This past December, former Guns n' Roses bassist Duff McKagan was having dinner with Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell. "He was kind of bummed," says McKagan. "He had just heard that [original Jane's Addiction bassist] Eric Avery was leaving the band." McKagan offered to jam with Jane's at Farrell's home studio and within weeks was hired for the vacant bass position. "We're from the same musical time, the same town, the same era," says guitarist Dave Navarro. "It was a natural fit."
Jane's Addiction reunited in 2008 with Avery for the first time since the band initially split in 1991, but after a recent Australian tour, the bassist exited once again. "It was a decision Eric made," says Navarro. "He's focused on making a solo record." McKagan adds, "I don't have years of history with this band. So there's no like, 'Oh, what happened to that chick in 1989?' still twenty-fucking-five years later. Everything's been great."
The group is taking it slowly for now, spending most of its time jamming at its L.A. rehearsal space. "I've never been in a band I wasn't in from the beginning," says McKagan. "So to play songs like 'Been Caught Stealing' is pretty fucking kickass." Jane's are working on their first album since 2003's Strays and plan to launch a world tour in 2011. For now, they are focused on writing new songs.
"That's 97 percent of what our time is geared towards," McKagan says. "When I first sent some songs to Perry they were the in the usual style that I write music — verse, chorus, chorus, bridge, double chorus, etc. If you listen to a great Jane's Addiction song, though, there's no chorus! It's just riff, and then it goes into some psychedelic jam. I've had to learn to sort of adapt as a songwriter. I just have to bring in a riff. Some snarling, mean, dark and dismal riff, that's going to be our thing."
The new gig comes at the perfect time for McKagan since his last band, Velvet Revolver — which split with singer Scott Weiland in 2008 — is on an hiatus. "Slash is going to be touring [behind his new solo album] for at least the next year, and I can't afford to just wait around and see if something's going to happen," McKagan says. "These are my years to do something. I'm probably at my peak creatively, and I want to use it. I'm blessed to be able to get that chance now."
Despite the break, McKagan wants it known that there is no tension in the Velvet Revolver camp. "Slash just made the album I've known he's wanted to make since the Use Your Illusion tour in 1993," he says. "We play in a band together, but we're also friends. Being friends means giving each other space to do what your heart is telling you at the moment. The thing that happened with Scott [Weiland] happened how it happened. I'm the last guy to say it was his fault or it was his fault. It doesn't matter. We have to move on. We could have gone straight in and started looking for a new singer after Scott left, but we were all just a little beat up. It was a tough last 18 months — and not just with the band, but with management stuff, too."
And what about the next VR record? "I don't know, a couple years down the line or whatever," McKagan tells RS. "Nobody knows, and I'm just doing the work that's being put in front of me and this is what feels pretty great."