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Hit Album by Jane’s Addiction Doesn’t Squelch Rumors of Breakup

<i> Appleford writes regularly about music for Westside/Valley Calendar. </i>

If mainstream success hasn’t exactly been chasing after Jane’s Addiction before, the popularity generated by their newest Warner Bros. album has certainly helped the eclectic hard-rock quartet make up for lost time.

The mystery now for fans and industry watchers lies in how long the band, which emerged from Hollywood in 1986, can last to enjoy this wider acceptance.

With the “Ritual de lo Habitual” album nearing platinum status of 1 million in sales and a recent series of sellout shows at the Universal Amphitheatre, in cities across the country and in Europe, Jane’s Addiction would seem bound for arena-size rock stardom.

The band is scheduled to continue touring through the summer, when it headlines a 20-date series of giant outdoor concerts called the Lollapalooza Festival. That tour is expected to include such acts as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Living Colour, Nick Cave, Fishbone and Nine Inch Nails.

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But these signs of musical prosperity blur when mixed with persistent suggestions, some from band members, that Jane’s Addiction will break up after the summer concerts. Lead singer Perry Farrell has said in recent interviews that he intends to quite Jane’s Addiction to focus on other projects in music, film and art. And in December, bassist Eric Avery said the band “is coming to an end. It’s run its course.”

Warner Bros. Records publicity chief Bob Merlis nonetheless said he expects the hometown favorites to be a continuing presence, adding that “dark rumors” and grumbling “come with the territory” after a band meets with success.

And several longtime followers, noting the group’s years of financial uncertainty, expressed hope that their first Top 40 album will affect its decision.

“Now that they are starting to see some money, that may encourage them to go on,” said Peter Huer, president of Triple-X Records, which released the band’s first live album. “That’s not the main thing. But if it means Perry will be allowed to do more of what he wants to do, I think he’ll seize the opportunity.”

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Ticket demand for Jane’s Addiction concerts has increased about 500% over earlier tours, said Marc Geiger of Triad Artists, which has booked the band’s shows since 1987. The wider popular acclaim has even pushed the band’s first studio album, 1988’s “Nothing’s Shocking,” toward gold-record status of 500,000 in sales.

“Mainstream audiences are being exposed to them through touring, airplay, word-of-mouth, video and the press,” Merlis said. “It’s all conspired to lay the groundwork to make a major launch. If mainstream audiences are exposed to this music they can relate to it. You don’t sell this many albums with just cutting-edge tastemaker types.”

Since the release of the “Ritual de lo Habitual” album last fall, Jane’s addiction has returned to the studio to record the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” for a tribute album to the Dead. A medley of songs by the Doors, X and the Cramps has been recorded for a European single. The band has also discussed recording a live album from the current tour.

All of this is moving along in spite of the group’s messages of an early demise, living up to a promise Farrell once made to break up the band while it was still at its creative peak. Adding to that scenario is what a couple of close observers described as friction within the band, with Farrell and Avery rarely speaking to one another.

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“I think it’s a cloud that’s over their heads,” a friend of the group said. “It’s a matter of if they’re going to decide to be grown men or idiots. All my friends who are Jane’s Addiction fans would die if they broke up.”

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. hasn’t yet become alarmed that its latest commercial breakthrough may pull the plug on itself.

“That’s been the case since we’ve been putting out their records,” Merlis said. “Well, they’re still together, and my hope is that they’ll continue. We’ve seen this in other bands. Whether these musings turn into reality is something we’ll have to see.”

LOCAL VOCALS: Another set of young local singers, this one from the Los Angeles Music Center Opera’s repertory company, will perform today at “Verdi Gras,” a concert, luncheon and silent auction sponsored by the Opera Buffs to raise funds for company vocal coaching.

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Three of the repertory company’s singers, all supporting players this season, will present a concert of Verdi and Mozart excerpts in the Grand Ballroom of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Century City. Tenor Greg Fedderly, mezzo Paula Rasmussen and soprano Jennifer Trost will be joined by veteran baritone Rodney Gilfrey, who in April will sing lead in the Music Center’s production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte,” according to Rena Cohen, president of the Opera Buffs.

Since 1984, that all-volunteer organization has worked to give financial support to local companies and singers. “Other big cities have all kinds of elaborate systems for training young singers,” Cohen said. “But the Los Angeles opera company is very new. It’s a pioneering step in helping the opera company in the training area. This is seed money in essence, because we are hoping that they are going to have a full-blown program.

“Our attitude is that the arts are the rain forest of civilization, and you have to keep planting all these seeds,” she added. “We feel it’s a worthy thing.”

Last year, the Opera Buffs awarded $43,000 to 34 singers and four opera organizations for travel, coaching, training and other expenses, Cohen said.

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“That’s a modest amount of money, but it did a lot of good,” she said. “What we do is subsidize young singers who we feel are just on the verge of a great operatic career. So this function is held every year to augment our scholarship fund.”

“Verdi Gras, " a fund-raising concert, luncheon and silent auction, begins at 11 a.m. today at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, 2151 Avenue of the Stars, Century City. Tickets are $85. For more information, call (213) 826-8000.


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