“I see sciences getting a bad rap even from liberal friends of mine,” he says. “I’m a big fan of rational thought.”
(Prologue: This interview was conducted 12 years ago back in 2008 and was originally featured in print issue #20.)
Eric Avery seems a little too serious and thoughtful to have been a part of LA’s raucous 1980’s rock scene. So it’s not surprising when he finally gave up playing bass for Jane’s Addiction that he wanted no part of the group again for nearly 17 years. What’s actually shocking is when he finally returned to the stage with the band, he felt completely at home.
Avery’s appearance alongside the other original members of Jane’s Addiction proved to be the highlight of the first-ever U.S. NME awards show in April. The four-song set wowed a crowd composed of rock-and-roll royalty and even ended up impressing Avery himself. “I’ve been doing hired gun gigs for years and have felt self-conscious about how to be on stage,” Avery says. “That night I felt like I was in my position again. I had my part of the stage to do with what I pleased.”
Although singer Perry Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro may be better known, the NME performance illustrates how important Avery was to a group that pushed alternative music into the mainstream at a time when hair bands still ruled the airwaves. Jane’s Addiction has staged several comebacks over the years, once with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers filling in for Avery, but none of those reunions crackled with the same energy as the NME show. With fans finally waking up to Avery, the timing couldn’t be better for Help Wanted. His first-ever solo effort is a moody, atmospheric rock record that sounds a lot like a spaced-out concept album or the soundtrack to a science fiction movie. In spite of its cohesiveness, Avery says the CD has been in the works for a long time. “Putting something out was a clerical decision really,” he says. “After years of writing songs, I decided to focus on a few and put them out.”
In an abstract way, the songs on Help Wanted follow Avery’s search for a new identity after leaving Jane’s Addiction at the height of its popularity in 1991. Deconstruction, the band he formed with Navarro immediately after the breakup was a hit with critics but flopped with fans. His next project, the electronic-tinged Polar Bear, was ahead of its time in the late 90’s but laid the groundwork for the high-tech studio flourishes on Help Wanted. “The computer is what made me interested in being a musician again,” says Avery, who lists Autechre and Mouse on Mars among his influences.
Avery eventually found himself with a lot of time to think as he lived the life of a musical journeyman touring with Alanis Morrissette, collaborating with Smashing Pumpkins and even trying out for Metallica. He became engrossed in the work of the Skeptic’s Society, which advocates logic and reason as a counter to superstition, ignorance, and religious fundamentalism. “I see sciences getting a bad rap even from liberal friends of mine,” he says. “I’m a big fan of rational thought.”
Those thoughts and feelings make their way onto Help Wanted, a record that is both personal and political. “Even if I am thinking of my own life it is always in the context of the big sweeping march of history,” he says. Avery promises it won’t take another decade and a half for him to record another solo album. He hasn’t ruled out more work with his former band either, proving deep thought and hard rock can mix after all. “The cool thing about Jane’s Addiction is we always attracted really creative, unusual people,” Avery says. “It wasn’t like I was in Poison, although sometimes I felt like it.”