Interview: Dave Navarro of Camp Freddy
Mon, 19 May 2008 12:13:10
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Camp Freddy is the musical equivalent of The Super Friends or The Justice League. It's an all-star group of A-list musicians that get together on special occasions
to bust out classic covers. Currently, they've got a residency at The Roxy for May. Even though it's not a super secret hideout in Antaractica, it's the perfect place for core band members Dave Navarro [Jane's Addiction, Panic Channel, Red Hot Chili Peppers], Matt Sorum
[Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver], Donovan Leitch, Chris Chaney [Jane's Addiction], Billy Morrison [The Cult], the residency's MC Mark McGrath [Sugar Ray] and guests to
showcase their awesomeness. Each show has brought out rock's cream of the crop in terms of "Super Friends," from Slashand Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour. In fact, the dressing room scene before the band takes the stage could very well be cut right from a
Grammy party. Dave Navarro sits shirtless on a leather couch, relaxing before the show. He's mellow, but quite cheery nonetheless. He's Camp Freddy's ringleader, in a
sense. Tonight, there's a guest he's psyched to play with again, drummer Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Chad glances over and exclaims, "Do you know the Show 'Em Enough to Win story?" Dave does, but I don't. Thankfully, Chad's thrilled to tell it. "Back in the '50s, on the East Coast, Jackie Gleason was the biggest entertainer. On the West Coast, it was Milton Berle—'Uncle Milton.' There was a big talk of who had the biggest 'member' in the industry. Who better to referee that than Frank Sinatra? So they all met in Vegas and went up to Frank's room. Frank was kind of in the Milton camp. Gleason shows up with his boys. Frank goes, 'Jackie, let's see it.' Bam, Jackie puts it on the table. Frank says, 'Milton, just show 'em enough to win!'[Laughs]" Everyone in the intimate, yet ornate dressing room, from Mark McGrath to Billy Morrison, erupts with laughter, and Smith flashes a huge grin. Just another day at Camp.
Reclining on the couch, Navarro's one of the coolest guitar gods that you can meet. He speaks softly, but rocks a big riff. The guy does not mess around on stage, and every show, he rips out his favorites with the Camp. Right before hitting the stage, he took some time to give ARTISTdirect an exclusive interview about why this camp rules.
Is this your most fun musical endeavor?
Dave: It's supposed to be fun, and that's the big idea behind it. We all have big lives outside of this, and we primarily come together to celebrate the music that we grew up listening to with friends, peers and sometimes, mentors. That's the fun that you're picking up on, and that's the primary objective behind the whole thing.
That fun's been missing from rock and roll. It's so important to get that release and have a good time.
Dave: It is, and the audience knows every single song in the set. They pretty much know every person that comes on stage too. So those two things combined makes the show undeniably fun.
The chemistry you guys have is very powerful. It's amazing how kinetic the connection is between all of you on stage, because you aren't all in one "standard" band that rehearses all the time together.
Dave: Well, we've all been friends for years and years. We've come up in different bands, respected one another, learned each other's songs, hung out and got into a lot of trouble together. That stuff translates. When someone we don't know very well joins us on stage, there's an excitement that we all share. Because every single show is different, we never run into a routine where I'm looking at a set saying, "Oh no, I have the same eight songs to play that I've been playing for the past six months." We never have that stale attitude, because every night is fresh.
You must feed off the energy from the first-time guests as well. Would you say it's invigorating to jam with Camp Freddy newbies?
Dave: Yeah, it's a totally different animal. It's fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, and it's cool. We roughly run through stuff at sound check. If it sounds great, we do it. If it sounds like shit, we do it anyway [Laughs]. Ultimately, it's the moment we're after, more than the perfection of sound.
Isn't that what rock and roll's really about?
Dave: For me it is. It always has been. It's like last week when Tommy Lee got up from out of the blue. We didn't know he was coming. He just showed up and played during our set. We kind of got thrown off, because we hadn't rehearsed with him, but it was still an incredible moment. To have Matt Sorum and Tommy Lee rocking together was amazing. Tonight, we're going to have Mr. Chad Smith playing. It's been awhile since I've struck a note with him. I'm super excited that Chad's here. Corey Taylor from Slipknot is coming tonight. He's insanely good. He's just a mindblowing singer. He's singing a little Van Halen, and he's doing "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains. I'm very impressed with that guy. I'm super excited about that. I've never played with him before, but I've decided that I'm an honorary member of Slipknot now [Laughs]. I'm going start going by "Number 10" or "10 and a half," whatever it takes [Laughs]. Show 'em enough to win! [Laughs]
Chad: It's been too long since we've played, we're going to make a racket!
Do you think Camp Freddy could only happen in LA?
Dave: Well, this just happens to be where everybody lives [Laughs]. It'd be difficult to take it on the road, because everybody has other gigs and other jobs here. This residency at The Roxy is perfect, because we just come from home and go home. It couldn't be easier, and it couldn't be more convenient and more fun. Being here at The Roxy is really appropriate for us, because this is where a lot of us came from. My first album ever was recorded here—Jane's Addiction's XXX album.
So it's got to hold a real special significance for you?
Dave: I guess it does. I never really thought of that, until we talked about it just now [Laughs]. I'm just busting them up. You're fucking lovin' me, huh? [Laughs]
How did the idea for the residency come up?
Dave: Matt and Billy were sitting over a latte. They have these lattes that they do. They were having breakfast and just bandying about some ideas. The idea came up. We all have each other's email addresses. There's this Camp Freddy e-mail list. So Billy shot out an email that said, "Guys, are you interested in doing this residency at The Roxy?" I just wrote back, "Ok." Everyone else wrote back, "Ok." That was it. The idea was born.
It's like a gathering of superheroes with this secret e-mail list.
Dave: I like that comparison! It's cool. That's how it works. It's not like a big organization where it's an issue. If someone can't make it, someone fills in. When Matt was on tour with Velvet Revolver, Stephen Perkins would sit in. When I'm gone, Billy Duffy of The Cult or Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard will sit in. There's never a shortage of great players in this town.
It seems like L.A. really fosters that creative spirit within artists. Would you say that's the case?
Dave: I don't know. New York really gives L.A. a run for its money in terms of creativity. In terms of rock musicians, I think the majority of them are here, for sure.
Tourists come here looking for the history at The Whisky, The Roxy and The Rainbow.
Dave: They also want to see Times Square! [Laughs] There are some sights in New York. They've got some ideas like the Statue of Liberty. Really though, I could find myself sitting with the same cast of characters for lunch on any given day during the week. "It's really not anything more than a public display of our friendship." Oohh, pull quote! [Laughs] [To Billy Morrison:] Billy, I came up with the pull quote for the story. "A Camp Freddy show is like a public display of our friendship."
Billy: You couldn't pay for that kind of press!
Dave: No, he could pay me [Laughs].
Do these shows inspire you to go home and create?
Dave: Of course I do, but I'm always pretty inspired by just living in this town and having the artist community at my disposal. I live so close to it. The beautiful thing is that Billy and I do a radio show on Saturdays, so we're pretty connected at all times. This is more like an exorcism for me. It's not like a creative experiment, because we didn't write anything. We're not doing anything new. We are a cover band, but it's almost like a release. It's some kind of kinetic release. I guess.
“A Camp Freddy show is like a public display of our friendship”
Is there one song that's perfect for Camp Freddy?
Dave: Well, every show, it's tradition that we close with Iggy Pop's "I want to be your dog." Every single member that performed that night comes out during that song so we'll have like eight guitarists and six vocalists. Everyone we invited down comes out for the finale. So I would say that song. Our version and performance of that song pretty much defines what the band's about.