So for those who don’t know, tell everyone who you are…
Oh, my name is Dave Navarro. I’m the current guitar player for Jane’s Addiction. And what else do I do?
I think you’re a tattoo fan or artist or something as well, right (sarcastic tone)?
No, no, no. I host a tattoo show. And then I also do some street art. I just do anything that I’m passionate about. Well we’re actually sitting here at the Beyond The Streets in Brooklyn recording this thing. And I gotta tell you, we’re in this installation, which is a literal walk in cardboard white room. Everything is in three-dimensional and white. And I instantly reminded me of this Matisse painting. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but Matisse was one of the first to avoid contrast like this. Because if you look at this room, there’s no contrast. But all the elements are there. And it’s like you’re walking into a three-dimensional version of that painting.
[we’re sitting in Bill Barminski’s installation at Beyond the Streets]
So, backtracking a bit for the readers, obviously, people know about your music career, but we’re here today to speak about your new passion for street art.
Well, it’s not necessarily new.
Well newly exposed.
Yeah, I am. I’ve been a collector for many, many years, as we talked about earlier, I think the late 80s. I got a Basquiat for like five grand.
I will give you $750 for it.
I’m making money on it. That’s $2500 I made.
I meant $750. But sure $7500 sounds fair.
$7500, oh, yeah. So, I make a profit. I make a clean $2500 walk away. A 30-year investment does pay off (laughing).
Yeah, exactly. Money in the bank!
Exactly, but seriously… So, I started collecting in the early eighties, art that is, visual arts and filmmaking in particular, has always been a passion of mine. And actually, before I started playing guitar, I was working in my dad’s office, He was in advertising, so he had a drafting table. He had these acetate letters that you have to rub them off with a coin. This is way pre-yourtime, you weren’t alive.
Well, I’m 40 this year, so I’m not that young.
You were still not alive.
So close to alive, but not…
So, you had to scratch in order to put a letter, like a typed letter in a large font onto say, storyboard or a piece of cardboard, whatever, you’d have to scratch each letter perfectly in line with the template they give you.
Your first original stencils.
Yes! And so since those days, I’ve been working in the creative arts, and visual arts and filmmaking, of course, with my documentary, Mourning Son, which is about my mom’s tragic death, and I kind of learned how to make a movie through that and then it just kind of moved into the understanding that all these artists that we have, going back to, like I said Matisse, going back to Francis Bacon, going back to Vermeer, all the way through to Basquiat, all the way through to Richard Hambelton to Warhol. All this stuff has happened is historical and it’s magical to anyone who comes in contact with these pieces. And it’s occurring to me that all of this stuff we’re talking about is still happening. It’s just that 20 years have gone by. So here we are at Beyond The Streets, where there are a lot of legends. So, you know, you come here, there are tons of legends, and there’s tons of new art. And there are artists that are living, they are trying to survive. And I just kind of took my love of the arts and for the classics, and realized that we have living people, artists to support now that are saying just as important things, if not more, about our culture, about what’s going on in the government, about what’s going on with humanity and that’s where the lessons are. And so naturally, I shifted my focus a little bit, because I have a vast understanding of the classic works. I have a vast understanding of early pioneers such as Jackson Pollock. I can say anything you want to know about all those dudes, but when it comes to today’s artists, they’re the ones that have an impact on society that I’m living in.
How is this modern world impacting you specifically?
It’s fun to reminisce about old societies and what culture was like, but if I have to walk out on the street in this divided world for much longer, it’s not looking good. And so I’m noticing that the artists are sharing the voices of the people. I try to do that, in my own way, with my work. And I think this is a really important time to document, because in America right now, we are in the most divided state we’ve ever been in. In fact, not only is right and left divided, but left and left is divided. And so you’re looking at extreme examples of people just not settling down and coming together and realizing that we’re human beings on the planet Earth. And If we can just focus on the fact that we all have the right to live, and think, and breathe, and do what the fuck we want, as long as we’re not hurting anybody, then that’s good, and I think that’s coming from the street. I think that’s resonating with people. And I do my best to kind of share this with survivors of trauma or really horrible histories that affect them in today’s society. I really try and identify with them and almost normalize it in a way that’s like, you’re not alone. Everybody goes through this. Everybody has their own kind of trauma. Mine is my own set of circumstances, yours are your own set of circumstances, but we identify on the feeling, right?
So, you’re helping people normalize or find similarities in their trauma’s to find some support?
