Dave Navarro On Photography

Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist compiling images into autobiographical book.

Former Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro has been chronicling his life on a daily basis for the past year with a '60s-style photo booth in the living room of his Los Angeles home. Navarro, who said he prefers the instant gratification afforded by Polaroid photography, is compiling the images for an autobiographical book, "Trust No One," due this summer.

SonicNet: What is it about photography that appeals to you? What fears or ideas does it allow you to process? (RealAudio excerpt of interview)

Dave Navarro: I'm trying to get them out of me. Things that cause me fear or cause me sadness or pain are things I create about, because those are things I need to come to terms with. But the things I'm happy about, I don't necessarily need to delve into them and come to terms with them because I just want to experience them and be happy about them. I don't necessarily need to sit there and do a painting about the day I had at Disneyland, because I just had a good time.

SN: Melissa [Auf Der Maur, of Hole] was saying in a band situation, photography allows you to ... create something for yourself.

Navarro: I suppose that's true. At the same time you could always go home and play guitar by yourself.

Bands that I've been in, I feel like the vocalists have been probably similar in the sense of being very strong focuses. For me, [music and photography are] not related because the way that I use music to express is a different format than photography or use of images. With music I take metaphorical thoughts and present them in a way that's real, whereas in photography, I take what's real and look for the metaphorical meaning. When I take a picture of a child, you can say, "There's a picture of a child." But if I try to frame it in the sense that an elderly couple was somewhere within the same frame, and one of them is in a wheelchair and sick, and the little boy has got his back to his sister, that could say more.

SN: There's a series of Warhol-esque Polaroids you did with your face behind TV test-patterns. What are you trying to convey with those?

Navarro: I'm using those to go along with the band and the music I'm doing. Apart from just finding them pleasing to the eye and graphically appealing, I like the fact that they have the potential for a non-related element someday, reminding a person of the music I do.

SN: Does photography provide you a sense of release or something you can't get otherwise? Rock and photography have had this weird connection for years. It seems like musicians are drawn to the photographic image, for whatever reason.

Navarro: For me, with the music, not only am I trying to create a song or a list of songs, but I'm trying to create a vibe, a feeling or overall sense of existence that is unique. When I think about the band X, it takes me back to a time in my life where I can recall the feeling around me. A lot of it has to do with their use of little tchotchke icons -- they always had little dolls and religious candles. That created a vibe to me that may or may not have come across in the music. With the music I'm doing and the images I'm trying to put to it, I think I'm probably trying to help generate an overall sense of existence of the art form.

SN: Is all the photography tied to your music, do you think?

Navarro: No, I don't think so. Most of it is tied to my life. With the photo booth, that's about literal moments in time. Of course, we have experimented with more creative ways to use the booth.

SN: Why do you think you've been drawn to visual imagery for so long?

Navarro: Being listened to and heard as a child was very difficult. To feel a sense that I have been listened to by people has always been very difficult for me. If I turned to images I wouldn't even have to try to speak, or battle the outpour of other people around me. Because there it is, in black and white. When I got into photography, the thing that made me turn away from it for a while [was] the fact that I'm very impatient. With music, you write a song and you're in the song at that time. With photography, there's all these processes before you get to hold the final product in your hand. That's why I'm using photo booths and Polaroids and things of that nature -- for immediate gratification.

SN: Because you're all about immediate gratification?

Navarro: Totally. I don't have to wait a week or I don't have to go into a darkroom to see [how] what I was feeling or thinking or trying or attempting to see ... came out. If I'm feeling it right then, I want to see it right then. Here's the perfect example: Yesterday, I was at my friend's loft. There was a girl I was hanging out with, and she had fallen asleep on the couch. My friend's pit bull had fallen asleep next to her. It was just a beautiful image. I was like, "F---, I want to see that, I want to touch that." I said, "Give me a Polaroid." He didn't have one. I crept out of the house at that moment, 10 o'clock in the morning, and went and bought one. I went and bought a Polaroid camera and tripod and about 15 packs of films. I set it up in front of her and started snapping away. Of course she woke up, but I got what I wanted.

SN: Melissa said a lot of her self-portraiture is an attempt to not lose her memories. You also do quite a bit of self-portraiture. What do you think motivates it?

Navarro: When I do a self-portrait, it's nothing like that. For me, it's purely out of self-centered ego (laughs). There's something about wanting to teach yourself something about your own psyche that you can't see on a day-to-day basis that you can see within an image that you take of yourself. It's funny, because when you do self-portraits, it's the only time where the photographer is 100 percent aware of all your insecurities.

SN: If you have that mole you don't like ...

Navarro: Whatever the thing is that the subject doesn't like, that's the only time those things are taken 100 percent into consideration, because the photographer is you. Sometimes I keep all those things in check and pay attention to them and avoid capturing those things. And other times, when I'm feeling a little bit more bold, I focus on capturing those things that I'm afraid of showing because I want to finally learn just how bad it really is. I've done self-portraits and allowed myself to capture the qualities that I personally don't like about myself and learned that they're not what I think they are. It frees me a bit.