Guitarists Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction, etc.) and Billy Morrison (The Cult, etc.) have had enough. After years of seeing their friends suffer and, in many cases, die at the hands of depression and drug addiction, they’re determined to get something done.
The two friends have been playing together for years — initially in the guest-heavy cover band Camp Freddie, with that group later evolving into Royal Machines. They’re no strangers to performing the music of other people. But for one special evening at the Belasco, which they’ve dubbed Above Ground, the pair have hooked up with national charity MusiCares.
Navarro and Morrison will be performing two albums — Adam & the Ants’ Kings of the Wild Frontier and the Velvet Underground’s Velvet Underground & Nico — while also offering some information and education regarding depression and drug addiction.
“Suicide, depression, mental illness obviously affects people that aren’t in the music business, but we obviously were affected by Scott [Weiland], Chester [Bennington], Chris [Cornell] and others,” Morrison says. “They were all connected with MusiCares. It has the biggest reach here in America. We’ve all done much work for MusiCares before — they have helped many of our friends — but just because it’s a music organization doesn’t mean that this is not for everyone. Our message is that it’s OK to ask for help no matter who you are. But this charity just happens to be very well known with a very long reach here in America, and we want our efforts to be seen by as many people as possible.”
While all profits will go to MusiCares, the evening is more about raising awareness than funds. After all, it could host an online auction and probably make more money. This is about two musicians putting their faces to a worthwhile cause.
“My message, having gone through depression myself, is that asking for help is an incredible strength,” Navarro says. “Depression, drug addiction and suicide affect so many lives beyond just the identified patient. So asking for help is offering help to family members and friends. A simple phone call, reaching out for help, can bring peace to so many lives. Even for someone who isn’t struggling with a mental health issue — I think self-care to anybody is a great thing.”
Navarro and Morrison chose to perform two entire albums because they miss the days when bands put LPs out on vinyl, with two distinct sides of music, often with two different stories.
“When Adam & the Ants’ Kings of the Wild Frontier came out, I was pretty deeply invested in heavy metal and punk rock, and things with loud guitars,” Navarro says. “When times were changing and new wave came about, Adam seemed to not only bring his unique vocal stylings but there were guitars, and I was a guitar player. He opened up a whole other world for me. There’s loud, distorted guitars but he also created a theatrical environment, which really appealed to me. It was just a unique genre that he invented, so that was a pivotal album in my life. The tribal drumming style really influenced Stephen Perkins and became a big part of Jane’s Addiction.”
Navarro adds that the first Velvets album provided the soundtrack to some of his drug-fueled years, so he has a complicated relationship with it. The two albums are quite different, though, and that should make for a special night. In addition, there are some very special guests appearing, including Billy Idol, Courtney Love and, perhaps best of all, Marco Pirroni, former guitarist with Adam & the Ants.
“Marco’s been on a horse farm in Derbyshire for as long as anyone can remember,” Morrison says. “When I emailed him, his response was beautiful. He was humbled and honored that we’d do this, he loved the charity idea, and he said he’d love to play. We’d love him to play, so Marco’s on a plane coming over here. He’s playing Adam & the Ants songs for the first time in a while. I think that’s a pretty big deal.”
There’s also going to be some Andy Warhol art on display courtesy of the Revolver gallery, and there will be some mental health awareness speeches. The night is going to be more an experience than a regular gig.
“I hope that everyone who reads this understands that, by buying a ticket, they really are helping,” Morrison says. “If we can make this event a huge success, we’ll be doing something positive for the world.”
Above Ground with Billy Morrison and Dave Navarro, plus Billy Duffy (The Cult), Billy Howerdel (A Perfect Circle), Billy Idol, Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Courtney Love, Marco Pirroni and more takes place at 8 p.m. on Monday, April 16, at the Belasco Theater.