From his days as a member of Psi Com through his time as a provocateur and influencer in Jane’s Addiction to his current status as an elder statesman of the alt rock nation, Perry Farrell’s desire to create an expansive artistic vision surpassed his distinctive abilities as a singer, songwriter and frontman.
The cover of Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking depicted a statue of nude conjoined twins while the menage a trois statue on Jane’s’ Ritual de lo Habitual got the album banned from stores and was replaced with a copy of the First Amendment.
Encouraged by his art design work and success of his band, Farrell moved on to larger concepts that unified the alternative rock world — the influential Lollapalooza festival morphed from a traveling roadshow to a weekend event franchised around the world – to confronting concertgoers with new experiences through his environmental, spiritual and wildly diverse musical lineup of the Enit festival.
After gestating for nearly a decade, Farrell’s latest project, Kind Heaven, continues its circular creative lifespan that will culminate next year with the opening of a $90 million immersive performance experience in Las Vegas. “It doesn’t have chairs like a traditional theater,” he explained to Billboard. “We have stages within the complex for music and other types of entertainment, but you’re basically walking through a 90-minute show routed in mythology and original content.
“When you’re within the complex, you’re
free to roam around and discover hidden alleyways, visit nightclubs and eat
from Hong Kong-style street food vendors. There will be improvisational actors,
musicians, acrobats and comedians, combining elements of sensuality and
espionage into an experience that will be a first of its kind.”
He added, “There’s two different experiences — one for families in the day and one for adults only at night. So, during the day you can learn more about the traditions and cultures of Southeast Asia. Then, in the evening it becomes an adults-only experience with streetwalkers, nightclubs and sake bombs. Anyone who has traveled to Hong Kong knows it’s a much different city when the sun goes down.”
Offering a preview of what’s ahead, he debuted the Kind Heaven Orchestra in late 2018. Earlier this year, he released his second solo album, “Kind Heaven.” Produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Morrissey) and with appearances by Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Tommy Lee, Elliot Easton (The Cars), Mike Garson (David Bowie), Dhani Harrison, Matt Chamberlin (Pearl Jam) and his wife, Etty Lau Farrell, it represents a sonic retrospective of Farrell’s musical world that coalesces the rock of Jane’s Addiction with the laidback vibe of Porno for Pyros and experimental and EDM elements from his work with Satellite Party.
JPG: The first time we talked was when you were promoting the Enit Festival.
PF: I get lots of great comments about the Enit Festival because it was such an interesting time I had. So alright, listen to this story. I was at that time very enthusiastic, still am…there was no such thing as EDM at that time. It was only amazing people like The Obrb and Orbital plus Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Sun Ra…So, I got to feed people my way. I got to work with musicians that most promoters wouldn’t have thought to put us together. And then, I got to feed everybody with the Krishnas. The Krishnas when they feed the poor and they have these giant vats of food — they are really delicious — if you are going to be poor, I would suggest finding a Krishna Center and asking them if they’re giving away some free meal.
So anyway, we got to do all that even send into space…We were shooting out into space, music. Well, it was more like sound. And what it was was the sound of, I guess you would call it the chemical equation or the chemical compound of things like brass and copper and gold just to see if there was any intelligent life out there that could pick up on the tones and the frequencies what we were trying to speak and say intelligently through sound and music. I had a great time putting that thing together and I’ll never forget.
JPG: I was going to ask this later but since we discussed Enit, it made me think about the Kind Heaven installation that’s going up in Las Vegas and now Kind Heaven the album and Kind Heaven Orchestra on tour. Are you able to go to someone and bring up Kind Heaven and say we need $100 million dollars or whatever amount it is because you still have artistic, cultural along with business and commercial clout from Lollapalooza and your grand ideas that have blossomed?
PF: Yes. But, here’s the thing. Let’s focus on that word “blossoming.” Anything that blossoms starts out as a bud, right? And the best blossoms start out with a very, very small plant. So, we’re out on the road right now in small clubs. They’re not supposed to jam 500 people. They should be jamming 250-350 in these, I’m calling them residencies. I’m looking to start very small and as intimately as possible but, of course, looking to turn into an oak or a redwood, eventually. So, it’s really exciting but you know that any tree that will eventually become an oak has had to have fertile ground and it’s had to have time and it’s had to have roots. The roots have got to be real, real strong so that it cannot be blown over when it’s between years and it has to make it through inclement weather and have that strength.
