ITíS 11 A.M. on a Friday morning, and one might think Dave Navarro would be sleeping. One would be mistaken. The Grammy-nominated guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Janeís Addiction, a man whose well-publicized drug addiction nearly killed him less than a decade ago, insists he no longer leads a life of all-night partying and general self-destruction. Which is more than a little surprising, considering the evidence laid out in his new book, Donít Try This at Home: A Year in the Life of Dave Navarro (Regan Books), which he wrote with Neil Strauss. What began with a photo booth in Navarroís house in 1998 ó he planned to have every visitor during the course of the year photographed in the booth ó soon became the basis for a book documenting the musicianís drug relapse and subsequent downhill spiral, with Strauss on hand to capture every gritty detail.
By the end of the year, though, Navarro somehow managed to put himself on a potholed road to recovery. In epilogue chapters written in 2000 and 2004, he describes his new life in joyful detail: his freedom from drugs, his marriage to Carmen Electra, and his general and unexpected happiness.
Q: Isnít this a little early for a musician?
A: I usually wake up pretty early, but I got home last night from New York so my clock is a little screwy. I think Iím just tired from the trip, but itís all good. I usually get up around eight or so.
Q: Youíre not out partying all night?
A: Honey, Iím married. Iím 37 and Iím married. Iíve done that part, believe me. I donít drink and Iím married; what is there to do out at night late, all night?
Q: You tell me.
A: Nothing. If you donít get high and youíre married, youíre pretty much home by 10.
Q: Renting movies and everything?
A: Yeah. Itís domestic. Weíre domestic over here.
Q: But itís good, right?
A: Itís amazing.
Q: Tell me about the book. Where did the idea originally come from?
A: I think the idea was kind of inspired by Andy Warhol a little bit. I donít know; to be honest with you, I just got this booth in my house because I thought it would be a fun, odd thing to have. And then the idea came about, why not just take pictures of everybody who comes over? And then in order to keep it within some kind of a context, I said, well, letís make it everybody who comes over within the course of a year, so at the end of that year, I could put out a book of pictures ó that would be kind of cool.
Q: So it was going to be just pictures?
A: Initially, yes. And then I was hanging out with Marilyn Manson and Neil Strauss, and this was around the time when [Straussís] Manson book came out, and Manson said, "It was a lot of fun doing this book; why donít you and Neil do something together?" And Neil was really down for that, and I said, okay, but I donít really feel like Iíve lived long enough to put together a biography. And I also frankly donít think that enough people are aware of me or care enough to read my biography.
Q: Did you really think that?
A: Yeah. I donít know. Look, thereís got to be a sense of humility in this thing. So what we decided was, in order to keep it interesting to someone whoís not necessarily a Janeís or Chili Peppers fan or a Dave Navarro fan, why not make it a book about a year in the life of my house and this booth? That way there was some kind of a subject matter and a cohesive idea.
Q: You mustíve known that your house was interesting enough, that youíd have enough interesting characters coming through. I mean, you couldnít do this with just anybodyís house.
A: I didnít know. I mean, honestly, the initial idea was just like an art project. We really didnít know what it was going to be, and that was kind of what became interesting about the project. And ultimately, as it turned out after we got going with this thing, it ended up to be a very, very hard year of my life, full of self-destructive behavior. And Neil basically hung out and recorded a lot of it ó most of it, in fact ó and when the year was up, fortunately I had begun getting my life together. So ultimately what ended up happening was we captured this story about a guy whoís on a self-destructive path and put his life together. The pictures in the book from the booth kind of became secondary to the story.
Q: It seems like your reasons for writing the book and your reasons for publishing it are very different. Talk to me about those differences: why you wrote it, and then why you ultimately published it.
A: Why we wrote it, like I said, it was more of an art project to see what happened. It was more like a reality show, a written reality show. Because we didnít know what was going to happen, we didnít know where it was going to go, we didnít know I was going to get as messed up as I did. So we just kind of stuck with it. And my reasons for putting it out are basically, I just wanted to help somebody. Because when I looked back on this thing and saw how I was living, and saw how I ended up coming out of it and how my life became so amazing and magical as soon as I stopped hurting myself, I figured there really is a possibility of being helpful to somebody else.
Letís be honest: itís a book, we want it to be entertaining and interesting and compelling, but I donít want to put out an interesting and entertaining book thatís irresponsible, either. And when we read it back, the self-destructive stuff was not in any way glamorous or interesting or fun. It was really, really sad. Thatís why we ended up putting the epilogue on. Thereís a last chapter which is essentially more or less where my life is today. And the truth is, Iíve never been happier, Iíve never been healthier, Iíve never been more fulfilled spiritually, creatively, and physically, and I never thought it was possible. I already have this story, which we didnít know where it was going to go; it ended up as positive as it possibly could, and if I can turn this into a way to help others, Iím set. Thatís really all I wanted to do. Because ultimately Iím so grateful that my life has turned out the way it has. If I can do anything to prevent somebody from having to go down the same road, Iíd be honored.
Q: You mentioned not wanting to put out a book that was irresponsible. If at the end of the year you were still doing drugs and living that life, would you not have wanted to put the book out?
A: At the end of that year, even though I did get my life together and cleaned it up, I hadnít had enough distance to just go ahead and put it out. And letís be honest: people donít keep it together all the time. To just throw it out there seemed irresponsible. And honestly, I mention this in the book at some point: there is an element to drug addiction and storytelling about drugs that gets viewed as glamorous no matter how you slice it. Thereís something about the idea of entertainers and drugs that even if it ends with them dying, itís a glamorous story. People hear it that way. And I didnít want that. And sometimes it doesnít matter how dark you make it; it just reads that way. I wanted to make sure that I was in a good place and that enough time had gone by where Iíd be able to talk about it honestly and really stand behind where Iím at. So thatís why we waited.
Q: And you had trouble sitting down to read it at first, right?
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Issue Date: September 24 - 30, 2004
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