And as is still the case, my conversations with friends often turned to music. In one such conversation, I distinctly recall trying to convince my druggie neighbor in the dorms that the first album by Boston was awesome. He wasn’t buying it, but he did encourage me to “check out this new band from Los Angeles called Jane’s Addiction.”
Jane’s Addiction’s funk rock song “Standing in the Shower ... Thinking” immediately hooked me, and soon enough their whole album Nothing’s Shocking had opened my eyes and ears to a new musical world. And, of course, I wasn’t alone. This was one of the most important albums in launching the alt-rock revolution, containing a diversity of songs ranging from the hard-rocking “Ocean Size” and “Mountain Song” to the dreamy, psychedelic “Summertime Rolls” to the disturbing “Ted, Just Admit It ...,” about serial killer Ted Bundy, to the delicate junkie tale “Jane Says.”
In 1990, Jane’s Addiction released the follow-up album Ritual de lo Habitual, with songs including “Stop!” and their biggest hit “Been Caught Stealing.” Unfortunately, tensions between band members led to their breakup, but not before the first Lollapalooza, which was created by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for the band.
Jane’s Addiction has reunited several times, and in 2011 released the album The Great Escape Artist. They will play at the Santa Barbara Bowl at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, with openers The Airborne Toxic Event and thenewno2, the latter fronted by Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison. Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster by clicking here.
The following is from a phone conversation with Jane’s Addiction’s drummer Stephen Perkins. The full interview, incidentally in which he notes influence from the aforementioned Led Zeppelin and Rush plus more exotic sources, but not from Boston, is available by clicking here.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming concert in Santa Barbara?
Stephen Perkins: You know, what you get from Jane’s Addiction is the authentic urge to get onstage and play for you. Because if we’re not feeling it, we’ll break up. And that’s basically what’s happened a few times. If it doesn’t feel real good and authentic, let’s not fake it. Especially for the fans. So when we’re together, and we’re onstage, it feels like it did in 1987, 1986. You know, that aggression and that testosterone, but it’s not violent. There’s a celebration to our music, but at the same time it’s just got a lot of energy.
I always think about Jane’s Addiction as that one moment when Perry [Farrell] says “three, four,” BAM! If you ask me, that’s what you get. You’re getting that moment for an hour and a half, you know? It feels like that when me and Dave [Navarro] and Perry and Chris Chaney get together. It just feels right. And like I say, if it doesn’t feel right, we feel it, and we’re like, this is not working for whatever reason, so let’s not fake it.
So when it feels right we go on tour. And we don’t do too many shows in a week. We like to kind of save it up a little bit. And we’ve been off for six weeks. A lot of energy and creative juice stirring in all the band members, getting ready to get back onstage.
JM: The 25th anniversary of the album Nothing’s Shocking is coming up next year. Do you have any reflections on that particular album?
SP: Absolutely. Actually, backstage we have our little jam room set up because we like to play for an hour or so before we hit the stage, so we have a full setup. Halfway through the tour, about a month ago, we actually played the whole record in its entirety backstage, and it was chilling. I really felt something about the piece of music as a 48-minute piece of music, and the journey it took me on as a listener.
As a drummer in a band, I love being in the band, but I do miss being part of the audience. You know, to put on a record of your favorite band and get into it, it’s hard for me to do that for Jane’s Addiction because I’m in the band. But I love knowing that people got married to “Summertime Rolls” or one of our songs meant something to them. And that whole record is still like one big piece of music to me.
Making the record, and even Ritual [de lo Habitual], was basically taking our live show and bringing it into the studio and putting mics up, and a little bit of post-production. But that’s what we sounded like onstage. We just put the mics up and played, and there’s Nothing’s Shocking. And the same thing happened with Ritual. When we got to Strays and the new record, we weren’t such a live band that we could just go in and make the record. We had to go in and, almost like the new technology forces you to, kind of piece it together in a way. But back then, we’d just play it, put the mics up and then listen back. It was all one take. Everything was one take back then. So what you hear with Nothing’s Shocking, and the feeling I get from it is magical enough.
Of course, the ripple effect and the impact, you know, I can only sit in the band and look at what happened, but I almost feel like you take a large glass of clean water, put a tiny drop of blue dye in the water, and the whole cup turns blue. Jane’s Addiction, we didn’t do much. We did one or two records, but the little drop changed the whole environment. We threw a small pebble into a big lake, but the ripples are still going.
We actually had this incredible community, really, of what was happening in L.A. above ground and underground. And Jane’s Addiction really was in that moment. You can hear that in the lyrics and in the music. Now, 25 years later, I look back at the making of that record, and I’ve got a few funny photos of us making it. That was the first time the band had any money, so we went in there and rented timpanis and church bells. We just went for it. It was just a great experience to have the time and the quality engineers, and the producer Dave Jerden was there, and Ronnie Champagne. These guys worked with us and really created a piece of art.
You know, when you make your music, you just always think — I mean, why put it out if it isn’t? — this is gonna be original, a life-changing experience for listeners. You know, that’s our goal [laughs]. Our goal wasn’t to sit there making music for each other, just to make a tape to bring home in our car. We just wanted to have something that really changed things, stirred things up.
It was nice to actually know that it was doing its job. But I think that the environment that we started the band into, that feeling and that philosophy and that interest in stirring up art, was everywhere. We just kind of blew a little sand off of it.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.