Being the most talked-about band in Los Angeles is not exactly a solid foundation from which to launch a career. After all, a legacy marked by the the rags-to-riches-to-rags stories of such bands as the Knack and the Unforgiven (already dropped by Elektra after one flop album) hardly inspire confidence.
So it’s understandable that some people aren’t really taking Jane’s Addiction too seriously at this stage.
Though the band is the darling of the trendy late-night underground set, and was the subject of intense competition between major record labels before signing with Warner Bros. last summer, many scratch their heads when considering its long-term prospects. Hype is a term that often comes up in discussions about the band.
Still, there are those who are definitely taking Jane’s Addiction seriously. Of course, there’s Warner Bros., for one.
Roberta Petersen, general manager of the label’s artist and repertoire department, predicts that the band’s first album for the label (expected for May release) will have an immediate impact on the recording industry. Petersen believes that the band will be able to attract heavy-metal and punk fans--much the same mix that has embraced the British band the Cult.
So convinced is Warners of Jane’s Addiction’s talents that it agreed to let lead singer Perry Farrell produce the band’s first album with the label (with help from engineer Dave Jerden) rather than call in a big-name producer.
Then there’s Rolling Stone magazine, which recently identified Jane’s Addiction as the rising star in the West, describing its psychedelic/metal/punk musical blend as “dark, abrasive . . . passionately committed to making a statement.”
Jane’s Addiction also came up at the top of local-band rankings for 1986 in Music Connection magazine and the L.A. Weekly.
But no one takes Jane’s Addiction more seriously than singer Perry Farrell.
“What we’re going to do is going to blow people away,” said Farrell outside a Vine Street juice bar after a rehearsal at a nearby studio. “When we get out there, we’re going to do things no one else has ever done. Musically, we’re already light-years ahead.”
Farrell was once quoted comparing the band’s prospects of shaking things up to the impact of the Sex Pistols. Now he thinks his group surpasses that punk icon, writing off the Pistols (“They were just a fashion band”) as easily as he does Madonna (“She’s got nothing to say”) and the Beastie Boys (“They make me sick, but because everybody was bored, they got into them”).
And what of those who scoff at such boastful talk?
Said Farrell: “Those are the fools.”
Saying hype or bidding war around Jane’s Addiction is like yelling fire in a crowded theater.
But it’s hard to discuss the band without some mention of those terms. For that very reason, the band was reluctant to do an interview at this time, preferring to wait until the album is finished (recording is scheduled to begin next month) so the focus could be on the music. Only after being reassured that those subjects would be minor parts of the interview did the band consent.
And when the subjects were raised, they were met with sharp responses.
“If anybody started a hype, it’s the people who hate us,” Farrell said, claiming that he tries to ignore press and public talk about him, good or bad.
“The first thing that kills a band is to listen to what other people say about you. Don’t listen to anybody. If you do, you’re a fool.”
Of the reported big contract awarded the band after the so-called bidding war, Farrell said flatly, “It’s none of your business. People are so jealous in this city.”
More significant, he said, is the fact that the band held out for artistic control.
“People should say, ‘Finally a band has the upper hand,’ ” said Farrell.
And all those comparisons to the Unforgiven, the subject of the last so-called bidding war in Los Angeles?
Snapped Farrell, “If you could possibly compare us to the Unforgiven, you’re a moron.”
Even by rock ‘n’ roll standards, Perry Farrell is something of an odd duck. With his dreadlocks streaming out from under a cap, cut-off long johns peeking out from under his cut-off shorts, and a ring in his nose, he’s the picture of gawky youth.
That same quality is reflected in the lyrics of such songs as the tender “Jane Says” and the brutal “Pigs in Zen” which can be heard on “Jane’s Addiction,” the band’s self-titled debut album recorded live last spring and released by its management company, Triple X. What these songs show is a gritty street reality as seen through the haze of troubled adolescence.
So it’s a bit surprising to find that Farrell is not an adolescent at all, but a 28-year-old Queens, N.Y., native who accumulated a wealth of experiences before first trying his hand at rock several years ago. His songs, he insists, are true.
“Name something degrading and I’ve done it,” he said of the years since he ran away from home at 17. “I’m not going to be explicit about it, just anything degrading I’ve done (it) so I could eat.”
Farrell’s three bandmates (guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Eric Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins) admit that they have some trouble relating to the lyrics. All three are in their early ‘20s and are products of L. A. area middle-class families. While Farrell shares similar roots, he left them in his past 11 years ago.
“When I was a little kid I ate, but the problems started when I ran away,” he said, recalling how he hopped a bus and headed for Hemet, where a friend lived.
“Put it this way: I hated my parents when I was a kid, like everybody else, and I left. If I wanted to I could have stayed at home and been a fat little Jewish kid and had my dad start a business for me.
“Now after years of my father telling me I’m never going to do anything, now I’m signed to Warner Bros. and he says we’re the best friends. My dad’s cool. He’s just like me. Imagine me as a parent. You’d probably run away from me.
“I’ve had a lot of time to do things besides music. I feel good about it ‘cause I think I’ve paid my dues. If I would have been (successful in music) years ago, I wouldn’t have had all this time to live and you would have probably thought I was a geek.”
And Farrell claims that rock could just be another temporary stop for him.
“Who knows how long I’ll be doing this?” he said. “I don’t look at it like David Bowie, big career man. I might just split the country. Who knows?”
Still, the band recognizes its position with the young crowd. “I think the adolescents are the part of the market that are most eager to break the rules,” said Avery. “We appeal to that.”
“It goes beyond that,” said Farrell. “We appeal to anybody who’s into an alternative life style.”
Still, for all his brash confidence, Farrell is a bit surprised that he’s had success with something so tied to his own experiences.
“Don’t you find it weird that we’re popular?,” Farrell asked. “We don’t have a uniform, we insult people and yet they like it. . . . I just write about things I like and we play what we like. If other people don’t like it, I don’t blame them, because it’s personal.”