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Live From New York...
It's Jane's Addiction
by Bill Crandall
BAM - November 21, 1997 (#522)

"Three, four, pcshhhhhhhhhhhh!" Minutes before Jane's Addiction is to perform on Saturday Night Live, Perry Farrell is backstage singing into a bottle of red wine. With braids jetting out of his head in every direction (like Medusa's snakes, if they were frozen) and a deranged smile, Farrell is teetering over the "Weekend Update" desk to re-enact the previous night's melee. Just as Jane's Addiction took the stage in Boston and Perry counted down the beginning of "Ocean Size," the gate separating the band from their audience gave way and 60 or so fans flooded the stage.

Such mania is becoming commonplace on Jane's Addiction's reunion--rather, "relapse"--tour, the first time the band have been together (well, almost together--bassist Eric Avery declined and was replaced by Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea) in six years. Fans know that this tour (and Kettle Whistle, the just-released collection of live tracks, demos and two new songs) may be their last contact with the legendary band, and they're making it count.

"I feel love poured onto the stage," drummer Stephen Perkins tells me after the band's SNL sound check. "As much love as I get from that crowd, it's my job to spread it around," Farrell adds. "I am like a water sprinkler of love. I've learned never to take that love and keep it, because it dries up and evaporates. That's why the whole show is just love all over the place; there's just love everywhere."

After the three-month tour, the members of Jane's will again part ways--Farrell and Perkins to Porno for Pyros, and guitarist Dave Navarro and Flea to the Chili Peppers.

Jane's did not give such warning when the band dissolved in 1991, leaving a trail of broken-hearted indie rockers and metal heads. This ability to reach an array of listeners was perhaps the band's biggest triumph. Forming in the sunset of LA's metal glory days, Jane's Addiction were the only art band that rocked; no college-radio band dared to churn out a head-banging riff, and no tough-guy metal band dared to sing about a girl whose nose is "painted pepper sunlight."

Just as Jane's were winning over America by scoring a hit with "Been Caught Stealing" and headlining the first Lollapalooza, personal differences, culminating in a fist fight between Farrell and Navarro, destroyed the band.

Jane's were finished before Nirvana even hit the charts. And the charts we're certainly more welcoming to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" after having been visited by the likes of the abrasive "Been Caught Stealing." Thus, Jane's Addiction's place in rock 'n' roll was as forebearers--until now.

Jane's Addiction's Saturday Night Live appearance will mark the band's largest ever audience, no doubt why Thursday's sound check is taking so long. The boys have been playing "Jane Says" non-stop for over an hour (just in case every last stagehand didn't hear the first nine times, Jane is in fact done with Sergio).

SNL cast member Molly Shannon enters the set in a white fuzzy jacket, black boots and a matching mini skirt. She puts down her pocketbook and CD walkman, joins the makeshift crowd and launches into her Mary Katherine Gallagher dance (sans the fall, of course). "This is the best song!" she clamors.

Another dancing SNL employee tells me how excited she is by the band's appearance and how every friend she's ever known has come out of the woodwork to ask for tickets.

Before Shannon can muster up Mary Katherine's trademark split/genuflection and say "rock star," the levels for "Jane Says" are set.

By the second song, Jane's are really testing SNL's patience. At the last moment, the band decide to do the tribal "Chip Away," which calls for an arrangement of Steven, Dave and Flea on various drums while Perry wails--not exactly the sort of stuff Mariah Carey has in store for SNL viewers on the next show, but the sign on the stage does say "All Kinds Music Played Here."

"We were going to do 'Ocean Size,' but the heavy guitar thing has been done," Perkins tells me later. "Chip Away" certainly wins over the ever-growing sound check crowd. In fact, Jim Brewer, aka Goat Boy, finds he can chew gum while bobbing his head fervently to it.

Next on the agenda is the photo shoot for those photos SNL runs between the commercial break and the musical guest's performance. One by one the makeup artist preps Jane's for the camera in their dressing room. "Give me all you've got," Perry says, as he sits in the chair. Dave and Flea stand in the doorway and discuss prospective New York dinner spots. "I need to do everything right on the road--eat right and sleep right," Flea says.

