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Shades of Dave
Dave Navarro throws light on the Chili Peppers' problems, a new side project, and his appetite for Fiona Apple
by Michael Moses
Guitar April 1998

For Dave Navarro, 1997 was a year of both glamour and pain. In addition to the burden of keeping up with the latest Paris fashions, the Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist spent one part of the year getting dragged through the mud by the media. His long-awaited reunion with Jane's Addiction was overshadowed by black clouds of controversy, the latest revolving around an alleged drug relapse, as well as a possible Chili Pepper breakup. And of course, let's not forget that bizarre incident involving a blood-scrawled message left on Fiona Apple's dressing room wall last December at Los Angeles radio station KROQ's Acoustic Christmas Show. With the rumor mill grinding out new Navarro gossip every day, we called Dave to get some answers, and to get an update on his solo project, Spread. When Chili Pepper drummer (and Spread partner) Chad Smith showed up, we got more than we bargained for.

So what's the story with the Chili Peppers?

What do you mean?

Well, you canceled a few gigs, you postponed the release of the new album...

Well, everything has been delayed because I was on tour with Jane's Addiction. That, and the fact that we haven't had much rehearsal time, forced us to postpone those shows. But to be totally honest, I didn't really want to do them anyway. After a six-week Jane's tour, I was kinda burnt on the whole rock-and-roll-touring-machine concept. As for the album, we just completed one song called "Circle Of The Noose," which has a continuous loop of Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan. It's got a '60s hippie vibe combined with '90s technology and ideals. Rick Rubin produced it.

When do you expect to have the album finished?

I don't know. There's an album's worth of material written, although some of the songs are further along in their development and the rest are just seeds--ideas that can bloom into something great or something really horrible.

Although it's too soon to tell, how do you think this album will differ from the last, One Hot Minute?

This material might actually be good.

You said that, not me.

I've always said that. I think One Hot Minute is a documentation of three musicians who played a lot of music together and a new guy--me--trying to find their groove. We didn't have a whole lot of things fully ironed out when we went into the studio. They worked differently then Jane's did and I wasn't used to it.

Is it safe to say that the Chili Peppers have a bright future ahead?

To be perfectly honest, I just don't know. But things are comfortable. No one's talking about leaving. I don't want to say we have a bright future, 'cause with our luck that would be like shooting myself in the foot.

What's the future of Jane's? Was the reunion a one-off or will there be more?

I couldn't tell you. I'm just having a good time.

Does playing in the Chili Peppers satisfy something that Jane's can't, or vice versa?

I would say that Jane's is a way to fulfill decadence and the Chili Peppers is a means to fulfill straight living. It's hard to describe; it's like comparing girlfriends. I'll put it this way: Jane's will occasionally give great head, but I can always missionary-fuck the Chili Peppers [laughs and asks Chad Smith, "How was that?"]. Chad liked that.

How's Anthony's hand holding up? [Chili Pepper frontman Anthony Kiedis injured his hand in a motorcycle accident last year.]

It's doing pretty good. There was a time where it was looking kind of questionable as to how badly damaged it would be for the rest of his life.

Didn't Chad get into an accident right after Anthony?

Yeah, he did. And y'know, these things happen in threes, so right after Chad's accident, I was begging [Chili Pepper bassist] Flea to get on a bike and ride over to my house as fast as he could [laughs]. Hey, can you hang on a second? [puts the phone down for a few minutes] Okay, I'm back. Sometimes I took so long. Sometimes it's hard to find a vein, y'know? [laughs] I'm kidding. Please print that I was kidding. My life has collapsed as a result of one interview I did recently.

We can clear up the drug controversy right here.

Uh-unh. I'm done talking about that subject.

You brought it up.

Yeah, but now I feel like I have to edit myself, because we're talking about a subject which will turn affect the lives, feelings, and comfort of the people in my life that love me and my family. If it's just me, I'll tell you anything you wanna know, but now I gotta bear in mind that if I do that, then I'm gonna have everyone in my family calling me all night. And that's what I want to avoid. So I guess my answer is "no comment."

What's the status with Spread?

Chad and myself are about to enter the studio to remix some tracks. The material is very eclectic and very dark in terms of content. Here, listen. [Various song bits are played in the background, one of which sounds Hendrix-like, the other Zeppelin-esque]. It's called Unicorns & Rainbows: The Pelican. I'm also gonna make a video tape to accompany the record that will essentially be an autobiographical documentary. My intention is to show the vulnerable moments in my life: The mistakes I do make and have made, and the tragedy I've seen.

And you have all those moments captured on film?

I have a lot of it. For instance, I don't have a problem showing footage of me having a nervous breakdown and crying during an interview--moments like that.

So what's the deal with you and Fiona Apple? You wrote her a message in blood. In some countries, that's considered a marriage proposal.

Someone at the Universal Amphitheater took it down before she even got there. The funny thing is that whoever came to wash it off the wall was dressed in one of those biohazard radiation suits where they're covered from head to toe, as if there was AIDS or cancer radiating off the wall [laughs]. The truth is, I think she's very cute and I just wanted to say hello. And in my world, in my house, in my life, and among my friends, an action such as that is nothing to bat an eyelash at. Besides, I never even met her.

What did you think of her speech at the MTV Music Video Awards last September?

I didn't see it. I heard that she rambled on about something, but what do I care? I don't really want to talk to the girl--if you know what I mean [laughs]. Just kidding. Hang on a sec, Chad's upset about something. [Asks Chad, 'Chad, what are you so upset about?' Chad mumbles. Dave replies, 'It's a profile piece on me. No, it's not about Strats or shit like that.' Chad mumbles some more. Dave laughs.] Chad told me to say, "I play, I rock, chicks love it. What more do you need to know?"