Tattooed and eye-lined alt-rock guitarist Dave Navarro is on his way to Vegas. He’s not on his way to do a show, but to stop by the club he owns - just a quick drive-by to see how things are going, since that’s really all he has time for. In addition to working on a new album with Jane’s Addiction, Navarro is quite a busy guy. In fact, he could certainly be considered a Renaissance man. He has done everything from reality TV, to writing a book, to directing an adult film. That doesn’t even take into account how prolific he’s been with a guitar, working on artists as diverse as Nine Inch Nails and Alanis Morissette. And of course, the Dave Navarro Signature Acoustic/Electric he designed with Epiphone.
Sharp and energetic, Navarro also has a wicked sense of humor. His reason for not getting married again, “Six or seven reasons not to get married just walked by – other hot chicks. The thing is I have yet to find the perfect woman, which is a woman who has the ability to turn into other women. Or a pizza.” Delivered by Navarro, it’s the kind of comment that strikes as irreverent and scintillating. And if it is true, then, hey, he can get away with it. After all, he is a rock god.
Gibson.com spoke with Navarro to find out about the Jane’s Addiction reunion, his new guitar for Epiphone, and his burgeoning career as a sex and love advice columnist.
Tell us about your new guitar for Epiphone. How is it a Dave Navarro guitar?
I wanted to have something that visually would represent where I’m at, that’s about me in the band, Jane’s Addiction, and where we’re at now. So it’s a black guitar, because I usually only play white ones. The inlay on the neck, on the fret board, is called a unicursal hexigram and it actually goes back to Perry’s first band, Psi Com. He used it as iconography for that band and then it became the Jane’s Addiction insignia in the early days. The symbol actually has a large back-story, we just kind of adapted it, but I have those down the inlay to make it a straight-up Jane’s Addiction guitar. Also, a lot of blues guys name their guitars after a girl, so it made sense to me to name mine “Jane.” So it says Jane, sort of an homage to the old kings of the craft. Then on the pickguard, I wanted to do kind of a, are you familiar with the classic Hummingbird design?
I am. The Hummingbird is a beautiful guitar.
I decided to go with my version of that, which is a tipping of the hat to the Hummingbird history with a goth sensibility to it. So you have the crows and the trees as opposed to the flowers and the birds. I think very few people catch on to what that’s supposed to be, but the ones that do really seem to like it. And then, apart from the electronics and the sound and the playability — which I really love about the guitar — it was really important to me to have an internal tuner because, with Jane’s especially, we play around with different tunings. Some songs are a half-step lower, some are a whole step lower, some are in alternate tunings. Sometimes using a tuner with an acoustic can be trying and when it’s internal like that it allows some flexibility in the moment when we’re trying one key and it might be tuned to something else. There’s nothing to plug in or problems with a microphone reading the note you’re playing to tune it to. It’s all built-in right there. And it cuts the sound when you’re using it, too, so it’s not annoying for everybody else.
What’s happening with the new Jane’s album?
We’re in process of recording and I just tracked some stuff with the Epiphone about two weeks ago. I wanted some bright percussive acoustic coloring underneath some dirty distorted rock guitars to kind of widen it out a bit and have the notes be a little more articulated. So I used it for that. And, you know, Duff McKagen from Guns N’ Roses is in the band now, so we had a real creative burst over the past few months working with a new guy and having an all-new energy on board. I’m really excited about it.
Are you enjoying working with them again?
Oh, yeah, yeah. One of the fortunate things for me is that having been in and out of this so many times, after a point you realize, this is what I do, this is the home that I’m gonna be in. At the end of the day, we may have taken five or six-year hiatuses, but we’ve never really broken up. And the beautiful thing now is we’re all really unified as a band, but we also have our own personal identities and directions and lives and interests so we all have plenty of time to do Jane’s Addiction, for the most part, full-time and also be able to do other projects that interest us individually. We didn’t have that luxury in the old days.
You seem to do a little bit of everything – writing, directing, reality TV, Internet radio – anything you’d still like to do? Act, produce, learn to surf?
I’ve done plenty of acting stuff and television production and film production, but music production, I don’t know about just because I feel if I’m going to spend that much time in a recording studio I’d rather have it be on music that I’m making. Is there anything else I want to do? You know, those things present themselves to me as I go along; I’m fortunate that way. Very few of those things you listed are things that I went after because I was interested in them. They were opportunities and they were of interest. Who’s to say what’s next. I probably don’t know right off the top of my head.
Why did you recently stop doing the weekly Internet radio show, Dark Matter, on www.Indie1031.com?
I still love doing radio and I plan to continue doing it. I just wanted to take some time away from it so I could focus on the record. Right now, we’re deep in the record and the writing process. And that’s a labor of love (the show): we don’t get paid, we do it because we love it and we love interacting with people. It’s a call-in talk-radio show, a lot of music, a lot of bands, and in-studio performances – everything from undiscovered indie groups to Chrissie Hynde. I am also working in Camp Freddy, my other band, which is a huge cover band that I do with a lot of different artists. So between those projects, which are all musically fueled, and focused on guitar playing, it’s difficult to get a free moment. It’s definitely something I’ll revisit once I come up for air.
How did you get hooked up doing the Penthouse column?
That started because I run a blog, 6767.com, and I think I have a very jaded, sarcastic view on sex and love, but that jaded and sarcastic, sometimes humorous view, is very accurate. And for lack of anything to write about, I one day told the people on my site that if they have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them and one thing led to another. I think I’m going to become a love and sex therapist now. I didn’t plan (that) I was going to do it; it’s just something that occurred to me because of the radio show. A lot of people would call in and say, “You’ve been around the world, you’re 40 years old, you’ve been through this and that…” and they would ask me my opinion and give me the opportunity to draw upon my own experiences and if I could, lend a hand, and if I couldn’t, just be funny about it.
Do you consider yourself a romantic?
I guess I do. Sure.
Would you ever get married again?
Probably not. I had a good time with my marriages when I was married. Carmen and I are still real tight friends. I enjoyed our marriage and had a great time, but I don’t think marriage is something I want to revisit.
Do you talk to anyone from the Chili Peppers anymore?
When I have the opportunity. As much as I don’t speak to them often, whenever I have the opportunity it’s always a great thing and a happy occasion. Chad Smith still remains one of my favorite people of all time — in my top ten favorite human beings to have existed.
Will there ever be a Camp Freddy album?
We talked about it for many, many years, but the logistics of something like that really doesn’t translate to what we’re about. We’re a live band and we’re about the fun on stage and whoever’s gonna get up with us — we don’t know from night to night. And when you go into a studio to record songs that have already been recorded, it’s difficult to recreate that kind of energy and spontaneity, so it’s unlikely at this juncture.
Who were some of your musical idols growing up? The people that made you want to pick up a guitar?
Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, of course. Daniel Ash, Robert Smith — I’m real eclectic when it comes to guitar players I adore. I was trying to think about that last night. Who has influenced me more: Jimmy Page or David Gilmour? And it’s hard to say. I don’t really know. David Gilmour is emotionally closer to home and Jimmy Page might be more specific in terms of shapes and colors he uses recording and so forth.
You’ve worked with some really diverse people. How did you end up working with someone like Alanis Morissette or Christina Aguilera?
Those are all just situations where you get a phone call and, if it’s of interest, you either go down or you don’t. In both of those cases, someone called me and asked me if I’d like to participate. It’s nice as an artist to be able to step outside of your comfort zone. It’s interesting because they’re required to bend a little and I’m required to bend a little. And it’s usually a good time.