“We don’t hang out enough – fire your current tech and hire me!” Dan Cleary says he texted his future boss, Dave Navarro, in 2009. “I didn’t think that approach would work,” he adds, “but clearly it did!”
Indeed. Navarro and Cleary met on Cleary’s first-ever tech gig, touring with Navarro’s side band, The Panic Channel, in 1999. Since that fateful text, however, he’s been the Jane’s Addiction mega-virtuoso’s guitar tech for over a decade (as well as the co-producer and co-host of their popular Dark Matter podcast). So naturally, it was Cleary who gave Stompbox the in-depth tour of not just Dave’s pedal situation – but the actual gear upon which he’s made numerous classics.
“I love placing secret messages where you don’t expect it,” Cleary says of his irreverent tech style. “I’ll scribble a little message or phrase under a pickup, and only Dave and I know it is there. Dave got sober years ago after a pretty bad bout of addiction and bitterness. Coming out of that headspace, he struggled to appreciate his gift for playing music and the amazing life he leads, so he wanted me to put positive messages on his pedal board – to remind him to accept he’s in a good place and not take what he does for granted.”
Dave’s rig is a very personalized blend of off-the-rack and bespoke. On the one hand, he populates his pedal board with stock Boss pedals available to any guitarist; on the other, he’s very particular about his guitar strap – even violating a copyright law or two in the process to get the one he wants.
“Dave is a lifelong Louis Vuitton consumer,” Cleary says. “He’s spent untold amounts on their clothes, luggage – everything. He’s such an aficionado, is just seemed natural to have a Louis Vuitton guitar strap, only they don’t exist, so he had two made. After using those onstage for a while, Dave actually got a cease-and-desist letter from Louis Vuitton! He wrote a letter back basically saying, ‘I’ve spent thousands on your belts and bags, so go ahead and sue me.’ They wrote back saying they wouldn’t sue him, but would he be so kind as to send the fake straps so they saw how they were done? So Dave sends them to LV, and then a little while later in the mail, he gets an official guitar strap from Louis Vuitton – the only one they’ve ever made. He was very surprised – it was a great way to apologize to their best customer!”
Likewise, over time, the professional trust and personal friendship alike has grown between Navarro and Cleary – sometimes it’s hard to see where it begins and ends. “Around when I first started working with Dave, he was playing white guitars only,” Cleary says. “I asked him why and he said, ‘Because they look better on stage.’ But then I found a black PRS one-off and said, ‘This is a really cool guitar – and black looks waaaay cooler than white.’ Now Dave plays mainly black guitars.”
As such, he handles all of Dave’s guitar business with a sense of humor and élan he shares with his boss. Cleary has a knack for handling intense six-string major domos – he’s logged many a tour mile for Marilyn Manson and Ministry, among many other notable heavies. But there’s a sense of history in maintaining Navarro’s gear, much of which has been with him since Jane’s Addiction’s legendary Ritual de la Habitual tour almost three decades ago.
Indeed, as Cleary notes of Navarro’s cache, “It’s been all over the world at this point,” and Cleary along with it. Here, he gives us the low down on the gear driving Dave Navarro’s legendary tone game.
Slideshow. Hover for caption.
Full interview and photo of Dave’s chosen pedal will be featured in the Stompbox Book, coming summer 2020.
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