Still shocking

Outspoken vocalist Perry Farrell resurrects Jane's Addiction and the Lollapalooza festival

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Perry Farrell saw the two most prominent offspring of his artistic vision come to an abrupt halt in the 1990s.

First was Jane's Addiction, the respected, multi-platinum band that helped pave the way for alt-rock's eventual mainstream acceptance. Farrell disbanded his group in 1991 at the height of its popularity, but not before organizing a suitable tour as a send-off.

That event became Lollapalooza, the notorious traveling music festival that was hailed as this generation's Woodstock. After its inaugural summer, the concert series continued without Jane's Addiction -- yet still under Farrell's leadership -- until being retired in 1997.
Both have returned.

Farrell's newly reassembled Jane's will headline this year's Lollapalooza, just in time to tour on its first new record in 13 years. Impressively, "Strays" (recently retitled from "Hypersonic") doesn't just sound like a reunion project. It comfortably fits in line with 1988's "Nothing's Shocking" and 1990's "Ritual de lo Habitual" as a Jane's Addiction classic to be reckoned with.
Now fit and cleaned up -- weaned from a lengthy battle with heroin, among other substances -- Farrell is in final preparation for the Lollapalooza excursion, which kicks off Saturday en route to its second date at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.

The frontman (born Perry Bernstein, but changing his name to Perry Farrell as a nod to the word "peripheral") recently took 20 minutes out of his hectic schedule to speak with the Lawrence Journal-World. The 44-year-old is palpably proud of the album (which will be released July 22) and his own musical contributions to the project.

"I'll dish out some voice to you, man," Farrell says of how far his singing prowess has improved over the past years. "I'll smack you around with some voice (laughs)."

And he's particularly looking forward to relaunching Lollapalooza, which will allow the patriarchal Jane's Addiction to share stages with some of the best new rock acts on the planet -- ones who spent their formative years listening to what Jane's had to say.

When you look at the quality of bands on the Lollapalooza tour, was there any apprehension at having Jane's Addiction be the headliner?

I never have apprehension about us. As long as we're healthy and putting our time in -- going to rehearsal and making sure our (expletive) is together and really listening, and taking the time to get out sound teamed together -- I don't worry about us. But I do realize that the world has turned a few times around, and there are a lot of people who don't know who we are. Now here we come with new music, and it still has to go over. I'm with you, there should be an apprehension. But I'm a very confident fellow (laughs).

Past Event

Lollapalooza 2003

  • Tuesday, July 8, 2003, noon
  • Capitol Federal Park @ Sandstone, 633 N. 130th St., Bonner Springs, KS
  • All ages / $49.50 - $65

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Have you spent more time lately attending to Jane's Addiction or to Lollapalooza matters?

This last week it's been Jane's. But up until last week it was very divided. In fact, I would go home and we would be doing Lolla until midnight.

What's the biggest change you've noticed in the music industry since Jane's originally disbanded?

"It sure has changed. The obvious change is the ability to copy people's music for nothing. That has dramatically changed the industry to the point where people talk how the industry is crumbling. I seem to think that it's going to go in different places. People who love playing music and are good at playing it are going to survive. There will always be a place for live music and live entertainment, because people love to go out on Friday nights, the way I figure it. Next Friday you can count on it. As far as record sales, there's no other product that you can mention -- even movies it's hard to copy -- there's no other product in the world that you can copy for free, except music. Isn't that crazy?"

So you don't approve of file sharing?

"Well look, I feel we should get paid SOMETHING. It might be cool that you can get the music and get it for nothing; I've got music I listen to that I got for free. But the problem is it causes something to happen. It's kind of like the butterfly wing effect. You think, "Oh, what's it gonna hurt? These guys make so much damn money." But what will happen is that it's changing the whole face of music. Bands are not getting the chance to develop themselves, because the short sales are causing all the new bands that are at the bottom to really suffer to the point where they're not having a chance to develop themselves; they just get cut off the label.


Given that mindset the industry has now, do you think Jane's would have survived to make that second record?

"I regret that we split, because I feel those were times I could have been writing with these guys. Although I had a great time writing with the guys in Porno for Pyros and my solo stuff, I have to be honest, these guys are the greatest players I've ever played with. I feel that I should have hung in there. But at the same time, the reason in my heart that it was time to go was that there was so much outside pressure to cave in and slicken up and be some kind of a pop situation. That was the next step; we were going to turn into that. It's almost like cropping a pot plant: It might look to you like, "Man, what are you doing?" But it gets bushier. Now it comes back and there's some real strong crystals on there. That's what I think occurred with us.

Why the recent album title switch from "Hypersonic" to "Strays?"

We were listening to the song order when we got the masters back, and playing around with the orders of everything. "Hypersonic," although it was a cool song, was kind of a punk-electro song. It started to go to the back of the selection and "Strays" crept up to the front. And the artwork started to look kind of stray. Coming to think about the title "Hypersonic," which is kind of leading with politics -- and that's cool, because we have something to say politically -- but I prefer to have people just enjoy "the rock" and get on with the good times. And then, if you want to talk, we can talk.

Your voice sounds stronger than ever on the new album. Any explanation for this?

It could be because on heroin there are certain notes that get cut off. I had to sing through that. Anybody that does junk will tell you [adopts raspy tone] that you start to get a voice like that [end]. So I made a concerted effort to keep my throat in shape. Honestly -- thank you, I appreciate the comment -- I really did work hard to at least handle my part of the music, which is the voice. I wanted to add in and create a classic record ... We'd go in and listen to classic records and then I'd go and say, "Look, I'm going to go in tomorrow because I'm going to nail this thing and make sure this song has a moment there vocally." I'd go in and work until I'd get the take that I thought was up to par -- beyond up to par, I'm looking for an eagle.

At this point, how long have you been off heroin?

Probably six years now.

Are there ever times when you feel lured back into it?

There might be moments in a day -- it might happen a few times a week -- when you just go, "Man, if I had the same situation AND a couple of rocks, I wonder what would happen." But what I start to think about is I can't do it because I have my son. What I've done is I've created a system for myself and it goes like this: My son is a lot slower process of happiness. I might not be able to feel the same rush that I would if I hit the pipe or needle right now, but it's a slow process. This cat, when he turns 18 and he's holding a guitar or microphone in his hand; and he's this hot-looking dude who the chicks appreciate and the guys know he has courage; and he's a leader; and he's always got a smile; and he's willing to share his time with people; and he's a worldly guy and can set things up and tell people what is going on out there. That to me is huge. So the pipe thing, it's quick and fast, and there goes $60 bucks in one puff or one shot. But this guy here is golden. That's where the true riches are.
I look at (the situation) like it's a video game. Level one, you strike out a bunch of times. Then you learn the controls. Now you get to do level two. It's a lot more fun because level one is becoming a bore. So you're psyched because you just unlocked level two. That's what it is, fatherhood.

So what level are you at now?

I'm kicking ass. I might finish the game.

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