Perry Farrell is justifably one of the godfathers of alternative rock. Farrell rose to fame in the mid-80s as frontman of Jane’s Addiction and Porno for Pyros. He is also one of the founders of Lollapalooza. Over twenty years later Farrell formed another band, Satellite Party, and still has a relevant reigning position in today’s music scene.
Farrell opened the door to his tour bus to talk satellites, constellations and rock stars.
Please introduce the concept of your Satellite Party?
It came from the idea of putting a party on, like a weekend party at least two, three days long, non-stop and dress it like it were living on the inside of a satellite. I started writing music with that concept in mind and the lyrics started to tell the story of a group of people that got to the Satellite Party through dream by riding transmissions. It was a party invitation being put out by a heavenly host, Jim Morrison. Does that make sense to you? (Laughs)
I’m trying to get it. (Laughs)
Imagine if you were asleep, you’re listening to a radio, you’re able to take in transmissions from space and heavenly beings are sending messages to you. You can ride on those waves and your soul would be witness to the Satellite Party.
You collaborated with Fergie, Flea and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Peter Hook of New Order, Hybrid and Thievery Corporation. That alone sounds like a wild party, how did you pull that together?
It was an organic development and they’re friends of mine. It was at a time when everybody was looking to write music and collaborate together. Every time they would invite me to collaborate on something I would tell them that I was working on this Satellite Party project and let’s see what we could come up with. For example my friends from Hybrid, oh my God I have to call them back, would call and I would say, “Let me take the tracks. Give me your drum tracks or symphony lines and I’ll give you my voice. I want to put this thing together.” There you go. That’s how we started doing it.
Has putting such efforts into the Satellite Party and the tour taken anything away from you?
Some privacy and just being completely alone. We all live in close quarters, on a bus basically, but we do a pretty good job. Almost everyone is a veteran road traveller. It helps to have happy people and team players around. Paul, my tour manager, has been on the road working with Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Prince, the Rolling Stones and everybody and he is still on the road. He knows how to make the road a comfortable place.
What is the most comfortable song to play live off the new album?
I do like to sing “Awesome.” It’s a beautiful song, but it has so much symphony on it. We have to think about how we’re going to do “Awesome,” maybe at a special occasion where we can work with a twelve piece or a quartet. But really my favourite is “Ultra Payloaded.”
The album has so many celestial references. What is behind the lead song “Wish Upon a Dog Star?”
The Dog Star is in the Canis Major constellation. The Dogon tribe out of Africa believe that this constellation transmits healthy radiation to Earth. Every year The Dogon tribe builds an effigy to the constellation and they have a festival. When thinking about the Satellite Party and all the galactic guests it would be great to have the crew from the Dog Star.
What does being a rock star require?
You should be prepared to work very hard. People assume that there are short cuts to becoming a rock star. You don’t really forge a rock star the way like American Idol and those shows do. Rock ‘n roll isn’t about a contest. It’s about freeing yourself. It’s liberation. Rock stars make their careers from starting in small clubs, learning the rhythms and the pulse of an audience, practicing, rehearsing, writing about living experiences and not doing covers.
A rock star is a person who is singing about their life and their life is worth listening to. You might have to live a life that is compelling and controversial. There’s a lot of baggage and you have to hang on through the ups and downs and there are a lot of downs. You have to be a person who can withstand the years and decades. You have to ride through and continue to evolve and not rest on your past.
The world changes so much and every two years there’s a new movement, a new look, a new sound. You have to be willing to keep up with it, especially today. You’re not going to cut through fast just by selling records and being a pop thing, because pop fizzles fast.
Once a rock star, always a rock star?
A lot of people made records a long time ago and think they’re still rock stars now. But if they don’t work hard to make a great record, people won’t care. If you’re not concentrating on your music you become a joke. You have to deliver and consider yourself an artist not only a rock star. Real rock stars don’t think of themselves as rock stars. They think of themselves as artists and hard working musicians. Thank you, if you’re calling me a rock star.