i remember the moment i first heard PORNO FOR PYROS in middle school in NIGERIA at (oddly enough) my own surprise birthday party a NORWEGIAN female classmate threw at her parents' apartment. another classmate that was DANISH had brought GOOD GOD's URGE (WARNER BROS, 1996) on CD and i was blown away by the vocals on "TAHITIAN MOON." just utterly gobsmacked by how pure and angelic that voice sounded to the point that it almost defied gender. or even being human i had no idea that this was PERRY FARRELL, the same singer i heard in LOS ANGELES on the radio from his previous band JANE'S ADDICTION. i had utterly no clue about who FARRELL was or either PORNO FOR PYROS or JANE'S ADDICTION, i just knew that this was something unequivocally different than what i was used to.
and i've been going down the rabbit whole ever since.
GOOD GOD's URGE was the second record by PORNO FOR PYROS, who themselves are arguably the most prominent splinter group of JANE'S ADDICTION, made up of frontman PERRY FARRELL and STEPHEN PERKINS. the outfit was rounded out by the classically-trained guitarist PETER DISTEFANO. the other two members of JANE'S ADDICTION, bassist ERIC AVERY and guitarist DAVE NAVARRO, formed the short-lived ART ROCK project DECONSTRUCTION before moving on to other projects. lyrically GOOD GOD's URGE covers themes related to love, rebirth and renewal and was written largely on surf trips to POLYNESIA. the record features MIKE WATT on bass and special guests DANIEL ASH, DAVID J and KEVIN HASKINS (a.k.a. LOVE AND ROCKETS) as well as NAVARRO and FLEA on selected tracks. standout songs include the aforementioned "TAHITIAN MOON" as well as "PORPOISE HEAD," "KIMBERLY AUSTIN," "100 WAYS," "WISHING WELL" and "BALI EYES." the general vibe is relaxed with lots of tasteful ambient electronic production layered over acoustic tracks that young could totally imagine being sung at a campfire after a day of surfing in TAHITI or BALI. its a real departure in texture and mood from its predecessor which seemed about more about the claustrophobia, excess and cycles of exploitation that come with living and working in LOS ANGELES. GOOD GOD's URGE finds FARRELL in a more reflective, spritual headspace which is something he explored more in his later solo recordings and other groups like SATELLITE PARTY and KIND HEAVEN ORCHESTRA.
i remember hearing a rumor years ago that after his survival from cancer that there was a chance of PORNO FOR PYROS regrouping with DISTEFANO. that they even recorded material. my hope is that their reemergence will happen at some point. the band was totally underrated and are absolutely as seminal an ALTERNATIVE ROCK band as JANE'S ADDICTION.
after the first breakup of JANE'S ADDICTION, the band basically bifurcated into two camps. one included frontman PERRY FARRELL and drummer STEPHEN PERKINS which became PORNO FOR PYROS and the other was guitarist DAVE NAVARRO and bassist ERIC AVERY which resulted in DECONSTRUCTION.
out of all the splinter groups associated with the core members of JANE'S ADDICTION, DECONSTRUCTION is arguably the least known and most sonically experimental and lyrically complex. the pair only released one album, DECONSTRUCTION (AMERICAN, 1994), before NAVARRO went on to join the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and later the reformed JANE'S ADDICTION while ERIC AVERY went on to form POLAR BEAR and then produce solo records and perform as a touring bassist for GARBAGE among others.
when i discovered this record i was attending my junior year of high school in KUWAIT and felt extremely disconnected from my surroundings and my immediate community, which was quite hostile. there is an interiority and sense of self-containment to this record that really fit that moment for me perfectly, as i was constantly questioning my sanity during that period. wasnt sure it was me that was crazy, turned out it was that whole country. go figure. JANE'S ADDICTION was and is still one of my all-time favorite bands and i consider the second half of RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990) to be pure bliss, arguably one of the finest sides of any record ever produced. BEATLES, SMITHS, DAVID BOWIE, ZEPPELIN, LOU REED be damned. DECONSTRUCTION to my ears sounds like a continuation of that record, especially its more expansive, multi-part, rhythmically and compositionally complex moments.
