We met up with Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro at the Mondrian Soho in NYC, for what was supposed to be a "15 minute" Q&A. to promote the band's new album The Great Escape Artist. As the interview began, we detected a certain tension lingering in the air of Navarro's deluxe suite—which we chalked up to the artificiality of total strangers conducting a personal conversation in which one of the people (Dave, in this case) is supposed to "open up" to the world, providing intimate details about his personal and professional life. But as our 15 minutes wound down, the conversation began to move into a variety of topics and the vibe changed perceptively. Navarro seemed genuinely interested in continuing our conversation and asked his publicist if we could keep going. The result was a far-ranging, 45 minute conversation about many things (public perceptions, materialism, art, etc...) during which Navarro proved himself to be intelligent, grounded and forthcoming...unlike what many people would probably imagine a genuine "rock star" to be like in real life.

So, how's the mini-tour so far? We're having a lot of fun. I love playing these little clubs that we played years ago.

The new album seems like a pretty radical departure from "Strays" and some of the more up-tempo stuff you guys have done in the past. Was that a conscious thing? No, I think we just wrote the music we wrote, you know, that's just where we were at. We don't really have a process, every song comes about in a different way.

So, how did it work on this album? What was the timing of it? Did you guys consciously sit down and decide to put one together? Yeah, after we did the NIN/JA tour [Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction] and then did some European dates we just decided we'd like to play new music so we went in and that's what we did—we made new music.

When that happens, do you guys get together and jam or work on ideas separately and then come together? I would say all of the above: we jam, we work on separate ideas, we send files back and forth to each other, collaborative stuff, individual stuff, ideas that come from guitar riffs, patterns, vocal melodies...it's more of a process of remaining open to ideas than to have a formula.

On the new album, it seems a lot of the stuff is sort of more mid-tempo, atmospheric and moody. Obviously you've had those elements in the past with songs like Three Days...It sort of reminds me of the vibe of "Kettle Whistle," some of those songs. What is it like in terms of transitioning that stuff to playing it live? Is it a different energy when you're playing it, does it fit in well with the rest of the classics? Yeah, to me they do because they're all our songs...and our sets have always been pretty dynamic in terms of places that we go sonically. So playing some of the newer material within our sets, you know our sets still consist of a lot of old material, it still feels pretty natural.

What has the reception been so far, in general, in terms of personally, people you know? And the media—they sort of seem split on it—some people love the new album, some people seem confused by the new direction. Yeah, it's only been out two days so it's hard for me to have a sense of that.

So far it's just critics weighing in, right? Yes, and you know I don't really spend a lot of time...critics are...you know.

They're paid critics. They're paid critics. When we do something such as release an album or go on tour I usually try and avoid reading that kind of stuff primarily because, unless it's somebody who has made records themselves, or has a body of work behind themselves, I'm not really interested in what they have to say.

Right, I get it, because it's somebody from the outside...anybody can have an opinion. Exactly, and I feel the same way about film. I don't really pay much attention to what critics say about films, I just go see something if it's interesting to me. But as far as the reception from the audiences when we've played the new songs, it's been pretty great. I think that primarily they're excited to be there and see the band and hear new music.

It was a long time coming right, for the new album. For the new album, yes. A lot of people are under the misconception that we're "back together" but we've actually been out touring for quite a while. We didn't just get back together for this. We started up again in 2009 I believe, so it's been a couple of years. And we're closing in on, probably, the second longest period of time that we've been focused as a band.

You guys had the big period in the beginning, then you broke up around '91 or thereabouts. And there was a long period where other things happened. There was talk of you joining Guns 'n' Roses. The Chili Peppers stint...What ever happened with the Guns 'n' Roses thing? Was that something you thought about or it didn't really fit your vibe? It just was neither here, nor there. It wasn't really an option at the time. There were too many variables in my life that deemed that an impossibility.

Jane's was together for a long time, then you took a long break and now you're back together and it's the second longest period. Obviously it's yielded two albums. Eric [Avery, the original Jane's Addiction bass-player] came and went in the group, right? And then he stayed in for a couple of years. What ended up happening with that? Why did he end up jumping back out? That's up to him to answer. I can't speak for anybody else.

