Perry Farrell is a creative genius. As the lead singer of Jane’s Addiction, he helped to create a new genre of music that is now called alternative rock. At the time of the band’s arrival on the scene in 1985, up until their breakout in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there were only a small handful of bands similar to them. Alongside Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins and Eric Avery, Jane’s Addiction was instrumental in carving out a new niche.
Jane’s Addiction, with their own unique sound, were right there next to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nine Inch Nails, along with bands like the Violent Femmes and Soundgarden, who paved the way for a revolution in popular music. At the time these alternative undercurrents were brewing, the mainstream was enamored with ‘80s glam metal, and bands like Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Whitesnake, Poison, Bon Jovi and Hanoi Rocks, among many others.
The “popular underground” music at that time was still heavily influenced by bands like the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash and Billy Idol – the quintessential punk scene. So there were two relative opposite ends of the spectrum. Young people trying to identify with a music scene were faced with a choice between what later became known as ‘80s “hair metal,” or underground punk music – known more for its hardcore attitudes, than for its musicianship.
It was within that setting that Perry Farrell and Jane’s Addiction took a third route, and in so doing, not only popularized an “alternative” type of music, but also played a role in laying the groundwork for the music revolution of the early ‘90s. It didn’t take long for bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana to pick up the momentum and never look back.
Jane’s Addiction decided to play their last tour, at the time, in 1991. For the last hoorah, Perry along with the likes of music executive Marc Geiger, conceived of a different kind of tour where each date would be a festival, rather than a typical concert. The farewell tour in ’91 included Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Rollins Band, Violent Femmes, Ice T, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Fishbone, Butthole Surfers and others. It was called Lollapalooza.
After the success of the 1991 Jane’s Addiction farewell tour, Perry decided to continue the innovative touring festival in 1992, even after the breakup of Jane’s Addiction. That didn’t slow him down one bit – in fact, years later, it would end up propelling him into the ranks of one of the greatest concert promoters of a generation. Perry also formed a new band, called Porno for Pyros, to play the festival.
In 1992 – the first time that Lollapalooza was an independent touring festival, rather than a going away tour for Jane’s Addiction – headlining bands included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. With the addition of a side stage, many more bands – many of them up and coming – would now be included. That year, the side stage included the likes of Porno for Pyros, Cypress Hill, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine and Ice T, along with many others.
Over the next several years until 1997, and again in 2003, Lollapalooza would become the biggest festival for alternative music. Not only did it provide a central location for the alternative scene to coalesce, it helped to launch some of who were at the time, relatively unknown bands. The festival picked up again in 2005, and hasn’t stopped since – opting to stay put in Grant Park, Chicago, rather than touring the country.
Over the past few years, Perry Farrell has led the way in expanding the Lollapalooza festival to locations in Chile, Brazil and Argentina, with more locations planned. There is at this point, no doubt as to the impact that the festival has had on a generation of bands and popular music. From Nine Inch Nails and Pearl Jam, to Green Day, Kings of Leon and Lady Gaga, Lollapalooza has played an instrumental role in helping to shape the music scene of the last 20 years.
Maestro Dobel Tequila
It’s safe to say that Perry Farrell has found creative ways to keep himself relevant, in one way or another, over his long career. That fact is as true today as ever before. Having been recently inducted into the Hollywood Walk of
Fame with his band Jane’s Addiction in October 2013, Perry is as active as ever in his creative endeavors.
Teaming up with Maestro Dobel Tequila – or just Dobel – is the latest unique project for Perry. In fact, the tequila itself is very unique, consisting of a blend of aged reposado, anejo and extra anejo tequila. It is diamond filtered and clear in color. It looks more like a blanco, though it is indeed a blend of aged tequila.
According to Perry, “When I did my research before partnering up, I found that Dobel has a really interesting and unique way of making tequila. They take reposado, anejo and extra anejo, and mix them together. Nobody else does that. Typically tequila gets more flavorful when it’s aged, and in the case of Dobel, it has this nice vanilla finish to it.”
In the following exclusive interview, Perry explains his involvement with Dobel tequila and how he works with the brand, as well as getting in depth about his experiences with Lollapalooza, Jane’s Addiction, his latest endeavors and some about his personal life.
Here is the full interview, starting with a discussion on Maestro Dobel Tequila:
Jon Shakill: How did you get involved with Dobel tequila, and what inspired you to join up with the brand?
