For those that showed up early at Eddie Vedder’s Ohana Festival Saturday October 2 and hadn’t done their homework to see what the acronym NHC stood for, they were greeted with a massive surprise.
There, playing on stage at three in the afternoon, were some of the biggest stars in the rock and alternative world. It’s been many, many years, as they excitedly point out, since you would see Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney and Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins onstage in the middle of the day.
As exuberant as a band of 20 somethings playing their first festival, the trio delivered five songs off their yet to released debut album and covers of Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “My Friends.”
After their set, where they were greeted backstage by fans, friends and well-wishers to congratulate them on the audience response, the three sat down to talk with me exclusively to talk about their friendship, the album, how the band came to be and much more. And for those who are concerned, this is a labor of love for the friends, not something to replace their other bands.
Steve Baltin: First show today. Take me through how you came up with the set list and what songs to cover.
Dave Navarro: It was tough narrowing it down. But we got it down to two. We only had a half-hour set. And we just finished an album, there are 12 tracks on the album. We wanted to do as much of the album as we could. But we also wanted to throw in some songs that they did know, since we’re only released two. So “Feed The Cool” and “Better Move On” had to be in there. We picked a handful of others that we really liked playing and then we just did some covers.
Taylor Hawkins: Well, to kind of catch all of the aspects. Like “Lazy Eye: is the first song, is us having a go at Rush. We wanted to start out with something a little bit nutty.
Navarro: And I think that when it comes to our own material to show, because the record has such an emotional range throughout it, a handful of songs that are of similar impact would be redundant. And so, for us to pick through some songs that had a little bit of a voyage, a little bit of an emotional journey to them, felt right to us.
Baltin: What was the span the songs were written and was this album started during COVID?
Hawkins: It was started last December.
Navarro: Last December we all got together and played for the first time to do a cover of Alice In Chains. I think we did “Would,” or “Man In The Box.” And that’s when the three of us kind of clicked and started playing together.
Hawkins: You know how much I love Jane’s, we’ve talked about this many times. So I’ve been trying to hook up with Navarro and make music since I was 18 (laughs). So it finally happened.
Chris Chaney: Taylor, you really were the driving force. I liked Jane’s Addiction, but I wasn’t Taylor. Taylor was the biggest fan ever.
Navarro: What are you saying? What? (Laughing)
Hawkins: When I met Chaney with Alanis [Morissette] he was like a jazz player. You liked rock music when you were a kid,
Chaney: I played Zeppelin, Yes.
Hawkins: Yeah, but when I met him with Alanis one of the first things I did was I gave him Ritual De Lo Habitual on CD and I said, “Learn this.”
Navarro: And then we took Chris away from Taylor and Alanis and dropped him into the never ending evolution, world and saga that is Jane’s Addiction.
Baltin: But it’s also a testament to the fact all you guys are so open to collaboration, which not everyone is .
Navarro: Honestly, these two guys, Chris and Taylor, are probably the two best musicians I’ve ever met just in terms of musicianship, being able to write on the spot, coming up with just a hundred ideas, keep going, no stopping, it’s amazing.
Matt Cameron (on side to Navarro): I think this is really good for your playing. It highlights what you bring to the table.
Hawkins: That was the whole idea. I wanted to make a Dave Navarro solo record.
Navarro: These guys actually make me a better player.
Baltin: Is there a release date for the record yet?
Navarro: There are two songs that are out now and then we’re gonna release a couple more and a couple more and we’re gonna kind of do the trickle-down effect.
Chaney: The dribs and dabs.
Hawkins: And the true reason, one of the good reasons is that’s sort of the way people’s attention spans happen to be now, musically speaking as listeners. And it takes six to eight months to get a vinyl pressing date. So it kind of works in our favor because we just mastered the record, so now we can have a date to print vinyl.
Navarro: I’m on the fence. I like the new model of releasing a couple of songs here and there and having some longevity and keeping eyes on the project. But there’s also the diehard old-school guy in me that just wants the body of work because then you really get a sense of the scope and the different ground that we cover musically,
Baltin: What do you take from the album when you listen to it start to finish?
Chaney: I’m as proud as you can be. We took whatever you want to call the pandemic, we took the lemons and turned it into lemonade. The silver lining of this pandemic was NHC, getting together with these guys as frequently as we all could, just like going back to the garage in high school.
Navarro: Back in the old days when I was very, very young it was hard work, it was new. Now I’m 54, I know the drill; I know these guys, they’re both pros, I’m an old pro, so getting into Taylor’s house and recording was just hanging out, it was like a clubhouse.
Hawkins: I call it our vacation home.
Navarro: (Smiles) Yeah.
Hawkins: Because we’re really lucky to be in Foo Fighters and Jane’s Addiction, to get to those heights is the s**t you dream of when you’re a kid. You don’t think it’s gonna happen, and if it does…we’re very blessed.
Navarro: Also, when we got started at Taylor’s house it was really more of a hang. We didn’t say, “Let’s get together and make a record and make a band.” We were friends that were in other bands recording and writing stuff. And before we knew it we had like, four, five or six songs and we were like, “We may have a record here.” So we just kept trudging along and found ourselves with a full record and were like, “We’re a f**king band.”
Chaney: From song to song, musically, the diversity of ground the three of us can cover and the variety of influences just touches on so much of our childhood.
Baltin: Do you also feel like you have more of a freedom because there are fewer expectations?
Navarro: I think we all feel that freedom and we all get to spread our musical wings in different areas we don’t necessarily get to spread them in our current bands, which is fine because we have our current bands. There’s no issue there, but we get to step outside the lines a little bit here and it’s kind of refreshing. There is something nice about coming down to this gig and being the first band on the bill, middle of the day, three o’clock. It’s been a long time for all of us since we’ve done something like that. And to see a crowd that has never heard any of this music stay put for that long was so rewarding.
Hawkins: The thing that I take from this record is me and Chaney have always had our side projects together, always. We’ve been best friends for 25 years, he was in my f**king wedding.
Navarro: He was in my wedding too. Isn’t that weird? (They all laugh)
Hawkins: The thing I take musically from this record is a lot of times the records me and Chris made, with Coattail Riders and stuff, I had to use some form of comedy or some form of, “This sounds like Queen, kind of, but it’s not.” We had amazing musicians, but when you hear Dave play guitar you’re just, “It’s Dave.” And he’s one of the last, dare I say, cool shredders, he can really rip. And there was a time, after 1992, guitar solos became extinct, for a long time. And they creep up now and then, Foo Fighters albums and stuff. And we had that, we had Dave’s guitar sound to hang our hat on as far as the style of music. We didn’t need to have funny tricks. This is just what it sounds like when me and Dave and Chris get together and make music. Very democratic, all the songs were written differently. Chaney wrote bass lines, I started ones. But also there was none of this, “This is my song, this is how I want it to be” bulls**t at all.
Chaney: But I would say the intuitive stuff, right out of the gate, the way the three of us, how we collaborate from the inception of my idea, your idea, Dave’s idea.
Hawkins: Dave mixed the record by the way.
Navarro: With Robert Stevenson