So what's the vibe now [with bass-player Chris Chaney]? This feels completely normal and organic. He really is probably the best musician that I know, flat out. He's certainly the best musician in the band. He's probably, on a theoretical level, the best musician that I know, period. He's trained, he's studied, he's well-versed in every type of music, can play anything. He's pretty much the number one guy that producers call to play on different artists' albums and in fact he's probably one of the most heard musicians in the world. If you listen to the radio you hear him probably a few times an hour on something.

That's crazy, because I know him through the prism of Jane's. Yeah, if you Google his resume, it would be shocking.

So what happened with Duff [ex-Guns 'n' Roses] coming and going [on bass]? Again, I just don't have answers for that.

You guys are obviously a VERY L.A. band, that's a lot of the vibe and the history. Flea once said something regarding the Red Hot Chili Peppers like: "We are L.A. to the bone!" But I feel like you guys are, as much or more so, just so L.A. in every way. It seems like such a big part of your process and your vibe and all of that. Do you think that's accurate? Do you agree with that? Well, of course I do. I was born in L.A. and so was Stephen. And Perry is a transplant but he brought the New York edge to our collective group here...but I don't really have any other frame of reference, so when people say that about us I agree but I have no sense of what it's like to be from another city. When I hear "L.A. bands" I think of the Doors, and you know I definitely see some parallels between us and the Doors. I mean, you've got a great collection of musicians and an enigmatic poet that's a captivating showman up front...I would say that we are certainly one of the "go-to" L.A. bands, when you use that phrase.

No question. When I think L.A., I think of you guys, the Chili Peppers...but for some reason you guys really seem to lock it in. It"s interesting, the only other band I've been in was the Chili Peppers.

And Flea also came over and played with you guys on the [Jane's Addiction] Relapse Tour. That's right.

Guns 'n' Roses, a lot of people think of them as a very L.A. kind of band...there just seems to be a lot of good [band] overlap there. That's true, that's true. You know I think, if anything, up until lately the Chili Peppers material has become more diverse for the past couple of years. I think that in the beginning they celebrated a lot more of the lighter side of L.A. and we embraced a little bit more of the darker side of it. But we also had the lighter side. We had uplifting songs like Idiot's Rule and No One's Leaving, songs that were up-tempo. But we also went very deeply into the gutter...deep into the gutter, I should say. And I know they did too.

In your mind, what are some of the songs that would encapsulate that? For me? From Jane's Addiction? Whores. I think Then She Did toys with pretty dark subject matter...Three Days...those are songs that have a lot of "colors" within the tracks, so those are the tracks I would highlight.

Talking about those songs, old and new, what are songs you really like playing live, what do you get off on? If you had to pick your favorite song, live, what would it be? [big exhale] Yeah, that's really tough to say...

Is that like picking your favorite kid? Yes, certainly it's like that and also it depends on the room, and the sound, and the audience, where the other players are in their heads. That's what makes it fresh every night; you never know what song is going to click the most and be the most exciting.

(Jim Kiernan/Gothamist)

Thinking back to Monday night [the show at Irving Plaza], what would you say for Monday night?

Probably it was most fun to play Underground, mainly because it's the newest. So there's that element of uncertainty...I don't know that we've played that in front of a live audience before, maybe we have. We played it in Pensacola, but Monday night was the first night that it felt like it kind of just locked up. I think the reaction was pretty solid.

It seemed to be. The energy seemed huge in general... I've got to say, that both of those shows, I was so impressed with the audience. I haven't seen a New York audience react like that in longer than I care to admit to.

I've got to admit—I'm a New Yorker—and here's a New York Audience: [pantomiming being stone-faced with crossed arms]. Everybody either "plays" [in a band] or has this attitude and people don't react for some reason. A New York audience is a lot like an L.A. audience—they've seen it all, they have a lot of options...and even when we played in L.A., we played at the John Anson Ford Theater, which was a great homecoming for us, but that's an outdoor amphitheater and it's all seats. It's very small, like a thousand, 1,100, but it's very difficult to feel that kind of energy when people are seated obviously... but [on Monday in NY], we had people coming up on stage, a pit. That was an energy I haven't seen in a long time so those shows are forever going to go down as memorable good experiences.

