On Sept. 22, Perry Farrell, the iconic frontman of Los Angeles alt-rock band Jane’s Addiction, stood onstage pushing the counterculture before a crowd of Silicon Valley insiders. “I still believe in human communication — none of this Face-fucking-book,” he joked during a Jane’s set at the lavish “A Celebration of Music” party thrown by Napster founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker to celebrate the conclusion of Facebook’s f8 conference, which featured a series of announcements including a partnership between Facebook and Spotify designed to further disrupt the music industry. (Parker is a Spotify investor.) “Face to face. One-on-one touch,” Farrell continued. “It’s still the only way.”
The next night, Jane’s performed a short set at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. The appearances were just the latest tech-savvy stops on Jane’s Addiction’s run-up to the release of “The Great Escape Artist,” the band’s fourth studio album and first since 2003’s “Strays,” which entered the Billboard 200 at No. 4. Throughout the year, the group, which has seen its share of shakeups, breakups and reunions during its 26-year career, has been popping up in a series of high-profile spots, including a performance at the Google I/O developers’ conference in May and a concert at New York’s Terminal 5 in July as part of LG’s rollout of its Thrill 4G phone. The latter show was captured by cameras and fans equipped with LG phones to be edited into a 60-minute 3-D documentary set to air on YouTube 3D. As for the album?
“For Jane’s Addiction to make a great record, it’s definitely emotional — it’s not something you just do,” drummer Stephen Perkins says. “We knew [making a new album] wouldn’t be a piece of cake, but we knew when we finally did get that piece of cake it’d be fucking delicious.”
Indeed, “The Great Escape Artist” is just that tasty cake. Due Oct. 18 on Capitol, the album finds core members Farrell, Perkins and guitarist Dave Navarro sounding rejuvenated and confident. Recorded with producer Rich Costey (Muse, Interpol) and contributions from TV on the Radio‘s Dave Sitek, who wrote and played bass on the project, “The Great Escape Artist” is a dynamic collection that features some of the band’s best work.
According to Perkins, the group’s “itch” to work on new material began after he, Farrell and Navarro reunited with original bassist Eric Avery for a performance at the inaugural U.S. edition of the United Kingdom’s NME Awards in 2008. The band received the Godlike Genius Award, and the performance marked the first Jane’s appearance with Avery — who was with the group through its early Warner Bros. releases, 1988’s “Nothing’s Shocking” and 1990 breakthrough “Ritual de lo Habitual” (certified double-platinum by the RIAA) — since 1991.
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Avery stayed onboard through the 2009 NIN/JA tour with Nine Inch Nails, but left soon after. Initially, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan signed on to contribute to the new album, but departed after six months (though he does appear on three tracks on “The Great Escape Artist”). Costey and the band recruited Sitek as McKagan’s replacement in the studio (along with Strays bassist Chris Chaney, who’s playing with the band on the road). Sitek began rehearsals with the group last October and demoed with the band from November through January.
“It’s painful to really make something great, but that’s what we were after,” Perkins says.
Capitol & Virgin Label Group president Dan McCarroll agrees. “Everyone pushed to make it great-good wasn’t good enough,” he says. “They knew as a band and as a voice in history [that] they had to make a record that [made] people say, ‘This is amazing.’ It was a talked-about, conscious effort to deliver a record that was really special.”
The album’s first single, “Irresistible Force,” is a slow-building sonic blast about the big bang theory that sits at No. 9 on Billboard’s Alternative chart. Perkins says it harks back to classic Jane’s songs like “Ritual de lo Habitual'”s “Then She Did . . .” “Its lyric and emotion [is] connected and completely tied [to that song],” he says. “No one’s faking it; no one’s trying too hard.”
“The Great Escape Artist” also features the Master Musicians of Joujouka, who worked with the Rolling Stones‘ Brian Jones in the ’60s, on the psychedelic guitar-shredder “End to the Lies.” Elsewhere, “Broken People” packs a mellower, stadium-sized refrain, and Farrell declares his allegiance to life on the street on the gritty, drum-heavy “Underground.”
In addition to performing at events like the Parker party and the LG show, the group is playing a string of club dates in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York in September and October. The performances, in partnership with credit card Citi, launched Sept. 24 and 25 at Chicago’s Metro, where in 1988 the band took the stage in support of “Nothing’s Shocking”.
Reflecting on the group’s early days-which not only helped jump-start the alternative rock movement of the early ’90s but also set the stage for Farrell’s brainchild Lollapalooza, which has left an enduring mark on the festival circuit-the group’s continued influence isn’t lost on Perkins.
“We put one drop of blue ink in a huge pool of water, and the whole pool turned blue,” he says of the band’s career. “We threw a rock into the ocean, and that ripple is still going.”