Interview: Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction
Mon, 03 Aug 2009 13:53:19
Perry Farrell has always had his own style.
That style continues to influence and inspire pop culture. Over two decades into his storied career, the Jane's Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza mastermind remains one step ahead of the rest of us.
Not only did he change the face of rock n' roll with Jane's Addiction, but he also changed touring with Lollapalooza in 1991. His traveling circus brought together the brightest stars on the alternative rock scene for an unforgettable summer camp yearly until 1997. Now it's evolved into a three-day festival commencing in Chicago's Grant Park from August 7th until August 9th. The lineup is simply epic—including Tool, Depeche Mode, Snoop Dogg, Kings of Leon, The Killers and Perry performing with Jane's Addiction and solo.
Perry spoke to ARTISTdirect.com in this exclusive interview about Lollapalooza 2009, his favorite memories from past years, beating out Madonna and helicopters…
This Lollapalooza lineup is absolutely amazing. In your opinion, what distinguishes and, has traditionally distinguished, Lollapalooza from other festivals?
Well, to start off with, we got jumped the gun on everybody. We created the whole touring festival concept back in 1991. We've basically had cycles upon cycles of time to evolve. It's not that hard to catch up on us because you can simply bite what we do. People have done that. Lollapalooza doesn't tour anymore, as you know. That concept got bitten quickly. We now are a destination festival in Chicago, but we decided to make our destination a three-day experience. That got bitten but what we have above other people is this concept of six headliners. The other three-day festivals only have three headliners. We invest into six headliners, and I think that works for us. That's why your first comment was, "Wow, that's a great lineup!" [Laughs] The lineup just keeps going. You can keep rattling off names, and that's exciting for people. There's a great value to going to Lollapalooza. For $200 you can see over 100 groups. You'd spend $200 alone on a Depeche Mode ticket. Here, you have Depeche Mode with Tool, The Killers, Jane's Addiction, Kings of Leon, Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed. Oh my God, it's unbelievable. You just start to wonder how you could possibly put a lineup like this together for that amount of money for that type of a ticket. You're seeing the newest groups too. When we started we had eight groups, now there are over 100. The lineup is solid from top to bottom.
How did the idea for "Perry's"—your electro section—come about?
It's new for us this year. We're putting more time, pride, effort and money into the electronic area. The city of Chicago has been nice enough to grant us a deed to the city for ten years. We keep evolving what goes down at Grant Park. As a promoter, I look at how the young people are making music today—how that's changing and evolving. I see the mixture of electronics and live instrumentalists. If you follow the music industry, you'll see it doesn't have the same money to invest in producing these young groups. A lot of these groups used to get signed for one-million dollars, two-million dollars or even five-million dollars. Now they're getting signed for $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000. They have to be very careful and cost-effective in their production and not get these big-name producers, but self-produce now in home studios. As a result, they've gotten very savy and good at electronics. They're recording their guitars into Guitar Rig, and they're recording into Pro Tools LE which is a laptop software. In the past, they would go into the studio and record on these big SSL boards for a few thousand dollars a day. This electronic revolution changed the way that they produce, and it's changed their live performances because they're using electronics a lot more. It's a very a good thing. With Lollapalooza, we've watched that. We're developing our electronic area. We have an area that holds 10,000 capacity. It's a hybrid of dance music and live instrumentalists. We've built a DJ tower and an LED screen. The software that DJs use today is changing too. It's incorporating video so the DJs are actually able to VJ and DJ at the same time. We're accommodating all of these innovations in dance music.
Lollapalooza has always had a Woodstock vibe. It was never exclusive to one genre. The stage is open to every artist, and there's a sense of boundlessness.
You start to scroll down the lineup, and it gets very exciting. This may sound funny to you, but I was thinking about Madonna and how her tickets go for $500. Our tickets go for $200, but Madonna couldn't bring you Fleet Foxes, Animal Collective, Cold War Kids, Santigold, Arctic Monkeys and Tool in the same day. Is the fierceness of our lineup equal to seeing Madonna? I want to say, "Yes." I think it slays her [Laughs].
There's a magical alchemy to how you choose the lineup for Lollapalooza.
Well, I have a lot of help. We have William Morris who has been doing this forever and we have Charles Attal and the 3 C's—who has done SXSW. I get a different spin from each. The three of us are partners on Lollapalooza. We put the lineup together over the course of weekly meetings via conference call. We go through who's available, who we would like to see and who we think is good. It's an amazing situation because we have everything. I scour the Internet; I'm a music blog enthusiast. That's how I get a lot of my picks in. I used to get them from Indie 103.1—the radio station in L.A. It used to be a great source but it went down. So now I scour the music blogs and go on satellite radio. That's my way of doing things. Charles Attal has Stubb's in Austin, TX so he sees these groups coming through live because he books them. Then we've got William Morris. They probably use Pollstar [Laughs]. We all have different methods of putting our lists together. In the end, you get a nice healthy dose of everything, and that's why it's such a solid lineup.
Do you have to get into different performance mindsets—one for Jane's Addiction and one for your solo set at "Perry's"?
They're two different worlds. I'm enthused about both. For example with Jane's, I'm on a big stage with a classic group. The theatrics available are amazing. You have a lot more dollar to spend—if you choose to do so. For me and, for my money, my vote is always to invest in the show. We're going to have a super, grand, fierce and glorious show. The music is there. You can build on that. That's 25 years worth of music that people are coming to hear, but you're in a live situation. That's Jane's Addiction. We can have helicopters if we want. The electronic thing is much different. I call the concept "Light and Loud." You can be playing off of a laptop. My guitar player is going to be playing off of Guitar Rig on a laptop. The set is being put together on Pro Tools LE 8.0. So we start with that concept. We don't have backline people and everything. We have video, costumes and electronic music. The real trick to putting together a live electro set is making sure that the production of the music will move people to dance. It's got to hit them. The dance audience is a very specific audience. They're on different drugs, and they respond to different sounds. You're trying to play to those sounds to excite that audience in a different way that you don't do with a rock audience. There are different ways of getting to a rock audience.
What's one of your best memories of Lollapalooza?
For me, the shows are memorable for sure. Personally, it's the camaraderie of the musicians and the things that we do backstage that sticks out though. They can be silly simple things. Tom Morello always has to have a dance party before going out there, so I would always try to appease and accommodate him. I'd bring girls and people to his room before he'd go out on stage. Everyone would be dancing and getting him psyched up for his set. Hanging out with Josh Homme was a good memory. Eddie Vedder is such a sweet guy—such a fun man. Really it's the musicians on Lollapalooza and the relationships that I've had with them that stand out more than anything else.
And this year it will be the helicopters…
This year it's going to be the helicopters, yes [Laughs].