In terms of normalizing trauma, I’m not saying like we’re disregarding it. What I’m saying is, it’s okay, and not a shameful thing to be vulnerable and ask for help. This is how I’ve lost so many friends: Chester Bennington, Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell… These are guys I grew up with, and they’re gone, you know? And it’s because they felt alone, they felt isolated, they felt ashamed of coming to terms. I mean, I’m assuming here, but I’ve been suicidal. So when I was, I was ashamed of coming to terms with what my vulnerabilities were, and I finally was just like, you know what, man, everybody’s got this. Let’s make it known. Let’s make this a badge of honor. If you live through trauma, and you walk through it, you’re a fucking hero. If you go off to war, and you come back, you’re a fucking hero. Do you know what I mean? It’s the ones that give up that didn’t get the message. And that’s what breaks my heart. So, I started trying to avoid through whatever little message I can do; I’m trying to help people know that what they’re feeling isn’t unusual and unique to them only and they’re not isolated.
You explore these themes in your works. You have done this collaborating with street artists like John Arthur Carr & Hektad for example?
Right. I did a collaboration with Hektad and JC. And it was the little girl from the Schindler’s List, the little girl in the red coat, the only image in color in the entire film. I appropriated her, I like to say appropriated over stolen. Is it sounds better?
Much more refined.
Exactly, so I appropriated her because out of that context, she still has the face of a young innocent soul who’s terrified and lost and alone and isolated. So I’m using the image to strike a chord, but I’m not trying to make this in any way exclusively a holocaust piece. This is bigger than that; this is a humanity piece. And that love is the ingredients that are required for people like this. And that’s what Hektad brought to the piece. That’s what JC brought to the piece. And it really resonated with a lot of people to the point where we were doing a prints House of Roulx. And the thing about me is that I’m a street artist, I’m not a canvas guy. I don’t like things to last forever. I like them deteriorating. I like the culture on the street.
You like to watch a piece become part of the urban landscape? Get covered with stickers and tags, etc.?
Yes, usually, but There’s a street team out right now in LA that I’m not going to name, it’s a street-team under the guise of some street artists tagging everywhere, but it’s a clothing brand, if you want to research it, it’s a clothing brand. That’s not what our streets are for, we’re here to do something else. Something important, in my opinion, at least.
Advertising for a corporate brand pretending to be street art is not your goal?
No way, my goals are different. Here’s my opinion, everywhere you look in the fucking Street, if it’s not a street sign or a freeway sign or a number, it’s a sign asking for your money. Everywhere. Chick-fil-A, we want your money; come on vacation, we want your money; come stay at this hotel, we want your money; wash your car here, we want your money. So we’re offering an alternative view on the streets for free. And if you take the medium in this alternative view, which is street art, and attach it to a financial and some corporate thing, that’s the antithesis of what we’re doing. I fucking I black them out every time (laughing).
So I mean, before you started doing art on the streets, you’ve obviously were known for your used the art for record covers.
And pieces that have been censored, right?
Nothing Shocking… Here is the best part. Nothing Shocking comes out. It’s our first major release is Jane’s Addiction 1990/1991. The cover of it is a statue of two naked women with their hair on fire. It’s not real women. They’re not really on fire. It’s clearly fake. They’re Siamese twins. And this album, oh wait, actually, it wasn’t this one. It was Ritual (De Lo Habitual) because it had a three-way on it. That I can understand (laughing).
The cover was censored though, right?
Well, many people wouldn’t carry the album because of the art.
It was 1991. And it’s our original artwork. I mean Perry works on the art; we all had a hand in what we’re trying to project as a band and we’re not a hair metal band. We’re not some fucking stupid like flash in the pan, you know, Sunset Strip shit. We’re an art band. We are artists ourselves. All of us were visual artists; all of us have an eclectic love of different genres of music. And all came together and formed Jane’s Addiction, because we were all kind of basically nerds a lot like Pink Floyd, really. You know, those guys were all art students. So we had this band that was kind of driven by the concept of the Velvet Underground, tied in with Andy Warhol, and turning art into music, and making it a visual experience. I guess before there were immersive experiences and yeah, certain places wouldn’t carry the cover. And we were just really upset about it, angry about it, right? I want to sound angrier, but it was like 40 years ago (laughing).
So you chose the alternative cover?
