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Dave Navarro & Billy Morrison Gear Up For Their Third Above Ground Concert: "We Have A Responsibility To Say It's OK To Ask For Help"

Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison

Photo: Jim Donnelly

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Dave Navarro & Billy Morrison Gear Up For Their Third Above Ground Concert: "We Have A Responsibility To Say It's OK To Ask For Help"

Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro and Billy Idol's Billy Morrison have separately weathered the hells of addiction and lost famous friends to the disease. Via a rock 'n' roll catharsis, their third Above Ground concert will offer a beacon of hope.

GRAMMYs/Dec 16, 2021 - 08:24 pm

Music can be a salve, a companion, a fount of euphoria. But is that enough? It gave brilliant and complicated souls like Scott WeilandChester Bennington and Chris Cornell a tether to the world and cemented them in history, but their inner struggles nonetheless claimed them.

That's where MusiCares comes in, and why Dave Navarro — who knew all three of those rock legends — works with them. Together, they pull music colleagues out of the maw of addiction, depression and other menaces. Navarro wouldn't be able to access that storehouse of healing, though, without a liberal helping of gratitude.a

"Billy comically brought up show 47 on a world tour, and I know what he means by that," the six-time GRAMMY nominee tells MusiCares — referring to musician, producer and Billy Idol sideman Billy Morrison, who's dragging on a cigarette in the next Zoom window. "That's when you're just kind of in the trenches and the doldrums of it all."

Gavin Rossdale at Above Ground 2019. Photo: Jim Donnelly

When Navarro feels unmoored, he looks at a taped message on his pedalboard: "You get to do this." "I need little reminders for myself of just how much I have to be grateful for," he says in a nimbus of vape smoke. "But I'll tell you one thing: when we do the Above Ground shows, I don't have to read that thing one time. because that transformative magic is happening live on stage."

That magic is about to transpire again. On Dec. 20, Navarro and Morrison will bring their annual Above Ground concert back to Hollywood's Fonda Theater for a third round (they had to skip last year amid the pandemic). The premise is that they corrall famous friends to cover albums in full — this time around, it's Lou Reed's Transformer andthe Sex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks, with Corey Taylor, Perry Ferrell and more. Purchase tickets here.

Navarro and Morrison caught up with GRAMMY.com to discuss the origins of Above Ground, the joys of digging into classic LPs in full and the central message of their work: it's OK to ask for help.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What can we expect from the third Above Ground concert?

Billy Morrison: Look, Above Ground started like everything Dave and I start — with a conversation on a plane based around our mutual love of Adam and the Ants. We were just larking around, going, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could play that album?

In that same month or six-week period, we lost Chester. We lost…

Dave Navarro: Chris.

Morrison: Chris. And we recently lost Scott Weiland. And Dave has been very, very much a mental health advocate for a long while now, dealing with his own traumas.

Dave Navarro: What are you talking about?

Morrison: What? Your own trauma. The stuff you tweet about!

Navarro: [Scoffs jokingly.] I don't have Twitter! Twitter, that archaic device?

Morrison: You know what I mean!

Navarro: Wasn't that, like, 2007? Anyway, go ahead.

Morrison: He was spearheading mental health awareness. We've both been connected with musicians who also are huge figureheads of mental health and suicide prevention. And it just came: "Why don't we do this annual event where we get the joy of picking two iconic albums that you can't hear [live, in full] anymore?"

The idea is, you go to a concert and you get the top three songs off of each album. And we've been very pure about picking albums and playing the whole thing. Even the strange left-of-center tracks that are often on albums.

That turned into Above Ground one, and Above Ground three is just the natural extension of that minus a year because of COVID.

Navarro: Billy and I play in a band called Royal Machines, and we also had a band called Camp Freddy. Both bands are essentially the same band. And Royal Machines is a group of musicians who love playing music, who loved the songs they grew up on. 

We play those songs, and we have a special guest per song. We have a different singer every couple of songs, who comes out and does a song with us. Or, a great guitar player comes out and plays.

I think we've been doing that for — what, 20 years?

Morrison: Yeah, 20 years now.

Navarro: So Above Ground was an extension of that, in a way, because we kept the same model of having friends and musicians — players that we would love to reach out to.

