Rocket-fuelled, as ever, by Perry Farrell’s flamboyant lyricism and guitarist Dave Navarro’s flash virtuosity, and driven by the muscular and ingenious enginsge room of drummer Stephen Perkins and new kung fu bassist Chris Chaney, “HYPERSONIC” is Jane’s Addiction at the peak of their artistic potency.
“It’s a logical progression from where we left off,” Navarro says. “but at the same time, I think that’s because our music is timeless. That’s always been a key to this band – everything that we do is both reminiscent and futuristic at the same time.”
“You can’t really put your finger on the energy and the sound of this music,” says Perkins of the band’s eternal power. “It’s relevant for yesterday, now, and tomorrow.”
“It’s been a process like making wine,” notes Farrell says of the band’s return. “As a team, we are stronger than ever. The objectives we have to work with are much greater. And there’s a necessity – the world is more desperate, so in a bizarre way, it’s more exciting, and much more challenging.”
Jane’s Addiction exploded onto an unsuspecting world in the mid-1980s, taking the music scene by storm with their larger-than-life amalgam of punk, metal, indie, prog, folk and anything else that struck their fancy. They released a self-titled live album in 1987, followed the next year by the still-influential “NOTHING’S SHOCKING.” 1990’s “RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL” was a full-fledged commercial triumph, striking RIAA platinum certification while spending numerous weeks in the upper reaches of the Billboard 200. What made the album’s success all the more remarkable was the fact that Jane’s Addiction had sacrificed none of their aggression and attitude in order to reach an ever-growing audience. The band called it a day in 1991, celebrating their farewell with an unprecedented North American festival tour – the one and only Lollapalooza.
With the epochal Lollapalooza, Jane’s Addiction left with a bang, not a whimper. And though the band had come to an end, the individual members most certainly did not go quietly into that good night. Rather, they struck a path onto a variety of new musical frontiers – including Farrell and Perkins’ Porno For Pyros, Navarro’s Deconstruction (with bassist Eric Avery), as well as Perkins’ Banyan project and Navarro’s 1993-1997 stint in Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Jane’s suffered a temporary relapse in 1996, when Navarro (and RHCP bassist Flea) joined his former mates in Porno For Pyros to record a song – the awesome “Hard Charger” – for the soundtrack to Howard Stern’s Private Parts. The collaboration proved so fulfilling that Jane’s Addiction officially reunited – with Flea on bass – in the fall of 1997, playing to SRO houses across North America on the “It’z My Party” tour. “KETTLE WHISTLE,” an odds and sods collection of demos, alternate takes, live recordings and two new songs was released in November that same year.
The members continued on with various individual projects – including Banyan’s acclaimed 1999 collection, “ANYTIME AT ALL,” as well as Farrell’s “SONG YET TO BE SUNG” and Navarro’s “TRUST NO ONE” (both released in 2001). In April 2001, Jane’s Addiction decided to reconvene – with Porno For Pyros’ Martyn LeNoble on bass – headlining the 2nd Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, followed in the fall by the Jubilee 2001 Tour of North America. It soon became clear to all involved that Jane’s Addiction V.2 was more than just a traveling greatest hits jukebox – it was an infinitely powerful musical force that demanded further exploration.
“When Jubilee ended, we looked at each other and thought, ‘Well, we can’t do that again,’” Perkins recalls. “We’ve done two reunions with the old music – are we ready for a new challenge?”
“None of us think of this as a ‘reunion,’” Navarro says. “We’re a brand-new band that has a huge history together. We’ve been working together on and off for a bunch of years now. I just feel like it’s been evolving in this direction. We’re gone off and grown, both as people and as players, and now we’ve been able to put something special together.”
“I think musicians have a biological clock, like baby makers,” Farrell says. “You know in your tummy when you’re music needs to come out, when it would be critical to get together and make your best music. We just felt it was time to get serious and pop out more records. Knowing that when the music mattered most in my life, it would be with these guys.”
The experiences that each member enjoyed throughout their decade apart has enabled Jane’s Addiction to connect on a more personal level than they had ever before. After more than fifteen years, the members were inextricably linked as more than friends, more than bandmates, but as a family.
“We’ve gone though so many alternative routes,” Farrell says. “We’re bonded – like people in prison.”
“Having had the experience of fronting a band, I’m able to put myself in Perry’s shoes more than I’ve ever been able to do in the past,” Navarro says. “I’ve gained so much respect for what he does. I’ve learned how difficult it is to put your heart and soul out there on such a grand scale. That’s made our relationship much stronger, as a band and as friends.”
“We knew each other musically, but we never really knew each other as people,” Farrell adds. “I was always in my own universe, but I’ve come to find out that we’re all in one universe and that there’s plenty of room there for all of us. I’ve made it important to be their friends.”
“When Jane’s was at its biggest, we weren’t getting along that great,” Perkins says. “The communication wasn’t there, so we knew there was no point in trying to make another record. To do that, everybody has to be painting on one canvas, but if one person likes the sky dark blue and another likes it light blue, you’ve got to be able to talk about where to go. Now the avenues have been opened. We’re talking in a way that we never did back in the day.”.
Truly united towards a common goal, Jane’s entered L.A.’s historic Jim Henson Studios in March 2002 and set about writing new material. Though they had some sense of the intended sound and vision, the band began working on a completely blank canvas.
“We didn’t have any songs,” Perkins says. “We just knew that we wanted to get together and write. Our idea was to start the process in a major studio so that anything that happened could be recorded. We wanted to be able to really hear what we sounded like.”
“There’s never been a single way we put this music together,” Navarro says. “In a lot of ways, I don’t really understand it. It’s organic and it’s intuitive, it comes together for whatever reason it comes together. It’s very difficult to try and explain it. It just is what it is.
