Warp Magazine – “Perry Farrell: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” – June, 1995

This is a great article from 1995, back when what became the Good God’s Urge album was still tentatively titled Hard Charger.  Perry talks about the early work on that album, and the Teeth project.  This article is also where Perry debunks the rumors that he has AIDS.

Perry Farrell: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By Mark Woodlief

“You absolutely, absolutely have to love everything about youth.  Youth is energy without even asking or working for it, and you’re blessed to have it.  But when it starts to drain from you, you have to work at it, and have to start cutting deals to keep it.  When people are raging – their heads are full of youth, they’re just busting with nature – there’s nothing more beautiful, nothing.

What I’m trying to say is the youth are looking for answers, and do I supply ‘em or am I another question mark?  There are a lot of question marks.  Or do I want to become the answer?

I want to become an answer, because I was a question mark, too.  But I’m not quite as much a question mark anymore.  I know what I want out of life a lot more.  You get into certain things, and all of a sudden gears start to work.  You become a young man, gears lock in, and you’re not spinning out here and there – you get more and more sure of where your head is.  And then it’s up to you to say ‘Okay, I’m gonna fine-tune this and become and expert at it’

And that’s what I would like to be – more in a roll like that, in the thick of it all.  I would rather be a person who’s got his teeth.”

- Perry Farrell

Whether he’s punning or not, at age 36 Perry Farrell’s got his teeth.  After founding one of the most important musical events in the last decade – Lollapalooza – and two of the most popular groups, Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros, Farrell will soon launch a magazine called Teeth, sort of a Lollapalooza in print, and hopefully, on CD-ROM.  Listening to Farrell excitedly discuss his future plans, it seems like he could do anything.  Maybe he will;  1995 could be his year.  Yeah, like 1990-94 weren’t?  Whatever he does, and wherever he goes, Farrell makes an impact like few others in the rock world.

Like the proverbial kid in a (digital) candy store, Farrell’s fascinated by the advent of information and technology.  The seemingly constant changes in computers and the role the machines play in our lives suit Farrell well – he’s giddy with energy and curiosity, anxious to explore the multifaceted computer uses available to him.  He’s already brought Lollapalooza on-line, and the ’95 event will feature pres releases all across the Internet.

“I think in our lifetimes we are really going into a different age,”  Farrell wagers.  “Just like the Metal Age, or the Bronze Age.”  We’ve entered a new age, that’s for sure.  Is it the Information Age?  Is it the Cyber Age?  Farrell doesn’t want to give it a name.

“Oh, I don’t want to call it anything,” he reasons, “’cause I don’t know what they’ll call it, but I feel it.  I know that there’ll be a rise in spirituality, and there’ll be a rise in technology.  All these good things are about to happen.”

Lollapalooza:

Lollapalooza, arguably, is a very good thing.  Since the touring festival – a mixture of music, multi-media, art, food, and random weirdness – began five years ago, it’s become an undeniable smash.  In a sense, Farrell and Lollapalooza have been as important as – if not more important that – groups like Nirvana, Green Day, and other bands that have brought back punk – and alternative-rock to mainstream audiences.  But what about all the complaints about alternative bands selling out?  Does Lollapalooza ever feel like Frankenstein’s Monster?

“No, no!” Farrell answers emphatically.  “‘Cause I feel like I’m drawing from a good stream, y’know?  And as long as that stream is a good, pure stream, then you can fish out of it.  I;m not, like, bringing you bad trout – polluted, crappy, low-grade bottom dwellers.  I’m givin’ you the good stuff!

I feel like I’m cross-pollinating the art world with the music world this year, along with the technology of the computer world.  What could go wrong with having some great artists collaborate with some great musicians, and great athletes, and great painters, and great computer techs?”

Ultimately, Farrell wants to bring people together.  Lollapalooza, and soon Teeth, are his most powerful vehicles.

“I’m meeting some really great people all the time,”  he confesses.  “And, like the Dadaist movement, we’re swapping information.  People, when they stop working with each other, or stop combining – when you stop integration, you’re blowing a chance for a brand-new mixture.  So right now, artists are integrating with each other.  So you having people like [artists] Robert Williams talking to computer people.  And the world is becoming like a marble, and it’s coming up with new colors and new ideas.  There’s where you have your new thoughts from.  It’s mixtures and equations you never could’ve thought of.  You need to experiment.  You have to.  And everybody’s doing it.”

Los Angeles’ Julie Rico Gallery will work with Farrell on this year’s “art tent” at Lollapalooza.  Rico, whose gallery sits comfortably next to a surf shop in Venice, California, has a vision of “high and low art coming together,” and has already hosed exhibits by Big Daddy Roth, Williams, and photographer Glen E. Friedman.  Among other things, she’ll help bring a junkyard-like exhibit by Craig Stecyk and Robert Williams to the Lollapalooza grounds.

To further engage the audience’s senses at Lollapalooza, Farrell hopes to employ aroma therapy.  Upon entering his Venice home, one is immediately struck by a relaxing, organic scent that lightly permeates the entire downstairs.  Farrell explains the concoction contains mandarin, oolong oolong, and lavender, and that he wants too bathe Lollapalooza visitors in the same kind of lulling aroma.  Lollapalooza then, will finally engage all the senses.

Offering a sneak peek at what Lollapalooza ’95 will bring musically, Farrell confirms that sexy 60′s soul star (and recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee) Al Green will appear on the stage.  “He’s a preacher now,” says Farrell, “so on Sunday shows he’ll lead a service.  ‘Praise the Lord!’”

