Jane's Addiction - Biography
By Brad Austin
Whether or not you find Perry Farrel's voice obnoxious or Dave Navarro's guitar parts overblown, Jane's Addiction did more to bring alternative music (the “alternative nation” as Farrell calls it) into the spotlight during the 90's than any band besides Nirvana. One of the most influential bands in recent memory, the Los Angeles quartet took heavy metal to innovative places, incorporating so many other styles in their music that it's impossible now to think of them as a metal band. Having influenced everything from grunge (Soundgarden) to goth (Nine Inch Nails), the band is now canonized as nothing short of legendary. That status is so cemented, in fact, that there's little the band can do now to change it, no matter how many ill-fated reunions they attempt and no matter how close Farrell comes to eroding his credibility through his various solo projects.
Jane's Addiction began in 1984 with Farrell and bassist Eric Avery, the pair that would do the most butting of heads in the near future. Farrell had been singing for Psi Com and was courting Avery as a potential new bass player for that group. Psi Com broke up, however, and so the duo decided to begin a new venture. Stephen Perkins entered the picture after Avery's sister, who had been dating Perkins, suggested him as a drummer. Perkins then recommended Dave Navarro, who he'd been in a band with, as a guitarist. After some reticent jam sessions, the lineup was official. Naming themselves Jane's Addiction after Farrell's heroin-addicted roommate, the band began to tear into the LA club scene, quickly generating a buzz and becoming local favorites. Although there were many major labels who were already fawning over them, they decided to release their debut on an indie. That debut, which was a live recording at Hollywood's Roxy club, was released on Triple X Records.
The band then signed with Warner Bros and went into the studio with producer Dave Jerden, who had few producer credits attached to his name at the time. The group quickly showed signs of extreme dysfunction, as Farrell began voicing his opinion that he be given a larger share of the royalties than his band mates. They held it together, however, and produced a genuine rock & roll classic, Nothing's Shocking (1987, Warner Bros), which boasted muscular tracks like “Mountain Song,” and even more majestic numbers like “Summertime Rolls.” Farrell was highly involved in the creation of provocative art, and he designed the band's album covers. The jacket of Nothing's Shocking featured a pair of flaming-headed, conjoined twins. The album was initially banned by some big sellers before the band's popularity was too much to ignore, with the single “Jane Says” (now the band's calling card) reaching number 6 on the modern rock charts. The album itself failed to break through the 100 spot on the Billboard 200, but it stayed on the charts for 35 weeks. Jane's Addiction had clearly arrived and were not going anywhere; not yet, anyway.
The band toured with Iggy Pop and the Ramones before going back into the studio with Jerden the following year. Tensions were reportedly so high within the band at that point, and especially between Avery and Farrell, that they were showing up at the studio at different times so that they wouldn't have to see one another. Ultimately, it did not matter, as Ritual De Lo Habitual (1990, Warner Bros) was an even stronger outing for the band, and was their commercial peak. It broke the top 20 and went gold on the strength of singles “Been Caught Stealing” and “Stop!” The Farrel-designed cover art again caused controversy since it again featured naked figures. It was banned and Jane's Addiction responded by issuing the album with a cover that included only the title, the band's name, and a copy of the first amendment.
After the album came out, the band went on a headlining tour, supported by Smashing Pumpkins and Primus. Soon after, Avery confided his desire to leave the band to Navarro, who admitted he wished to do likewise. It was decided that the group would be no more as soon as they'd finished touring. Farrell co-created the Lollapalooza festival, and designed it as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction, beginning in the summer of 1991. After the festival, the group completed the rest of their contractually obligated touring schedule and broke up. Farrell and Perkins stayed together and formed Porno For Pyros, releasing albums in 1993 and 1996. Avery and Navarro formed Deconstruction, putting out one self-titled album in 1994. A year before that, Navarro joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the recording of One Hot Minute , which was not released until 1995. Having patched things up with Farrell and fallen out with the Chili Peppers, Navarro joined Porno For Pyros and brought RHCP bassist Flea with him. They toured as Porno For Pyros, but then went on a brief tour as Jane's Addiction, with Flea staying on the bass as Avery declined to take part. The tour coincided with the release of a Jane's Addiction collection called Kettle Whistle (1997, Warner Bros), which featured live songs, demos, and a few new tracks.
Following the 2001 releases of Farrell's solo album, Song Yet to Be Sung, and Navarro's Trust No One, the band announced a full-fledged reunion tour. Avery again refused to join, which resulted in Farrell bringing Porno For Pyros bassist Martyn Lenoble on board. After the success of the tour, the group decided to carry this reunion into the studio, enlisting producer Bob Ezrin of Pink Floyd and Kiss fame and hiring Chris Chaney (Alanis Morissette, Tommy Lee) for bass duties after Lenoble's departure. The finished product was Strays (2003, Capitol), a collection that failed to offer any of the seemingly accidental magic which was strewn all across the band's first two efforts. The album was a success in that it was not an embarrassment to the band's legacy, though it did fail to meet the impossible expectations. “Just Because” was a number one modern rock single, and the album peaked at number 4. The band split again after a revitalized Lollapalooza tour. Navarro started a new band with Perkins and Chaney called the Panic Channel. They released one album, (One), in 2006, while Farrell formed the Satellite Party with guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, releasing Ultra Payloaded in 2007.
In 2008, all four original members of Jane's Addiction, even Avery, reunited for a show in LA at the first-ever US NME awards, where Jane's Addiction received the Godlike Genius Award. In 2011 they released The Great Escape Artist, as well as earning a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.