So certain places would not carry it. I don’t know about like the Walmarts of the time or the Costco or whatever, the big corporate shopping centers were not going to carry it with that “lewd” and “disgusting” artwork on it. There’s nothing different than anything you’ve seen in the fucking Louvre by the way. Do you know what I mean? Excuse me. I can walk into the Louvre… I have to pay money to walk into the Louvre and see David’s penis hanging in my face. I got no problem with it. That is an artist. And he’s being celebrated. How is this different? So we were fucking flipping out. So here’s the thing. So instead of giving them an alternate cover, which is what they wanted, we just did a White Album, nothing on it, printed the First Amendment that says that we have the freedom of expression and speech and so forth. And we were like, fuck you. This is not what this country is all about and it’s worse today. And that’s because of the fact that nobody is allowing anybody to be an individual anymore. If you don’t think the same as me, you’re a bad person. If I don’t think the same as you, I’m a bad person. It didn’t use to be like that. It didn’t use to be like that.
You didn’t have anonymous message boards on the internet back then to hide behind.
No, I’m talking about, especially politically speaking, everybody’s at each others throats for their beliefs. But let’s not forget that thousands and thousands of men and women have lost their lives, protecting our right to have a choice and beliefs. And it is a disservice to those soldiers that gave their lives are the ones that come back to see a more divided country when they just went through hell. So we owe it to our servicemen to find a way to fucking gets along. You like Trump, I don’t like Trump. Let’s talk about something else. We don’t have to talk about that. Let’s talk about music. You’re still a human being, let’s talk about art. Fuck it, let’s not get into politics. That’s fine. So I just feel like there’s a missing ingredient of unity happening. And I see it kind of starting to cultivate on the street. And I’m trying to put my two cents in there. And I’m working really closely with a candidate Marianne Williamson, who is a left … way left of center candidate who’s whole message is about love and taking care of each other. Now, do I think she has a shot at winning? You know, we’ve seen crazier things, right? But if she doesn’t, she’s still getting that message out in front of millions of people. And that is the potential to change lives. And that is the beginning of change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. And just the beginning of change is all I’m looking for. So that’s why I’m supporting her.
And through your art, you’re definitely doing that too, with a bunch of the other artists that you’re working with well.
Oh yes, what I was saying is I like to do my stuff on the street because it’s temporary. It’s visceral, it’s emotional, it’s physical, it’s adrenaline. You know, I’m an old junkie used to cop dope and Alphabet City in the 80’s. So, you know, I don’t get that rush anymore. So I get that when I’m hanging on a billboard.
But actually, the funny part is, I represent and know a lot of artists that come from the exact same background, such as they met in Alcoholics Anonymous and places like that and found the same outlet.
Oh, yeah, there’s so many of us. But when it comes to collaborations, then I’ll do canvases, because the truth of the matter is, you know, I have money from playing music. I’m not interested in selling shit. I don’t really give a shit.
This is not your main source of income…
Well, this is not what I’m trying to do [for a living]. I’m just trying to participate and shed a voice that I’d like to be seen. If I was in my position when I was 15 years old, I would have loved to have seen something that resonated with me. The interesting thing is, that’s how I discovered Robbie Conal, who resonated with me at 15. And that’s the first street artists that I was like, what the fuck is this? You’re allowed to say something against the president and it registered, wow, people are putting up their own opinions. And that’s the age I decided that I was interested in what was going on in the streets. But to get back to the original thing that we were talking about.
Working with Hektad & JC, etc….
Yes! When I collab with someone like Hektad or JC or Al Diaz, my buddy, I mean, the fact that he even wanted to collaborate with me, I was like, sure! And that’s how I got outed actually, I was all under the radar before Al. We did a print together. And then he wanted to sell them. And I was like, ‘Well…. no one’s going to buy my art’. But my philosophy is if it’s an artist that does canvases, and they want to collab, and then they want to sell it. I’m happy to collaborate, they keep the money, I don’t want anything to do with it. I want to be a part of the process. You’re teaching me shit. We’re learning each other’s vibe. That’s all good. Every time I go to I learn something useful and new.
I’ve talked to some of these guys, and they’ve told me that you’re a quick study as well.
Oh, is that right?
Yeah, I’m a photographer, not a street artist. I’ve tried to cut stencils and it sucks. I go out and shoot photos and interview them to support them. I’ve been on the rooftops. I’m also a lawyer, you know, they like having me around in case shit goes down. But I’ll tell you it is not easy.
No, and then that’s my meditation. In a weird way on the stencils stuff. Like, yeah, we get to go put it up and blast it up… and it looks sometimes good, sometimes shaky, whatever. But it looks like it looks, not all of them are winners, but I don’t mind ‘dustin’ shit. And I don’t mind shit that looks like street art and had to be done in a hurry. But the thing about the stencils that I love to do. To me, that’s the craft. To me, it’s the rendering; it’s the cutting. I use a lot of mesh to keep the islands together and be bridgeless, so that whole process to me is like my craft. And it’s almost like learning, studying guitar, right? And then you go do your show that lasts an hour and you get a rush from the show. So, to me, the craft is cutting and preparing and manipulating and making sure it works. And then putting it up as the show.