Some of them say yes; some of them say no. But we collect as many people that we can find interested in the event and just throw a big celebration of the music that we all loved.

In Royal Machines, it's usually a song or two from a band, but they're hits, because you want to keep the house moving. You want to keep the party moving. So it's hit, hit, hit, hit, hit.

And Billy's right. We were talking about our love for Adam and the Ants' Kings of the Wild Frontier. That's one of the first records that took me a little bit out of the heavy metal genre and into the post-punk genre, if you will. And then I went backward, did my research and that was my conduit to all things goth, all things punk.

Billy being from England and having a huge understanding of the genius of Adam and knowing our shared love of Adam, I called him one day and said, "Wouldn't it be wild to play the entire album with two drummers all the way through and learn every single nuance on that thing?"

We got into it, and it was a mindf*** in terms of what those guys were actually playing and learning those songs and doing them correctly. But we did, we got together, we did that. And we also chose — this is for Above Ground one — The Velvet Underground & Nico. Which was also a monumental album to try and deconstruct and break into and figure out what's going on.

So, apart from the mental health aspect, one of the things we love in addition to raising funds and awareness is having the ability to get into these records and pull them apart and look under the hood. We become better players as a result of it.

Morrison: Oh my god. The tonality of some of the instrumentation on all the albums we've chosen is so left-of-center to where Dave and I both usually are.

When he stands on stage with Jane's Addiction, he sounds like Dave Navarro. And I stand on stage with Billy Idol and I have my Billy Morrison chunk tone. The joy for me is: Dave comes over to my studio and we are listening to guitar tones on little tiny parts that are in the right speaker and going, "OK, you use this guitar through this amp and just do this."

We take recreating in the albums very seriously to the point where, this year, we have a three-piece horn section. We have strings; we have a keyboard player. I mean, we will get whatever we need to do to totally recreate the record.

Which I think, sets [us apart]. No offense to cover bands; I'm in one of the biggest cover bands in the world. But this is more than a cover band.

Navarro: It's an extension. But it made perfect sense for Billy and me to team up on this because we've been doing covers for so long. The idea of getting into the entire vinyl LP front-to-back is an experience that has been lost in the worldwide culture at this point. We wanted to celebrate that as well.

So that's why we do two albums that are very opposing and contradictory yet fit together very well in the same way. Kind of like a Kubrick film in terms of how we select our albums. So this year you're getting Lou Reed's Transformer and you're getting Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.

Only the stone classics, it seems!

Navarro: Well, the ones that I think — if I'm being honest, and correct me if I'm wrong — are albums that have shaped who Billy and I are.

Morrison: The process of picking the records is quite a long one, because I'll pick an album that means so much to me, but it doesn't mean that much to Dave. And I'm not going to mention the album, because…

Navarro: You can! No, you can!

Morrison: But then everybody's going to pressure me to actually do it.

Navarro: But you said yes! You said yes!

Morrison: Because I love you!

Navarro: I wanted that experience for you! To me, it was a gift!

Morrison: David is a huge Pink Floyd fan. And part of the Above Ground experience is we bring in way more production than any theater gig should have, including oversized video walls — all kinds of stuff. And Dave said, we need to do The Dark Side of the Moon.

Now, I am not a Pink Floyd fan. I'm just not.

Really!

Morrison: So, you've got to remember — one of my first memories is Johnny Rotten walking on stage in a T-shirt that says "I Hate Pink Floyd." And the Sex Pistols are the band that changed my life. And so, even before I ever heard the band as a kid, Pink Floyd was not cool.

Now, I am obviously a grown adult. And Dave is expanding my Pink Floyd dictionary, if you like.

Navarro: We just couldn't get it done by December 20.

Morrison: The deal is not sealed by 2021, but who knows? 2022 might bring that out.

Dave Navarro and Jack Black at Above Ground 2019. Photo: Jim Donnelly

To bridge the conversation into mental health, can you guys tell me about your connections to Scott, Chester and Chris?

Navarro: We both knew all three of those guys just through the work we do.