During Perry's face time, Cheri Oteri stops by to welcome the band to the show. "Hi, I'm Cheri Oteri. I'm in the cast. You probably don't know that 'cause you have social lives." The rejected Spartan cheerleader giggles as she shakes hands with one and all. When she leaves, I inform the band of Oteri's most famous persona and Perry's newly made-up face lights up: "Oh, she's one of the cheerleaders?"

When the photo shoot is over, we go to another dressing room for the interview proper. It's here where I discover how much Farrell, suffering from a cold, has become overwhelmed by the tour. "I feel supremely blessed to be in a position to make people happy," he says. "At the same time, it's very difficult, especially if you understand the implications and the responsibility of what you're doing. You're making a mostly miserable world a little bit happier and relieving people's pressures and their anxieties and their troubles for a while. And that's a tremendous responsibility to fall on your shoulders."

All the "love" aimed at Jane's Addiction is also beginning to take its toll. "I would rather be hugged for like five minutes without a word being said, or have somebody sit down and pet me and make me a tuna sandwich and not ask me a question," Perry says. "That would mean so much more to me than a person saying, 'I love you and have adored you, and could you sign my drum head?' Most people know it's their only chance to see you. They don't realize that it happens every five feet."

"It's nice for me to hear Perry talking about it like an overwhelming love, because sometimes in the moment I don't have the capacity to view it as that and I react negatively to it," Dave says. "I don't know what it's like in Porno, but it ain't like this in the Chili Peppers."

Stephen, ever the band's calming force, agrees: "It's really special and heavy and dreamy and full of love and everything you can imagine, but everything is turned all the way up."

Farrell did not consider potential energy drains like interviews, TV appearances and photo shoots when he decided to get his old band together earlier this year. "I only did it because I thought it would be fun," he says. "It was only supposed to be a month-and-a-half thing. Of course, that usually takes about five or six months to prepare and execute. Before this is not viable anymore, I wanted to do it one more time and have a good time with some good friends and let it be that, but I'm already drained. I'm already starting to feel worn down, and my words are not coming to me as quickly as I wish they would."

Farrell broke his "no national TV" policy only once last year when Porno for Pyros appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, but for Jane's this is a first. "I never wanted to walk through an airport and have some middle-aged woman from Kansas go, 'Oh, there's that guy from People magazine,'" he says. "I wanted to remain just under that, but our popularity is such now that the lady probably can spot me anyway. So, I figured while we still have our health and partially our looks left, now's a good time to do it."

Dave Navarro is going to be all over TV this holiday season, courtesy of the Gap. In an ad for Easy Fit jeans, Dave will play "Jingle Bells" on guitar. However, he isn't too worried about the heightening of his profile. "Where I live, in Hollywood, I'm really just the tiniest little speck of nothingness," he says. "You drive down the street and there's Jack Nicholson, so it's really not a big deal."

The three original members have nothing but praise for their newest bandmate. "Flea is such a hard-working, sincere, sweet man that I couldn't imagine a better person to play with," Perry says. "He's real professional. He doesn't settle. He doesn't get in bad moods and he doesn't throw tantrums."

"I've been jamming with Flea since 1990," Steven says, "so musically I was familiar with him. As a friend, we're just getting tighter and tighter."

The topic of Eric Avery's decision not to rejoin the band brings a slight tension to the room. "The worst part was that it showed that I was part of a group of people that couldn't get along," Farrell says. "In the Jewish religion, all debts are forgiven. And to me, that is such a grand gesture. I thought it would be great to start the millennium off by saying, 'Whatever happened in the past, let's just forget about it. Let's start it over. We had a past together. We had a success together. Let's go off and, for the people, have a great time, and have them have a great time.' As much as I tried to make amends, well..."

Avery and Farrell started Jane's together, so I ask Perry if it was difficult to move on and play the songs without one of the key songwriters. Perry corrects me: "Well, he was at the very, very, very beginning, and then he wasn't, so it didn't bother me that much to go on. The songs Eric wrote were good songs; they were very simple. They were basic grooves. I never felt like, 'Oh my God, we lost our songwriter.'"

The remaining bandmembers appear to be getting along famously. Navarro even hugged Farrell when the sound check was over. "For me, it's just a matter of having grown up and learned a lot about myself and other people and how to relate with them and when to adjust to when there are walls up and when the walls are down." Dave explains. "When you're young, you don't have a sense of that."

