Visiting Dave Navarro | The Making of Stompbox Book

“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.

 

Cleary in his element – feet resting by Navarro’s iconic pedal board. “I’m sitting on the case where we store Dave’s Marshall JCM 900 heads,” Cleary says.

 

“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.

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StompBox_2448

A typical positive affirmation from Cleary stuck on the edge of Dave’s pedal board, just below his trusty Jimi Hendrix Wah.

A typical positive affirmation from Cleary stuck on the edge of Dave’s pedal board, just below his trusty Jimi Hendrix Wah.

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StompBox_2510

The PRS guitar that Cleary claims made Navarro go black and never go back: “All Dave plays now are black guitars – but this is his ‘Lucille.’”

The PRS guitar that Cleary claims made Navarro go black and never go back: “All Dave plays now are black guitars – but this is his ‘Lucille.’”

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StompBox_2513

“Everybody asks about Dave’s Louis Vuitton guitar strap,” Cleary says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, ‘Is that actually real?’”

“Everybody asks about Dave’s Louis Vuitton guitar strap,” Cleary says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, ‘Is that actually real?’”

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StompBox_2522

LV x DN

LV x DN

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StompBox_2509

“Someone tweaked the Marshall logo to say ‘Navarro’ and gave it to Dave,” Cleary says. “We thought, ‘That’s too cool – it has to be on something.’ So I put it on the wall of Dave’s guitar vault.”

“Someone tweaked the Marshall logo to say ‘Navarro’ and gave it to Dave,” Cleary says. “We thought, ‘That’s too cool – it has to be on something.’ So I put it on the wall of Dave’s guitar vault.”

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StompBox_2451

Of the headstock addition: “That’s a line from Exorcist III, which we watch on the tour bus a lot,” Cleary admits. “George C. Scott keeps repeating it during this crazy scene: ‘It is not in the file!’ We just say it to each other all the time. People have no idea what the hell it means...”

Of the headstock addition: “That’s a line from Exorcist III, which we watch on the tour bus a lot,” Cleary admits. “George C. Scott keeps repeating it during this crazy scene: ‘It is not in the file!’ We just say it to each other all the time. People have no idea what the hell it means...”

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StompBox_2536

These are the settings for Dave’s Jane’s Addiction tone set-up. “The only thing we ever mess with is presence, which depends on the room or stage,” Cleary says.

These are the settings for Dave’s Jane’s Addiction tone set-up. “The only thing we ever mess with is presence, which depends on the room or stage,” Cleary says.

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“Dave’s had these Marshall JCM 900s in his rig since 1990,” Cleary says. “They’re modded for more low end in the signal, giving it this really deep distortion. We always travel with two amps. One’s for Dave’s dirt channel; for cleans, Dave goes into a Fender. When he blends them, it’s amazing. He gets these AC/DC-meets-Zeppelin tones – huge and dirty, but you can still hear every note he plays.”

“Dave’s had these Marshall JCM 900s in his rig since 1990,” Cleary says. “They’re modded for more low end in the signal, giving it this really deep distortion. We always travel with two amps. One’s for Dave’s dirt channel; for cleans, Dave goes into a Fender. When he blends them, it’s amazing. He gets these AC/DC-meets-Zeppelin tones – huge and dirty, but you can still hear every note he plays.”

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StompBox_2524

“Road cases are forced to put this symbol on them so that people don’t put their children in there,” Cleary says. “So weird! Since Dave is a successful, famous, single guy, I took that sticker off the case and put it on his headstock to remind him not to make any babies unintentionally.”

“Road cases are forced to put this symbol on them so that people don’t put their children in there,” Cleary says. “So weird! Since Dave is a successful, famous, single guy, I took that sticker off the case and put it on his headstock to remind him not to make any babies unintentionally.”

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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