Perry Farrell ended this interview with a simple statement: "Long live rock 'n' roll."
He means it, too. As if you had any doubt.
"What is great about bands?" the Jane's Addiction singer mused by phone during a recent day off tour in Houston. "With a band, you don't simply get that quickie, 30-second blurb-chorus-message that you do in pop. You get a guitar player that plays a solo that is as important as the voice, and a drummer who's going to set a beat that you've never heard before, a groove you've never heard before, and a fill you're going to remember all your life. And the same thing with a bass player. He's going to drive you. You can get away from that 30-second pop-chorus for a moment, and get into something that I feel is even higher."
Such has been Jane's Addiction's mission for the past quarter-century. Though they've produced some memorably mighty singles — Been Caught Stealing, Jane Says, Mountain Song — the group has released just four studio albums since 1988, including last fall's The Great Escape Artist. However, their highly theatrical live shows — not to mention Farrell's role as the founder of the Lollapalooza music festival, which has evolved from a touring sideshow to one of the biggest annual music events in the world — were what made Jane's Addiction icons of the alternative rock movement.
On Saturday, a mostly classic Jane's Addiction lineup — Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, along with bassist Chris Chaney — will bring their Theatre of the Escapists Tour to a nearly sold-out Ruth Eckerd Hall. Here are excerpts from our recent chat with Farrell.
Jane's Addiction is eligible for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame this year. What are the odds you'll get in?
Let's not talk odds. Let's talk, do we deserve to be in there? I would say that we deserve to be in there.
We're one of the great rock groups. Period. I think that we have had a great influence on music as it has evolved over the last 25 years — certainly on a musical level, a performance level, but also from the level of promotion and the parties that I've put together, (like) Lollapalooza. If you look at the music industry today, I would say festivals are the healthiest aspect. That and iTunes.
It's interesting to hear you say that, because I think the easy answer for any musician is, "Eh, it doesn't matter. I don't care." Yet you take the opposite approach.
Well, listen: If it doesn't happen, I'm not going to cry, just like I'm not going to cry when I don't get nominated for the Grammys, and I don't cry when I don't have a No. 1 song on Billboard. Those kinds of things, they're appearances. Sometimes you can't help appearances. There's somebody that's marketing harder than you, and they have a mentor that has more connections than you. Some of those things, they're kind of out of your control. But what I can control is the quality of the music that we've put out, and our shows, and Lollapalooza and the other parties that we put together. And in that, I'm certain that we deserve to stand next to the other greats.
Do you think Dave Navarro should have been inducted with the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Well, they didn't invite him. And I don't think that was cool, at all. ... I mean, why wasn't he? I don't know, man.
Jane's Addiction has gone through a lot of offstage chaos over the years — breakups, reunions, long stretches of time with no tours, no new music. Has that lack of consistency influenced your music?
If there's any reason for not inducting Jane's, it would be the lack of consistency — as if consistency has something to do with the recorded music. It doesn't. ... Can I say something about consistency, though? It is overrated. Today, with these short attention spans, you can't take four years off to write another record. People will forget about you. I think you can't take any longer than two years. A lot of the groups that are making it today are making it on consistency, not on greatness of music. What I hear, I'm not necessarily impressed with. But I can't deny that they are staying consistent and continually giving us music and staying out on tour. And that has almost replaced the greatness of art.
Do you still feel as personal a connection these days to the Lollapalooza brand?
Well, yes. Listen, I was very instrumental in getting Lollapalooza down to South America, and I'm still very, very involved in it in Chicago. What I love most when I think about Lollapalooza and my connection to it is the fact that I'm able to bring 150 groups to a place and give them this audience of 60,000-plus. It's as far as the eye can see with people, and (for) the young groups, that's really where it's at. I'm providing a stage for a generation of musicians to break, and for many of them, it's the show of a lifetime. I remember getting a phone call from deadmau5 after he performed, saying it was the best show he'd ever done. Those are the moments that make me feel really proud.
Do you see any newer acts who are filling the role that Jane's Addiction established — that pure, loud, spiritual, primal, alternative rock 'n' roll?
The two groups that I like that are coming up — MGMT is one. I think Andrew (VanWyngarden) is a really great guy. And I think Alex (Turner) from the Arctic Monkeys is a really great guy. Now, as far as the wildness and stuff of Jane's Addiction? They're different personalities. They have different things that they bring to the table. So to each his own. We wouldn't want everybody to be the same anyway.