Perry Farrell launches activist Satellite Party
January 24, 2007
ASPEN When Perry Farrell formed Jane’s Addiction in the mid-’80s, his goal was relatively modest. Farrell wanted only to turn the music world, from radio to concert tours, on its ass, to dispatch the contrived – emblemized in that moment’s hair-metal movement – using screaming guitars, ambitious stage shows, and his own flamboyant personality and screeching vocals.”In our day, we were fighting against the corporate rock sound of the day,” said Farrell by phone. “We were fighting the corporations and fighting a stale sound. We were an underground act trying to make a new sound, a new spin. I guess you’d call it an underground youth movement, and the street was ripe for the taking. We went in with a new look and a new sound and changed the radio format – and MTV – and did our bit.”Farrell is older now. The singer, born Perry Bernstein in New York City, is 47, and his ambitions have grown with his age. Farrell is about to launch his latest project, Satellite Party, and this time the aim is to transform a bigger slice of the world. Satellite Party is, for the moment, a five-piece band, featuring Farrell; his wife, Etty Lau Farrell, on backing vocals; and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, from ’80s hard-rock band Extreme. But a key component in the wider concept of the group is something called “the Solutionists” – “a brain trust of musicians, environmentalists and artists whose goal is to come up with a true solution for the globe, to solve issues like global warming,” said Farrell. “The world is heading toward disintegration, and we need people who are designers, architects, and have a hand in redesigning, reconfiguring it.”
Farrell has been working with Global Cool, an organization using various forms of entertainment to help bring out scientific solutions to environmental problems. Farrell said he will make “major announcements” at press conferences in Los Angeles and London, where Global Cool has its two bases, in the weeks ahead.For the moment, however, Farrell’s efforts to save the planet will start with music. Satellite Party makes its live debut with a performance tonight in Aspen as part of the Après X concert series. The show, free and open to the public, is set for 10:30 p.m. in Wagner Park in downtown Aspen.”Aspen will hold claim to being the first place where this happens,” said Farrell about Satellite Party, whose debut album, “Ultra Payloaded,” is set for release in May. But Aspen wasn’t chosen merely because of the fit with the X Games or the fact that Farrell is a snowboarder, who has hit the local slopes before. Satellite Party concerts are intended as reminders of just what is at stake in the battle against environmental degradation, and staging concerts in spectacular outdoors settings is a way to sharpen that message.”One specific idea is to bring to the mind, to the consciousness, the sheer beauty and majesty of the world,” said Farrell, whose previous Aspen appearance, in his guise as DJ Peretz, was in the Double Diamond, the underground space that now houses the Belly Up music club. “So we put together these great gatherings where people can experience the great outdoors.”Farrell has seen the concert experience from many sides. Jane’s Addiction built its reputation on the revelatory shows they played in small. Los Angeles clubs before moving onto bigger venues on the strength of such 1988’s “Nothing’s Shocking” and 1990’s “Ritual de lo Habitual,” landmarks of early alternative rock. In 1991, Farrell founded Lollapalooza, a tour that was part rock festival, part traveling circus. In its early heyday, Lollapalooza featured such acts as Soundgarden, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and Cypress Hill playing in outdoor venues from coast to coast. (After an absence of several years, Lollapalooza was resurrected as a stationary event in Chicago’s Grant Park.) Those shows instilled in Farrell a preference for hearing music in open spaces.
“Music has been experienced over the last 40, 50 years indoors,” he noted. “You come back outside and you feel like the world belongs to someone else, like you’re the subject of Big Brother.”You can reclaim the Earth by partying on it. We’re not going into a hole; we’re going out into the mountains.”Farrell sees a further connection between musicians and the environment: Both are endangered.”I say music isn’t far from global warming,” he said. “Not only are frogs disappearing, but so are musicians. As a concert promoter, my pool of musicians is growing smaller and smaller. Fewer musicians are being groomed and taught. And scientists look at amphibians and reefs being lost, disappearing.”••••
Satellite Party will begin its concert existence as a rock quintet, with drummer Kevin Figueiredo and bassist Carl Restivo joining Bettencourt and the Farrells onstage. But Farrell says this is merely the early stages, and he hints that the band and the greater conceptual context in which it exists are poised to grow.On “Ultra Payloaded,” which will be Farrell’s first post-Jane’s Addiction recording project, Satellite Party is joined by guest musicians Flea and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and singer Fergie of Black Eyed Peas, as well as a 30-piece orchestra and the ghost of Jim Morrison. (Morrison makes his presence with an unearthed vocal recording for the song, “Woman in the Window.”)”Satellite Party is a full-on orchestra, an orchestra that’s growing,” said Farrell. “We’re starting out with a rock band; we’re starting out simply. But on the album, the orchestra plays a major part.”The new sonic approach stems from changes in the way people listen to music and the technology that delivers it. Farrell wrote the songs for Satellite Party by starting with synthetic programming, resulting in music that he describes as denser, deeper and more danceable than Jane’s Addiction, hewing closer to house music.
“The modern sound played in clubs requires that density, that subsonic sound that rock doesn’t have,” he said. “What you have is this beautiful hybrid combining electronics with rock music. There’s a lot of singing, lots of chorus or choir. Jane’s was more a stripped-down, three-piece rock band.”The way we listen to music has changed, and sound systems have changed. So there needs to be a new way to make the music and a new way to put on concerts.”Farrell used his appearances as DJ Peretz – Peretz is his Hebrew name – to make the transition from hard rock to the brand of music he is playing in Satellite Party. Touring as DJ Peretz was “a great learning experience, like going to college,” he said.”When I got in the role of the DJ, I was a recording musician,” he continued. “I was never seeing where the music went once it left my hand.” Spinning music in clubs allowed him to see how different sounds, different beats per minute, affect a club crowd and are heard through a modern sound system.Satellite Party, though, is intended as something beyond BPMs, beyond sound, beyond music. There’s a world to be saved, and Farrell is intent on doing his part.
“There’s a need for change, and there is a massive change coming,” he said. “There’s so many things we need to stop and look at.”One of the ways we can do that, that musicians can be a part of the movement, is to put on great concerts and gather the masses.”For further coverage of X Games activities, go to http://www.aspentimes.com/x.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com