Perry Farrell: It kind of fell into my lap. We were doing a show in New York City at Irving Plaza, and it was just a super-heated show. It was Jane’s Addiction’s first time back there since we played an amazing show there in 1997. The last time we played there we literally tore down the house – we were tearing the MTV cameras down, and people were riding on the cameras – it was crazy. So when we returned to Irving Plaza more recently, the show sold-out in a minute. My buddy Al, who looks for sponsorships on my behalf, had brought the folks from Dobel down to the show. They watched the madness and wanted to get involved.
So after that show, Al asked me if I would be interested in partnering with a tequila company. I had just started getting into tequila in the last few years, because I was getting bored of wine and vodka, and I was looking for something more exciting for my palate. I think in the past, most people thought about shooting tequila, but in this case with Dobel and premium tequila, I was drinking it on the rocks and sipping it. It has a really nice flavor. And that’s the defining reason of why I decided to work with Dobel – the flavor is delicious.
Jon Shakill: Do you prefer to drink Dobel straight, or mix it into cocktails?
Perry Farrell: People think of interesting things to do – they might do cucumber or lime – but to be honest with you, I just like it on the rocks because the flavor is almost perfect that way.
Sometimes, especially when I’m on the road, I’ll make fresh vegetable juice. I like to throw a shot in there, and drink that in the late afternoon before the show. It’s a drink you’re probably not going to get at a bar, but at home you sure could. If you put a shot of tequila in the vegetable juice, it’s delicious.
Jon Shakill: You mentioned that you like to have a drink before you play a show – is there another time or place that you really like to sit down and enjoy a nice tequila?
Perry Farrell: I mean listen, life is great. Life is great straight. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of times where I’m 100 percent sober. When I’m on the mountain snowboarding I don’t like to drink, I like to experience nature that way. Same thing when I’m surfing. But after a surf or after a snowboard, if I go out, I like to get a drink. It mellows me, but in the case of tequila – it has a little bit of an excitement to it and also stimulates the senses.
So like I mentioned, I like to mix myself a little drink before I play a show, and it’s usually Dobel on the rocks. Or if it’s in the winter, I like to put it in tea sometimes, because it’s good for my voice. When I’m on stage, I’ll have a bottle nearby and occasionally pour some sips, and I kind of feel a little bit like a shaman.
Jon Shakill: Do you think it helps give you artistic inspiration when you are writing or recording music?
Perry Farrell: Sure, I mean that’s one of the benefits of alcohol. Everybody talks about what’s wrong with alcohol, and are probably a little shy to discuss what’s great about it – you can dance better, you can sing better, or at least you think you can [laughs] – you’re happier and wilder.
Jon Shakill: Let’s move on to talk about Lollapalooza now. How do you integrate Dobel tequila with Lollapalooza?
Perry Farrell: Well Dobel is one of the sponsors, which is really nice. My guys get to expose themselves to 300,000 people on the grounds over the weekend. Last year they rented a bus, and they wrapped the bus with my big head on the side of it. It was kind of hilarious. They’re a lot of really important people in Chicago, and everyone wants to feel like they are really important to the city of Chicago. But I think I aced them, having my face on the side of a double-decker bus driving around for the weekend! [laughs]
Something else really wonderful that Dobel does is my official after-party. It’s down at the Aragon in Chicago, which is the premiere place to play. The venue goes back to Capone’s era. We get the best up and coming musical act, and dress up the Aragon ballroom into a great theatre, and it’s really a great party. It’s pretty much the highlight of the weekend, and Dobel is the sponsor.
Jon Shakill: You mentioned getting some up and coming musical acts to play. Who are some of the biggest bands that you think really got their start, or launched their career, by playing Lollapalooza?
Perry Farrell: Off the top of my head, I can mention Lady Gaga. Her story with us is somewhat famous. In 2007 she started on the BMI stage at Lollapalooza at 2 p.m. – she had brown hair and was wearing a bikini. I remember her very well because she had probably four racks of clothes, and they set it up kind of in front of my trailer. I mean, I don’t have four racks of clothes at Lollapalooza. I was doing a photo shoot with my wife, and we had collectively one rack. So anyway, I looked at her and she gave me this kind of funny smile. She came back in 2010 to do her victory lap which was great.
Going further back – I mean listen, talking about that 2 o’clock slot, going back to 1992, it has been huge for bands. In 1994 Green Day played. There is a famous and incredible record executive named Mo Austin, who has since retired, he was the president of Warner Bros. Records. It was his pet project and he came to me and asked me to put Green Day on. I kind of resisted at first because I didn’t want this record label president pushing me around – I didn’t feel so good about it, but I love Mo. I turned around in the end and gave them a slot. I still have pictures of Green Day playing in front of probably 25 people in the afternoon.
