It's been 21 years since Jane's Addiction released Nothing's Shocking, and frontman Perry Farrell has finally found a cultural phenomenon that refutes the memorable refrain from "Ted, Just Admit It ..." "The Octo-Mom is shocking, so there you go," he says. "It finally happened. I'm shocked."
Hanging out with Rolling Stone the day after Jane's Addiction's triumphant South By Southwest gig at a former supermarket, Farrell says the group kicked the show off with "Three Days," a song that used to fall in the middle of sets, because "When the thought clicked in, I got a chill. I love an entrance that's like an orgasm, so it keeps building and then you have multiples. So in that song, it's not just 'Yay, there they are!' and it fizzles. The song keeps coming on and coming on and coming on, you start to have multiple orgasms."
(Click above to watch Farrell open up about Dave Navarro's guitar and driving skills, the band's first days back in the studio with Trent Reznor and what fans might expect at Lollapalooza.)
It was the band's third gig with its original lineup — Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery — and Farrell admits the reunion hasn't been a totally smooth ride. "It's very awkward. I have seen Eric maybe two times in 18 years very briefly, one time we almost got into a fistfight. We're all getting to know each other now to see if we've all changed for the better, if we can like each other and find common ground and ways to do things that will be successful together."
Jane's Addiction have already hit the studio with Trent Reznor, and while Farrell says those sessions likely won't produce a full album, they have yielded two new recordings of songs from Jane's self-titled 1987 live album, "Whores" and "Chip Away." But Perry isn't overly concerned about releasing an LP: "The young groups here today at SXSW, they need to come up with a nice body of work so when they go out and play a 70-minute set, everyone knows all of those songs," he says. "But the older cats, people love the songs, you don't have time for nine new songs. People don't have time for nine new songs on a record, either. I look for a hot new single. In our case, Jane's Addiction has our set. At the same time we want to keep our creative juice flowing and keep current. When you hear a song that you know and love, there's very few things in this world that can instantly bring a feeling to you. Movies can't do that, coke — you can get that occasionally, but it goes away after the first or second hit. But a song isn't going to harm you and give you a terrible hangover, but it can make you feel a certain way. Music is so powerful, and that's why we're here."
The Reznor sessions were a little contentious — Farrell says Trent had to act as referee — but all sides agreed enough to generate a new song that's still being finished called "Laughing Beats." "When we were recording, I guess a couple of the guys were listening to Radiohead's new song which has an odd jaggedness to it. That's kind of attractive and interesting," Farrell tells RS. "But at the same time, Jane's Addiction is funky, and funky hits the one beat. We could do anything, but Magic Johnson said go with your strengths. So we started out with the idea of maybe write something with a jagged time signature, like 5/7 or something, but that doesn't make your booty move. So we came to a middle ground. It ended up we weren't very Radiohead. We ended up having to be Jane's Addiction."
There's no question Jane's Addiction were very Jane's Addiction Thursday night in Austin, when they turned out a dramatic set stocked with songs from their first two studio albums. Despite their astonishing onstage chemistry, Farrell says his favorite moment of the night came around 5:30 a.m., when most fans, and his band, were long gone. "I looked around, everyone had left me and [his wife] Etty except for this kind of crazy girl, and she wanted me to sign her tit. And usually Etty is just like, fuck off, you know? But Etty was so numb to it, she goes, 'Knock yourself out.' I signed it pretty good."