it basically sounds like the JANE'S ADDICTION record that never was and cemented the importance of AVERY in my mind to the original lineup. those cyclical bass grooves that sound bigger than god are equally indebted to POST PUNK, AFRO BEAT and FUNK music. NAVARRO is also in top form here, adding textures upon layered textures that brings back to mind all those favorable comparisons to DANIEL ASH, ROBERT SMITH, JIMMY PAGE and the like. when i hear the deadpan solemnity of AVERY's oblique spoken-word poetry it brings back memories of PETER MURPHY and IAN CURTIS, which is quite the opposite end of the spectrum from PERRY FARRELL's gender-bending vocal pyrotechnics and singular bravado in providing a hagiographical narrative to the lyrics. AVERY to me sounds more tangible and approachable, like somebody sitting you down and leveling with you about the realities of life, albeit in a fairly expressionist manner.
i have listened to this record since my teen years and i am still blown away by it. some feel it is a bit bloated and not well-focused, but i believe it is an artifact created by two incredibly talented musicians that were at the peak of their powers and untethered by commercial pressures. this was their creative and artistic exhalation after the pressures of their previous band became to intense.
my hope is that at some point AVERY and NAVARRO will record something, anything, in the studio and release it. those bass grooves over his guitar texture is such a revelation. its a pity that that creative relationship hasnt been explored more over the decades.
DECONSTRUCTION is definitely worth further investigation by any fan of POST PUNK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, INDIE ROCK or mind-expanding ROCK N ROLL. highly recommended.
its difficult to verbalize how mind-altering and identity-shifting this JANE'S ADDICTION record was for me when i first heard it as a MIDDLE SCHOOL student living in NIGERIA. NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) is an absolutely classic record by a seminal band. in my heart the only bands that match them are DEVO and THE SMITHS: that is my holy trinity.
often credited along with FISHBONE and FAITH NO MORE (among many others) with trailblazing in the late 1980s what would become the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene, JANE'S ADDICTION had an eclectic sound that ranged from GOTH ROCK and POST-PUNK to HARDCORE and even THRASH METAL. for me the music begins and stops with the mantra-like, hypnotic, circular and criminally underrated bass grooves of ERIC AVERY. these grooves on tracks like "SUMMERTIME ROLLS," "MOUNTAIN SONG," and "UP THE BEACH" are eerily reminiscent of AFROBEAT to me, which is the context i first heard them in, and provide the foundation for the rest of the band.
JANE'S ADDICTION is an example of a band where all the sum of all the parts is much greater than each individual member. in fact, there have been so many side and splinter groups (PORNO FOR PYROS, POLAR BEAR, SATELLITE PARTY, DECONSTRUCTION, THE PANIC CHANNEL, BANYAN and countless solo projects) of varying combinations of members that it really makes listening to NOTHING'S SHOCKING and its follow up RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990) that much more intriguing. there really is an alchemical reaction going on there that hasnt been touched since.
what drew me initially was the voice of the shamanistic PERRY FARRELL, who i thought sounded like an alien. i literally couldn't place in my mind when first fearing "UP THE BEACH" whether it was a woman or man singing. his voice was beyond gender and seemingly sonically beyond space and time or any other human construct. i think lyrically there is a distinctly romantic worldview and sense of childlike amorality throughout his lyrics. in songs like "JANE SAYS" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" there is a sense of escapism through romantic love and being in the moment. that this deeper bond is what sets us free and makes us human. HENRY ROLLINS once made a prescient point about the band when he stated that "they pointed it out without pointing to it," which i implicitly agree with. lyrically NOTHING'S SHOCKING covers a lot of ground from the manipulating potential of mass media ("TED JUST ADMIT IT...") to the quiet banalities of daily life ("STANDING IN THE SHOWER...THINKING"). it all adds up to an emotional and intellectual range that is rarely witnissed historically in rock music of any age.
