Since September 2004, when three-fourths of Jane's Addiction's most recent lineup — guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney — played their first gig together as the Panic Channel, old-school Jane's fans have complained that the new band doesn't sound anything like the old one. But that is exactly the point.
"We wanted to start over from scratch," Navarro said from his Los Angeles home five days before the opening date of Panic Channel's first full tour. "If you think of any of the offshoots of Jane's, none of them sounded like Jane's Addiction. Porno for Pyros, my solo record and my time with the Chili Peppers were all very different. It's just a natural process for us to want to do new things" (see "Yet Again, Dave Navarro Surveys Life After Jane's Addiction").
The decision not to repeat the past was the only conscious move the band made. In fact, at first, they weren't even planning to form a band. "After Jane's, Chris, Steve and I just found ourselves being unproductive," Navarro explained. "We had a musical void in our lives because we weren't touring or working on anything else. So we decided to get together and have fun playing music again in the garage."
After a few productive jam sessions, Navarro invited an old friend, ex-Skycycle vocalist Steve Isaacs, to rock out in Perkins' garage. The guitarist first met Isaacs in 1992 at a backstage bar at the MTV Video Music Awards, and the two had seen each other sporadically through the years, but they had never played together. Fortunately, that didn't stop the creativity from flowing. "Our first time together we coughed up 'She Won't Last' right away," Isaacs said. "That's when I knew we had something special."
Isaacs was an MTV VJ in the early '90s and sang the lead in a stage version of "The Who's Tommy," but since 2001 he had mostly been a singer/songwriter vaguely in the vein of Elliott Smith. That may explain why the Panic Channel focus so intently on melody, creating a sound that recalls Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots and Audioslave.
For the last 18 months, enthusiasm for the Panic Channel has been mostly limited to the bandmembers and industry insiders. But now the Channel is going public — the band's first single, "Why Cry," just hit radio and its debut album, (ONe), comes out on September 12. "Why Cry," a lovelorn ballad, is one of several tracks on the record that address Isaacs' last painful breakup.
"There's heartbreak and then there's heart apocalypse," he said. "After this girl left, I spent a couple months feeling like I'd been kicked in the stomach. I would sit down on the couch and pick up a guitar because I didn't know what else to do. Catharsis somehow came from basking in the pain." The Panic Channel will shoot a video for "Why Cry" in mid-June and are currently choosing a director.
Isaacs wrote the lyrics for the powerful "Bloody Mary" after reading Navarro's 2004 hedonistic autobiography "Don't Try This at Home." The slow, haunting song is about a beautiful drug dealer that Navarro used to call when he was addicted to heroin, and Isaacs' lyrics evoke the sad desperation that comes with dependency.
"It's not glorifying the drug dealer," Isaacs emphasized. "It just takes the almost rock star-esque mystique that this Hollywood Hills purveyor of drugs has and makes a statement about that weird dichotomy of the pain she actually brings."
Currently, the Panic Channel are introducing themselves with a national club tour that concludes on June 7 in Los Angeles. After that, Navarro hopes to scale the types of heights he experienced with his former band. So, does Panic Channel seem more cohesive than Jane's?
"I can't really answer that, because Jane's always felt held together until it wasn't," the guitarist said. "Life deals you what it deals, and you gotta move on. Right now it feels pretty damned held together."
The Panic Channel tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 5/19 - Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room
- 5/20 - Houston, TX @ Meridian
- 5/22 - Atlanta, GA @ Coca Cola Roxy Theatre
- 5/24 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 5/25 - New York, NY @ Avalon
- 5/26 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
- 5/27 - Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
- 5/28 - Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Music Box
- 5/30 - Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
- 5/31 - Chicago, IL @ Double Door
- 6/1 - Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
- 6/3 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
- 6/4 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
- 6/6 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
- 6/7 - West Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy Theatre