Man! Am I ever lucky to be doing what I do! My tenure in Jane's Addiction recently took me to Europe for two shows with Rage Against the Machine in Arnhem, Holland, and Madrid, Spain. This was to be a real trial by fire for me with JA. Don't for a second think that I wasn't a little scared.
Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. He writes about what music is circulating through his space every Monday.
I generally have confidence in myself. Confidence to me doesn't mean anything else other than self-assurance. You have to be a little bit cocky to go onstage in front of a lot of screaming motherfuckers. I do put in the work, though, to at last gain the confidence . . . sort of like studying hard and being ready for a tough exam at school, or reading What to Expect When You're Expecting right before having a baby. Still, you can be as prepared as possible, but still experience many and varied outliers that no amount of preparation can steel you for.
As the house lights went out before we took the stage on that first show, my heart started to speed up and my breathing became shallow and hurried. I couldn't think straight and my hands we shaking just a bit. I've experienced this before, and because of my lifelong affliction with panic disorder, I know now that when my "fight or flight" mechanisms shift into high gear, at least I am not going to die. But I was freaked the FUCK out.A couple of the guys from RATM came to my side of the stage just then and gave me big smiles. I do believe that they too wanted to see what Jane's would sound like with me playing bass. These guys somehow gave me a sudden boost of confidence, and I was back to my normal self and breathing easy.
Arnhem is right on the German border, and from my past experience with German rock fans, they like their rock hard and heavy without frills or decoration. They loved GN'R. Velvet Revolver, on the other hand, never quite took hold there. Actually, I have never quite figured out what the German audience is into. A few years ago, VR played a huge hard-rock festival there with Slipknot and Korn, and believe it or not, Good Charlotte was the headliner. They fucking LOVE Good Charlotte, for whatever reason. The first JA show there last week was met with a sort of lukewarmish politeness with many quizzical stares--like they had no idea who we were. You can't win them all.
On to Madrid and the Rock in Rio festival. RIR stopped being held in Rio some five or six years ago, and instead goes now to either Portugal or Spain (whichever promoter can offer the most money to the folks who own the RIR rights). I had a feeling about this show, a premonition of sorts. Jeff Rouse from Loaded was out on these gigs with me, and he seemed to sense it too. This show would be different. This show would be good for JA.
Maybe it was the downing of a full Red Bull before I hit the stage (something I didn't do in Holland), but the roar of the huge crowd was deafening and glorious. We chose "Requiem" by Killing Joke as the intro music, and our sound guy just absolutely cranked it. If you know this song, then perhaps you can imagine the chills that were running down my spine (or was that the Red Bull rush? Truth be told, I drank TWO). The stage deck was massive and multi-tiered. Before I knew what was happening, I had run the 50-yard length of that stage several times back and forth, and we were only a few bars into the opening "Mountain Song."
Perry Farrell was in top form, conjuring his voodoo weirdness and owning the stage. He is a fucking true original, and many frontmen who came after him simply aped his thing. Dave Navarro is really a virtuoso, gifted with an enormous and effortless talent (fucker!). Stephen Perkins has the oddest style that has always seemed tailor-made for JA, and in my opinion, the band gained their sense of rhythmic trance because of him; no other drummer could have brought what he did (and still brings).
Sen Dog and B-Real from Cypress Hill were on my side of the stage. Either they really liked the band that night--or they were just insanely high on the high-test weed they had been hitting all day--but they both seemed caught up in the whole majesty of the JA thing. It was just as fun for me to watch Perry as the dudes from Cypress, OR the crowd!
These are the gigs that as a performer keep you coming back and trying harder to be good at your craft. Yes, my life kicks ass. We just recorded an undisclosed number of new Jane's Addiction songs that are really fucking good and hark back to some of the old magic. (Editor's note: These songs may or may not have names yet. But that's a good question.) I will be making a new record with the ever-genius Loaded this summer, too . . . it looks like my dance-card will be full to the brim this year. Bring it!!!