The Panic Channel
The Panic Channel The Panic Channel is a new band featuring guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney -- along with a comparatively new talent, singer/guitarist Steve Isaacs. The three musicians' collaboration with a singer who is completely different stylistically from most of their previous band mates has brought them into new terrain, which is exactly what they wanted. The musicians sound like themselves, but The Panic Channel is a more streamlined and melodic enterprise.

"When a new person comes in you can't help but evolve," Dave says. "Steve comes from a singer/songwriter background, whereas Perkins and I come from more of a jamming and experimental background, and I think what we came up with is a great combination of songs and musicianship."

Those songs span the range from the soaring "Why Cry" to the menacing and melodic "Bloody Mary," and the album concludes unexpectedly with "Lie Next to Me," a multitracked a capella song performed solo by Steve (admittedly heavily under the influence of Brian Wilson's "Smile"). The variety speaks not only to the vast collective experience of the musicians -- Navarro's solo material and work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Perkins' with Porno for Pyros and Banyan, his wildly experimental group with Mike Watt and Wilco's Niels Cline; Chaney's with Alanis Morissette, Tommy Lee and Taylor Hawkins; Isaacs with his group Skycycle, not to mention the session work between them all -- but to the musicians' reveling in crafting something new.

"We're doing it because we love it," Perkins says, via phone from his car outside of Las Vegas en route to a Banyan gig. "Forming of a new band adds years to my life -- the excitement is like meeting a new girl or something. Steve has never worked with such an aggressive band, and he's a more trained singer than we usually work with, so we all were taken to a new level."

The Panic Channel is a band that was formed with no expectations of being a band at all. They'd known Steve for years -- he and Dave first met in line for the bar at an MTV Video Music Awards show, just as Steve was beginning his stint as a MTV VJ - and then again backstage at a performance of "The Who's Tommy" stage show where Steve had been selected by Pete Townshend to portray the title role. Years later, after a mutual friend mentioned she'd caught one of Steve's solo acoustic sets, Dave gave him a call to come over and jam. One song led to another and another and suddenly, to everyone's surprise, they were a band. "We were just playing," Steve says, "and it became a band from realizing that we could write good songs together."

"This is pretty much the first record I've ever done where we just got in a room and wrote a record and recorded it with virtually no collective history," Navarro says. "Musically, things moved quickly because of the relationships between the three of us (Navarro, Chaney and Perkins), and the challenge of finding where Steve fit into the equation was a big part of what made it so exciting. Playing with new artists is always a challenge that helps expand the creative thinking and process."

"Actually, that's partially where the name comes from: channeling the energy inside and outside the room when we create these songs," Dave continues. "It's also somewhat of a commentary on the state of the media right now. If there was a channel that showed nothing but hysteria and panic, it would be the highest-rated channel on TV. We like to think of creating music as a way to channel the panic into something tangible. Plus, it just sounds cool at the end of the day. (laughs)"

While fans may be surprised at how different The Panic Channel sounds from many of its members' previous work, there's plenty for longtime followers to grab onto. " 'Why Cry' and 'Blue Bruises' are Steve-driven songs. They're very crafted, and I wanted to serve those songs," Navarro says. "while at the same time, diving deeper into others to create some really intoxicating soundscapes. While we were recording the album I was in another one of my big Pink Floyd phases -- I had my entire Floyd library on shuffle -- and that definitely came through in some of my guitar playing, which is never a bad thing."

And Navarro found himself as the unwitting inspiration for "Bloody Mary," as Steve recalls. "I'd been reading Dave's book ("Don't Try This At Home," Navarro's harrowing account of a year of drug addiction), and his drug dealer was named Mary. I'd been imagining this character, this kind of mysterious Hollywood dealer, and it all came together when I was in a restaurant and I saw a bloody mary listed on the drink menu."

"That song tells a really great story," Navarro says, and it's close to me because I kinda lived that story. Lyrically, Steve has a great talent for story telling within the songs."

"Of course, I found out later that the real person's name wasn't even Mary," Steve laughs.

As committed as the musicians are to The Panic Channel, their other projects will continue. Navarro has another season of "Rock Star" coming up as well as his internet radio station called Spread Radio Live (www.spreadradiolive.com) that is devoted to new talent. "Every month, I pick five unsigned bands and the listeners vote for their favorite. The winner becomes the featured SRL Indie Artist of the Month." There's also Camp Freddy, his part-time covers band with Chaney and "every lead singer known to man." At the time of this writing, Chaney was about to go on tour with Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders, and Perkins also plays with Hellride, a Stooges cover band. Isaacs has used his graphic and web design talents to create the band's website. (www.thepanicchannel.com)

But The Panic Channel finds the musicians doing what they love the most. "This is an opportunity to create," Navarro says. "I look at those other avenues as performance-oriented rather than creative; we need both, and we need to make time for both. I love having no idea what I'm going to do and finding myself someplace I never expected to be - There is nothing like that kind of excitement."