I missed you guys the very first time around [in the '90s]. I caught up with Jane's Addiction when you came out with "Nothing's Shocking." The show at Irving [Plaza] the other day—without the photo pit, without the security barrier—it felt like, in my mind, that this was probably what it felt like back in the day. During the set, in between songs, I actually leaned over to Perry and I said, "Man, this just feels like back in the day." I actually said that.

You know, there's been all this talk about the discord that used to exist between the different band members... but it seems like you guys—from what I can tell—you're getting along really well. There's a lot of connection, you're making eye contact, you're joking with each other. Are you guys in a different place now as a band now, do you think? Yes, probably. I don't know what I would attribute that to. I think that we have come to realize that our lives are better and more fulfilled in Jane's Addiction than not in Jane's Addiction. You know? It's just kind of that simple. Plus we all have so many different interests and things that matter to us in our lives. You know, three of the guys are married with kids, so that's certainly a focus, and I'm single and that remains a focus as well. We also all work in different areas that are not Jane's Addiction-related.

It seems that the more that we have to do outside of Jane's Addiction, the more fun Jane's Addiction is. Because—and this sounds very unusual—but the less important we make it, the more enjoyable it is. It's just, all your eggs aren't in the Jane's Addiction basket, you know.

It's not "over-important," it just is what it is. Yeah, and I just feel that we just stuck it out, this past time alone, so there's going to be a sense of camaraderie that comes along with that.

There's no way to foresee the future, but do you think it's locked in now? Can you see yourselves staying on this trajectory? Well, you're right, there's no way to foresee the future, but I will say that I've come to the conclusion that we may take long breaks but I don't think this band is ever going to be "officially" broken up—even if we say we are. I've just kind of come to that conclusion. I mean, we're never going to not be connected, so to say that we aren't is just kind of unnecessary.

As far as other musical projects, you've had a really diverse set of people that you've worked with and that you've played with—Michael Jackson, for instance—you got to play with him, isn't that right? Yeah, that was pretty amazing. I'll tell you: I got a call from Michael Jackson's camp and he wanted me to perform with him for the DNC [Democratic National Convention] here in New York, at the Apollo Theater, for President Clinton. Of course I jumped at the chance to do that!

It literally came out of the air and it was such an incredible experience. He was probably one of the sweetest, most humble entertainers that I have ever met and I've worked with a lot. He was just so humble, really grateful and thankful and kept thanking me for doing this, like I was doing some huge favor for him. I really got a chance to look at his work ethic and watch what a perfectionist he was.

So it was just the one-off show, right? It was just the one time. We did a rehearsal in L.A., which was incredible. It was the kind of thing you may imagine would be left to choreographers and then Michael just shows up on the night, but it wasn't left that way.

There's a moment that I was supposed to do a guitar solo and he wanted it to look like I was lost in the moment and kept soloing and he was trying to get me to stop but I blew him off and kept going...but he was very sincere and gentle and was like, "Okay, I'm going to come up and I'm going to touch you and you're going to think I want you to stop but I want you to keep going. It's just, this is part of the show." And he was explaining it to me but he was trying to explain, "I don't mean to get into your space, I'm doing this for the show." And I was like, "Yeah, I get that, no problem." So that was a pretty great thing.

Okay, I'm going to go way back, "old school." I know you started out in a speed metal band with Stephen Perkins called 'Disaster,' right? Did you guys ever record anything? Was there ever anything... Yeah, we did, but...

It's locked in a vault? I wish it was—I'd love to get my hands on it. I have no idea.

Do you think you'll ever find it or release it? Probably not. I'm the kind of guy that when I move, I sell everything I own and start over. Every time. I've done that every time, like four times.

Is that like a Buddhist thing? That's like "Scorched Earth"... No, it's just, I've come to realize over the years that when I'm touring I'm pretty much happy with what's in my suitcase and my computer and my cell phone and I'm pretty good to go. I don't really need much else. I don't really collect things, I don't own a lot of stuff, I don't like clutter, I don't like being responsible to a bunch of stuff.

