Interview – Dave Navarro & Billy Morrison Raising Awareness Through Music

Perhaps one of the most overlooked forms of health in society is mental health. Too often, we all fight with some sort of feelings of despair, stress, or frustration, and rather than seek outside help, we hold it inside. This can result in a lifetime struggle to find happiness, or worse yet, succumbing to suicide. It is time as a society we take steps to evaluate our mental well being better, help others feel they are not alone when they feel most hopeless, and start to raise awareness. Taking this very serious matter to heart, accomplished musicians, Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro and Billy Idol Guitarist Billy Morrison, have teamed up to put together a special event they call ABOVE GROUND.

What exactly is ABOVE GROUND? It is a special concert event set to take place on Monday, April 16, 2018 at The Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles where a list of recognizable musicians will gather to perform Adam and The Ants’ 1980 album Kings Of The Wild Frontier and 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico from Nico and The Velvet Underground in their entirety. Cool enough, the real silverlining is all proceeds are being donated to MusiCares®, a charity of the Recording Academy™ to help raise awareness and funds for the treatment of mental health. Gearing up for the amazing evening of music and hope, Navarro and Morrison sat down to talk the origins of the project, what those coming out can expect, future plans, plus more. – You two have been involved in Rock-n-Roll all your lives. Dave, you have been a part of everything from Jane’s Addiction to Red Hot Chili Peppers. Billy, yourself a part of everything from The Cult to Billy Idol. First, briefly tell us, what has the  journey in music been like?

Billy Morrison – My journey has been fantastic and I lead an amazing life. It’s because of that journey it’s made me, and Dave, give back a little and spread some positivity, as opposed to the standard Rock-n-Roll bullshit.

Dave Navarro – Mine began with Jane’s Addiction and I am fortunate enough to still be with Jane’s Addiction almost 30 years later. Playing with other artists, such as Billy and people we have joining us for the event, really makes you hone in on your musicianship and makes you a better player. 

Dave Navarro with Jane’s Addiction live in Coney Island, NY 7-15-2016. Photo credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography – No question. Together, you two have co-hosted a show on Camp Freddy Radio, now you team up for the special ABOVE GROUND event scheduled for Monday, April 16th. What inspired this event?   

Billy Morrison – It’s pretty simple, Dave and I, as you say, have done so much together and we have been creative together for so long. We’ve been discussing how fun it would be to play Adam and The Ants album, because we both love it, and losing the friends we’ve been losing, through suicide, depression, and trauma, we decided we can do both. We could play a couple of albums that made the world to us as players which influenced us and try and raise some awareness and funds for MusiCares, who is the Grammy organization/charity we are donating all the proceeds to. – It is really a great cause because mental health is sadly a very overlooked issue in society that needs more attention. That in mind, what steps are being taken to change that and raise awareness. 

Dave Navarro – Right now, we are really trying to focus on the fact that it’s ok to reach out and ask for help when feeling in the depths of despair. We are focusing on Mental Health because, whether someone’s in depression or not, I think self-care, mental health, could apply to anybody. People struggle everyday, they may not have depression, but there are steps they can take to make their life less of a struggle. I think this touches all people. – It most certainly does. As Billy mentioned, you will be performing two killer albums, Adam and The Ants’ 1980 album Kings Of The Wild Frontier and 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico from Nico and The Velvet Underground. You will have a list of other musicians appearing including Billy Duffy of The Cult, Billy Howerdel of A Perfect Circle, Billy Idol, Corey Taylor, and so much more. Will everyone be partaking in the performance in some shape or form?  

Billy Morrison – Oh yes, absolutely. The list of performers we have thrown out there, and we recently added Macy Gray, are all performing. We have an insane logistical grind going on where we know who’s singing what song. Both albums will be performed by all these people. We are also bringing over Marco Pirroni, who is the original guitar player from Adam and The Ants. He is flying over from England, it is the first time he has played these songs in many years.

I want to give a shout out to Revolver Gallery, they have helped us make this happen. The Andy Warhol portion of this show, we have Andy Warhol’s on display and Andy’s Rolls-Royce will be parked out front. Ron Rivlin over at Revolver Gallery stepped up and said he wanted to help us put this gig on. It’s been a great, positive response from everyone we have approached. 

CBS Records International – That is great to hear. Putting together a one night event like this can be a lot of work, especially coordinating active musician’s busy schedules. What sort of preparation did it take to make all this happen?

Dave Navarro – Well, this was months in the making. First of all, learning the two albums took some time because, although both albums inspired Billy and I over the years, they are coming from a different headspace as artists. It was an incredible challenge learning these albums.

Then, reaching out to artists, a lot of people have very busy schedules, they are on tour or doing lots of different things. It was by luck we were able to lock down friends of ours who were in town and available to do the gig. Not to mention, we spent a lot of time putting together production and a more experiential environment in the venue, where you are going to have an auction, where the proceeds go to MuisCares, the Warhol exhibit, a drum circle.

There is a lot of different elements to this thing. Sure, we’ve had help, but I have to say, the majority of it, the heavy lifting, has been Billy and I working the phones and calling in favors. Everybody was on board as soon as they heard what we were doing, it’s meant a lot to us. – Well, it seems like it will be wonderful. Pending how it goes, is there a possibility of ABOVE GROUND becoming an annual event?

Billy Morrison – Absolutely, Dave and I have discussed the possibility of future ABOVE GROUND shows. That’s why we gave it a name, we thought the name was a positive one to put to this project. It also facilitates the ability to do it in New York, London, or Tokyo. I think it’s a worldwide message, we have to figure out a way not to kill ourselves to do this one. We would love to do more! I think it’s a great way to raise awareness for mental health by playing great records. There are no shortage of great records we can learn and play. 

Steve Stevens & Bily Morrison live with Billy Idol at The Space Westbury, NY 6-1-2014. – Yes, in the case of most people, music really helps. When you are going through a hard time, you can always relate to music, or even more specific a particular record that helps you through. It can make you feel better and hopeful, no matter how down you are.

Dave Navarro – Absolutely. I think, for me as a child, that’s what I turned to. I had some pretty dramatic events happen when I was young and music was my savior. Music was the thing that helped me feel better, it helped me express what was going on inside of me. I think everybody can relate to that. It has the magical ability to shift one’s thinking, shift one’s feelings. 

In addition to that, I think Billy and I also wanted to focus on doing albums in their entirety, rather than just do a bunch of hits everybody knows. We wanted to give the experiential environment of listening to full-length albums and get immersive with those albums. So, the production on stage will change from album to album. – Excellent! It sounds like it will be a great evening and hopefully you will be able to do it again in the future. This is something important, more musicians should get involved in matters such as these. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music as well as Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these genres, what are some of your favorite films? 

Billy Morrison – I actually have made a few Horror movies, they are all B-movies and they are all on the Chiller channel at around 3 in the morning. I do love a good Horror movie. I like a good blood splatter, so The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is always my go to. 

Dave Navarro – For me, it’s more about the supsense. Even though it’s a long time ago, The Shining (1980) still holds up for me. Anything Kubrick is hard to beat. 

Bryanston Pictures
Warner Bros. – Both good selections. Billy, you have done a few Horror films. Do you have any other film projects coming up?

Billy Morrison – Actually I would love to do more film, but I don’t go out and audition necessarily because I don’t have time. I just do the parts that come to me. If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director for part 17 is reading this, send me an email!

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