Farrell also says that Hole – “Courtney [Love] said she’d do it,” he grins – has accepted an invitation to play the festival, too.  Despite heavy rumors that Neil Young might play this year, Farrell admits negotiations with Young broke down in February.  Farrell also mentions Bay Area punkers Rancid and So Cal speedsters Pennywise are in the running for Lollapalooza spots.

“Also,” Farrell adds, “the guys from Cypress Hill are in.”

AIDS:

For a while, a rumor circulated that Farrell had AIDS.  Analyzing a record cover, one writer mistakenly thought a positive pregnancy test was a positive AIDS test, and wrote an article claiming Farrell might have the disease. The rumor angered Farrell, yet also caused him concern.

“I felt like I had it,” Farrell remembers, “I still feel like I have it, because, put it this way – it’s like a person who says, ‘Hey, I think so-and-so raped somebody.’  Forever you’ve kind of thrown something called ‘rape’ on them, whether they did it or not.  It’s kind of how I feel.  It really sucks, so now I get tested every six months.  And the last tests were negative.

“AIDS is one of our biggest fears,” Farrell says, “and psychologically the only benefit I can see from it is that it might bring romance back.  In other words, love may grow from it.  People won’t be blindly fucking, because when you blindly fuck it can result in a lack of love.”

Farrell pauses to collect his thoughts, and adds,  “When you have sex outside of love you begin to have the potential to be cursed.  You follow me?  I’m just looking at what I see, and thinking about why it is happening.  So what are we doing wrong?”  He pauses again.  “We’re doing something wrong spiritually.”

Hard Charger and Home:

The upcoming Porno For Pyros album is another good thing on the horizon for Farrell.  It’s called Hard Charger,  and the band – Farrell, bassist Martyn LeNoble, guitarist Peter DiStefano, and former Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins – has already finished recording six songs at a palatial Malibu location Farrell calls Zuma.

“Elvis lived there,” says Farrell, smiling at the house’s rich history, “and then The Band bought it, and then people like Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, and a lot of people recorded up there.  It’s got some video to it.  It’s powerful up there.”

One of Farrell’s favorite things about Zuma is its Malibu locale, which satisfies the rocker’s longtime surfing habit.  A “hard charger” since 1973, Farrell’s ridden beautiful spots all over the world, from Tavarua, New Zealand to Tahiti, where Porno For Pyros spent quality time together last year.  He’s been snowboarding the last two years, after Porno For Pyros did some recording in Lake Tahoe and rode  during breaks.  Farrell takes time off every few months to hit favorite spots like Puerto Escondido in Mexico, and Hawaii.

Hard Charger  “has a lot to do with the ocean,” says Farrell, “because we surf a lot, and there’re always takes to tell when you’re a waterman.”  One song in particular, “Tahitian Moon,” chronicles a dangerous encounter while on vacation.

Farrell’s road manager and next-door neighbor, Roger Leonard, went surfing.  “Roger was out there, and I was waiting for him,” Farrell recalls, “and I didn’t see him com in.  It’s a really long paddle.  So I went out there in a kayak to try to find him ’cause it started to get dark, and my boat flipped over and sank.

I tried to get back to shore, man.  I started swimming for it, and I swear I swam a couple of hours.  I didn’t think I was going to make it.  But I wasn’t ready to drown.  After a while I made it back in to shore.”

It sounds like a frightening experience, but Farrell is oddly tranquil in his retelling.  “Tahitian Moon” is even more at ease as a vivid, hypnotic ballad that celebrates life and beauty.

“Kimberly Austin” is an ode to the Angeleno photographer/artist of the same name.  Austin’s work almost dominates Farrell’s home, and her images are hauntingly evocative.

The photographs are printed life-size onto layers of silk and hang in an array of spaces in the airy, two-bedroom house.  One image – a nude woman seductively (violently?) holding a knife at her side – brings an early Jane’s Addiction to mind:  “Sex is violent.”  Farrell says the piece has made him jump at least once.  He obviously enjoys the unsettling, yet contemplative image.  “Kimberly Austin,” too, is lush and peaceful, a very romantic song.

As the title implies, “Thick Of It All” offers a more rugged, propulsive feel, which its distant rumbling drum sound, but it’s obvious from listening to a few of Hard Charger ‘s contemplative tracks that Porno For Pyros is going for a unique, distinctive sound that will no doubt maintain the quartet’s place as innovators.

Farrell claims he doesn’t listen to his music once it’s been finished and released as an album, but he admits he likes Porno For Pyros .  Recorded during the 1992 L.A. riots, the record quickly re-established Farrell just months after Jane’s Addiction called it quits.

Farrell says, “I looked at it like, ‘Did I have a good time or not?’ and that’s the way I base it.  It was what I wanted to do – right quick, got together with a bunch of friends, and they didn’t deserve to make a masterpiece together.  Just like when Jane’s was first together, we kept it raw and simple to feel out the players and stuff like that, and have a good time.

This next record, after knowing the guys and deciding I definitely  love ‘em, I wanna go back in.  Then I can really trust them, and they trust me.

All I can tell you is Porno For Pyros  has graced me to do another record.  And we are improving.  Personally, I can tell you that.  Musically, I bet you’ll like it.”

Farrell’s eyes light up, and he stares convincingly, imploringly.  “I know that we’re doing good work,” he continues.  “We’re coming into our own.  We’re becoming young men.  It’s great – being a man, coming in to your own as a man.  It’s a great feeling.  Y’know, that feeling that, ‘We’re the young guys to inherit the Earth.’  That’s the feeling.”

The feeling that it’s all coming your way?

“Yeah.  It’s all coming our way, so how are we gonna handle it?”

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