Jane's Addiction

Jane's Addiction Biography

JANE'S ADDICTION, the band that fertilized the seed that eventually sprouted into mass-marketed "alternative rock," was the best-known and best-selling of the influential bands who were truly "alternative" before the label became a buzz word. Over the course of its initial five-year, three-album history, the band's energetic, decadent hard-rock served as an inspiration for the Nirvanas and Soundgardens of the world, bands that would have to wait another few years for the music they loved (and played) to gain mainstream acceptance. Though the group disbanded just as alternative rock was breaking into the mainstream, Jane's Addiction left an indelible mark on the face of music, both in terms of the groups it inspired and in the form of Lollapalooza, the annual circus-like traveling music festival masterminded by Jane's frontman Perry Farrell in 1991. Ironically, now that alternative rock itself is on the wane, Jane's Addiction has reformed--temporarily--for a new album and tour.

Hailing from Hollywood, Jane's Addiction merged the visceral elements of classic arena rock with the menacing image and approach of punk in a manner that late-eighties metal bands did not. Over this tonal landscape, vocalist Perry Farrell's nasal rantings and at once offensive, hallucinatory, and self-indulgent lyrics roamed free. Farrell (born Perry Bernstein) had moved to Los Angeles from New York in the early eighties, and had changed his name to a play on the word "peripheral," and formed Psi Com, a goth group that released one indie-label EP in 1985 before splitting up. (The EP was reissued in 1993 by Triple X records.) Farrell hooked up with guitarist David Navarro and bassist Eric Avery in 1986, and the trio named the band they subsequently formed Jane's Addiction, after the woman who first introduced them. Drummer Stephen Perkins was brought into the fold soon thereafter, and the quartet started playing the Hollywood club scene.

Farrell and his bandmates created a powerful musical persona that eschewed the histrionics preferred by the rash of style-over-substance bands toiling in Hollywood at the time in favor of crafting hard-edged songs that were propelled by Navarro's razor-sharp riffing and girded by Avery and Perkins' throbbing rhythmic presence. In 1987, Triple X released a Jane's Addiction eponymous live album that effectively captured on disc the energy of the band's incendiary club performances. Jane's Addiction featured early versions of the future hit "Jane Says," the fan staple "Pigs in Zen," and a reworking of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil."

Soon after the album's release, Warner Brothers won a bidding war to sign the band and subsequently released 1988's Nothing's Shocking, a record that would go on to become an underground favorite. For that album, the band refined its edgy, hard-hitting musical attack within the scope of Farrell's provocative, esoteric, and--by his own admission--substance-addled artistic visions. Though Nothing's Shocking only peaked on the Billboard album chart at No. 103, it did gain the band entrée into hip college-radio circles and quickly garnered them a substantial cult following.

Farrell and company followed Nothing's Shocking with what would be their commercial breakthrough, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual. Ritual contained only nine tracks, but it was far more expansive and ambitious than its predecessor, which had only hinted at the epic capability the band brought to fruition on its sophomore effort. While characteristic rockers like the first Ritual single, "Stop," still had their place, atmospheric, multiphasic pieces like "Three Days" and "Of Course" (the latter incorporates Eastern musical influences with Perkins' vibrant, tribal drumming style) gave the album its unique flavor. Ritual's stature was immeasurably boosted by the inclusion of the band's biggest hit to date, "Been Caught Stealing"--the upbeat, hip-hop-flavored song catapulted the album onto Billboard's Top Twenty (thanks in part to heavy MTV rotation of the song's video), and the band to the brink of stardom.

By 1991, it appeared that Jane's Addiction was poised to make a huge commercial breakthrough, and that same year, Farrell was instrumental in the creation of the first Lollapalooza festival, which Jane's headlined. The success of Lollapalooza (which also featured Living Colour, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Butthole Surfers, Body Count, and Nine Inch Nails) brought the band tremendous attention, making it all the more surprising when Farrell announced that Jane's Addiction would disband at the end of the tour. Yet, somehow, it seemed oddly fitting that a group known for its unconventionality would choose to break up at the height of its popularity.

After the split, Navarro took over lead guitar duties for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of Jane's Addiction's peer bands from its L.A. club-scene tenure, while Avery moved on to play in Polar Bear. (The pair also collaborated on a 1994 album under the name Deconstruction.) Farrell continued to oversee the Lollapalooza festivals for several years, and he formed Porno for Pyros with Perkins, bassist Martyn LeNoble, and guitarist Pete DiStefano in 1992. The Pyros scored a minor hit the following year with "Pets," a single off their self-titled Warner Brothers debut. They released a follow-up album, Good God's Urge, in 1996.

Today, with the so-called alternative nation Jane's Addiction helped foster arguably dissolved, the band's original lineup--minus Avery and plus Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player Flea--has reunited, or, as Farrell puts it, "relapsed." Signs that Jane's might reconvene surfaced in early 1997, when Navarro and Flea played on Porno for Pyros' contribution to the Private Parts soundtrack, "Hard Charger"--a song that sounded more like Farrell's former band than his present one. By the summer, plans for a full-fledged Jane's reunion were underway, with Flea officially taking the place of Avery, who declined Farrell's invitation to participate. The new Jane's lineup went into the studio to record two new songs for an "odds and sods" collection of demos, outtakes, and live tracks titled Kettle Whistle, which was released in November of 1997. The I-Itz M-My Party Tour, which kicked off in Los Angeles a month earlier, has seen the band playing to sellout crowds and earning stronger critical praise than it did in its heyday.

As for what happens after the scheduled relapse, the members say they plan to return to their respective current bands, leaving Jane's Addiction to resume its standing as a major footnote in the annals of rock history. But success has a funny way of changing the best-laid plans, which could mean this relapse will evolve into a rebirth.

Jane's Addiction Bio from Discogs

American rock band founded in 1985 in Los Angeles.

Original line-up:

Perry Farrell: vocals

Dave Navarro: guitar

Eric Avery: bass

Stephen Perkins: drums

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