I had a two-level house full of, just full of stuff...so what I did was when I moved out of that house, I literally grabbed my clothes and a few essential items and then called a buddy and said, "If you want to go through the trouble of selling everything in that house, you can just cut me in on it and just keep the rest and do whatever you want." And everything that was in there, I just left in there. It was just a freeing experience to not be tied down by "stuff," you know?

What about tattoos? I know you have a lot of tattoos and one thing that sort of stuck out in your history was the 'CE' [ex-wife Carmen Electra's initials] tattoo on your chest. Everybody always says "never get anybody's name tattooed on you" and you had a really cool response to that. You said, "To me, they're sort of like a history, like a roadmap..." I'm paraphrasing. What was it you said? I don't recall my exact words but you know...it's just an experience. I don't know what I said but yeah, it's part of my life and it wasn't like it was a bad marriage, it wasn't a bad experience. We had a good time and I think it's ironic that the media likes to paint relationships that break up as being failures, but who's to say that it wasn't a success? Who's to say you didn't grow as a person? Who's to say you didn't have experiences that added value to your life? That changed your perspective and helped you to live a happier healthier life? I mean, are we supposed to be miserable for 40 years? In order to make the outsider think it's successful? It's just kind of a way of looking at stuff.

So, you've obviously got a lot of tattoos—do you regret any of them? No.

Do you plan them? Or is it just something that you just kind of do along the way? It's more of a spur of the moment thing.

Really? Does that kind of fit in with your whole no possessions/few possessions mentality? Yeah...I'm just not very good with appointments. That's what it is.

Mmm...[laughs]. You don't like showing up on time? [Laughs] No, I have no idea how I'm going to feel next Wednesday at 9:00, so why book something for that.

That's funny. There's actually a great quote I wanted to read to you from Keith Richards' book "Life." Keith is talking about himself and the "persona"—it's Keith Richards and [air quotes] "Keith Richards" the Rock Star Image, and he says:

I can't untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me. I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I'm still a goddamn junkie. It's thirty years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow...

There is something inside me that just wants to excite that thing in other people, because I know it's there in everybody. There's a demon in me, and there's a demon in everybody else. I get a uniquely ridiculous response - the skulls flow in by the truckload, sent by well-wishers. People love that image. They imagined me, they made me, the folks out there created this folk hero. Bless their hearts. And I'll do the best I can to fulfill their needs.

He's talking about his "image." So, you have this rock star image, for better or for worse. You seem to really "live the life." You're single, in great shape, you have this amazing band, you've got all this fame and you seem to party and have fun. So, do you agree with that [quote]? Do you feel there are times you're being asked to be "Dave Navarro, Rock Star" or that people expect that of you, or are you just who you are all of the time? How does that flow?

Um...[long pause] Wow. I do agree with what he's saying however I pretty much am who I am at all times. I mean, almost to a fault. I'm not very good at pretending I'm having a great time if I'm not. If I’m not having a good time, people in the room know it. But, put it this way: I'm pretty aware of how well I fit into the mold of the rock & roll cliché and at the same time, as far as clichés go...it's not bad.

The ex-heroin addict, who is married to a Baywatch chick, who's in a rock band, who's tattooed...I get it, you know. But I would say that what the public sees is what gets reported or what I share. Certainly, my intimate, secret moments, I'm not going to get on Twitter and blast [them], you know? So I would say there's an amplified reality to a side of my personality that the public does get to see, which is pretty accurate, you know? Even though it may be amplified but it's an amplified version of one part of my persona...there's plenty of my personal life that I keep pretty personal.

I think Keith was saying, "These things are in me, and they're in most people and I put them out there, so people expect that's what I'm going to be." Mm-hmm. To a degree...I don't know if you saw my response to "Artisan News" today but, I made a tweet about journalism and they responded with "some of us love writing...and it's our craft and not all of us are looking to sensationalize." And I wrote back "that's true, it's unfair of me to stereotype anyone and..."

Was there some friction going on there? No, there was no friction, it was just a nice exchange, an intelligent response from an outlet and it occurred to me that I was doing was treating the overall path of journalism, their craft of journalism, with the same stereotypical, narrow-mindedness that I get treated with by a lot of them, because 90 percent of journalists expect what you're describing out of me and I expect sensationalistic reporting out of them. And 90 percent of what they say about me is accurate stuff but it's not the whole picture, you know what I mean?

