Advancing middle age has only sharpened the edgy instincts of Jane's Addiction, one of the first alternative rock groups to achieve mainstream recognition in the 1980s.
The group's three core members, racing to finish their first album in eight years for a September release, are wary of being sidetracked by past glories while trying to take their youthful, genre-bending musical idealism in new directions.
"I wanna be important to your past and your history. But I also wanna be part of this year and next year and the year after that," singer Perry Farrell, 52, told Reuters on Wednesday.
So how are they doing that? By embracing modern technology with more gusto than usual to create music using loops and electronics. The half-finished album already has a name, "The Great Escape Artist," a nod to the band's deft maneuvers through the musical landscape.
"If you're using old equipment to write your music and play the music and perform your music, your music is gonna sound stale. You need to learn current equipment because it's vital to have a fresh sound," Farrell said.
Jane's Addiction emerged from the Los Angeles rock underground in the mid-1980s, quickly distinguishing itself from other post-punk groups. Farrell's sexually ambiguous stagecraft and childlike vocals were complemented by guitarist Dave Navarro's power riffs, Stephen Perkins' tribal drumming, and Eric Avery's simple, melodic bass.
HONORED IN HOLLYWOOD
"They're a band that could have happened nowhere else and a band that sounds like the city in which they were formed," Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello said. "You can hear the violence, the drugs, the beauty, the ocean, the hope, smog, fear and redemptive power of our city in Jane's music."
Morello hailed the band as its members left their handprints in wet cement at the Guitar Center RockWalk, a Hollywood shrine to rock bands and the bluesmen who begat them.
Unlikely hit songs such as their plaintive ballad "Jane Says" played on the speaker system as Farrell, Navarro and Perkins smiled for the cameras. They were joined by current touring bassist Chris Chaney, one of five musicians to fill in for the on-again, off-again Avery.
"The Great Escape Artist" marks the band's fourth studio album since 1988 and its first since 2003's "Strays." A video for the new song "End to the Lies" was released last week.
Other tracks will include "Irresistible Force," described by Navarro as having "some magic captured on it," and the lengthy "Splash a Little Water," which he termed "kinda ambient and cinematic."
How does the album fit into the pop-oriented musical scene?
"Hopefully it doesn't," said Navarro, who turns 44 next Tuesday. "We've really never been ones to fit into anything, and I think that's why we're here today."
A key driver of the new sound is electronics expert Dave Sitek, who took time off from his day job as guitarist with New York-based rock band TV on the Radio to help out on bass. Farrell described him as "a mad genius."
Sitek's presence has helped energize Jane's Addiction, whose existence has been marked by multiple breakups and reunions, drug problems and personal spats. The band expects to tour for about a year once the album comes out.
"Right now, there's this kind of a (Vitamin) B12 shot we got in the ass, and we feel juiced up about each other," said Perkins, 43. "As long as that lasts, let's keep doing it. There is something to say about getting along."
(This story was corrected in paragraph eight to reflect the name of the Guitar Center RockWalk)