Classic Rock

Q&A

Perry Far­rell

- Words: Dave Ever­ley

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."

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