Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell on how rock bumped out jazz, which bumped out swing, and how rock's now being bumped by dance music
It's a bit unnerving when Perry Farrell wants to start your interview with him by asking you a question. You've got about thirty questions you want to ask the Jane's Addiction frontman and about ten minutes to do so, when all of the sudden he asks you if you'd pick lemons off someone else's tree. Probably not, you say. He'd pick lemons off someone else's tree, he informs you, because he thinks lemonade is delicious -- so delicious, in fact, that apparently he can't resist pulling over to pick himself some lemons.
Somehow, in the midst of all this, we managed to squeeze in a few of our questions. We spoke with Farrell a bit about his band's new record, The Great Escape Artist, how he still sees Jane's Addiction as being part of the underground -- even though the group has been together now for more than two decades -- and how dance music is bumping out rock music (which bumped out jazz, which bumped out swing). Check out the full interview below in advance of tonight's Jane's Addiction show at the Fillmore Auditorium.
Perry Farrell: Let me ask you a question before we get started: If you saw a really great-looking lemon tree, would you go pick lemons off of someone else's tree?
Westword: I don't think I'd do that. Would you?
Yeah. I would do it.
Because lemonade is delicious.
It is good stuff.
It's fantastic. It's better than the bottled lemonade.
Yeah. So I was kind of curious: I was reading about how the idea for a new record came when you were on the NIN/JA tour a few years ago.
Sure. We were thinking, "Hey, this feels good. Let's do this again." I felt, "I don't want to have to be held to the past. Let's do this again with some new material so that we feel excited." It's always exciting for a musician to go out and play new material before people. It could be easy. I could jump out there and do "Been Caught Stealing" and "Jane Says," and of course people are going to go, "Yay!" But the problem is that I've been performing those songs and we've been performing those songs for years and years.
[Perry tells somebody in the background to pull over]
Seriously, there are some great lemons. Pull over.
Anyways, man, you get tired. I don't mind if it's mixed in with new material. It's exciting, especially if you love your new material.
How is it playing the new stuff?
I love it. I look down, and I'm like, "Okay, there's a new one. Awesome."
[tells someone he has to get out of the car]
Are you going to grab some lemons?
You were talking about the song "Underground" and how you guys have been around for 25-plus years but that you are still part of the underground, right?
Hell, yeah. The underground is great. It's where things germinate. It's where the roots are. It's cool. You can do it all.
I also thought it was interesting that you talked about how making music is sometimes like interior decorating where you can furnish a place with antique stuff and modern stuff.
Yeah. Hell yeah. That's the way I like to do it too. I like looking at modern art. I like collecting antiques. I like to go antique shopping at the same time I like to go to art galleries. It's good to have the old and the new together. You know what it does? It bridges the generation gap. The generation gap that's here now -- the Native Americans, they don't have that; they love their elders. People today in America, they don't give a shit about their elders. As my daughter's getting older, I better make a point to make sure they give a shit about me. I want someone wiping my ass when I'm old [laughs].
It seems like you guys are embracing technology in making music as well as performing. What are you guys doing differently now with technology versus twenty years ago.
The new software, I think it's fucking out of sight. The sounds you can generate now, not just computers, but the new synthesizers, I think why not mix them in. Why not figure out how you can treat your songs with these new sounds. To me, I dig them. They're powerful, and we weren't able to make sounds like that 25 years ago. To me, it's pure sound. You can take pure sound and make music out of it. So why shouldn't you do it?
It's not like I'm saying let's lose our virtuosity or anything like that. What I'm saying is keep the virtuosity. People love that. There's nothing better than listening to a live group when the crowd is with them, and they're with each other, and everybody is together, and they're just all...it could be that they're recalling a moment in time or they're trying to declare themselves as a nation.
There are moments when you want that human...I want to call it reciprocation, but you want that human...that energy, that give and take. You can't beat that stuff. Let's face it, technology has driven music for the last fifty years or more. I mean, rock and roll kind of bumped out jazz that bumped out big band swing. Now what's bumping rock and roll out? Dance music and the guys that produce that kind of music, which I happen to love.
I'm not looking for live musicians to be bumped out at all. I think that they're really valuable, especially in string areas. But even in the percussive areas it's great when you hear a drummer playing with drum programs. I think it's all cool, man. I'm not prejudice. I'm not against any of it. What's beautiful is when you can make it all work. It's like having a child between two people you come up with an original human being. That's how it goes with music too.
What are you guys doing for this tour, the Theater of the Escapists Tour?
We're right in the middle of what we're doing. I don't want to say we're just getting started. We're trying to develop the live show. It continues to develop with us. We're interested and investing in something called immersive theater, which is a more intimate surrounding, a more intimate situation for the audience and the group where the people attend the evening... We might go out into the audience or, in some cases, bring the audience into us in different rooms and things like that. We intend on doing another record for 2013. We're on roll, man. We're in a rhythm. That's it.
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