Morrison: Scott Weiland actually fronted the Camp Freddy band that we had for a year. He was the frontman. Dave, I know, was close with Chris. We were both close with Chester. We had Chester get up with us as one of those guests that Dave was talking about. Chester would always say yes when I or Dave called him. So, we were close.

Navarro: We were very close, and I attended both of those funerals back to back. And what a walloping we all took that year. Chester was always just a constant professional — upbeat, happy to help. Held the door for the catering guy. He was just the humblest, nicest guy. And then when he got on stage, he was just unstoppable.

So, those deaths really hit us hard. Chris's death hit me really, really hard because he and I used to do speaking panels for kids in rehabilitation programs and talk to them about, like, "Hey, we're out here, we're doing this stuff sober on tour and it's doable and we're having a great life."

We were trying to carry that message, because one of the things you've got to do in recovery is to carry the message — whatever type of recovery it is.

Scott, of course, I've known for 20 years, ever since Stone Temple Pilots came out. As Billy said, he was a member of our band for a while. And that was another loss too. They call it drug addiction, but there's something underlying that's underneath drug addiction, if we want to get into it.

So, we felt that since MusiCares was a force and has a reach as vast as it does — they also handle drug addiction and mental health issues — that's the umbrella that we felt that we would want to give back to, to help support people.

MusiCares has gotten people into hospital beds, both Billy and I know, for nothing. People who couldn't afford their own treatment. People who couldn't afford their own care. People who couldn't take care of themselves got taken care of. That's what they do.

Morrison: I think the personal experience that both Dave and I have had with MusiCares made it an easy choice.

Plus, as Dave says, the reach and the voice that they have is definitely a force. I've made a phone call to someone at MusiCares at 10:00, and the person who was dying was in treatment by 6:00. No questions asked, no money.

Those deaths that we talked about — the positive that came out of that for us — was a conversation that was revealed to Dave and me.

Or, it just articulated something that we had thought collectively for a long time about our traumas and our PTSD and depression and addiction issues that we've both been vocal about.

Navarro: Very.

Dave Navarro and Juliette Lewis at Above Ground 2019. Photo: Jim Donnelly

Morrison: What it boils down to is that we have a responsibility to say it's OK to ask for help, because underlying a lot of all of those issues that people suffer from is a stigma that tells us it's wrong to be depressed. Or we don't talk about depression. Or trauma is something that we lock away and don't ever articulate.

Navarro: A lot of family systems teach their children growing up that that's how you live. And I will say, he's right.

I feel like we are at a turning point in society where those issues are being taken seriously. You hear way more about mental health awareness, care, treatment and so forth than you did maybe five years ago. It's become at the forefront. It's a movement of people that just want to see other people having their best human experience.

Both Billy and I have suffered with our drug addictions and so forth. I believe that my drug addiction was rooted in trauma from when I was a kid, and at a certain point for some people like me, it's no more about treating the drug addict side of me.

We've done this; let's get in here. Let's get into the trauma, because that physically lives in the body. That can hold somebody frozen for decades.

Morrison: Dave is right that there is positive forward motion in the mental health space these days. Which is fantastic for us, because it means whatever collective voice we have and we put together for our event is all part of the greater good around the mental health space.

Navarro: I think it's nice for people to see that — sure, it's Billy and I, but there's a lot of artists that join us that people really, really look up to and love and have followed and admired for years. 

Billy Idol is one of them. Perry Farrell is one of them. Taylor Hawkins [was just inducted into] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [with Foo Fighters], so we'll have a Hall of Famer up there.

Every one of these names has either been through it, seen it, dealt with it, gone through it or experienced it, lived it like Billy and I have. One of the tenants to the principles that we practice is that you can't keep it unless you give it away.

And we like to give it away in the form of messaging that says, "Look, even the people who you think have it all together and have the ideal life, even they feel like you do." So, let's even the playing field here.

We're just all human beings trying to have a human experience, and everything is OK if we just wait for the next breath and let it be OK.

Morrison: Dave and I not only play the guitar, but produce the whole thing from start to finish. And the beautiful thing that happens with us is that we'll get a response from someone that neither of us knows.

