The Dummy Notes: Perry Farrell freaked me out. He didn’t do anything extra special. Just the idea of talking on the phone with him gave me the heebie-jeebies. I actually had a dream about him the night after we spoke. Truth be told, he was one of the most comfortable in his skin, easy going and forthright musicians I’d interviewed. This was published back in 1996, for a radio trade magazine called Next. The publishers still owe me about $500. During a call with my contact there — John Van Citters — I was promised that the publishers were going to get square with every one of their writers. I’m holding my breath, starting NOW. No, I mean NOW … Whatever.
This is the unedited version of the article. I changed one thing, just because I was embarrassed about calling something the “Dow of Love” rather than the “Tao of Love.” But, now I’ve told you and ruined all of that…
Here you go:
Mr. Farrell’s Wild Ride
Perry’s in the front seat taking a new look at music, life and happiness.
By @*^!d &@! F@4!n#!!@
The best way to finish this article is with the following Perry Farrell quote: “Let’s face it, who put me in this position? I don’t have to put records out for other people to listen to, I know what I am doing. I consider it an honor that I can make people happy or put them in a spot where they like to be. If they can hear music and they can feel good, that’s a great honor if you do it well,” he says, laughing at the end. “It’s a great honor to have a person happy over what you do.”
Perry Farrell is happy. Perry Farrell is comfortable. Perry Farrell is right in the middle of the next dip, twist and corkscrew of his life, the title of which can be summed up with the Disney-esque moniker “Mr. Farrell’s Wild Ride.” The car — which should probably be shaped like a bug — left the station about 37 years ago, and before he hit this bit of track he’s already made stops at starvation, stardom, hell and nirvana — chemically induced or otherwise. While it’s a ride that he’s been content with so far, it’s also one that isn’t even close to be even over. In fact, he’s planning on being around for a long time. Not only does he have music to make, he’s got a world to fix and he’s got many, many things to learn.
During some of the latest pit stops on Farrell’s Wild Ride, he has begun to pick up a wide variety of information. At any moment he’ll be happy to teach you about the wobbling universe, the history of the Equinox (and why we are entering into a more feminine period of history) and the geometric proportions of life. He rattles off book titles, authors and theories as if he were a college professor, although he comments that professional learning is not necessary. He both laments his past — “Why am I just now hearing about these things,” he wonders aloud. — and is challenging his future. In fact, after scraping the Lollapalooza festival off his to do list, he is turning to a book titled “Cancer Planet Mission”, which was authored by Ludwig Pallman for the grand design of his next festival. The day is called the Enit Festival and, as explained, the music side of the evening is only the final touch on an otherwise activist day. Rather than the commercialization that has guaranteed Farrell’s withdrawal from Lollapalooza, Enit will be about improving the land where the show is held. Concert goers will be given tree saplings to plant, areas to clean up, things to do during the day, and then, after a supplied dinner, the bands will hit the stage.
Of course, more than music and environmental activity, the day has its own Farrell twist. “The concept (behind the book) is about becoming an adult. Their trip was that they would introduce young adults into sexual practices and they would have orgies or things that we can’t quite have yet,” he says with pronounced disappointment, then adds confidently, “But I think we could eventually. Right now it’s going to be enough if I can show Tantric Sex and the Tao of Loving.”
Instead of a 50 city Lola-like tour, the Enit Festival will be a one day affair, and already a number of bands have thrown their hats in the ring. “I’ve got a couple of bands secured and others are very, very interested,” he comments. “We actually have a lot more bands than I have places for, so I have to look it over.” So far the only bands he has definitely signed are Love and Rockets, Cibo Mata, and, of course, Porno for Pyros. Other names that have made the list include Corner Shop, Bjork and one of Farrell’s newest friends Yoko Ono.
In fact, it’s Yoko Ono and Timothy Leary who he’s felt closest to these days, although he stops short of calling them his guides. “I don’t think they’ve been specifically trying to, but I have been hanging and observing them. I hope that I end up in my long body of life as balanced and relaxed and wise as them. That’s why I’m interested in them.”
Which is almost the biggest rock and roll irony in his life, considering that this is a man who at one time stood on stage and belted out the stanza: “Oh, I know about war, but I just wanna fuck. I know about pain and suffering and being cold, but I just wanna fuck. The pig is led to the slaughter, this he says, is the price some pay for a simple life.” Sure that was 10 years ago in the tune “Pigs In Zen” that Farrell penned for his band Jane’s Addiction. (For the record the song both appeared on their debut major label release, “Nothing Shocking” and on a self-titled live album they recorded for Triple X Records in the same year.)
