Jane's Addiction on the confluence of music and technology (Q&A)

Guitarist Dave Navarro and bass guitarist Chris Chaney talk with CNET about the role of technology in their concerts, downloading illegal music, and the oddness of playing to a sea of cell phones.

The music and technology worlds are colliding. That's never been more apparent than at yesterday night's performance by Jane's Addiction. The concert was as much about entertaining a group of hardcore fans as it was about promoting LG's upcoming Thrill 4G, AT&T's first smartphone packing 3D capabilities.

Dave Navarro (left) and Chris Chaney of Jane's Addiction. Angela To

Indeed, 3D was the key gimmick at the event, with random individuals selected to hold a Thrill 4G and tape the concert in 3D. LG will later take the footage shot and splice together what it bills as the first 3D user-generated concert. It's unclear, however, how much the fans participated in the content generation; staffers near the stage and behind it shot the concert with the Thrill using special gear, while the Thrill I was playing with died halfway through the show.

For Jane's Addiction, the concert was a way to connect with fans in a new way. I sat down with guitarist Dave Navarro and bass guitarist Chris Chaney to talk about the role of technology in their concerts, downloading illegal music, and what it's like to be a rock star now versus the '90s.

Q: This is a weird confluence with LG and Jane's Addiction. What made you jump into this event?
Navarro: It gives our audience an opportunity to watch us live and streaming on the Internet. We generally play a lot of bigger outdoor shows, and right now we've been playing a lot of big festivals. To be in a little club like this, it's kind of a special event. We always have a really good time in these kind of environments.

The amount of participation you have is limited; there are only so many people who can come, so this way you can broadcast it to the world. We're also giving a bunch of the 3D phones to 100 people in the audience. They're going to shoot it, and then it'll be cut together as a user-generated 3D film.

To that point, how important is technology to improving the experience for you and your concert?
Navarro: They're a blessing and a curse. On a personal level, I wouldn't be able to function without my technology.

In the live setting, we used to play to a couple thousand of faces at night, and now we play to a couple of thousand phones held up in the air. It's a little bizarre.

Chaney: Followed by thousands on YouTube, like in an hour.

Navarro: It's a little unnatural having come from a time--

Chaney: The stone ages?

Navarro: A time when it wasn't like that. Now you're playing to a sea of phones and watching them on their screens.

It's a little awkward. But you know, the bright side is people who aren't able to be there can at least see imagery from the performance. It's both a positive and a negative.

Your music is being consumed in so many different ways now. Are you comfortable that your music is being disseminated in different places and sold in different ways now?
Navarro: I personally don't have a problem with it. The more ways in which it's available, the better. The more sets of ears we can hit, the better. It allows people to know we exist so they can come see us in a live setting.

What do you think about 3D in general?
Navarro: Beyond what we're doing which is a pretty huge undertaking, I don't know if it's something that we necessarily want to incorporate. It's interesting and it's current and there's a big push behind it right now. But personally, I don't enjoy watching 3D.

Chaney: I go to watch movies with my kids, and now they're into it. I have a 3DTV also, and the glasses. I watch it occasionally. After about an hour...maybe because I'm not a kid and I don't go on the 200-foot roller coaster anymore, but for a kid I can see the attraction. For myself, it's fascinating. I saw "Coraline" in 3D and I was blown away. It is hard on your eyes though.

What about other technology?
Chaney: I'm a fan of cloud-based technology. Just the access. They've developed the technology to a place where it's practically instantaneous. There's no more lag time, just a push of a button.

Navarro: I love the fact that I can reach a large number of people instantaneously. The one thing about technology I personally love. Back in the late '80s and early '90s, touring was a really lonely and difficult experience, because the world was enormous back then. When I got off the plane in Australia, I was in Australia and that was it.

Chaney: There's no cell phone, there's no Skype or Internet.

Navarro: Now, it doesn't really matter where in the world I am. Someone can call me or send me a text in my pocket, and the world doesn't feel as huge. On the touring level, it's done wonders.

Chaney: On a musical level too, nowadays you can have a rough mix, and you can hear Dave's changes and ideas, and I don't have to drive 30 minutes or an hour to get where he is in the studio. The tracks can be in the Dropbox, here we are. That's one of the positives in my opinion.

Navarro: And frankly, when it comes to technology, whether it's an instrument, or a microphone, or a cell phone, or a computer, I generally like some piece of technology between me and other people. It saves me from having to interact on a human level.

What kind of phone do you have?
Navarro: I have a bunch of them. I have different providers and different phones because I travel so much. I have an LG, I have an iPhone, I have a BlackBerry.

Which one do you prefer?
Navarro: Some things in this business you like to keep to yourself. (He brought in an iPhone to the interview.)

Have you ever downloaded music illegally?
Navarro: Yeah, of course.

How old were you when you first downloaded a song illegally?
Navarro: Like thirtysomething. I'm 44 now. It's not like I was 8. I've downloaded all kinds of stuff illegally, and I'm sure our material has been as well.

It doesn't seem like you take a hard line on the issue. What's your stance on piracy?
Navarro: It's going to happen. If you take a hard line on it, it'll happen anyway. Or you can just accept that's where we're at. The upside is the more people who hear you, the more people may buy a concert ticket.

Chaney: It's almost like a calling card. It's one thing to establish a brand over 20-plus years. Nowadays for bands everyone can be accessible whether you're good or not. It makes a huge difference, the technology.

Navarro: We really make our living on the road. We don't make much from album sales.

Chaney: People give music away. It's hard to even give away music for free these days.

Sure, there's so much noise out there.
Chaney: The times have changed.

What about tablets? Do you use any music apps?
Navarro: I have an iPad.

Chaney: Bebot.

Navarro: Yeah, me and Chris are huge Bebot fans on our iPhone. I have a Mellotron and drums and synthesizers. One of the things we like to do that's irritating to everyone around us, is I'll break out a funk beat on one of my drum machines, and he'll start riffing on Bebot on planes. He's jamming from device to device out loud in the cabin. You can't stop making music.

Chaney: That and the technology is mind-boggling. To have tap tempo, metronomes, everything--

Navarro: He has a tuner on his phone and a four-track record. It's ridiculous the amount of music apps I have in there. Amplitude is one of the ones I use, which is a guitar processor.

What's the difference between being a rock star in the '90s as opposed to being a rock star now?
Navarro: For me, in the '90s, I only really was approached by music fans and people who liked the band. And now, because social media has really gone out of control, just being recognizable is a totally different thing. We're recognizable by people who aren't even really interested in what we do. They just recognize the face and approach. It can lend itself to being pretty uncomfortable. We literally have people walk up to us and go, "Can I get a picture? I have no idea who you are but I know you're someone famous."

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About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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