Another band I could talk about, off the top of my head, is Kings of Leon in 2003. I brought them along on the second half of the tour. They were these very quiet kids. They always liked coming to my dressing room and hanging out, because I always ended up pouring out liquor and wine, and every Friday I would have a deli tray brought in. I had a buddy who was able to get these really special unpasteurized cheeses that were really delicious. So every Friday we would have a big party in my dressing room, and Kings of Leon would come to hangout. They have since gone on to greatness.
Jon Shakill: Outside of being a musician and a rockstar, do you consider yourself to be one of the great concert promoters? Is it something that you take pride in?
Perry Farrell: Yes I do. I do pride myself very much on what I’m able to create to entertain people. I get people to come out, and get out of their houses and stop looking at a computer. It’s about the rights of passage, and the ancient art of pursuing girls and finding out who you are, and meeting your generation, and being able to make the scene for a generation.
What’s wonderful about who I am – not to boast – but I actually get to create the music that people listen to while they’re at the event. I love the idea that I write songs, but that I also create an environment where people get to come and hear the music. People come to that environment and hear the music, and they transform – they grow, they learn, they experience and they have great lifetime memories.
Jon Shakill: Would you consider doing other tours and festivals as a promoter, outside of Lollapalooza?
Perry Farrell: Yes, I have designs that are going forward, which will probably launch in 2015. I have two new ideas, one is an immersive theatre musical, which is going to be state-of-the art and no one has ever experienced it before – it’s going to be in Vegas.
The other one is going to be in Chicago. It’s going to be another experience that no one has ever had before. It’s going to be in the dead of winter, in Chicago. So I have a lot of exciting new things planned, and it’s keeping my spirits high and I’m jazzed to just live and start the day and work on it.
Jon Shakill: What is your job with the festival today, are you still very hands-on or do you let other people run with it?
Perry Farrell: Well the way it works is, I do all the booking and I was very instrumental in getting us out internationally and to expand all over South America. We also have plans to extend globally. So I do much more of the large strokes. The new website that’s going up, I worked with an artist to re-design everything. Other big strokes – I look to find pockets to entertain people within the grounds of Lollapalooza, and setting up interesting things for people to do while there.
Believe it or not, we’re working on putting together a cigar bar somewhere on the grounds of Lollapalooza, which I’m excited about. So things like that – I have a lot of help and there are a lot of great people working on it, and they do a great job. We’re going on our 10th year, so they kind of know what they’re doing by now. That’s where I’m at with it – I love it.
I love to attend also. Especially these days, I’m really excited to go down to South America and meet my new partners down there in new territories. We’re going to Argentina this year, which is another new location. In the first year, we’re already close to 100,000 tickets sold in Argentina, it’s unheard of.
Jon Shakill: You mentioned having a cigar bar at Lollapalooza, can you expand on that?
Perry Farrell: Well what I have to do, is do it through sponsorship or through a billionaire who loves cigars. I know a couple of billionaires, but I don’t at this point know cigar sponsors. But I’ll talk with the guys from Dobel because it’s going to have liquor there, within the cigar bar. This is an idea that we’ve been discussing of having in the backstage compound – a place for the artists to go back there and have a cigar, along with the agents and managers and our friends.
Jon Shakill: That sounds like a great idea. So how did you get into cigars?
Perry Farrell: Actually Sean Parker [billionaire founder of Napster and first president of Facebook] is the guy who introduced me to cigars. We were smoking some together in Hawaii and I hadn’t really smoked cigars before, but he had some of the best cigars in the world. He insisted that I smoke one with him, and it was great. Sean has become a good friend of mine.
Jon Shakill: Jane’s Addiction is given credit from different sources for creating a revolution in music, which served as a catalyst in the transition from mainstream ‘80s rock into an era of alternative music. Even for opening doors for bands like Nirvana. Is that something that you strongly believe yourself?
Perry Farrell: Well, I feel as though we are an excellent conduit – or that we stand in a crossroads of music history. We helped to create a path from classic rock to punk rock to alternative. I think that we were successful – successful enough at least, that others followed suit. Did we forge the path or cut the way? Well yeah, I think we kind of did. We kind of did – sure, why not.
You know what it was – Jane’s Addiction had an extremely wild side to it that looked very punk rock. But the difference was, and the reason that we shot up higher than a punk band, is this:
With punk bands, the rally cry was that you didn’t even need to know how to play your instrument – if you’re cool, and you’ve got an edge and an attitude like Sid Vicious, then you can make it. It was not about virtuosity and knowing how to read music, it was about the scene. That was what was wonderful about punk. However, it didn’t really make that much money.
