Timing has always been on the side of Jane's Addiction. Beginning with their arrival in the mid-'80s against the backdrop of Hollywood's glam metal scene, they bridged the gap as an alternative for those seeking intensified chaos as punk rock began to loosen its grip.
In both their sound and image, the group embodied the state of the city's burgeoning alt-rock movement with a combination of psychedelic flash and gothic artistry reflective of the dark urban underbelly of downtown Los Angeles. Singer Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery were able to bring the intensity of their live show to the studio, producing a trio of the era's most iconic recordings before abruptly calling quits in 1991.
After a few years apart to pursue other endeavors (Farrell and Perkins formed Pornos for Pyros while Avery and Navarro formed Deconstruction), the group has remained close for a series of extended reunions, new recordings and tours, including their latest, which comes to the Fox on Tuesday.
Drummer Stephen Perkins, 45, said the group's guiding principles today are the same as always, which is why the bandmates have remained close through the years.
"You don't do it for the money," he said during a phone interview from his home in Southern California. "You know, Jane's Addiction breaks up, people offer us a lot to stay together. We can't. If we're gonna fake it, it's not real."
Jane's Addiction came of age at a time when commercial radio relegated anything "cutting edge" to late night, and videos too hot for MTV were censored, as was the case with many of the band's short-form videos, including "Mountain Song." There's also the issue of sustaining a music career in the digital age, something Perkins said he's adapted to.
"Nowadays the business is just so different. I mean, people are just giving music away. It's almost insulting to charge people to buy it. There's almost no reason for people to buy it, so what do you do? You put on a great show, and there's no way to replace that. Of course, everyone films your show with a phone and puts it on YouTube, two hours after you get on stage. We've always had performances, but the work is that you can still do it and still be relevant."
Jane's Addiction sprang from the ashes of Farrell's original band, Psi Com, an experimental quartet that saw brief success in the underground. The band was named in honor of Farrell's housemate, Jane Bainter.
"The L.A. scene back in '86, when we first started, it was all magical," Perkins said. "Everyone I met touched me, and everything around I touched. It really was a great combination and chemistry with what we were doing, and people were hungry for it."
Perkins said the band's early shows sometimes pushed the envelope beyond the boundaries of good taste, creating a circus of the surreal.
"I remember our very first show, we had a corn dog booth. Behind it we put pornos, and we called it 'Porn Dogs' -- little things to bring some kind of unusual flavor to the night, but at the same time about flaring up people's ideas.
"On the (Sunset) Strip there was a sense of fake danger with Motley Crue and bands like that. They were living crazy lives, but a lot of it was what they wore. They looked dangerous, but if you went downtown at 2 in the morning and to a Jane's show, that was dangerous. That's why the music sounded like that. What we were doing felt right."
They were creating a hybrid sound unlike anything Los Angeles had heard before, as musical peers like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone were carving out their own niches with the rowdy punk/funk crowds.
"Me and Navarro were 17 and still deeply involved with liking flash playing on our instruments," Perkins said. "We wanted to imitate our favorite players in Slayer, Metallica or whoever the guys who were fast and just showing off. Eric and Perry were more into Bauhaus, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen. Less thrash, more substance and song. So there was that marriage of what was happening outside in LA, also happening inside the band. It was like this metal/punk marriage, and we weren't afraid to explore what we loved."
Their self-titled debut, with independent label Triple X, was recorded live at The Roxy in Hollywood. They signed with Warner Bros. the following year, giving them a bigger budget and the artistic backing of the label, which they took advantage of on two acclaimed releases: "Nothing's Shocking" in 1988 and "Ritual de lo Habitual" two years later.
But as they became successful, tensions festered. Following the end of the Lollapalooza tour of 1991, the bandmates parted ways to deal with issues of substance abuse and exhaustion.
They re-formed in 1997 for the "Relapse" tour with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass before packing it up for a few more years.
"The road just led us where we were," Perkins said. "I think the business didn't really get in the way. It helped us spread the art, like throwing a stone in a little pond and having a ripple effect."
When they're not performing with Jane's Addiction, both Farrell, 53, and Navarro, 45, have stayed busy in a variety of projects. Navarro can be seen on Spike TV's "Ink Master" and in the current season of "Sons of Anarchy" on FX.
Farrell and his wife, Etty Lau Farrell, were featured on the E! cable network show, "Married to Rock." Former bassist Eric Avery tours with the band Garbage, while Perkins stays busy on the drums, doing what loves best. On bass for this tour is longtime collaborator Chris Chaney.
When it comes to their live show, Perkins said anyone doubting the band's impact will be amazed once the lights dim and the sparks fly.
"I think today, the moment that Perry says, '3, 4,' it's just the same as it was in '86. That's the downbeat, that's us, we're a unit, and we believe it. We're doing it. The music's gotta stir the pot. That's what I love about the band. There's a sense of voodoo when we play. It's dangerous, it's unpredictable, the songs don't sound the same night to night, and that's OK, because that's the unity."