while i contend that the bass grooves of AVERY and the lyricism, mystique and vocal idiosyncrasies of FARRELL are the two main ingredients for this band, i would be remiss to not mention the stellar rhythm section of DAVE NAVARRO and STEPHEN PERKINS. i should start by saying that i am biased in this regard since NAVARRO along with JOHNNY MARR are my two favorite guitarists ever. NAVARRO is both an acolyte of the songwriting and lyrical guitar playing of 70s classic rock musicians like JIMMY PAGE and DAVID GILMOUR, as well as deeply indebted to the sonic experimentation of 80s POST PUNK musicians like ROBERT SMITH and DANIEL ASH among others. with this knowledge it is deeply interesting to see the interplay of those influences throughout his career, which finds him using everything from e-bows, delay effects and even dildos to create a lush sonic landscapes while also creating crushing riffs that any self respecting CLASSIC ROCK musician would enjoy. in essence, when i think of the sound of ALTERNATIVE ROCK, i think of that interplay within the guitar work of NAVARRO.
i think the drumming of PERKINS is criminally underrated but vastly essential the the group's success on NOTHING'S SHOCKING. from his signature use of steel drums on "JANE SAYS" to his pounding, kinetic METAL inspired pummeling on "MOUNTAIN SONG" "PIGS IN ZEN" and "OCEAN SIZE," there is a range at play that makes everything appear cohesive and ultimately authentic, no matter the genre being utilized at any moment. tribal drumming is now considered a cliche that has been adopted (and abused) by the METAL scene, but i would also credit PERKINS and his love of AFRICAN polyrhtms for help create such intoxicating, mantra-like textures in songs like "UP THE BEACH" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" and basically the second side of RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL.
easily one of my all-time favorite records that i clearly know i am not doing justice. suffice to say it is worth checking out as it is one of the most transcendently great rock albums of all-time.
this is pretty cool.
the MUSEUM OF POP CULTURE in SEATTLE recently did their annual fundraiser for local music education and community engagement initiatives by celebrating the work of regional favorite sons ALICE IN CHAINS. aside from their performance at the event, there were also performances both on-site and via video submissions by various peers and artists, many of the METAL and ALTERNATIVE ROCK persuasion.
while i am pretty on the fence about music-related museums in general (in my mind movements are only truly dead once you can visit an exhibit), these performances by the likes of MARK LANEGAN of SCREAMING TREES, MASTODON, HEART, FISHBONE, KORN, SOUNDGARDEN, TAD DOYLE of TAD, KRIST NOVOSELIC of NIRVANA, DAVE NAVARRO of JANE'S ADDICTION, COREY TAYLOR of SLIPKNOT, METALLICA, BILLY CORGAN of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, TAYLOR HAWKINS of the FOO FIGHTERS are amazing and serve of evidence of the cultural impact ALICE IN CHAINS had on their peers and the next generation of musicians.
makes me miss LAYNE STALEY and MIKE STARR all the more deeply. not to mention their fallen peers in CHRIS CORNELL and KURT COBAIN. rest in peace brothers.
photo by nacrowe
with the impending second bankruptcy of GUITAR CENTER likely to be finalized at the close of this month, it seemed as good a time as ever to look back at the live performance series GUITAR CENTER SESSIONS that they co-produced with DIRECT TV that took advantage of their iconic flagship HOLLYWOOD location.
it feels like the end of an era with their impending doom, but sadly they never took advantage of the internet and basically ceded that ground to competitors like SWEETWATER. it is mind-bogging that COVID knocked them out give that this lockdown period we've been living through has sold more guitars and instruments then any other period in history. just think about that.
oh well, at least we have these performances until they inevitably get taken down.
as corporate propaganda goes, ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN's online STRING THEORY video series on YOUTUBE is pretty effective. they basically created extended interviews with such notable players as JOHNNY MARR, DAVE NAVARRO, JERRY CANTRELL, KIRK HAMMETT, DARON MALAKIAN, JADE PUGET, TOM DELONGE and J MASCIS among many others, all explaining how they came to play guitar and what being a musician / songwriter means to them. somewhere, of course, they mention the strings.
