Perry Farrell first blew our minds in the late ’80s and early ’90s as the frontman of the renowned alt rock outfit Jane’s Addiction. When Jane’s Addiction disbanded in 1991 Farrell founded the festival Lollapalooza as a farewell tour for the group – Lollapalooza became one of the biggest and most influential music fests of the last three decades, and it’s still going strong. Farrell went on to head up more trailblazing bands, including Porno for Pyros and Satellite Party, and wow fans at countless live shows and festivals across the globe. Today he remains a true rock legend.
We’re excited to share a 2007 interview with Perry Farrell that took place just before the release of Ultra Payloaded by his supergroup Satellite Party. An impressive lineup of guest artists joined Farrell for the project, including Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and John Frusciante, Fergie, Joy Division’s Peter Hook, and a 30-piece orchestra. The music on the release is equally wide-ranging—a mix of electronica, world, and psychedelic rock. Read on for Farrell’s thoughts on the album, the state of the environment, and the unique power of music.
Ticketmaster: In many ways, Ultra Payloaded is a concept album. Can you tell us about the story and ideas behind the release?
Perry Farrell: It surrounds this brain trust of artists, philanthropists and environmentalists, and they’re known as the Solutionists. They’re adepts at the art of public display and demonstrations. They’re party planners and they put together these elite parties that can either be out in the streets, right out in public, or they can be in somebody’s loft or some place like that. Anyway, they gain lots of attention throughout the city and they start to spread their methods. People really want to come to these parties. They meet up with the intelligentsia. So one night as they lay asleep listening to the radio, there’s a low hum coming through the radio. It’s a vast visitation of energy that is coming from the heavens where there is a heavenly party going on. As the heavenly hosts watch the Earth, they specifically put this party invitation out to the Solutionists. They meet the Heavenly Host who is Jim Morrison. And it is during their meeting that Jim Morrison brings (the Solutionists) to the portal, to this giant window, where they watch Mother Earth slowly turning. And he calls her the woman in the window. And he explains when you look at the polar caps you can see that they are in fact melting and something has to be done about it. And he says to them that when he watches the Earth and he gets to see them from his vantage point, he thinks they are the catalyst to bring about change to the Earth. Science and technology are in place now to transform the world, to take it away from fossil fuel, to reduce carbon emissions and put nature back in balance. But what is missing, what has not been fully accomplished, is that the culture has to catch up to it. People have to change. They have to be refashioned. Everything from their habits of consumption to their choice of politicians. And he thinks these Solutionists could be the very people to bring people to this tipping point where the world would be transformed.
TM: You mentioned Jim Morrison appears as the Heavenly Host on the album. You also make use of a previously unreleased Jim Morrison vocal track on “Woman in the Window.” How did you get your hands on that track?
PF: Well, it was not easy to obtain. The Doors have been friends of mine for a long time now and they heard about the project and what we were doing with the project. Specifically they head about the request from Global Cool (an international campaign to stop global warming). Global Cool was looking for music to use for their hymn. Their ambition is to reduce global emissions over the next ten years by six billions tons. And, in the next five years, reduce it by a billion tons. They heard about the project as well and they came down to see me in the studio. They just fell in love with the song. The Doors and the various people around the Doors all loved the work that Global Cool was doing and so allowed usage of the track.
TM: I really admire that you’re working with Global Cool and making art that is politically and environmentally aware.
PF: Yeah, thanks. But the one thing that I have to make sure happens here is that the situation, the feeling, all remains playful. I have an actual equation for how much charity to put into the body of work. It’s 10%. The rest of it is pure play, because I feel the world should be able to be transformed with pleasure. I think eventually the world should be a prosperous, playful world. That is a utopian society as far as I’m concerned. It should be almost effortless. People should feel good when making change for the better. That’s how we’re going to do it ourselves in the hope that that becomes the infectious method.
TM: You really enjoy bringing people together, whether through the Lollapalooza festival which you founded or at this imaginary satellite party in space. Music seems to be the thing that unites people. What do you think gives music this power to bring people together?
PF: Because it’s pleasurable when it’s done right. We know that music can do things. It can drive you down to the ground and practically kill you. But when done well and done in its finest forms can lift the spirits. I mean, at the greatest moments in history, human beings break out in celebration and song. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, they broke out in song and began to sing. It’s an energy, a very subtle form of energy. But just by whispering something into your ear I can either break your heart or lift your spirits and create a well of joy. Music is something that can make the limbs start to dance. What else can do that? A movie can’t do that. A painting can’t do that. Why is it that when a song hits your ears, your limbs begin to move? Isn’t that crazy? It causes body movement. So that is so powerful to me. Although you can’t see it, I make no mistake about what sound is. It is movement. It is energy but it’s just very subtle. And human beings usually depend on and are more developed with their eyes. But they don’t realize that it is actually scent and sound that is controlling them more than anything. So I get to work with this beautiful sound. I know that if it’s done right it can serve as a catalyst to bring people together, because they all want to party, they all want to be happy, they all want their limbs to be moving. Even politicians—it’s hard work to sit through a politician, because half the time they’re not believable and they’re asking for you to perform a difficult task. Whether it be some form of self-sacrifice or just because they’re so boring. (laughs) It’s taking a lot of patience just to get through their speech. But when it comes to music, to me, this is something that the body and human beings need. It’s in every part of life. You turn on a television, you might see a man, but behind that man there’s music. You’re driving in your car, well you’re on your way to work but there’s music that’s accompanying you and traveling with you. It’s everywhere and it soothes you. That is why it is so inviting. And if you’re looking to put together a party, the ultimate invitation is music.
TM: You’ve had a lot of success in your career—playing with Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros and as a solo artist. Satellite Party is a new band with a new set of challenges. Do you find it thrilling that you’re starting over in a way?
PF: Well, initially it was very hard, because I started to write this without a record company and when you first start a project you don’t know if it’s going to be a success. You’re only working as hard as you can. But you can never tell if things are going to click and they’re going to jive. In this case, I would say the synchronicity and the rhythm that I’ve fallen into has just been amazing. Everything from the people who I got to work with—people like Flea and John (Frusciante), who happened to be just friends who surfed with me in the morning and had some time to write a few tunes. And getting to work with Peter Hook. And the Jim Morrison (track) and Fergie, and the Thievery Corporation as well. I mean, gosh, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to collaborate with. And then to fall in with the organization Global Cool, who are just getting off the ground but with a strong force behind them. Sometimes I’ve felt that I’ve been somewhat ahead of the curve and that has actually served to hurt me because people weren’t ready or prepared to dig what was going on in my life. But in this case, I really feel it is of its time. I feel that it’s going to be massive and it’s going to catch fire. The tipping point is here.