But in a weird way with the exchange online this morning, if anything, I learned a lesson. One of the things that people aren't aware of is that, I'm the first guy to say, "Hey, I'm wrong about this, and here's why" It's because they certainly don't like it when I paint them into a corner, and I don't like it either.

But I identify with that quote to a degree...I also think that in his case and certainly in my case to a degree, sometimes people don't like to let go of old ideas, so even though it's been 30 years since he shot dope, he still did and that's still a romantic idea to a lot of people.

That's interesting because one of the questions that I had was about the [Jane's Addiction] movie "Three Days" when you guys did that video on the road. You were the Exec. Producer for that and you left in that one scene, in the hotel, where you just seem like you're kind of...jumping around... Out of my mind...

Out of your mind, right, and living that quote/unquote "Rock Star" life and so, in a way you put that out there for people, and there's not a lot of commentary [in the film] about it...and it looks pretty apparent, what's going on there. Yeah, my role as the Executive Producer of that film was just to get it out. The creative content was the director...

So you didn't really have much say in that? I could've...Put it this way - there were things that I took out of it. I didn't put anything in it, you know, they made the film that they made, and...

So, you allowed that to be left in. Why? Did you think it was just honest? I think at the time I didn't see it as anything that...far from normal. That's who I was at the time, so it didn't really occur to me that...

In a way like the tattoos? It's part of your history? Yeah.

That's honest. A lot of people wouldn't want that. What happened was, they made that film and they got to a certain place with it and then funding was gone. So I essentially stepped in and helped them complete the film.

Okay, I know a couple of years ago, you had 'Angelyne' [a famous L.A. personality] in your life. And I remember the very first time I went out to L.A. and her billboards were everywhere, I saw her with her Barbie Pink Corvette and I just loved it and I still love it. So how did that whole thing happen? How did you come to know her? You know what, it's interesting. She's like a cultural icon in L.A. and at that time I had an photo booth in my house and I was taking these pictures of people. The photo booth pictures, they're tiny, and this is a woman who I'm used to seeing enormous on billboards. So I wanted to get her in the tiniest format that I could. Her management's number is on the billboards. I just, called it. I drove down the street, wrote down the number and called it and got in touch with her manager and invited her over. She had a request of pizza and Diet Coke, or something like that, that's all it took. I was like "okay" and then we just became friends.

The Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas has like a little installation of my guitar and things and I put one of the little photo strips of me and Angelyne in because I just feel she's so fascinating...

The best way I can put it—without being disrespectful because I love her—you know there's just something Warholian about the whole concept of famous for the sake of being famous...if Andy Warhol created a person, it might be Angelyne, you never know. I just found her whole thing to be Pop Art.

[I pick up my iPhone to show Dave my 'wallpaper,' which is a shot of Warhol's "Marilyn Monroe"] Oh, that's great. I was actually at the Guggenheim years ago where he [Warhol] had the "Death and Disaster" series stuff hanging up, the electric chair and the skulls and stuff. Years later I ended up buying the electric chair that was in the Guggenheim so I have that at home. I mean, I have a pretty extensive (art collection)...I would say that my paintings are the one thing I took out of the house. I have a Basquiat, I have a Haring... I have a Bansky as well.

Which one? It's the "Cops Kissing." He signed it to me in exchange for a guitar I think.

Did you meet him or... No, no, no, it was done super [clandestinely]. I also have a couple of John Wayne Gacy paintings, which are just...weird, and they're not "art-like." He cranked them out in jail but, he painted each one, it wasn't silkscreens and there's just a weird juxtaposition in there that I think is interesting, because he painted like Bambi and the Seven Dwarfs, like that...

The "Seven Dwarfs" I have that too, which is really awful...because you're just thinking "young boys"... [Marilyn] Manson gave me one of them actually. He gave me the "Clown" and I think I already had the "Seven Dwarfs." I also have bricks from Sharon Tate's fireplace.

Whoa...Gnarly... Yeah, these really strange, little collectible things. This was good man, thanks.