According to Dave Navarro’s decade-strong guitar tech (and irreverently hilarious co-podcaster) Dan Cleary, Jane’s Addiction signature six-string stylist goes for strict utility on his pedalboard. Cleary’s dictate from da boss: while Dave’s pedals have to sound amazing, they must also be tough enough to stand up to rigorous touring wear and odd power situations. As well, they cannot be so obscure they can’t be, like, same-day Amazon Primed or something when emergencies arise.
“Since day one, Dave’s been a Boss guy,” Cleary explains. “The beauty of Dave’s rig is it’s democratic and accessible. I can build him the exact pedal board just by going to pretty much any Guitar Center, anywhere in the world.”
StompboxBook recently visited and photographed Cleary in the middle of the intense action that follows you when you work with one of the most creative, innovative guitar brain-players, helping set the tone night after night on stage. There, amidst the piles of Navarro’s gear, Cleary sat with us and broke down, in equal parts comedic and granular fashion, the secrets behind the pedalboard of the dark prince of Jane’s Addiction’s revolutionary tones.
“This is Dave’s main board – the Jane’s Addiction pedalboard,” Cleary says. “It was built around 2008-2009, close to when I first came on board officially.” As such, Navarro’s pedals are sequenced in a very clear, logical chain. “The top pedals only affect Dave’s clean tone,” Cleary specifies. “The bottom pedals, however, can affect his clean and dirty tone.”
“Even if he has just one delay and a chorus, Dave has the tools to sound like, well… Him.”
The Whirlwind, meanwhile, allows him to go in and select between clean, dirty, or a blend of both. From his board, Dave also controls what amps we’re hearing in the mix. “The upper left pedals just go to the clean amp, which is a classic Fender Deluxe Reverb ,” Cleary notes. “They’re always on for the whole set, whenever Dave is playing anywhere with anyone.”
Navarro only reps a couple non-Boss stomps on his board, but they remain journeyman pedals anyone can get. There’s the ubiquitous, recent, stock Tube Screamer, of course – a necessary, chameleonic tool to add that elastic sustain that numerous great guitarists like Navarro, Stevie Ray Vaughan et al reshape in their own distinct vibe.
“That’s his preferred solo boost,” Cleary clarifies. “He’s been using a Tube Screamer for a long time to get this cool vintage-y tone. It’s the overdrive like that he’s most comfortable with to get that sound when he needs it.” The other exceptions to Navarro’s all-Boss board, meanwhile, clearly reflect Navarro’s musical roots – in particular, the music that made him want to play guitar in the first place.
“Basically, because Dave grew up as a metalhead, he’s always been into Van Halen – hence, the MXR Phase 90 on his board,” Cleary elucidates. “He’s actually been brushing up on that Halen style of playing that really influenced him to go in certain directions with the guitar; he’s actually bringing it into his soloing with Jane’s Addiction. And then he uses a regular ol’ Jimi Hendrix Crybaby Wah straight from the store shelf. He’s been using that long before I’ve been working with him – it’s been his go-to since forever. Hendrix is his fave guitar player, so it’s an obvious choice.”
The stompbox stars of the Jane’s Addiction board, however, remain the three Boss DD-3 units and two Super Chorus boxes – Navarro’s true longtime workhorses. “Dave’s cleans always have a little delay and chorus, to get that ethereal jangly sound he loves,” Cleary reveals. “Of the DD-3s, the bottom left one setting stays on as his main delay – the setting never changes. But the DD-3 by the wah, he’s free to tweak the settings in real time to get he crazy, fucked up, robot sound effects he loves.”
“Really, Jane’s Addiction sound is those two Boss pedals,” Cleary concludes. “That’s the sound he’s known for. Even if he has just one delay and a chorus, Dave has the tools to sound like, well… Him. Put those on his board, and he will sound like the Dave Navarro you know and love, no matter what.”
Stay tuned for a detailed feature about our visit with Dave Navarro’s tech in our “The Making of Stompbox Book” series.
Full interview and photo of Dave’s chosen pedal will be featured in the Stompbox Book, coming summer 2020.
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