So, the way I’ve done it is…yes, we can go to the Enit Festival. I lost a million dollars of my own money. I didn’t use any sponsorship for that and I didn’t have that money to lose but I knew psychically somehow there was a presence of mind about the future maybe because I knew I was doing the right thing. I was basing the project around art and drawing in the interest of the people and trying to make fine art. Now, here I am. It might be 20-some odd years later, I’m talking to Hollywood film producers and Las Vegas hotel owners, the gambling board but they trust me because I’ve proven myself. I’m shooting for the moon. I don’t have that much time left on the earth.
It’s kind of like if you’re a basketball player and you get a rhythm but then you know that the final two minutes, you’re going to have to take some risks and show that you’re capable of making long shots. That’s what the champions always do. So, I would love to be a champion in my lifetime. That’s what I want.
JPG: The album Kind Heaven, when you came up with the concept for the Las Vegas installation, were the songs already there or were you like, “Okay, this place has to have a soundtrack, now I’ve got to work on some music.”
PF: Well, the process went like this. The idea of Kind Heaven came seven years ago but the idea for making immersive theater and even in Las Vegas came to me earlier than that. I did another record with Etty (Perry’s wife) called Satellite Party. In Satellite Party I had ideas and a vision to create an immersive experience in Las Vegas, and it wasn’t to be. This was 12 years ago. It wasn’t to be. We were signed to Sony or Columbia and Columbia’s walls caved in at that time. Don Ienner, who was the president and Steve Lillywhite who was our A&R/producer were dismissed. I use a lot times an analogy of sports and entertainment, they’re so intertwined in everything. You can start with the players to home office executives. Just like in sports when they get a new coach or new general manager, everything starts to change. Players, sometimes they’ll fire or trade the quarterback immediately and bring in the quarterback that the coach wants. That happened to us with Satellite Party. We had thought that we were going to be able to go into Las Vegas then.
We were undeterred. The idea of immersive theater was important to us because I’m looking at the world now…you know I love Bill Graham and everything that he accomplished and all the people that surrounded him. We’re living in days now, Bill Graham didn’t have the internet and technology and Atmos surround sound to consider. I bet you anything if Bill would be alive, The Dead would be working with surround sound Atmo and everything else. That’s where we are now ‘cause they were always ahead of their time when it came to the sound systems and the technology.
Now, where I am as an artist and a promoter is I am looking to give the experience, one that immerses people into the sound. In other words, I want to surround people with sound and vision. So, next project that we did after Satellite was Kind Heaven, and with Lollapalooza’s success, I had that in my portfolio and, of course, Jane’s Addiction and Porno [For Pyros] and the others, I was able to convince these Hollywood producers, that were also by the way to give them great credit, they were also looking to get out of movies and into this multi-media world that is live entertainment. Today’s live entertainment.
JPG: Since you mentioned the Grateful Dead, I think Jane’s Addiction’s version of “Ripple” is probably one of the best Dead covers. It’s original but it keeps the spirit of the Dead with Jane’s Addiction, which is what a good cover song should do.
PF: Yeah. Thank you. I’m so happy that I got to do that. Just knowing that Jerry enjoyed our music meant the world to me. He was the first big brother in music that spoke and said I like these guys. I swear, I could fall apart just crying. How happy I was when I read his article in Rolling Stone.
Then, in 1991 when we did our first year of Lollapalooza, it was the great Bill Graham, who believed in my dream. I asked Bill for certain things, like I wanted art to be around, perhaps a gallery, and a few other things that are food, bands going from noon until 10:45 or 11, and Bill blew out my dream and he made it into the universe. It was there. It meant the world to me that he was helpful and a mentor to me. So, that whole camp, they’ve become my family.
One of my best friend’s is Alex, Bill’s son, who is a great promoter and he has a sound company. So, he’s a great man in his own right. We remain best friends, yet, making that connection, they’re the ones that helped my root, root me towards becoming an oak.