Jane's Addiction

“At this moment you should be with us, feeling like we do, like we love to . . .”
The hourglass has turned not in years but in decades since Jane’s Addiction front man Perry Farrell first murmured his invitation into a room prepared with candles. The mournful introduction is featured on the song “Three Days’ from the band’s 1990 sophomore release “Ritual de la Habitual.”
The song is an ethereal epitaph honoring the life of a friend cut short by heroin but clocking in at over eight minutes, it’s a sonic tapestry that is open to interpretation. In the 27 years since three street-wise California kids first came together as Jane’s Addiction, many of their songs have given listeners pause.
Jane’s Addiction first scissored its way into the game in 1985, splitting open the seams of rock and roll with its genre-bending psychedelic style. Taking their own liberties with grimy sounds filtered through the clubs on the LA strip, the band stitched together a revolutionary new sound from materials found in their own backyards.
The musical landscape has changed dramatically since Jane’s Addiction burst onto the scene in 1985 with their theatrical, sexually charged performances. MTV was still a toddler. Glam metal had not yet seeped into the pores of punk rock. And Carmen Electra was still an unrealized bad idea.
“When we started out , [guitarist Dave] Navarro and I were 17, 18 and Perry was 25. We put what was going on in the L.A. scene into the music because that was what was real to us,” says drummer Stephen Perkins . “We had the shiny metal scene and the depth of the post-punk scene. We made a new sound, new friendships, a new band and just made noise.”
Jane’s Addiction will appear Wednesday, May 16 at The Florida Theatre in support of their most recent release, “The Great Escape Artist.” It’s the band’s fourth studio album since “Strays” in 2003. Featuring original members Farrell, Perkins and guitar virtuoso Navarro, “The Theatre of Escapists Tour” is a love letter to the seedy days in the LA underground that first fed Jane’s Addiction.
“The Great Escape Artist” is quintessential Jane’s Addiction with its mystical melodies ,romance, sensuality and sublime musicianship with rich textures, tribal drumbeats and Farrell’s unmistakable primal howl. Perkins said the band poured its collective soul into creating an “exciting cinematic soundscape” that provides as a unique experience for both the listener and the band.
“Just like the audience, this is an escape for us. I spend all day waiting to get behind that drum set,” Perkins says. “If it’s real, people are going to feel it. I always like to think that people are meeting for the first time, couples are making out, maybe fighting. They are all together sharing an experience. We’re just the people providing the music.”
Jane’s Addiction has always been a band guided by confusion, evolution, retribution and resolution. As musicians, they were the predecessors of flannel and grunge. They set the tone for a generation of bands, many of whom went on to enjoy commercial success and were felled by the trappings of excess.
“I always thought there was this great moment in time for Jane’s. By combining punk rock and the metal scene, we thought this could be something new,” he says. “We knew we were changing the scene but we didn’t know how far. It was something like throwing a rock into a lake and having the ripple effect. We never knew how far out it would go. It’s still going.”
In 1991, Jane’s Addiction stepped away from the spotlight as bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine and Alice in Chains gained momentum. The break up also served as the birth of Lollapalooza, the national touring music festival created by Farrell. “If Nirvana and the Pumpkins were the flowers, we’re the dirt,” Perkins says. “Jane’s has always been the fertilizer. You can’t smell the flowers without standing on the dirt.”
Though Jane’s Addiction never reached the apex of fame realized by their creative peers, the escape from the pressures of writing and the rigors of touring for months at a time offered the sort of freedom that eluded many other bands in that time. It also forced the members to reevaluate their lives and their relationships, both within and outside of the band.
“That’s the reason we broke up so many times. Who wants to spend six months together for a little money when you don’t like each other?” he says. “Musicians lose their edge when they get comfortable and bored. It was great for us to have to fight for it.”
As an original member, Perkins has weathered his share of storms. He endured the band’s many break ups and subsequent lineup changes. He has witnessed firsthand the destructive capabilities of substance abuse and experienced the clarity and promise afforded by sobriety. The one constant that never wavered was the unbridled joy that comes with making music with his brothers.
“It’s funny. When you have relationships for 25 to 30 years, you have inside jokes and a kind of gang mentality like it’s us against the world. We still have that,” Perkins said. “But we’re punks. When thinks are running perfect we think let’s throw a wrench in it. Let’s f**k it up.”
When it came time to record “The Great Escape Artist,” Perkins says the band approached the project from a new angle. Instead of creeping up and pouncing on an idea, desperate to harness its energy, Perkins said each member retreated to a space and reconvened with a detailed plan for a precision attack.
“This came about in a completely different way. It was a complete 180 for us. This new record was kind of written with everyone adding different things at different times,” Perkins says. “ Me, Dave and Perry had to bite off a lot to make a new record. We used to do a new song in one night. Now we make 25 versions of the same song. It completely changes the color of a song.”
Making decisions is easier now that the band members have matured and temperaments have settled. Communication is a key element to the process, something Perkins said was cloudy when the bad first set out to make some noise.
“We know what needs to be plumped up, what needs to be shaved down. It’s more organic,” he says. “It’s still our blood, sweat and tears that went into this project.”
Jane’s Addiction continues to evolve but the band never forgets to honor their past with such classics as “Mountain Song” written in 1986 and “Jane Says” from the 1988 release” Nothing Shocking” continue in heavy rotation on alternative radio and “Jane Says” is still the crowd favorite and the encore number the band uses to close the show.
“It’s still relevant because it’s timeless. It’s still relevant in the choices that we made on the instrumental music. For us, we can still hear those decisions when we listen. What is next? What event is going to happen? There are so many decisions you have to make as a band. It’s not just what’s for dinner. We are deciding on our sound and we slave over them. Now that we communicate better, the new Jane’s can figure things out better. We may not agree on everything but we are a little more level-headed,” Perkins says. “The relationships in the band haven’t changed. We’re s till pumped up with the same testosterone and sexuality that Jane’s has always had. That sense of urgency is still there. You don’t want to kill someone but you still want to jump.”

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april, 2022

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