December 1997
s m u g
ear candy
by Matt Sager

So What?

Jane's Addiction gave birth to "Alternative Rock". Now they're back for the funeral - and they're selling souvenir t-shirts.

Ten years ago, Jane's Addiction released their major label debut "Nothing's Shocking" and changed the face of popular music and culture. It came out of nowhere with a fresh, exciting sound that was completely unexpected. In an era dominated by hairspray heavy metal and mindless dance-pop, Jane's emerged with a sound that had the energy of punk, the virtuosity of the best rock, and a look that was, well, scary. Which means great. "Nothing's Shocking" would ultimately mean less to Jane's Addiction as a band than to the music industry in general, which suddenly began paying close attention to bands like Soundgarden, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana. "Alternative" radio stations began springing up across the country and MTV very slowly stopped caring about the new videos from Bobby Brown and Trixter.

The rest is history - the band made another record, broke up, lead singer Perry Farrell formed Porno for Pyros. Immediately before the breakup, Perry launched Lollapalooza, which Jane's Addiction headlined as their "farewell" tour. Since then, Perry's somewhat utopian flower-child image has shown some cracks in it - he has been working closely with several corporate entities as Lollapalooza's organizer, a job which clearly takes precedence over his music. Lollapalooza, meanwhile, has become more corporate and dull with each passing year. It has effectively destroyed the concept of "alternative" music, and is more and more obviously all about the money. When Metallica headlined, it was pretty much unanimously declared that it had lost its way.

And now, years later, with alternative a catchphrase of the past, after countless Nirvana knockoff bands have left the music industry bloated and bankrupt, with everyone wondering what the next wave will be, Jane's Addiction have come back.

They have launched a "relapse" tour, and released a CD of old out-takes, b-sides and unreleased material. The tour has been dubbed "relapse", not as a nod to Perry's notorious crack habit, but because bassist Eric Avery refuses to have any part of it. As such, it's not a proper reunion, although the addition of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has only added to the commercial appeal of the tour. While neither side will comment, it has been widely reported that Avery has hated the band for years, particularly drummer Stephen Perkins. His official reason for not returning is his commitment to his current band, indie rockers Polar Bear.

Never before has youth culture seemed this corporate. Jane's return has been all the media has been talking about, with rumors persisting since February and an official press conference announcing the event in June. They kicked off their tour with two sold-out shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The second show, on Halloween night, was broadcast live on MTV and countless radio stations across the country. Whether the band was ever actually about change or any sort of rebellious stance is now debatable, the fact is, they are now full blown, shameless media whores. Farrell even called an advance meeting with MTV executives to warn them that there would be suggestively-clad dancers on the stage, and showed where not to shoot so as to avoid offending their viewers. There's your rock and roll rebels kids.

I was assigned to interview the band for radio, and got an insider's view of Jane's Addiction, Inc. I watched sound-check as the band ran through rehearsal versions of their greatest hits. I was struck by how normal they looked; they were wearing slacks, and sweaters, and coats. No make-up, no pigtails or dreadlocks. They looked like a bunch of businessmen in their early forties. They sounded great, although they had to stop each song repeatedly so that Perry could yell at his sound crew. "I can't hear myself! I sound too whiny! I can't hear myself, right, can you?" I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and run home, it was so painful to see a boyhood hero carry on like a prima donna.

After sound check, I was taken into the band's dressing room to talk to everyone but Perry, who they said would join us shortly. It started off badly, with the band quiet and unresponsive. This quickly segued into confrontational and mean, when I asked Stephen Perkins why Eric Avery refused to be a part of the venture. He refused to comment, asking me instead if it was my first day on the job, why I was such a music dork, if I read Spin "every day". My apologies for doing my job, Stephen, and for researching for an interview. Next time I'll just smoke a joint, show up, and ask the first thing that pops into my mind. Believe me, I'd like to follow Perry around, beat on some cymbals, go home and count my millions. It's a charmed life you've got, my friend, enjoy it while you can before Perry drops dead from abusing himself. A wonderful thing about journalism: you get to vent your hatred for punks like that! Riddle me this: what do you call the guy who follows the band around on tour? The drummer!

I'm probably being too hard on him, especially since the rest of the band was no better. In the middle of a question I was asking Dave Navarro, Flea jumped in and asked, "Aren't you from the Dr. Judy station?" referring to the famous sex psychiatrist. I informed him that I wasn't, and got back to my question to Dave. Before I could finish, Flea jumped back in. Addressing the other band members, he said "One time I was on the Dr. Judy show, and this guy called up and said he got fucked by his uncle. Then I just started laughing, ‘cos what the fuck you know? I'm not a doctor, I mean it's real sad and shit, but what am I supposed to do?" The rest of the band was in hysterics, and I realized I was doomed. This was only going to go downhill. Just then, salvation - the door swung open and Perry walked in. Yes! He would answer my questions! Perry has come, to give me something interesting, and be responsive, and smite my enemies!

Just then, my DAT recorder died. I asked the band to hold on for a second while I changed the batteries. Perry took one look at me, then the band, and said, "Nope. Interview's over." And in a flash, they were gone. I sat in the dressing room, remembered hearing Nothing's Shocking for the first time in High School, and stared at the wall. Next thing I knew, they were onstage, dressed like freaks, throwing flowers at the crowd. Perry had a great big grin as he addressed the room: "Why don't we take love and put it in a box, and take it around the world?" The radio jocks in the front and the supermodels in the VIP section went wild with cheers, as the band launched into "Jane Says". I don't think I've ever been more depressed.

The next night was Halloween, and a lot had changed. Someone had sold a few thousand professionally made fake tickets, leading to hundreds of paying ticket holders being turned away. The Hammerstein Ballroom was still packed way beyond capacity, and this time was crawling with MTV staffers being as important as possible while they shot the show for live broadcast. The one thing that didn't change was the band. The set was the same, performed the same, note by note. Those wild, spontaneous solos? Performed the same. The stage banter? The same. "Why don't we take love...?" Perry began to ask. I took my love, and my memories and walked the hell out.


in the junk drawer:

November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

and such
and such

·feature· ·net worth· ·bumping uglies· ·smoking jacket· ·ear candy· ·feed hollywood· ·target audience· ·three dollar bill· ·compulsion· ·posedown· ·the biswick files· ·mystery date· ·and such and such· ·blab· ·kissing booth·

·contents· ·freakshow· ·fan club· ·junk drawer·

copyright © 1996, 1997 fearless media