there has definitely been a move towards these types of online cross-promotional infomercials (well-produced as they are) by various companies in the retail guitar space, each showcasing how their product in concert with products by other notable manufactures support recording and touring musicians and allow them to pursue their art. and just in terms of marketing i think that is a smart move since it equates your product with the quality of other well-known brands, in this case guitar manufacturers like FENDER, GIBSON, IBANEZ, G&L and PAUL REED SMITH and amp companies like MARSHALL, MESA-BOOGIE, FRIEDMAN, FENDER, DIEZEL, ORANGE and BOGNER among others.
in terms of each artist, hearing them talk about their influences and how they came about playing guitar as they strum off iconic riffs through their live rigs is just such a sweet spot to hit for any fan of guitar playing. i can never hear enough of "THIS CHARMING MAN" or the solo from "THREE DAYS" in its entirety, no matter the context.
kinda feel guilty for showcasing blantant, unapologetic corporate propaganda, but oh well. enjoy!
BOOK REVIEW | "DON"T TRY THIS AT HOME: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DAVE NAVARRO" BY DAVE NAVARRO & NEIL STRAUSS
there was an interesting period in the late 90s when guitarist DAVE NAVARRO was without a regular gig as it had been years since he left the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and JANE'S ADDICTION had recently broken up for the second time. he was also recently divorced (pre-CARMEN ELECTRA). it was during this time that he bunkered himself into his HOLLYWOOD HILLS home and chose to document a year in his life ANDY WARHOL-style, by buying and installing a vintage photo-booth and requiring every person that entered his house (celebrities, models, comedians, hangers-on, musicians, groupies, maids, plumbers, drug dealers, etc) to take a photo when entering. WARHOL famously setup a 16mm film camera at his FACTORY studio and had everyone sit for several minutes, the idea being that after a while you stop posing and act like your authentic self.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DAVE NAVARRO (HARPERCOLLINS, 2004) is the culmination of NAVARRO and co-writer NEIL STRAUSS contextualizing these photographs into NAVARRO's relapse into heroin addiction. you would think that this premise would be easy fodder for glamorizing drug addiction, especially with the seeming young HOLLYWOOD in-crowd partaking in his late night activities on a semi-regular basis. but the book really just sets up how lost he was at the time. it would be years before he would properly go about getting professional help regarding the trauma of dealing with his mother's murder by the hand of a jealous ex-boyfriend in his formative years as a teenager.
all that being said, i can't imagine the seductive power of being so young and admired. i don't know how anyone in that situation would not become a full blown addict with the HOLLYWOOD set. but he got out of it. he recovered.
and i think that is the reason he chose to write and have this book published, to show others (maybe within the music community) that there is a way out, no matter how deep and dependent you are on the drug community. in the years since more members of the community have passed on from drugs or drug-related activities, most notably CHRIS CORNELL, MICHAEL JACKSON, AMY WINEHOUSE, TOM PETTY, MAC MILLER, PRINCE, SCOTT WEILAND (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS), JANI LANE (WARRENT), LIL PEEP, WHITNEY HOUSTON, RICK JAMES, WAYNE STATIC (STATIC-X), IKE TURNER and THE REV (AVENGED SEVENFOLD).
i really feel this book was meant for his peers and not the general public. to the public parts of this book come off salacious and voyeuristic, but to a musician of any importance my guess is this unending expanding cadre of enablers is more than familiar. to them by showing his reality, hopefully it'll make them seek help.
as for NAVARRO, i wish he'd stop with his addiction to hosting shitty REALITY TV shows. i'm just saying.
art by nacrowe
greatest music video moment ever? that part in the GUNS N' ROSES "Estranged" video when SLASH plays a ripping solo after AXL ROSE swims with the dolphins after inexplicably jumping off an oil tanker.
don't believe me? watch it below (starts at 8:02 mark):
thing i appreciate the most about SLASH and GUNS N' ROSES is there lack of boundaries. having boundaries isn't necessarily a bad thing, some things you probably shouldn't do, like having your guitarist rise from an ocean jesus-style because you obviously didn't think out your video well in advance. listen, im not complaining, OBVIOUSLY I LOVE THAT video and especially that part (as well as that other part at 6:15 during the video when SLASH levitates down the SUNSET STRIP passing the RAINBOW and other clubs while a dolphin swims in the street).
