The Last Word: Perry Farrell on Being an Uncool Dad and Why He’ll Never Give Up on Lollapalooza
It’s always pleasantly disconcerting to watch a bohemian legend settle into domesticity – even more so in the case of Perry Farrell, onetime bard of drugs and group sex. But while the Jane’s Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza co-founder is now a married dad who turns 60 next year, his artistic pursuits are as untamed as ever, with much of his focus on a massive, brain-bogglingly elaborate Las Vegas mixed-reality installation called Kind Heaven, set to open next year. He’s also working on a soundtrack album for the project, due in the fall. In the meantime, Farrell shared some hard-won wisdom, and some unexpected biographical nuggets, in a Last Word interview.
Would it be accurate to say that the smartest business decision you ever made was not selling the Lollapalooza name?
Yeah. By 1997, a few other festivals showed up, diluting the pool of artists. And we decided to lay it to rest. Following that, I would get hit up: “Sell it to me for $1 million.” I would just keep saying, “No. I’m not giving it to you. I’d rather be buried with the name.” And I was broke! And then eventually Jane’s [Addiction] came back to do a record, and I said, “You know what? I’m gonna do another Lollapalooza and get the carnival going again.”
And now you’ve invested your own money in Kind Heaven, the elaborate multimedia, augmented-reality destination you’re working on in Las Vegas. Why?
In Vegas, they want skin in the game. I felt like, “Whoa, I’m really dealing with some tough dudes here.” Like, at the last minute, they go, “No, I need money from you!” And at first I was like, “No, you don’t pull that shit on me.” But now, I can look at all my partners, and if anybody fucks with me, I’m gonna say to them, “Look, I’m a true partner here. I’m not a little kid anymore where William Morris or Live Nation is my daddy.”
You had a rough relationship with your dad and left home at 17 – how does that affect the way you raise your kids?
As busy as we are, our first consideration is our family. You’re a shepherd. If you lose a sheep, a sheep can get messed up. I remember coming out to California and how many wrong situations I got in. I just told my wife, Etty, about the time where I went on this one yacht and I was – honestly – I was an escort. And she goes, “Wait a minute. …” And I said, “Well, you know, Etty, it wasn’t like I signed up and I knew that I was going to end up an escort!” You’re alone in the world, and people prey on you. And you’re thinking, “A yacht? Yeah! All the booze you can drink!” My girlfriend at the time bailed on me for the guy who owned the yacht. I can laugh about it now, too, because I don’t know where the hell she is, but I guarantee she’s not on that yacht anymore.
Is there anything that makes you feel old these days?
My kids do, just because they don’t think I’m that cool. It’s like, they go to Lollapalooza, but they don’t want to walk next to me. That killed me. I’ll go, “Let’s go,” and my boy will be with his friends, and he will stand there and I’m going, “Come on, man, let’s go!” He goes, “Do I gotta walk with you everywhere?” That moment I felt really old, like, damn, I’m not that cool. So I tried everything. I go skateboarding with him, which is all right because I can skate pretty decent, by far the oldest guy there in the bowls.
Do you remember when you first heard the descriptor “alternative”?
Might have been ’91. You know why I think they attached it to us? At that time, alternative fuel was happening, alternative energy, so they went, “That’s definitely the alternative to hair metal.” Although the Grammys, the first time that we were nominated for something, they called it hard rock. We were up against Jethro Tull and Metallica, and we lost to Jethro Tull.
“My kids go to Lollapalooza, but they don’t want to walk next to me.”
You look like you haven’t gained an ounce since ’91 – what’s your secret?
I love to go into the water. Swimming. Surfing. I walk my dogs maybe four miles a day. And honestly, sex is very good for you. Very good. Singing and dancing can’t be beat, either. I eat very small courses, but I love food and I’m not anorexic. I need the energy for the life force. But I never like to feel like I’m stretching out my intestines.
Who are your heroes?
One of my heroes currently is the great [Hasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel] Schneerson. His writings and his teachings are amazing. I’ve been reading them like crazy lately.
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Would you call yourself a Lubavitcher?
I’m a love-bavitcher. I don’t know what you call it. I’m just in love with the study. I study through the night. I don’t sleep more than three hours at a time. I’d like to change that.
Was there a moment of spiritual awakening for you?
There was a time in the early Nineties when I had a vast visitation of energy, and I didn’t want to change my ways. But I’ll tell you what, get off drugs and you’ll be spiritualized. The whole opioid situation – I had six major operations in my fifties, so I was always taking pills. Plus, I partied really hard. Beating it, you feel like you’re being crucified. But you get a gift from it.
What’s the future of Jane’s Addiction?
Jane’s will come back, and we’ll be the first resident [performers] in Kind Heaven. I have them on board. And Porno for Pyros, too. Porno for Pyros will be within Jane’s Addiction. And I’m putting together an orchestra.
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