Psyching out the rock

Jane’s Addiction’s new musical styling the result of collaboration

Alan Sculley | Boulder Weekly

A band promising a new type of concert experience usually sounds like little more than hype.

But coming from Perry Farrell, such a promise carries more weight. This is the man, after all, who founded the touring Lollapalooza Festival in 1991 — an event that brought a whole new type of multi-act, multi-media tour to the summer live music scene.

Now Farrell is saying his band, Jane’s Addiction, will give fans a different kind of concert than they’ve ever experienced on its theater tour this winter.

“I feel that it might be time for a new experience when people go out and listen to music and see musicians playing,” he says. “Concerts have been around for 50 years now. From the concert came the festival. But where do we go from here? It doesn’t necessarily have to go bigger. Things can actually become more intimate. And within that intimacy, when I mean intimate, I mean not only smaller, but the crowd will be more immersed in the performance. And the band, or the group, would be immersed into the audience. So that’s what I’m working on.”

Farrell didn’t spell out exactly how Jane’s Addiction will achieve this immersive concert experience, but he said there will be a film component to the show and a specific look that he described as “1920s surrealist twist mixed with a ’60s Warhol pop.”

Also, look for a show that’s not confined to the stage.

“What you want to do is you want to stretch out past just the stage,” Farrell says. “You want to stretch yourself out past those monitors. And you also want to reach out and bring the audience closer to you, so you’re not divided by barricades.”

And there will be new music, courtesy of The Great Escape Artist, the CD Jane’s Addiction released in the fall. It’s only the fourth studio album from a group that has had a stormy, intermittent — and influential — history.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, the group — which included singer Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery — shook up the music scene with the wiry, kinetic and thoroughly modern style of rock that populated its first two CDs, 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking and 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual, two albums that blazed a trail for the generation of alt-rock acts that followed.

But then the group broke up, and two previous reunions — including one that produced the 2003 CD, Strays — failed to take.

The latest reunion, which began in 2008, had its rocky moments as well. The original lineup attempted to start the new CD with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor producing. It did not go well.

“It was a damn frustration, man,” Farrell says. “We started out, we wrote a couple of tracks. They were pretty good, but they needed some work. But we immediately butted heads, to the point where there were complete blow-ups, to be honest with you.”

Avery then bowed out and was replaced by former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagen. Three songs from that period — “Ultimate Reason,” “Broken People” and “Words Right Out of my Mouth” — made it onto The Great Escape Artist CD. But Farrell said much of the writing fell too close to “derivative straight rock,” and McKagen split from the group in September 2010.

Farrell, Navarro and Perkins, though, did not give up on Jane’s. With producer Rich Costey on board, the band resumed work on The Great Escape Artist. It was Costey who suggested bringing in a fourth musician, TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek — a talented producer in his own right — to join the creative team and play bass on the CD.

Sitek injected a whole new energy and focus into the project — as well as some fresh sonic ideas.

“We’ve always been a band that was learning about music, learning about sound and then giving people the most contemporary sound that we could,” Farrell says. “And Dave [Sitek] was kind of the vehicle. He was a key to opening the door to those sounds and teaching the guys how to play with those instruments and the software that he had. They were up for it and they really got it together. It was a longer process, but guess what, it’s not derivative.”

The sound on The Great Escape Artist has some new facets for Jane’s Addiction. The psychedelic overtones and edgy atmosphere of the band’s music remain, but there’s a new layer of electronics and other sonic effects within the sound, while many of the songs are more anthemic than in the past and boast some of the most inviting melodies and hooky instrumental parts Jane’s Addiction has ever created.

Now, with The Great Escape Artist under the band’s belt (and bassist Chris Chaney in the touring lineup), Farrell is optimistic about the future of Jane’s Addiction.

“I’m very enthusiastic about us,” he says. “I see us doing another record, and it won’t take another eight years. It will come faster than anybody ever thought.”