Perry Farrell discusses the Jane’s Addiction “Relapse” with Jon Kappes.
Long before the spectre of Marilyn Manson in mismatched contact lenses and dental-school surplus took over MTV, another video image spoke to the masses: A shoplifter in scare-drag looks each way, then begins to shove various vegetables into his nether regions as the revved-up chords of Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing” kick in, topped by the unmistakable bray of frontman Perry Farrell.
Whether you loved them or hated them, you couldn’t ignore what Jane says, as 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking and 1990’s Ritual De Lo Habitual began their inevitable climb to platinum. Then, to top it off, Farrell invented the alternative-rock festival, pocketing the trademark for Lollapalooza.
But that was then – before Nirvana, before Oasis, before electronica. Six years after Jane’s Addiction’s acrimonious break-up, Farrell heads Porno For Pyros with Stephen Perkins on drums, guitarist Dave Navarro plays in Red Hot Chili Peppers and bassist Eric Avery plays in Polar Bear. With a compilation of Jane’s rarities hitting record stores Oct. 14, what else but a “relapse” tour would do?
Chili Pepper bassist Flea with stand in for Avery, who declined the invitation to rejoin, and ticket sales will begin shortly in Anytown, U.S.A.
A lot of critics are starting up the hearse for the whole alternative-rock movement that Jane’s Addiction helped start, yet you chose this very time to get back together. Why?
Well, “alternative rock” is a phrase – you could say you fit into it; you could say you don’t. You could say you were part of it; you could say you were part of it but you’re more part of the future…
You could even say you were a founder of it.
You could say that…
Well, you could, anyhow.
Somebody else could. But the point is, I don’t see myself as falling behind musically. When I start to work with these guys – Flea and Dave – it’s just for musical cooperation. I could be doing some Jane’s tunes or some new stuff or some Porno stuff, and that’s pretty much what he intended to do. But the main thing I’m interested in is working with them. It’s not a genre I’m trying to resurrect or anything like that. It just happens that I still love playing with a lot of musicians and I love playing with machinery, too. But the combination of these people is just for me.
When the Sex Pistols reunited last year, they were savaged by a lot of people. Why is there such hostility toward reunions right now?
You have to look at them individually. I mean, I’m currently playing everywhere. It’s not like I’ve been kicking around my house with my wife and we’re starting to go broke. [Laughs.] With me, it’s a chance to play with Dave and Flea. My idea is, never stop evolving. But there also comes a time when Warner Bros. Is putting out this compilation of live tracks, unreleased tracks… so, fine, I mean, we were a great band. I said, “Look, why don’t we try to do something new with it?” When we played live at the premiere of Howard Stern’s movie [Private Parts], I had such a good time playing with these guys – and they had a great time playing with me. So I said, “Let’s just keep doing it.” But you couldn’t call it a reunion because Eric is not in the band at this time. Now you could not call it Jane’s Addiction, but we’ll be playing some Jane’s songs – half the set is Jane’s – and it might be overlooked.
And it’s not as if you’re turning to the past because Porno For Pyros wound up to be a dead end artistically. After all, even though it may not have sold boxcars of discs, I though the last Porno album, Good God’s Urge, was one of your best.
Thanks. No, actually, Pornos is doing better than ever. It’s like this: If you had some old friends you haven’t seen for a while and then you got back together once and it was a really good night, you might call them up and say, “Let’s do it again.” It’s that simple. It feels weird even to be interviewed for it. I’m going out to play a couple of shows with these guys. But when you get together to practice for a show, the shows themselves get better and better and you start to hit your stride, hit a groove. So you don’t want to do just one show. Monetarily, you want to…
Make it pay.
Make it pay – I think that’s fair. Also, when you’re talking about doing a show, in my case you have performers, you have dancers you have to pay. And I’m going to be working with a DJ named Pollywog, and we’ve got to get her into the mix. So if you’re going to do all that, it’s almost not worth it in my head only to do one show.
Over the years, Jane’s have achieved a cult status of sorts. “Been Caught Stealing” is like the Violent Femmes’ “Blister In The Sun.” One of those most-requested songs on modern-rock stations. Is that a bit of a prison for you?
Ahh… well, there were a couple of reasons I decided to stop working on that project. One of them was that we didn’t get along. That’s the main element of why I was unhappy. I believe that if people don’t like each other, they’re not going to make good music. It’s the same for a band as for an army. If there’s dissension in the ranks, you’re going to have a problem when it comes time for a battle. Music is my first love of everything on this earth. I wouldn’t go into a ring with a heavyweight boxer because I’m not that good. But when it comes to music, I can raise my hand. So I don’t want to be around when there’s hatred. The money is not worth it; the title and accolades aren’t worth it. What’s worth it is making great music with people you love. It’s like being in bed – you want to feel love when you get into bed. And that’s another reason I want to work with these guys now. Dave and I made up a long time ago, and we hang out and he’s a great player. And Flea is, too.
So those personal things have been fixed now.
Between me and Dave, absolutely. But I’ll tell you the truth: I tried to fix things up with Eric, but he just didn’t want to have anything to do with it. At first I was very upset, but, you know, to have Flea working with us is a blessing.
I know when I first tried to track down what Jane’s was about in the late ‘80s, I read all kinds of things that gave me no idea of what was going on. It seems few people have ever captured in words what your “vision thing” was then.
In a very innocent way it had to do with performance, musical theater. Jane’s and Lollapalooza were a way to bring things about. It’s like alchemy: You see what’s around in the universe and combine things, and then see what happens. To tell the truth, though, at the time I was barely conscious – I don’t mean [I was in] a drug haze; I mean I didn’t feel as acutely. Things were done more instinctually. But in everyone’s life there is a turning point, where a person is put in a position to exercise free will. I feel like I want to do Jane’s again now while people still need to hear it, before it no longer can have the same meaning. It’s like if you’re at a party and you’re walking on the beach with a guitar, and your friends bug you and say, “Play that song. Come on, play ‘Jane Says.’” Underneath it all, that’s really what this is about.
Finally, they shoot horses, don’t they? So why not Lollapalooza?
[Laughs.] Because the race isn’t over yet. And because you’ve got a good jockey who isn’t ready to stop riding.