Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell on nostalgia, Shelties and playing New Year’s Eve at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Jane’s Addiction
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Dec. 30 & Sunday, Dec. 31, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out
More info: www.bellyupaspen.com
Though Perry Farrell is the kind of stratospheric rock star who one might assume has transcended his human form, the guy is disarmingly down-to-earth. For example, he said facetiously, he uses most of his creative energy these days caring for a pair of shelties he recently adopted.
“I spend more time walking those dogs and training those dogs than I did building Lollapalooza or Jane’s Addiction,” he said with a laugh.
And indeed, over the past week, you may have spotted Farrell making the rounds in Wagner Park and on Aspen’s downtown pedestrian malls with these adorable fur balls.
Farrell is back in town to play a sold-out two-night New Year’s run at Belly Up with Jane’s Addiction this weekend.
He first visited Aspen two decades ago, for New Year’s Eve 1997, on a trip that coincided with one of the more high-profile tragic events in recent Aspen history: the death of Michael Kennedy in an Aspen Mountain skiing accident.
“I saw the Kennedy gentleman get taken off that mountain,” Farrell recalled. “That night, I was DJing and they offered me his room and I took it. It was strange times, a time to not necessarily do a séance, but as he had freshly passed, there was some interesting energy in that room.”
Farrell has been a regular in Aspen since then, turning up at first for frequent DJ sets and, in the late summer of 2007 — with his band Satellite Party — to put on one of the more memorable Aspen happenings in the last decade: a free afternoon concert in the courtyard outside of D&E downtown.
In 2009, he finally brought Jane’s Addiction to Belly Up for the band’s first New Year’s Eve shows there and began a semi-annual tradition. Although, even in the years that the band isn’t playing New Year’s Eve, Farrell has been known to pop up onstage unannounced (as he did with the Flaming Lips at Belly Up around New Year’s 2015).
“We love Aspen,” Farrell said. “So when we get up there, it’s kind of like we barter for each other’s affection. I absolutely need to utilize the mountain and snowboarding and my family loves skiing, and in return I’ll do a couple gigs for you guys.”
Every time Jane’s Addiction plays a concert, they’re out to make it the best night of somebody’s life. More than putting on a hit-parade rock show, the band — often taking the stage with dancers and a theatrical stage production — brings an element of spectacle and magic to the stage. So they’re uniquely suited for playing New Year’s Eve — always a night of high expectations and frequent disappointment. Farrell said the Belly Up New Year’s shows developed out of conversations he’d had with people about why they don’t go out on New Year’s.
“I thought about why people are saying that and I surmised that it’s because there’s not something great they want to do,” he said. “They look at the options and they go, ‘Meh.’ But I think I could be a great option. If I put together a great party in an intimate surrounding, it’ll be like you’re celebrating with family.”
Formed in Los Angeles in 1985, Jane’s Addiction reconfigured the landscape of music and culture — the band helped define what became known as “alternative” rock with its indelible albums “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Ritual de lo Habitual” and Farrell, with Lollapalooza, essentially invented the summer festival culture that now dominates pop music.
But it’s been a notoriously a rocky ride for the band, with frequent breakups and bitter infighting shelving it for years at a time. The current run of Jane’s Addiction — going back to 2008 — is actually the longest period that the band has gone without splitting up.
“Why haven’t we fought? We have fought,” Farrell said. “But why we’re still together is that we’ve fought so many times that it has come to our attention that we’re stronger as a band. There’s just not a great reason not to go on.”
Since reuniting with guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery in 2008, Farrell said, he and his bandmates have learned to be grateful and to embrace what they’ve made together.
“We’re a group that, when we come around, people get in a great mood,” Farrell said. “Whether they’re reminiscing about the time in their life when they were younger, or a young person who’s never seen us and wants to see the legend of Jane’s Addiction. Not everybody gets to say that. We’re extremely fortunate to be in that position.”
The thrill of playing “Mountain Song” or “Jane Says” or “Been Caught Stealing” to a full house outweighs whatever drama might come between these old friends, who are now all well into middle age.
“We’ve got songs that people know and that, when they hear them, they get excited,” Farrell said. “A musician spends his whole life trying to accomplish that — to make songs people love, remember or are moved by. What’s so bad about that? Anything else getting in the way of that is petty.”
So Jane’s Addiction is done breaking up. That being said, Farrell explained, the band is about to take an extended hiatus as he prepares a new musical theater production. Though it’s not yet been announced, and Farrell was coy about details, he said he expects the show to open in Las Vegas in 2019, that it will include new and old music and make use of a full orchestra. (Several years ago, Farrell publicly teased the idea of creating an EDM musical.)
“You guys will know everything about it in six months,” he said.
Farrell has never slowed down creatively or stopped making new stuff. But he’s also, in the past few years, embraced the nostalgia around Jane’s Addiction and Lollapalooza. The band celebrated the 25th anniversary of “Ritual de lo Habitual” with a 2015 tour and toasted the 25th anniversary of Lollapalooza last year.
Farrell is proud to reflect on the revolution of music and culture that he and Jane’s Addiction started.
“It has propelled me,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the early years I was working in Jane’s Addiction and what it did for my life, my direction — it certainly pointed me in a great direction.”
Of course, the landscape of the music industry has radically changed since the mid-1980s, when Jane’s Addiction emerged from the L.A. underground, toppled the Hollywood hair metal scene and remade pop music in its arty image. So if Farrell was a kid today, would he start a rock band?
“I wouldn’t think to do exactly a rock band,” he said. “But I would think to do music with people. … Bands are not valued the way that they used to be.”
So, he explained, a band like Jane’s Addiction could not, in 2017, get signed to a label and supported with money, producers and marketing to craft its sound and find an audience. He probably wouldn’t start a band today, he said, and couldn’t succeed with a band in the way Jane’s Addiction did. But he would, he believes, be making music and experiment with different groups of musicians to discover something new.
“If you’re a person like me — I’m not a great guitar player or pianist or bassist or synth player — I’m a good producer and I consider myself a very accomplished singer and songwriter,” he said. “But I like to include other people. So today I wouldn’t call it a band because they would not be a permanent fixture with me. And I like that, because I can change my sound.”
A band like Jane’s Addiction couldn’t make it today. That, he noted with an apt analogy, is yet another reason to treasure it: “If we’re talking automotives, Jane’s Addiction is a nice car from that era. You’re not going junk that car. It’s a beautiful car. You look at it and you go, ‘Wow, they really built them beautiful back then.’ ”
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