Dave Navarro is the very definition of a rock star. He exudes black leather cool when he walks into a room, all tattoos, eyeliner and silver skulls. The innovative guitarist for seminal L.A. born rock band Jane’s Addiction, Navarro has inspired many a kid to pick up a guitar and start a band of their own.
For Navarro, that original inspiration came from the classic rock — Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Grateful Dead, and most importantly, Pink Floyd. In this vintage 2012 interview, Navarro opened up about his undying and enthusiastic love of all things Floyd. Listening to Navarro talk about Pink Floyd, and that rock star cool melts away. The passion and enthusiasm in his voice betrays a hardcore fan that still gets excited by his favorite band. And Dave Navarro’s favorite band is without a doubt Pink Floyd.
Can you remember the first time Pink Floyd made an impression on you?
DAVE NAVARRO: It was 1981, and I was in a car on my way to see the Allman Brothers in Santa Barbara. The soundtrack for the trip was the Animals album. With the exception of like Led Zeppelin and some other ‘60s bands, that was my first experience with a long-format album that was not just the typical three-to-five minute songs. Needless to say, I was very blown away by it. In fact, one of the reasons I was even going to see the Allman Brothers was because they did a song called “Mountain Jam,” that was this long, extended musical journey. I would even go so far as to say that bands like Pink Floyd, the Allman Brother and the Grateful Dead influenced my songwriting, and leaning towards longer, more cinematic pieces.
With Jane’s Addiction, you definitely explored that on Side 2 of the Ritual de lo Habitual album, with songs like “Three Days” and “Then She Did…” I’ve heard those songs expanded even more in the live setting.
Exactly. I can definitely say that while there were no deliberate intentions of emulating Pink Floyd, it’s a band that certainly gets under your skin and into psyche in such a way that it comes out in ways you’re not even aware of until you look back.
When you and Billy Corgan performed with the band Spirits in the Sky back in 2009, you ended the show with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam.” Are there other Floyd tunes that you’ve learned or played live over the years?
The entire opening of the song “Wish You Were Here” was something that was a must for me to learn how to play growing up. Or at least do my best trying to play. I would say that Animals, Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here were all pretty important records for me growing up.
I saw a list of your favorite albums of all-time, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall was pretty high up there.
That album struck a chord with me. I bought it the day it came out. I had to take a bus to a music store to buy the vinyl. It’s also the first record that I really shared with my father. We sat together and read the lyrics and it was a bonding moment for us musically. It’s a story of the tragic loss, which I can relate to through losing my mother. I grew up in a pretty turbulent household and headed straight into drugs and music. Like in The Wall, they started out as escapism, but became a cage of isolation. On top of that, it’s a musical masterpiece. I don’t think there’s another album that can touch it. The only other body of work that I can even come close to comparing it to is Tommy by the Who. That’s another album that revolves around the tragic loss of a parent and megalomania.
Back when Jane’s Addiction was first getting together in the late ‘80s, the attitude towards classic rock bands like Pink Floyd was rather dismissive, especially after the punk explosion of the ‘70s.
To me, Pink Floyd was one of the most punk rock in terms of attitude to ever exist. They never bent for anybody and did what they wanted to do regardless of what the corporate structures had to say about it. It’s ironic that the ‘70s punk movement was so against a band like Pink Floyd. I believe their attitudes were more in line with punk that they realized.
I would think that like Pink Floyd fans, there are legions of Jane’s Addiction fans that have this rigid idea of who you are and what you should do, from line-ups to set-lists.
I suppose. I mean, as Jane’s Addiction, we just do what we want and don’t really worry about it (laughs). I mean, listen to the lyrics of “Have A Cigar.” What a direct ‘f*ck you’ to the music industry that song is.
With Roger Waters bringing The Wall back to America with a L.A. date at the Coliseum, will you be taking in any of those shows?
Oh yeah, definitely. I just saw Roger Waters when he brought The Wall over a couple of years ago. As a matter of fact, here’s how much I’m in love with that album: I don’t like crowds. I hate public parking. I just don’t like going to see bands, and having to look for my seat, or even being in arenas for any extended period of time, unless we’re performing. I just don’t. Honestly, it’s the last thing I want to do. I’ll happily do that for Roger Waters and The Wall anytime. It was that good of a show. It was unbelievable. I think about things like Pink Floyd playing for the BBC during the first lunar landing. I mean, they’re really artists. Despite what some people think about the earlier records, they’re an oral, sonic documentation and study of the evolution of Pink Floyd. You can’t really grasp the band unless you’re familiar with everything.
You must be just loving the recent Pink Floyd Discovery box set.
Oh man! I’ve never, ever gone to my record label and asked for anything. I’ve never played the ‘I’m an artist on your roster’ card. But when I saw that box set was coming out, I finally played that card (laughs). In fact, for the short time when they had the giant pig from Animals floating from the roof of the Capitol Records building, I was going to try and get my hands on it. I made some calls!