The Jane’s Addiction main man on his new box set, becoming a quarter of an inch taller, and the power of PG Tips.
Perry Farrell isn’t naturally inclined to look backwards, but he’s making an exception today. A lavish, multi-disc new box set, The Glitz; The Glamour, charts the Jane’s Addiction frontman’s resolutely maverick career away from the alt.rock godfathers, from early-80s goth band Psi-Com to last year’s solo album-come-aural three-ring circus Kind Heaven. “I had music spread out everywhere,” he says of his decision to finally bring everything together. “It’s been a wild ride, man.” Today, speaking via Zoom from his home in LA, the 61-year-old sounds a little hoarse – the result of a recent operation on his vertebrae, it turns out.
How did your operation go? It was successful. I have crushed discs in my neck, mostly from partying and leaning back my head to rip out notes, and surfing and dancing around… There’s a long list. They had to remove my voice box and put it on a table. That was daunting. They literally exposed my skeleton, took the discs out and put in artificial discs. So now I am a quarter inch taller and twice as attractive to my wife.
The new box set starts with your early-eighties band Psi-Com. What do you miss about those days? Being way out there. I miss the fertility of the music scene. You could get in there and be original. If you had a story, if you had enthusiasm, if you had something to say, then people accepted you. Everybody was strange, everybody was disenfranchised. A germ here, a germ there, an amoeba here, a perimysium there, a Perry Farrell in there too. In Los Angeles every kid looked like they were in a group. It was Halloween every day.
The box set jumps forward to 2000’s Song Yet To Be Sung album, for which you ditched rock and embraced electronic music. Were you bored with guitars? I didn’t not like rock. But I don’t like derivativeness. It bores my ears. So when I was hearing derivative riff-rock, it was, like: “No, we can’t do that.” I’d heard The Orb and Orbital when I went to London in 1992. I started to go to nightclubs. It was mind-blowing what the DJs were doing. For me it’s not digital versus analogue. What I like to do is to use music in the way of alchemy, where I put in all these different ingredients. I like to glitch familiarity.
A few years later you teamed up with guitarist Nuno Bettencourt in Satellite Party – the guy from Jane’s Addiction and the guy from Extreme. No one saw that coming. We bonded over great guitar players: Tom Morello, Brian May, the guy who plays for Ozzy… Guitar players have made respect for him [Bettencourt]. It turns out his production technique is really great.
Neither Song Yet To Be Sung nor the Satellite Party album were massively successful. What happened? Song Yet To Be Sung was a beautiful record. When I was writing it, everybody was looking forward to it. I went and brought a lot of new clothes for the stage, brand new suitcases. And then, boom, the record label went down. With Satellite Party, I thought: “I’m gonna take that suitcase I never got to use and use it now.” And then – boom – everybody got fired at the label again. You can push things through if you’re a pop artist, but I am not. I’m not Cardi B.
Apart from the box set, what are you up to now? With covid, there are all these musicians just sitting around at home, dying to play. Right now I have a track going with Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters, Nick Mayberry from [Farrell’s latest solo backing group] Kind Heaven Orchestra, Chris Chaney from Jane’s Addiction. I have a friend called David Bryan, he’s the keyboard player in Bon Jovi. He laid some keyboards on it. And lastly Elliott Easton from The Cars jumped on it. The track’s called Mend. It’s about a friend of ours who has had a bad break-up. But it’s also about the world mending. My anticipation is that after the election we’re gonna need healing music, music to mend.
How are you feeling about the election? I’m gonna stay positive, because if we stay positive and stay focused I think we can beat this guy. I go back to the internet, to this worldwide web we’ve woven. It’s given us our share of problems and trolls and misinformation. However, I like to look at what good it can do, and the good I see it doing is that it gets to spread the message. I feel like we’re faster than they [Trump supporters] are. We’ve got a faster hard drive. We’ve got the truth on our side.
Where do Jane’s Addiction fit in to your future plans? Will there ever be a new Jane’s album? I wouldn’t think albums, I’d think songs. We’ve got so much Jane’s material in the can. We’ll be releasing a couple of tracks, maybe writing some new ones. Not this year, cos we’re getting late in the year. But I can tell you in the next month or so I’m gonna be finishing up a couple of Jane’s Addiction tracks.
You’re sixty-one. Do you ever wake up and think: “How the hell did that happen?” I guess it’s luck of the draw. I’ve overdosed numerous times, been lost at sea… They just keep sending me back. I don’t question it.
Might there be a Bohemian Rhapsody-style movie of your life? I kind of like the idea. I used to think: “Hey, if there’s a Perry Farrell movie, I want to play Perry Farrell.” [Mock-sad] Now I’m too old.
But you’re still as skinny as you were in Psi-Com days. What’s the secret? [Raises a mug and a biscuit to the screen] PG Tips. I love it. With condensed milk. My wife is from Hong Kong. I get the British influence with the Asian influence. [Peering at the biscuit] What is this?
It looks like a chocolate digestive. That’s what it is! PG Tips and chocolate digestives. That’s the secret.
The Glitz; The Glamour is available now via Last Man Music.
"I've overdosed numerous times, been lost at sea... They just keep sending me back."