97 ‘UNDER THE BRIDGE’
Red Hot Chili Peppers (Warners 1991)
The most beautiful song ever written about heroin? Quite possibly. From the gentle acoustic opening, through Anthony Kiedis’ poignant lyrics, to its grandiose gospel ending, ‘Under the Bridge proved to
In issue 740, Kerrang! ran a news story claiming ex-Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist DAVE NAVARRO had labelled all women “whores”. What we didn’t expect was for him to post the piece on his 4001 website, accusing us of sensationalism — and then call us up…
Words: Jason Arnopp Photos: Tony Woolliscroft
I KNOW a lot of my acts in the past have suggested that I’m this shocking, OTT morbid character,” says Dave Navarro. “And I am, to an extent, but at the same time I’m as honest as I can possibly be. If someone asks me straight out if I’ve experimented with drugs, for example, then I find it impossible to lie to them about it.”
Indeed, it’s Navarro’s honesty which has led to this interview. Rewind to the News section of Kerrang! issue 740, and the headline ‘Navarro: All Women Are Whores’. Those five words top a piece about the forthcoming book from Dave Navarro — erstwhile guitarist with alt-rock pioneers Jane’s Addiction and, until last April, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Little do we know that our news piece on the book is destined to end up in it. Firstly, however, the piece will be paraded on Navarro’s website — located at www.6767.com — along with a lengthy written rant from the man himself, labelling it “grossly irresponsible”, “crass” and “crude”, and accusing us of quoting him out of context.
It doesn’t take an expert in human behaviour to determine that we have pissed Dave Navarro off big time.
THE MAN’S indignation is, in some ways, hard to fathom. After all, he has posted a chapter from the aforementioned book entitled ‘Trust No One’ — on his site, in which he speaks about how he can’t help seeing women as whores.
So what’s the problem? I send Navarro an e-mail apologising for any distress caused — while politely protesting that we haven’t, in fact, quoted him out of context at all. And if he wants to call the office and set the record straight once and for all, then that would be just grand.
Next day, the majority of this grovelling apology is printed on Navarro’s website for all the ‘Net to see. It’s a cunning fox of a move on his part, as suddenly I’m made to feel used and violated, just as musicians feel in their daily struggle against the press. Or something.
Beneath my e-mail on the site is a new Navarro statement, saying he appreciates the speed of our reply, although he still believes the headline to be potentially damaging — if people merely read the headline and turn the page, he argues, they would believe him to be a woman-hater.
The next day, at about two o’clock in the afternoon, Dave Navarro’s hushed tones appear on my answering machine. He says he’s staying at the Soho Grand Hotel in New York and “would love to chat”.
When he picks up the phone in his room, Navarro explains that he is speaking quietly because a lady friend, Michelle, is trying to sleep. It is, after all, nine in the morning in New York.
For a man who it would, frankly, be very easy to picture as a pretentious art wanker, Dave Navarro is instantly likeable. He doesn’t laugh much or crack many funnies, but we won’t hold that against him.
After loosely debating the various ethics of journalism as regards sensationalist headlines — a topic with legs, to be sure — we start talking about his distinctly chequered life.
THE PAST 12 months have been “taxing” for Navarro. A year ago, he says he “was literally asked to leave the Chili Peppers”, which is at direct odds with the band’s claim that the split was a mutual parting.
“I had to find a whole new team,” he sighs. “I had a handful of punches like that, so maybe that’s why I was sensitive to your article. The whole reason behind putting a chapter of the book on the website was that a lot of bands cheat and rob their listeners. I just wanted to say, ‘Here’s a free sample of what I’m doing’.”
And look what happened. So tell us about this book. “It’s a document of a year in my life, between June 1998 and June 1999. It’s evolving as we speak. The March chapter will primarily be about this exact circumstance. I’m going to have to take your news article into my photo booth.” That’ll be the ’60s booth which Navarro had installed in his LA home. The book isn’t so much about me,” he notes, as the people around me, and the people who came into my photo booth.”
Keen to explain this ‘whores’ controversy, the guitarist offers an overview of his often gruelling existence to date. One thing you should know, if you didn’t already: when Dave Navarro was 15, he witnessed his mother being murdered.
“I’ve had a string of blessings in my life, but I feel it’s been equally cursed,” he judges, his voice a murmur.
“The situation with my mother was an incredibly enormous hardship. However, I did end up in Jane’s Addiction and the Chili Peppers, and I now have a chance at my own band.
“My bad experiences have taught me that anything can go wrong and will shock you when you least expect it. The situation when my Mother was killed has affected my relationships with women. Having said that, I have been in a number of relationships that have hurt me very badly.
“I’m not blaming the women and saying it’s all their fault. When I tell myself all women are whores, what I’m saying is, I try to prepare myself for the worst types of pain. I will expect a girl to turn around and have sex with my friends. It’s not fair and I admit it, although it’s not like I end up treating them like whores. It’s just that I’m prepared to be hurt and devastated by people that I love. And when I don’t get hurt I’m left with happiness and positivity.”
DAVE NAVARRO clearly has a downer on love. Indeed, he believes all long-term relationships to be shams. “I’ve never seen one truly work,” he declares. “Have you?” Well… yes. Maybe.
“I’ve met couples and asked them, ‘Are you guys still in love?’, and they’ve told me they hate each other and only stay together for things like comfort and security,” he says. “An overall sense of love exists, but in terms of that warm, romantic love it doesn’t stay. And doing what I do, I meet a lot of people interested in my company for all the wrong reasons.
“Until I’m proven wrong, I believe people have the potential to hurt each other in the worst ways imaginable — not excluding myself. I know the type of things that I think about on a day-to-day basis, and if the rest of the world thinks about a 10th of those things…”
Navarro points out that while most people don’t act on their worst impulses, his childhood has clearly demonstrated that they can.