Jack Black would be an example. The last time we did this, two years ago, Jack Black came forward and wanted to be involved, and was involved — [he] got on stage and absolutely killed it. He didn't do that because he wanted to get on stage and sing "Suffragette City"; he did that because he responded to the message that they just articulated.

So the beautiful thing for us is, we see all those other people out there that want to go, "Yes, we agree with this." Let's level the playing field, like Dave said.

Navarro: You also have to consider that the types of people who choose this line of work for a living are the kinds of people who need a lot of attention. So, there's certainly an undercurrent among all of us that we can all identify with. Most people don't need a thousand people screaming back at them to feel OK about themselves.

So, we come out and we share very intimate, personal stuff in a general way, and on a global level that hopefully can reach somebody who's struggling.

I mean, I had a friend of a family member kill himself two days ago because he got into an argument with somebody. So, obviously, the argument isn't the killer, it's the years of untreated, whatever it was that led to that decision.

I'm seeing it more and more. We saw an increase in drug addiction and suicides during the beginning of the pandemic. And now we're seeing an uptick in both of those things as the world is starting to come back together, because people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around getting back together.

Everybody is built differently, and their trauma lives in different parts of their body. Certain things are a trigger for one person, but they're not a trigger for another person. 

So, we're here to say that not only can you live with those triggers, but you can have a happy and fruitful life with those triggers and not have them hijack your central nervous system and dictate your entire existence.

Dave Mason On Recording With Rock Royalty & Why He Reimagined His Debut Solo Album, Alone Together

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8th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Jamie Harvey
Los Angeles

I love a genre in which some of its most celebrated music was created in drug-addled states. How do we persevere in such a toxic environment? The answer for many is MusiCares [www.musicares.org]. On May 31 the 8th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert was held at Club Nokia in Los Angeles in an effort to raise money for a great cause: musicians helping musicians grasp a hold on sobriety, and save them from the dark depths of addiction.

The night's honorees — Alice In Chains vocalist/guitarist Jerry Cantrell and certified interventionist and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Senior Consultant Neil Lasher — were in the company of many saved musicians. On the red carpet prior to the event, I spoke with some of the attendees about their best piece of advice and music that comforts them.

Inside Club Nokia, the night began with Moby spinning beats as everyone settled in. Fittingly, the night also marked the launch of the DJ AM Memorial Fund in honor of the late Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein.

TV personality Steve-O of "Jackass" was the evening's host and, though now sober, he proved over and over again that he is still just as funny and crazy. "You know you have a problem when your interventionist is Johnny Knoxville," he said.

The music began with Duff McKagan, who served as musical director for the evening, and his band Loaded.  They kicked off their set by playing the music to Alice In Chains' "Heaven Beside You" while McKagan read a poem. So heartfelt that it gave us chills, it set a somber tone, but soon was followed by the celebration of the Johnny Thunders cover "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory," which bled into a portion of Guns N' Roses' "Patience." 

When Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson joined Loaded onstage, I watched as Cantrell sat at the edge of his chair, bobbing his head in rapt attention as they performed. "Dead Flowers" by the Rolling Stones and "Curtains" by Elton John.

During Lasher's acceptance speech after being presented with MusiCares' From the Heart Award, he finished with this offer: "If you're ever in the New York area … I'll even bring a [12-step] meeting to a soundcheck if you need me to."

Billy Idol performed next — a set I was really looking forward to since it had been a long time since I'd last seen the British pop/punk icon and his band. They brought some upbeat rockers to the night with "Dancing With Myself," "White Wedding" and the anthemic "Rebel Yell." I could hardly stay in my seat.

Singer/songwriter Mark Lanegan (Queens Of The Stone Age, Screaming Trees) performed a short but powerful two-song set and pierced the crowd with his gravely baritone voice as "Carry Home" and "Creeping Coastline Of Lights" reached deep into our souls.

After a video tribute to Cantrell from Metallica's James Hetfield, Alice In Chains drummer Sean Kinney presented Cantrell with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award (or, as Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez jokingly referred to it, the "Junkie of the Year Award"). Kinney could have a second career in stand-up comedy — every time I hear him speak he's absolutely hilarious. Accepting his award, Cantrell spoke of being sober for nine years. "I try to do what I can to not get high today," he said.  "We really miss [deceased Alice In Chains members] Layne [Staley] and Mike [Starr]." 

