Part 2: Getting Signed
The band finds the record label who appreciates who they are enough to let them do whatever they want to do
Of course, major record labels were interested in whatever the ex-Jane’s members were doing at the peak of their fame. In 1992, Perry and Perkins’ new band Porno for Pyros secured a deal with Warner Bros, the label Jane’s had signed to, and started playing shows. Deconstruction had a strong connection to Warner Bros, too, through Jane’s booking agent Marc Geiger.
In 1991, Geiger started working as Executive Vice President of A&R, Marketing and New Media at Rick Rubin’s label Def American Recordings. A&R people’s job is to bring new talent to a label. Geiger had spent the last decade booking, managing, and promoting bands in the emerging alternative rock space, including Jane’s. “And I was maybe Jane’s fan number one,” Geiger told me. “I can’t even tell you how much I was a freak, at every show, and did all of it from the beginning.” After Jane’s dissolved, Geiger had kept Navarro and Avery on his radar. He was so excited to hear whatever they would create next that Deconstruction never had to send him demos to sign them. “I would have put out dog food if they made it,” Geiger told me. “That’s how much I believed in them.”
Geiger wasn’t some industry stiff. He’d started in the music business because he was a music freak. “More of a freak than anybody you’ve met,” he told me. “I’m the vinyl-collecting, know-every-producer, every-everything-on-every-record kind of guy. …I was the guy reading every Trouser Press guide, the Rolling Stone guide, the All Music guide.” He wasn’t only the guy in college who worked at a record store and DJ’d on radio. “I ran the record store in college,” he said. “I was on two radio stations. So I was all about it.”
The son of a Hungarian immigrant, Geiger got his professional start at the University of Southern California, San Diego in 1980. While majoring in management science and biology, he joined the student cooperative record store, Assorted Vinyl, and specialized in imported European remixes from left-of-center bands like Japan and Echo & the Bunnymen, before running the store.
Alternative radio didn’t exist in the early ’80s. What became known as underground music played on the student-run campus stations known as college radio, and kids found cutting edge stuff at cool record stores and by word-of-mouth. “I listened to all that music,” Geiger said. Importing records for the store meant he knew labels and bands and what was happening in international music communities: new wave in England, jangly pop in New Zealand, punk in Australia. During the ’80s, he became a freak for the English label 4AD, which released music by pioneering bands like Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, Modern English, and Cocteau Twins.
With Los Angeles two hours north of San Diego, he had access to live music in many underground scenes. In the ’80s, L.A. had punk like the Circle Jerks and X. It had the Paisley Underground bands like Dream Syndicate and Green on Red, pop bands like Missing Persons, goth and art rock and a massive hair metal scene centered around the Sunset Strip. Geiger had a wealth of options and a knack for being where the action was, and he constantly refined his ability to find new things percolating on the horizon.
The U.S.’s first alternative station, KROQ, started in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. The second, WLIR in Long Island, followed suit, then came 91X in San Diego where Geiger lived. The Cult, The Replacements, Violent Femmes, Camper Van Beethoven, R.E.M., The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Psychedelic Furs—bands that are old news now were then new to the world, and they sounded and looked so different than what played on mainstream radio that you could package them differently and capitalize on their oddity and uniqueness. Where other college kids’ fandom only took them to concerts, Geiger got in on alternative radio by doing a late-night weekend radio show on 91X. “So you kind of go deep when you’re a DJ or a record store guy,” he said. “You know every record in every genre. That’s the game at that point.”
While running UCSD’s Student Events Committee, he promoted enough concerts on campus that he decided to launch his own concert promotion company. As That Kid Presents, he brought everyone from Blues legend B.B. King to influential English prog-rock band King Crimson to play on campus.
While booking shows, he tried his hand at band management by contacting the Australian band The Church and offering to get them a U.S. record deal. He’d never secured a record deal or managed a band before, but he figured he could learn. In 1981, The Church had released their debut album, Of Skins and Heart, in Australia, the U.S., and Europe and enjoyed their first radio hit, “The Unguarded Moment.” Unfortunately, their U.S. label dropped them after the album came out, so their subsequent albums The Blurred Crusade and Seance remained unreleased in the U.S. Geiger sold those albums as imports in his record store, and he thought it was criminal that two of The Church’s best albums weren’t easily accessible in the U.S., so he decided to call the band to correct that. “I looked up [The Church’s] address on the back of one of their early import albums from Australia and called information there and got the number of their manager,” he told students at UCSD in 2014. “I called him and said: ‘I love the band and want to get them a [U.S.] record deal.’ He said: ‘Go for it.’ I don’t think anybody else was asking. It just took a little initiative and a lot of passion.” He was driven. He was passionate. He was determined to make music his career. It worked. The band signed to Warner Bros. and repackaged two Australian EPs as the album Remote Luxury for the American market, and released their fourth, Heyday, too. When The Church’s fifth album Starfish came out in 1988, the song “Under the Milky Way” became a Top 40 hit in the U.S., growing into a canonical song that has since appeared in TV and films like Donnie Darko, and solidified The Church’s name in the annals of rock history. It worked for Geiger, too.
San Diego promoter Mark Berman Attractions/Avalon Attractions hired Geiger to book bands, and Geiger eventually leveraged that job for a booking agent position at Regency Artists in Los Angeles in 1984. Unlike many people who graduate from college and keep listening to the same bands they’d always listened to, Geiger kept searching for interesting, challenging artists, and he left college 12 credits shy of a degree. As alternative music became the big new thing, Regency appointed Geiger to build the agency’s alternative music division, where he booked emerging bands like The Smiths, New Order, and the Pixies. Naturally, as an L.A. rock guy, he started booking Jane’s Addiction before Jane’s even singed to Warner.
“When I was an agent, we signed what we loved,” Geiger said. Around 1985, Perry’s art band Psi Com sent the 20-something Geiger a tape at his office. He liked it and caught one of their shows at Club Lingerie. Then Psi Com broke up, and Perry and Avery formed Jane’s Addiction. Geiger’s booking agent colleague Don Muller received a tape of Jane’s, and they signed on as their booking agent soon after.
“We went to see Marc Geiger at his office,” Navarro said in Whores, “this huge booking guy. I didn’t really know what that was, but Perry thought he was going to do everything for us.” And he did.