You got to do that great piece with Plastic Jesus. You played his melting guitar piece.
Oh, yeah, that thing is insane. That was very difficult to play.
I did interview him a while ago and actually, it’s because of him I met you.
That’s right. Jesus is also one of my teachers. I mean, I’m very blessed that I have so many teachers to learn from. I have to make it clear that, yeah, I’m getting more visible about it. But this has been in me for since I was a child. The visual arts has been to me, like when I’m writing music, I’m seeing it. It’s a visual process for me. It comes in colors. It comes in shapes. And also to have an avenue that isn’t necessarily collaborative all the time. You know, I’m in a band. I’m working with three other dudes. When I’m on the street by myself, that’s it. And when it goes good, great. And if it goes bad, oh well… I’ve been stopped a number of times. And I’ve been very lucky.
Was it just the fact that you’re Dave Navarro that got you out of trouble? Any close calls in particular come to mind?
No, I don’t think it’s just because… But close calls I’ve had many. Well, there are lots of cops in LA and one time I got pulled over because I taped up my license plates if I think there are cameras around. Right?
Yeah. Because you know, they’re going to run the plate and then it’s all ‘it’s that guy’. So, I put tape on my license plates, and I was spraying something. A cop pulls up. He looks at me. I stopped. He drives away. I get my car. I’m like, I better get out of here. So I get moving. He pulls me over for having taped up plates. Right. I’m like, fuck how am I going to explain that, and my whole car. Imagine this, it was a two-seater. There’s a stencil crinkled up on the passenger side, there are cans everywhere. It smells like fumes, they’re pouring out of the windows. The cop walked up to me and says, ‘Why are your plate taped?’ And I said ‘You know what officer, I was shooting a commercial and I had to drive my car in it and they cover the plates for a commercial broadcast because they don’t want the plates in it’ and he’s like ‘Okay’, he bought that. That’s cool. That’s cool. And then he goes ‘Looks like you were spraying over here’. Then I said something like, ‘No, you kidding me? Me? No. Is it alright man?’ Well then at that point they took off. Sorry cops. Yeah, I took the tape off whatever. As soon as they rounded the corner I finished the piece. Because I’m one of those committed guys… I could be on a billboard, and I could be halfway done and six squad cars will pull up. It’s going to take them a minute to get up there. I’m going to finish it; I’m already going down. Do you know what I mean?
What’s the loss?
So that’s where I come from, but dude, I can’t thank you enough for having me. This has been a great day.
It’s been an honor for me as well and just so people know, we put this all together in less than 12 hours. It was ridiculously fast, and last minute, and done on the fly in Bill Barminski’s installation at Beyond The Streets in Brooklyn New York during the free to the public day surrounded by patrons. It’s pretty surreal, and just know that Dave Navarro doesn’t just like art he’s willing to go out of his way for some art.
I feel like anything that you’re passionate about you have to act on it. You know, that’s what I was just talking about. Like when Hektad is going out to put up a massive piece and he says, ‘Yeah, man, you should come’ and I’ll tell him ‘bro, I’ll come. I’ll fucking go get water, I’ll hold cans, I’ll spray, I’ll tape, I’ll keep an eye on whatever the fuck you want.’ No job is too small because I’ve never shown up somewhere and not pick something up.’ And that goes with music as well. That’s why I play with so many different artists, because you play with Steve Vai one night, you play with a fucking Slash the next night, you play with Billy Gibbons the next night, you got three unique guys entering your soul in a communal way that is pure and from the heart and from the song can’t be faked. But you can’t get three guitarists up there that are different and fake your way into making it. It would have to make sense and be meaningful.
Dave, thanks again for going out of your way to do this with me, it’s been a blast running around with you for he past couple hours. And thanks to Beyond The Streets for for letting explore around this massive exhibit (we only got through half and will have to come back another day to see the rest). Any last thoughts?
I just want to say thanks for having me to Matt, Streetrtnews, and Beyond The Streets. This is Dave Navarro and I can be found @lifeafterdeathstreet is my art page. And @DaveNavarro, if you care about anything else I do, but go to the art page.
All Photo’s & Text Copyright 2019 Matthew A. Eller (unless otherwise noted). Follow me on Instagram @ellerlawfirm