As I listened to Cantrell's speech and the Alice In Chains set that followed, I found it surreal to be present at such an important and intimate event with so many of my generation's musicians. Alice In Chains are a huge part of my life's soundtrack. Their songs have been there through extreme highs and lows for me, and I've watched the band nearly die, only to be resurrected. 

The Alice In Chains acoustic living room set featured career-spanning favorites, including "Nutshell," "Your Decision," a surprise drum and bass interlude featuring the Commodores' "Brick House," and "Got Me Wrong" followed by "Would?" I've lost many of my favorite rock stars to drugs, but here were some of the survivors. And that's more rock and roll than anything. 

Set List

Duff McKagan's Loaded
"Heaven Beside You" (Alice In Chains cover)
"You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" (Johnny Thunders cover)
"Patience" (Guns N' Roses cover)

Duff McKagan's Loaded with Heart
"Dead Flowers" (the Rolling Stones cover)
"Curtains" (Elton John cover)

Billy Idol
"Dancing With Myself"
"White Wedding"
"Rebel Yell"

Mark Lanegan with Loaded
"Carry Home"
"Creeping Coastline Of Light"

Alice In Chains
"Nutshell"
"Your Decision"
"No Excuses"
"Got Me Wrong"
"Would?"

(Jamie Harvey splits her time between California and Texas, and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has been to more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures and concert recaps at www.hardrockchick.com.)

Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

Seattle's Museum Of Pop Culture To Host Pearl Jam Exhibit

Pre-Order The 2013 GRAMMY Nominees Album Now
2013 GRAMMY Nominees album available for pre-order now

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Pre-Order The 2013 GRAMMY Nominees Album Now

Latest edition of best-selling series available Jan. 22, 2013; fans can pre-order the album and enter to win a trip for two to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

The Recording Academy's GRAMMY Recordings and Capitol Records have teamed to release the 2013 GRAMMY Nominees album, which will be available Jan. 22, 2013, in stores and via digital retailers. The 19th installment of the best-selling series will feature a bevy of this year's GRAMMY-nominated artists and hit songs across multiple genres. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the album will help support the year-round efforts of the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares Foundation — two charitable organizations of The Recording Academy.

Following the success of last year's contest, music fans can log on to www.grammy.com/2013grammyalbum to pre-order the 2013 GRAMMY Nominees album and enter to win a trip for two to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

"It's an honor to join forces with Capitol Records to deliver a truly diverse collection encompassing a variety of genres and highlighting today's most talented musicians," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "After the success of last year's pre-order enter-and-win sweepstakes, we're once again thrilled to give music fans the opportunity to experience Music's Biggest Night firsthand. And, it's gratifying to be able to continue our support of the crucial work that MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation carry out year-round."

Dan McCarroll, president of Capitol Records, added, "Capitol is honored to collaborate with The Recording Academy on this prestigious series. This year has been a remarkably strong year in music, and encompassing the highlights of 2012 on a single release supporting these charities is immensely gratifying."

The road to Music's Biggest Night begins with "The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!" and culminates with the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, and broadcast on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT. 

For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook

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MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction Launched

GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions offers exclusive memorabilia from seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Following the seventh annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit honoring Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan and Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman on May 6, GRAMMY Charity Online Auctions has launched the MusiCares MAP Fund Charity Auction. Presented in partnership with Kompolt, the auction is open through May 19 and features a variety of autographed music memorabilia, including items signed backstage at the MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Gahan and Paramore.

Additional auction items include a framed issue of Rolling Stone signed by the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger; vintage memorabilia signed by Tony Bennett, Jackson Browne, Annie Lennox, Rod Stewart, and Barbra Streisand; guitars autographed by Kings Of Leon, Korn, Tom Petty, Kenny Rogers, and Keith Urban; unique memorabilia signed by Jeff Beck, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Muse, Katy Perry, and Rihanna; and a 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards VIP Experience for two including rehearsal passes and hotel accommodations.

To place your bid on items featured in the auction, visit www.ebay.com/grammy. All proceeds will benefit MusiCares and the GRAMMY Foundation.