic for us. We opened for X at that theater, and to be able to come back and headline it for Lollapalooza and then again 25 years later was pretty remarkable. It was a teary night for all of us. So there’s that. But we did a lot of shows this year. I think that we’re just looking forward to the holidays right now, decompressing.