when others say no, GUNS N' ROSES say yes and then some, regardless if its byeond moronic.
when i look at bands today everything seems very contained and safe. SLASH's playing in particular reminds me a lot of JOE PERRY from AEROSMITH in that if you've ever watched live footage of the dude, it seems like he is riffing off and in his own world when playing live. he's exploring his own musicality and isn't too concerned with presenting a note-for-note performance of a memorable solo on wax. i love that. i love when musicians are going for it. SLASH did that in spades and in the tradition of JOE PERRY, JIMMY PAGE and of course JEFF BECK.
SLASH is a blues-based rock guitar player, but within that box he experiments like crazy. now my personal taste leans more towards the artier, indie side of bands from that late 80s period, my hands-down favorite being JANE'S ADDICTION. guitarist DAVE NAVARRO similarly shares the same influences (with some post-punk sprinkled in) and a predilection to experiment live, but SLASH for me is the more INTENSE musician. i only came to that conclusion after seeing both live.
years ago i saw GUNS N' ROSES play the new GIANTS STADIUM (or whatever they call it now) when a friend from VENEZUELA was in town and needed somebody to take him. i didn't go into it expecting much, but i have to say without embarrassment, best rock show i have ever seen aside from the time i saw PRINCE at MADISON SQURE GARDEN. i've seen JANE'S ADDICTION several times live and while their music means more to me, GUNS N' ROSES was almost a religious experience. it was boogie, it was sloppy, it was sweaty, it was amazing.
yes lots of their lyrics are misogynist and yeah AXL ROSE is a total backwater hick. but all that being acknowledged. they're an amazing live band.
in the wake of the first breakup of JANE'S ADDICTION in the early 1990s, the founding members basically divided into two camps, the PERRY FARRELL/STEPHEN PERKINS alternative rock outfit PORNO FOR PYROS and the ERIC AVERY/DAVE NAVARRO experimental art-project DECONSTRUCTION.
while PORNO FOR PYROS continued the ascendancy of PERRY FARRELL as a cultural force riding his own wave with his LOLLAPALOOZA platform, it is my opinion that the lone DECONSTRUCTION (AMERICAN RECORDINGS, 1994) album is by far superior, arguably equal in quality with the WARNER BROS. output of early JANE'S ADDICTION.
this is in part because ERIC AVERY as the bassist of JANE'S ADDICTION wrote those iconic, almost tribal, looping, melodic bass motifs that became the creative foundation upon which the songs were based. essentially the next batch of transcendent riffs for a never-made JANE'S ADDICTION album found themselves on this record as well as later ERIC AVERY projects like POLAR BEAR and solo albums (all worth checking out).
i feel strongly that ERIC AVERY has never gotten his due and is criminally underrated and under-celebrated. the dude influenced everyone around him in the alternative scene and his bass style has been copied to the point that its omnipresent. it is almost laughable.
i think in JANE'S ADDICTION you have a band that was more than the some of its parts and each member was invaluable, specifically PERRY FARRELL's ability to cross-pollinate styles and cultures in a pre-internet glorious clusterfuck of ideas that set the tone for the decade. breaking down barriers between the tribes and promoting an almost utopian ideal of raising consciousness through shared ideas and dialogue. but essentially when you come down to it, ERIC AVERY was the vehicle that allowed such to happen. in my opinion.
his post-JANE'S ADDICTION output is more personal in scope and an acquired taste, given that his PETER MURPHY-like atonal vocal delivery and post-punk sense of angular song structure is not for everyone. what i truly love about this output is his love of texture. he really seems to bask in the idea of creating a vibe through sonic textures and then either juxtaposing it or letting it ride out in an almost shaman-like fashion. if you know about his family history in the film industry and his connection to LOS ANGELES it only makes for a more complex, diverse appreciation of his creative output.
again, his stuff is not for everyone but if you dig his work is rewarding.