The relaxed, balanced and wise approach becomes most visible during Farrell’s latest creation, “Good Gods Urge”, which Porno For Pyros spent the last year writing, performing and recording. Gone are the anger and edge found in songs of Farrell’s past, instead the Porno team has written and arranged a blend of psychedelia and what has been described as “island” music. The musical change came during surf trips that Farrell, drummer Stephen Perkins and guitarist Peter Di Stefano took to the islands off of Indonesia. “We had intentions to write the songs when we were there,” Farrell says. “When we were writing we would be hanging out on islands. It was pretty natural, it was actually very nice.”
More than just changing the vibe of the lyrics and the music — although don’t misunderstand, this is still a slashing, rocking guitar band — the island sessions have seemed to breathe fresh life into the band. “When you do something too often, like rock and roll city music, you kinda become numb to doing it. Almost like an automaton,” he says. “When a new feeling comes over you because of different surroundings, it’s kind of refreshing.
“I think that’s the way to go,” he continues of his “acoustic” island shows that the trio played for (and with) the locals. “If you’re playing in the city and you’ve got electrical powered equipment it’s fine, but you can go a lot further if you just have an acoustic guitar, a bongo and a voice, then needing effects to write a song. I mean, you can do it, and it’s fine, but to tell you the truth I had the best time of my life entertaining people that style, much more than electrically. I felt so much better hanging out and singing naturally and I got so much better at singing too.”
He also seems to have learned a lot more about pouring his soul into an album, considering that after the trio returned from their island jaunts they locked themselves into the Shangri-La studios in Zuma Beach, which is just a couple of steps outside of Malibu, and spent over a year knocking out the ten songs that appear on “Good Gods Urge”. Not only was the locale an extension of the island vibe, it also kept them close enough to have friends come in and perform as guest musicians. That factor became vitally important when Martyn Le Noble left the studio after six tracks to attend to what have been described as personal family problems. To fill the slot Farrell turned to a combination of Love and Rockets’ David J. (in fact, the entire Love and Rockets crew played on the album’s opening track, “Porpoise Head”), Flea (who played with Chili Pepper compadre Dave Navarro on “Freeway”), and newest Porno member Mike Watt. Not only was Watt involved in the creating and recording of some of the new Porno songs, he will be playing with the band during their upcoming live dates.
Although any Jane’s Addiction fans will surely get their panties in a bunch when they hear that Navarro guested on a track and that Porno is playing a couple Jane’s tracks live (“Mountain Song” and “Chip Away”), band insiders laugh when the idea of a reunion is mentioned. Indeed, drummer Perkins has commented recently that the time he spent in the former band was some of the best musical times of his life, but there is nothing going on as it relates to Jane’s.
During Farrell’s forays into the world of literature it seems that he’s also picked up a couple of books about producing and arranging. Throughout this release he has employed a wide variety of production tricks and techniques not found on any of his previous releases. Not only does everyone except the bass players get credit for performing sounds and samples on the album, including the cat who engineered the project, Perry did a little bit of live editing. As he explains it he sat down with guitarist Di Stefano during the guitar tracks and told him that he was going to physically punch out when ever Di Stefano was approaching a clichéd blues lick. “He was great about it,” Farrell comments. “He was sitting right next to me through it all and it pushed him a new direction.” The tactic is most obvious during “In The Thick Of It” where there are portions of the guitar tracks that literally disappear.
Above and beyond the musical world, Perry Farrell is a changed man. Along with his new universal ancient information, Farrell has learned about getting along with the people that may have wronged him in the past. Take, for instance, the phone call he got from the folks over at Ticketmaster when they heard he was putting together a new show. “Ticketmaster in the past has been kind of lousy, right? Well, I could hold them to it, but we have this new festival and they wanna help,” he says. His first inclination was to say no and then sell the Enit tickets over the Internet to avoid the obvious surcharges, “But they wanna help at a severely reduced cost to the public. In other words, no surcharge and they are great at what they do, let’s face it. They supply tickets to the nation and if my people don’t have to get a surcharge then that’s progress. That’s good and that should be commended.”
He concludes by saying, “If we can use your expertise and your team and your co-ordination and you guys wanna do something good, I’m gonna say let’s go. Because I don’t wanna hold people to their past when they say then have an idea and they wanna change. It’s kinda like you’d then be as bad as they are if you said no, because of their past. You’d be as bad as they were.”
It’s that last line that now sums up the way that fans and critics alike should be viewing the new Perry Farrell, and the best one to introduce the following dialogue:
Q: I don’t know if you read your own press…
Q: Does it ever get tiring when people constantly refer to you as ex this, ex-that? Whether it’s ex-Jane’s Addiction or ex-heroin addict…
A: They refer to me as an ex-heroin addict?
Q: Yeah, that’s what I’ve seen. That’s what I’ve wondered. Is there ever a point where you just wanna point out, ‘Hey, I’m doing something new now. Let me be my new person, instead of what I was five years ago.’
A: If you held everybody to what they did wrong… (Pauses) I mean, God knows what we’ve done before this. If somebody is doing something good, encourage them. Right?
And that, my friends, would be the best way to begin an article about Perry Farrell.