Even though most of the songs were written almost a decade ago, they are fresh to Jane's. "There's a list of songs that we all love to play, so we went to that list first," Stephen explains. "The ones that fell off that list, we didn't really even tease too much." Conspicuously missing from the set list is the radio-ruined "Been Caught Stealing."

Only one song that made the set feels dated to Perry: "The one where I sing, 'I'm a white dread/I'm a white dread so/I've a got a ring and I hang it from my nose' ['No One's Leaving']. I don't have dreads and a ring through my nose anymore."

All are still happy to play "Jane Says" (though not a dozen times in a row). Kettle Whistle includes a live version of the song with an extended introduction, recorded at Irvine Meadows during the Lollapalooza tour. The version Jane's play on this tour is similar, and they move to smaller, semi-acoustic stage midway through the set to do so.

The three are still just as moved by the woman who inspired their signature song. "I think we picked a great subject, because Jane is a very beautiful woman here," Perry says, pointing to his heart. "She could also be called 'Plain Jane.'--thick glasses, very outcast, very insecure, a lot like us here. I look at her like a tragic figure. She's a Smith graduate, she's extremely intelligent, which is very unappealing to most men. She still hasn't found love, which is pretty much like us." He looks at Steven. "Well, you've found love."

"Sure, I have love," he replies.

"And you've kind of found love," Perry says to Dave.

Not wanting to go on record, Dave dodges Perry's outstretched finger. The ensuing laughter doesn't sidetrack Perry. "I still haven't found my soul mate yet," he continues. "And every time I see Jane she's just not quite right, but she's always hopeful that something great is about to happen. 'I'm gonna kick tomorrow.' Every time I see her, I just feel like I wanna cry. She's a very warm person; she'd give you her last apple if it was in her sack of lunch. At the same time, no one really appreciates her and she can't quite get herself together. She's one of these people that lives slightly out of linear time. There's us and then there's Jane. She can talk to you and she can see you, but she's always slightly somewhere else. I don't know, maybe everybody feels like that and that's probably why people can relate to that song."

It's Saturday night, minutes before zillions of people across America relate to that song. Host Jon Lovitz (New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani canceled) and various cast members shuffle in and out of dressing rooms. Stagehands wheel sets in and out of the studio. Producer Lorne Michaels paces the hallway. And one of the original Not Ready for Primetime Players, Chevy Chase, confirms seats for his kids and then goes of "to bother Norm [McDonald, Chase's heir at the "Weekend Update" desk] in his dressing room."

Jane's Addiction has just finished meeting and taking pictures with their guests of honor (no, not Michael Stipe and Courtney Love, but they were there too), a Croatian couple. A 24-year-old Croatian immigrant earned enough money as a truck driver to fly his girlfriend over to see her favorite band. However, due to some counterfeit tickets, the capacity at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom was exceeded, and the two were shut out of the Halloween show. Perry found out about the couple and invited them to SNL. Yep, love was in the air.

After a few skits, including Lovitz portraying Dunkin Donuts' "time to make the donuts" man as being bored with the same old routine ("People have laughed along with this character for 15 years, and now I think they want to see him die or get some tail!"), the call comes over the backstage speaker: "Stand by, Jane's Addiction."

The band shuffles onto the set and deliver "Jane Says" to a rabid crowd.

They never do get their chance to play "Chip Away." According to the SNL powers that be, the second song is one of the first things to get cut when the show runs over because the music segments get the lowest ratings. Yes, all kinds music played here, just not lots of it.

Jane's Addiction's final leg finds them back home in California. Dave says the whole tour has become such a whirlwind that he wants to relish these shows and perhaps his final days in Jane's Addiction. "In 'Classic Girl,' when Perry sings, 'For us, these are the days,' I totally take a moment to look at where we are and what we're doing. That's a time in the set where I really feel gratitude," he says. "As many other projects as there are, this is the one thing that I feel has been my home and will be my home forever."

Stephen also sounds as hopeful as the woman who gave the band their name. "We all live in LA," he says. "And we all have studios there and friendships there, so there's always a chance to make music."

And spread love.