“The guy’s on Death Row right now,” he says of his mother’s killer. “He was on the run for eight years before they caught him. About four years ago, I had to go and stand on trial as a key witness in this murder case about my Mother. I was sitting there in the witness box, and next to me was an easel holding eight by 10-inch pictures of the murder scene. The guy who did this was sitting across the way from me. One can see how that would affect my ability to trust. For five years prior, I had loved him and accepted him as a family friend. He didn’t molest me, but there were some abusive times. Those years have greatly coloured my ability to trust.”
Are you sure you want this printed? “So long as it’s not sensationalised,” he sighs. “I’m just trying to explain that when I say something as brutal as, ‘All women are whores’, it’s one of the ways in which I cope with life. I do generally have a very happy existence and I’m aware of my good fortune. All my best friends are women and I actually don’t relate to men very well. I tend to see men as aggressive pigs because of what I’ve experienced as a kid.”
NAVARRO IS excited about the debut album from his new band Spread, to be released on his own Spread label this summer. It will see him singing for the first time (an “intensely scary” prospect, he says). He plays a new song down the line, ‘Angel’, which sounds like a lullaby, his voice far stronger than you might expect from an apparent novice. Another tune, ‘Not For Nothing’, is schizo and riffy with various different sections. It sounds like The Doors meets Jane’s Addiction.
“That’s fine by me,” he laughs. “My record is probably going to be more structured and song-oriented than might be expected. This is my first opportunity to say what I’m thinking and feeling.”
He reels off some more song titles: ‘Everything’, ‘Mourning Son’, ‘Hungry’, ‘Sunny Day’ and — ironically enough — ‘Whore’. ”
The Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction had a good band feeling,” he recalls. “On this record, I really did want to write songs. I wanted to be understandable and to be heard. I’ve mixed this record three times.” The first version of ‘Spread’, recorded in 1997, featured Chilis drummer Chad Smith — whose work has since been axed. Dave makes light of it. “After a while, I wanted to experiment with loops and incorporate more of an electronic element. Chad’s drumming didn’t suit that any more. He’s heard the changes. There’s been no falling out between us — but if there is one, you’ll be the first to know!”
IN 1997, Jane’s Addiction released the odds ‘n’ sods album ‘Kettle Whistle’ and reformed for a string of self-styled ‘relapse’ dates in America. Then it all seemed to end abruptly.
“We never had the intention to go beyond that tour,” insists Navarro. “So while it might have seemed abrupt, we were just executing the plan. The disappointing thing for me, though, was how ‘Kettle Whistle’ was rushed. The powers-that-be were anxious to get some product on the shelf. The album had two new songs we did with (Chili Peppers bassist) Flea, which were really great songs recorded averagely. Then there was live stuff and out-takes — thrown-together scraps.”
Navarro is similarly disenchanted with the current incarnation of ‘Three Days’, the Jane’s ‘docudrama’ shot during the ‘relapse’ tour and co-produced by Navarro himself. “The version of the film shown at the Slamdance and New York Underground film festivals was not supported by me or Perry,” he claims. “The makers went against our word and showed them anyway, so we’ve taken the film back and we’re going to re-edit it ourselves. On that tour we were forced to release an album we weren’t happy with, and then this version of the film was shown. But that’s where it’s gonna end —we’ll never let that happen again.
“There are currently only two songs in the film and those are shown in 30-40 second clips. Our relationships with the makers has been greatly damaged. I hate them as businessmen but I can separate that from the personal. I don’t think they’re able to do that.”
Is this the end of the line for Jane’s?
“We have no plans to be together again. Perry is as deep into his record as I am into mine. Flea has the new Chilis album, Eric (Avery, original Jane’s bassist) is doing this thing called Polar Bear and Stephen Perkins has a new project called Banyan. “I can tell you that the only two members of the band who truly connect are me and Perry, which is amazing after all these years,” he muses. “But Jane’s will never be dead as far as I’m concerned. I never say never.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers: new album, new live dates…
THE RED Hot Chili Peppers are planning to release their long-awaited new album in mid-June on Warner Bros, with an as-yet-untitled single scheduled for May 24. The album, which has the punsome working title of ‘Californication’, reunites the team who recorded 1991’s hugely successful `BloodSugarSexMagik’ album – singer Anthony Kiedis, returning guitarist John Frusciante, bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith and producer Rick Rubin.
The band began writing songs together last July. At the time Kiedis explained: “We get together every day in Flea’s garage for two to four hours. It’s all very low-tech – four guys in a garage writing songs. “I’m so enamoured with John’s playing, his energy, and just everything about him. And the chemistry that happens when we’re together… I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not asleep. because it means that much to me and it feels so good that I’m just waiting for someone to go. ‘Just kidding!’.”
The Chills hooked up with Rubin in LA last December to begin recording the album.
“Rick’s a great guy,” says Kiedis. “He loves music, he gets into it and he smiles a lot.”
Over a brief and highly productive four week period, the Chili Peppers and Rubin recorded 20 new tracks together. The band will now whittle these down to a maximum of 13 for ‘Californication’. Among the tracks set for inclusion on the album are ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘Dirt’.
According to band insiders, ‘Californication’ is “amazing” and the band’s best album to date. A typically ebullient Kiedis says: “I’m really pleased with it. It’s an incredible record.” At present, the Chills and Rubin are completing the final mixes of the album in LA, and the band are putting the artwork together. Although Kiedis did take a break last month, when he flew to New York to see the controversial Evander Holyfield/Lennox Lewis world title fight. To coincide with the release of ‘Californication’, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are expected to hit the road for an extensive world tour. They already seem to certain to be one of the bill-toppers at the Reading and Leeds ’99 festivals in August.