When Jane's Addiction first called it quits in 1991, bassist Eric Avery teamed up with one of his oldest pals, Jane's guitarist Dave Navarro, to form a new band, one they'd later christen Deconstruction. While the band's 1994 self-titled debut failed to generate much commercial interest at the time, today the LP is considered by many to be a cult masterpiece. Following the eventual demise of Deconstruction, Avery basically fell off the face of the planet.
While the rest of Jane's Addiction remained active — drummer Stephen Perkins and frontman Perry Farrell went on to found Porno for Pyros, while Navarro took over for John Frusciante in the Red Hot Chili Peppers — it seemed as though Avery had disappeared. He even rejected two offers to re-form Jane's, first in 1997 and then again in 2001.
"Life was telling me that I wasn't supposed to be doing that," he said. "I certainly didn't want to drag my past out and try to put the dreadlocks back on and re-create something. I feel that Jane's is really a vibe and a time. It wasn't like we were the Beatles. We didn't have crafty pop songs where it sort of didn't matter who played them because they're just really great songs. We were sort of a time and a vibe, and I didn't just want to be a shallow version of my former self. I keep thinking maybe that will change. Maybe I will become desperate enough for money, or maybe I'll suddenly want to play those songs again, but so far, it just hasn't happened. I like [Jane's] remaining what it was for me."
According to Avery, he didn't just disappear — he ran away.
"I've sort of had an investigatory relationship with being a musician," explained Avery, who will release his first solo album, Help Wanted, April 8. "I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I felt I had had my run — I had done Jane's and I wasn't particularly interested in music anymore. I got some offers to join other bands, and some of them were really cool bands, but I didn't think that's what I wanted to do — I wasn't certain. So I just sort of floundered around for a while. Then the music industry started to implode, and again, I was just sort of wondering, 'How am I supposed to be a musician, and do I want to be one, frankly?' I said to myself a long time ago that I didn't want to be that hanging-on-for-too-long, aging-rock-musician guy, and that's why I sort of got away from music."
Avery said Jane's Addiction's demise took its toll on him, and sort of disillusioned him from the music business in general. He didn't want to just join another band — although he did audition for Metallica after Jason Newsted bounced, which was chronicled in the documentary "Some Kind of Monster" — he wanted to find a reason to write and record again. He needed inspiration.
"I started getting into Internet technologies and computers," he said. "I wasn't especially interested in being a musician, but I wound up finding my way back to being interested in music through computers. I really got into the educational [and] scientific aspects of the Internet, but avoided the music software. Then I sort of got interested in sampling eventually, and that inspired me to start Polar Bear."
Avery returned to music with his short-lived side-project, but when he couldn't secure a label deal for Polar Bear, he lost his "momentum" and completely turned his back on music, he said. That lasted a few years, but inevitably, Avery couldn't deny his true calling: The man was a bassist, and that was that.
Avery wrote and toured with Alanis Morissette for a spell, and then trekked with Garbage during the promotion cycle for the band's 2005 LP, Bleed Like Me. He was even recruited by Billy Corgan a couple of years back to play bass for the resurrected Smashing Pumpkins. That affair lasted three weeks. "I insisted on being paid," Avery said with a hearty guffaw. "I went into [the Pumpkins] with the same mentality I took with me when I auditioned for Metallica — I expected to have a good story to tell my wife. I had no expectations. I had heard nothing but bad things about working with Billy, but I went, and I found it to be a really inspiring time."
Avery never intended on surviving in music as a hired gun, but enjoyed working with Corgan because "the guy really gives a sh-- about what he does, and I sort of had allowed myself to get lazy as a musician because of ProTools. When I got around Corgan, he wanted to play the same thing 30 different ways to make sure he got it just the way he wanted it. I found that to be really inspiring.
"What I'm most excited about when it comes to this record is that it's the beginning of making records again, making music," Avery added, saying that he plans to release future solo efforts and is even getting more involved in composing music for feature-film soundtracks.
Help Wanted, which boasts contributions from Garbage singer Shirley Manson, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins and Red Hot Chili Pepper Flea, is an eclectic mix of Avery's chief influences — artists like Bauhaus, Joy Division, Flipper, Yes and Black Flag — woven over a dozen tracks, including the album's first single, "All Remote and No Control." Avery's songs employ samples, electronica elements, brassy horns, and distortion- and feedback-riddled riffs, while his lyrics deal with everything from global politics to his childhood experiences.
But the bassist doesn't think he'll be touring in support of the record.
"We might do something here and there, but I doubt it," he said. "If there was a reason to, I would. But I'm not going to hire a bunch of guys and climb in a van and roam around the country."