Dave Navarro, Corey Taylor on ‘Above Ground': ‘It’s OK to Ask for Help’
"It's OK to ask for help."
It's a simple bit of advice, and yet, it can be very difficult to follow. The phrase comes up often in Loudwire's conversation with Jane's Addiction legend Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison (of Billy Idol's band). They are bandmates in the all-star cover band Royal Machines (and previously, Camp Freddy), and they've organized the Above Ground benefit concert, which takes place Monday night (April 16) at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles. The show will raise awareness and funds for the treatment of mental health, with the profits being donated to MusiCares, a charity of the Recording Academy.
Mental health and depression have become part of the pop culture discussion in recent months. Navarro says, "There certainly was a stigma attached to mental health issues for a long time, and that’s really starting to shift, thankfully. I, personally, suffered from depression, and I’ve had massive addiction problems in the past. Sometimes people put those things in different categories, but they’re one and the same. Sometimes, the addiction comes from someone with a mental illness self-medicating themselves. I'm glad to see that the world seems to be shifting in terms of acceptance of taking the stigma away."
But Morrison notes, "I don’t think we’re there yet. That’s why we’re doing this event, to be part of the voice to help people to understand, that '. David and I have lost so many friends in the past few years. Famous friends, and not famous friends. There’s still so much of a macho attitude. When I grew up, my father used to say to me, ‘Stop crying about it, just get on with it!’ We’re just trying to let people know that it’s absolutely OK to speak out and say, ‘I feel depressed. And I need help.'"
The Above Ground show will see the guitarists joined by their friends, including Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, Courtney Love of Hole, Billy Idol, Steve Stevens of Billy Idol's band, Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads, Billy Howerdell of A Perfect Circle and Dave Kushner of Velvet Revolver, among others. Many of them share a deep connection with Navarro: "I’m putting the show on with some of the very people that I have reached out for help from. It's a strange turn of events. It’s a very close-knit family."
The show will feature full performances of two classic albums: the Velvet Underground's 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and Adam & the Ants' 1980 album, Kings of the Wild Frontier.
"Both the Adam and the Ants record and the Velvet Underground record had pretty distinct communities attached to them," Navarro says. "I think they both speak to subcultures that would gather, in a tribal nature, around these bands. For us, to play these albums in their entirety, and to learn every single note to every single song, and playing them from beginning to end, not only is a way to tip our hats to those albums, and get closer to the subcultures that we were once so familiar with, but also to pay tribute to the long-playing vinyl album."
He adds that Jane's Addiction owed a debt to both bands. "We were very, very deeply into the Velvet Underground. Certainly 'Jane Says' was a tip of the hat [to 'Candy Says,' 'Lisa Says' and 'Stephanie Says.'] The subculture nature of the band really spoke to us."
"Stephen Perkins, Jane’s Addiction’s' drummer, was heavily influenced by Kings of the Wild Frontier. All of that tribal-sounding drumming really comes across, certainly on our first and second album."
"One thing about that album," Navarro recalls. "At that time, I was really into heavy metal, and this was kind of the dawning of the new wave era. Kings of the Wild Frontier came out, and it was so guitar heavy, it was noisy and brash. It was like the metal I was listening to in some ways, but – excuse the pun – it was a whole new flavor. I put that in my top ten records of all time."
"It’s up there in my top ten, too," Morrison agrees.
"Adam really created his own style of music," Navarro says. "It was outrageous, it was dandy, it was flashy, it was theatrical, and it was also incredibly original sounding. And very difficult to play!"
Morrison adds, "How great would it be if someone comes to the show and learns about Adam & the Ants. Kings of the Wild Frontier was a seminal album. I would love to see someone who never heard that album go buy it."
Corey Taylor will be joining Navarro and Morrison for the Kings of the Wild Frontier portion of the evening, and he may indeed turn some of his fans on to Adam & the Ants, who aren't a band often mentioned as a big influence with metal groups.
"Corey has played with our band Royal Machines many, many times," Navarro says. "He’s a good friend. And he’s just got an incredible voice, there’s nothing he can’t sing."
Morrison adds, "He has an incredible musical brain. When we asked him to be a part of the show, he was like, ‘Which songs?’ So I sent him a few song ideas, and he said, ‘I’m in!’ That guy has the kind of energy that we like, and what we are looking for. His energy is, ‘How can I help you create this event?’"
"And Corey’s lost a number of people, just as we have," Navarro says.
In a separate interview, Taylor told Loudwire, "I’m really happy to be part of the show. I’ve tried to do a lot, not just to raise awareness of suicide, but for depression in general, and trying to take the stigma off that, and encourage people to get more positive help, so that they really see what their options are as far as getting the help that they need."
"I’m only doing Adam and the Ants tunes," he reveals. "But I love the Velvets as well. So it’s really cool to be a part of that and to show the appreciation for the music and maybe turn some other people on to it."
The idea of Taylor, Love, Idol and the other artists covering the songs of Lou Reed and Adam Ant sounds, frankly, amazing. But as Morrison reminds us, "We don’t want anything to overshadow the message, which is: it’s really OK to ask for help."
Get tickets for the Above Ground concert here.
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