Singer Perry Farrell and his band Jane’s Addiction have spent much of 2012 touring theaters, creating a show that he promised would be a new kind of immersive experience for fans.
But the group’s Friday appearance at the Bunbury Music Festival at Sawyer Point in Cincinnati will offer a different kind of challenge for Jane’s Addiction. Where theater settings have allowed Farrell to extend the performing space into the audience, festival shows typically aren’t configured to erase the space between the stage and the crowd.
“Those barricades, they’re a real bummer,” Farrell said in a recent phone interview. “It used to be so nice, even when people would roll up on the stage and stage dive. I preferred that to having people, today … I mean, at the big festivals, you can be 15 feet, 20 feet away from the audience and there’s a real disconnect there.”
Still, given the reputation of Jane’s Addiction as one of Rock’s most dynamic live acts, chances are that the show will go over just fine. Farrell now has decades of experience “putting on a show,” especially with the work he’s done with his trailblazing Lollapalooza, which continues to have a big influence on today’s ever-expanding multi-act music festival scene, including Bunbury.
For its current touring run, Jane’s Addiction will have new music to play for fans, courtesy of The Great Escape Artist, the new Jane’s Addiction album released last 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 AltRock that populated its first major-label studio LPs, 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking and 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual, two albums that blazed a trail for the generation of AltRock acts that followed.
But after those two releases — at a point where Jane’s Addiction was at a peak in popularity — Farrell broke up the group in 1991, feeling the members were no longer united and the trust that existed originally no longer existed between the band members.
After a couple of earlier reunions, in 2008 the classic lineup reteamed, first for a performance at the United States NME Awards, where Jane’s Addiction received the “Godlike Genius Award,” and then for a tour in 2009 with Nine Inch Nails.
During this period, the group attempted to start on the album that eventually became The Great Escape Artist, booking studio time 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. The band exploded, fighting over just trying some different notes.”
Soon Avery had dropped out and the band brought in former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and resumed work on the album. Three songs from that period — “Ultimate Reason,” “Broken People” and “Words Right Out of My Mouth” — made it onto Escape Artist. But Farrell said much of the writing fell too close to “derivative straight Rock,” and McKagan bowed out.
“We were writing a lot with Duff,” Farrell says. “To be honest with you, Duff’s a great guy and he’s a great musician, but as far as it completely jiving musically, you know, it was close. But I will say this. It was no cigar.”
Farrell, Navarro and Perkins, though, did not give up on Jane’s. With producer Rich Costey on board, the band resumed work on 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 album. Sitek injected a whole new energy and focus into the project.
“He’s like a laser,” Farrell says. “You have to be right on your mark with him. You can’t mess around. He came in and he wanted to experiment, he wanted to jam. He wanted to take time to create sounds that you’d never heard before, and then work off of those sounds.
“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 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.”
Being able to finish and release a new album, Farrell says, was important if Jane’s Addiction was going to continue as a band.
“It gives us what I wanted when we got back together, all of us, the original guys,” he says. “What I wanted was … to get back together and just come up and create some new songs that the world would remember so we would have some musical currency to go out there and perform again.
“And there comes to a certain time when you just want to hear something new, something fresh. It’s an impulse, stimulation. You want to know what that person is thinking today and what is affecting that person and where they’re at today. I felt it was extremely important for the group (to do that). So for that, I think we accomplished all of that and we lived to see another day.”
With 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.”
JANE’S ADDICTION headlines the Bunbury Music Festival’s Globili Stage on Friday.