“For example, take the song, ‘Price I Pay,’” the guitarist continues. “We played a show last year in Korea, and the plan was for us all to go to a party afterwards. Perry went back to his room and started working on lyrics – he works on a laptop, using electronic grooves and things, which he listens to on headphones. I went to get him to go to this party and I could hear him singing, ‘The price I pay! The price I pay!’over and over again. He was singing so loud, I had to bang on the door, but he couldn’t hear me though the headphones. When I finally got him out of there, I told him, ‘Whatever it was you were doing in there, it sounded great!’ Once we got back to L.A. and went into the studio, we both remembered that little moment, and the four of us turned it into a song. I think that shows how our music often comes together – there’s no particular approach, it just happens.”
The band’s not-so-secret weapon for the “HYPERSONIC” sessions was legendary producer Bob Ezrin. Renowned for his work behind the board with such artists as Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd (among others), Ezrin – and his longtime engineer Brian “Gummo” Virtue – brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to the proceedings, enabling Jane’s Addiction to reach a heretofore untouched creative potential.
“He’s got more musical angles than anyone I’ve ever met,” Farrell says. “That’s where it became really exciting for me. I’ve always been able to see where things are coming from and where things are going musically. So I’ve had a bit of an attitude, like, ‘Look, man. Don’t tell me how to write a song.’ But when Bob makes a suggestion, I think, ‘Ah! I hadn’t thought of that!’ I still think I’m smarter than him.”
“Bob has been able to really get the best out of us,” Navarro says. “Instead of telling us that something doesn’t work, he’ll tell us how it can work.”
“He raises the bar for all of us,” Farrell says. “It’s like training for the Olympics – something you are aspiring towards in creating art. You’re trying to make the most beautiful music, you try to break new ground creating sound that no one’s ever heard before. When working with Bob; doing that becomes a very real possibility.”
LeNoble opted out a few months into the sessions, but the bass position was soon filled by Chris Chaney, whom Navarro calls “perhaps the most intense musician I’ve ever worked with.” The bassist – whose resume includes stints alongside artists ranging from Alanis Morissette to Rob Zombie – was an instant fit, quickly becoming part of the band’s extremely collaborative songwriting process.
“A lot of the songs have evolved through the different line-ups,” Navarro says. “One of my favorite songs – ‘Price I Pay’ – was heavily influenced by Chris’ participation. It’s very diverse, it goes in a lot of directions, it covers a lot of ground, sonically and emotionally. It’s a perfect example of what Jane’s Addiction do.”
“It’s a more song-oriented approach,” Navarro notes. “There are no eight-minute opuses, though some of these songs really are pretty epic – they just don’t have to be nine or ten minutes to get that feeling across. We’ve learned how to be epic in three-and-a-half minutes, which is much harder to do.”
“Jane’s Addiction is like driving a Porsche or a Ferrari,” Perkins says. “You get in it and you’re going to go fast. We went into the studio thinking fast, hard, modern, and to the point.”
Always outspoken in matters political, Jane’s Addiction are determined to raise the public consciousness once again. Not only is war looming on the horizon, but the environment faces its greatest threat to date. The band know that their influence can increase awareness of such all-important issues as alternative energy, specifically hydrogen fuel sources.
“I try to keep things as positive as possible,” Farrell says. “My first priority is to make sure everybody’s having a good time, but within that bubble of bliss there has to be the serious moment. As town criers we’re very interested in promoting alternative fuel, which is what the title track is about. We’re in danger of losing every environmental law written in this country, and the voice that reaches out furthest to people is a musical one.”
“I think we all have this understanding of the power we can use this music for,” Perkins says. “Besides making people jump up and down, I want to send people home making love and thinking about their world.”
Of course, much of “HYPERSONIC” chronicles the classic Jane’s Addiction worldview of what Farrell describes as “good times, wild times, who’s car am I driving in?” “Wrong Girl” is about “getting into a fight with an oversized lunk and watching a kickass babe take over the battlefield and finish the guy off,” says Farrell, while the aforementioned “Price I Pay” is “about a fella who goes out into the streets of Korea and meets the strange and exotic people who frequent the bars before surrendering to the calming tub of his hotel to question his ability to make his plane flight.”
“Here’s the thing,” Farrell explains of the album’s thematic dichotomy. “It’s both hard work and hard play – if you have a guy who’s all work, he’s a bore and eventually his wife’ll leave him. If you’ve got a guy who’s all play, he’s a knucklehead and eventually, his wife’ll leave him. You want to be a guy who knows how to work hard and play hard. That’s what an album should be – there should be moments that sock you in the stomach and say, ‘Hey, you feel that?’ and other moments where you run off to cop a delicious feel behind the bushes.”
With that in mind, Jane’s Addiction have also begun plans to bring back Lollapalooza in the summer of 2003. And just like the original, the goal is to exhilarate and inspire a sense of community in an increasingly disparate rock audience.
“We’ve come up with a new format for festivals,” Farrell says. “Lollapalooza is going to be completely wired! It’s going to have a hyper effect on people. The new Lollapalooza will revolutionize entertainment the way the original did.”
With “HYPERSONIC,” Jane’s Addiction have crafted a glorious return to the fray that represents far more than a comeback – it stands as a high-water mark in an already remarkable career and a call-to-arms throwdown to Generation Z.
“This is the most important record of my career,” Navarro says. “Not to compare it to anything I’ve done in the past, but this just feels special.”
“I can’t take it anymore,” Farrell says. Sometimes I listen to the radio and think, ‘How did this happen?’ They need to pop ‘the pop music pimple,’ get over it and get back out to the world out there!”
Jane’s Addiction – Now more than ever.