25 Years Ago: Red Hot Chili Peppers Fire Dave Navarro
Dave Navarro’s four-and-a-half-year stint as the guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers came to an end on April 3, 1998. On paper, it was a musical marriage that seemed perfect: Navarro, the guitar player who came to prominence alongside Perry Farrell in Jane’s Addiction, joined forces with a funk rock powerhouse that was then still riding the monumental success of 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
The fame that LP brought the band played a significant role in John Frusciante’s decision to depart in 1992. But Navarro, with his talent and rock-star looks, would be the band’s white knight, riding in to save the day.
Except it didn’t work.
The reasons why ranged from personal to professional. Navarro brought a different energy to the group, and his style of working varied greatly from what the rest of the band was used to. The guitarist wasn’t a fan of funk or jamming, which were instrumental in the band’s foundation. Initially, Red Hot Chili Peppers members were enthusiastic about the differences, viewing it as an opportunity to stretch the band’s sound. However, over time, these creative contrasts festered.
Drug use also caused chaos within the group. After more than five years of sobriety, Anthony Kiedis began using again. The singer got caught in an addiction cycle: drug binge, work to get clean, relapse, repeat. His creativity and availability were sapped, directly affecting 1995’s One Hot Minute.
Watch Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'My Friends' Video
The album - which was the group's only LP with Navarro in the lineup - failed to live up to expectations. It peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart, and the single “My Friends” reached No. 1 on the alternative chart. Still, overall the album was regarded as a letdown.
“We were proud of [One Hot Minute],” Kiedis insisted in his book, Scar Tissue. “Even if it wasn’t as good a record as we could have made if we’d kept the band together after Blood Sugar.”
After One Hot Minute’s release, touring followed. Keidis continued struggling with sobriety, and after a while, Navarro, who also had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, suffered a relapse.
With differing views on music, personality clashes and the ongoing turmoil caused by addiction, something was bound to give.
Watch Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Aeroplane' Video
“We had to fire Dave,” Kiedis recalled, looking back at the band’s state. “Flea talked to him initially, but Dave was really upset, so I did the follow-up. It went horribly because he was totally loaded, and even though he knew there was no way this band could work, the verbalization of the reality pissed him off to no end.”
Officially - at least in the press - Navarro resigned from the band to focus on a solo project. "I still love those guys to death and being a Chili Pepper was one of the best experiences of my life," Navarro said at the time. "But in making this [solo] record I uncovered different areas of creativity that I want to explore."
“This is a completely mutual parting based on creative differences,” Kiedis added in a statement. “We had fun and I love the guy.”
Following Navarro’s departure, Frusciante returned for his second stint in the band. Navarro’s solo album, Trust No One, was released in 2001, and by 2002 Jane’s Addiction reformed.
By all accounts, the guitarist has maintained a close relationship with the members of Red Hot Chili Peppers in the decades since his departure. The general feeling is that they’re better off as friends and collaborators than bandmates. In hindsight, Navarro admitted he never felt comfortable in the Chili Peppers, which likely added another layer to their problems. In a 2017 interview, the guitarist likened his tenure in the band to another infamous lineup change.
"[I understand] the way that Chili Peppers fans couldn't get into the band when I was in the band," Navarro admitted to radio host Eddie Trunk. "It's not the Chili Peppers to them. So I understand that dynamic. I've been on the inside. I've been the [third Van Halen singer] Gary Cherone of another band.”