Major labels were sticking with rock ‘n roll, but the music at the time was getting old and stale. It was turning into hair metal – what was once Led Zeppelin was now White Snake, or White Lion, you know what I mean? And it was goofy. People who were really into the scene knew that.
Great artists are very intelligent people and the arts scene – well you only need to listen to an art review to know that. Art is complex and there’s genius, or knowledge and smarts behind it. A lot of people didn’t want to get into the hair metal scene because they were smart – they were artists.
And so along came Jane’s Addiction. We actually play really, really well. We are actually amazing musicians, all of us. And so we were kind of like Cream, in that we rose up through the punk rock, which was power chords – that’s cool; vomit on somebody – that’s cool. You know we did all that, but we can really play and we can really write. We opened the door for kids who didn’t want to be hair metal, but punk rock was kind of passé too – so where were they going to go? And that’s where Jane’s Addiction comes in.
Jon Shakill: That makes perfect sense, and now Jane’s Addiction recently got inducted to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. How would you describe that experience, does it have a lot of meaning to you?
Perry Farrell: I was touched. We had walked those streets when we first started, getting launched by Triple-X Records – which was a little indie label owned by our managers at the time. We would go up on Hollywood Boulevard a lot and just hang out at the office. There were lots of little clubs back in those days where we could find ourselves on a weekend.
So it was touching to revisit and see the Boulevard again. You often hear people say “well I’m a different person now.” Well you’re the same person, but time makes you forget some things. And when you forget things, and then go back and experience them again, it can be a little bit overwhelming. There I was now with a family up there, and I mean gosh you know, people were rewarding us for our good work.
It was a little bit of a rush and it brought me back to those days. I spoke about it in my acceptance speech. I was kind of wishing that I saw all the old cats that used to prowl around – I saw some, which was really great. Some cats from Fishbone were there, and of course John Doe from X was there. But I’m talking about the kids that I used to hang out with – the ones that I used to go to the gigs with and watch bands.
I had some old friends that go back 30 years who are musicians that showed up, who were roommates of mine when we were all trying to come up and get signed when we first started. It was good times, because there I was with a beautiful family and a happy wife and children – I did feel good about myself.
Jon Shakill: Who is Perry Farrell when you’re not on stage or in the public eye? What do you do in your personal time, and what are some of your hobbies outside of music?
Perry Farrell: The things I can tell you about are beautiful and involve nature, and wide open spaces. I love to go experience the outdoors. In fact my house is in Santa Monica Canyon, and I’ve got a great 360 degree view of the entire canyon. When I look out at it, I get inspired by the awesomeness of nature.
Everywhere I go, I bring my family with me – I’m a family man. I love to turn my whole family on to Hawaii, the ocean, and surfing and the waves. And in the winter times I love to go to the mountains, and I love to bring them with me and we all ski together – I snowboard, but the rest of them ski. I have one son who is kind of a hellion and knocks himself out hitting his head on the mountain, but he always springs back up.
As you know, we’re a musical family, but we’re also a dancing family. My wife is an accomplished professional dancer, and we’ve worked together since 1997. I turned her on to singing, and she and I now have projects together. That Vegas project I was telling you about is called “Kind Heaven,” and we created an original score for it. This is not really “spare time” but I like to create and make scenes – like Lollapalooza was and is. So I always enjoy creating things, which I don’t call spare time.
I have a clothing line coming forward. I’m talking with these incredible fabric companies, and when I say fabric these are Patagonia type fabrics. So I’m interested in fashion very much, but I’m even more interested in designing clothing that you can wear that is somewhat sporty, that you can wear to dance, or wear to a festival. So the fabrics are important to me, because they can cool you off and allow you to have mobility. I’m also designing clothes for winter and they would keep you warm, but you would have mobility and style. So I have designs for clothing that we are going forward with.
And then also, the other thing that we’re working on that I’m really excited about is designing a candy line. This candy line would go into edibles. It will go great with a tequila and a cigar [laughs].
When you say in your “spare time” – I actually design spare time for people – that’s kind of what I do. I design spare times. When you’re in your spare time, when you’re enjoying music or when you’re enjoying the weekend – maybe you’ve gone on a vacation and you go to Lollapalooza in Sao Paulo. That’s what occupies my mind.
The other side of it, when I actually decide to take a break, boy you can’t find me – I escape and I’m unavailable. Those moments are planned. I love life and I love what I do so much, knowing that draws me away from disappearing. I want to be around, especially for the next few years here because of the things that we’re developing and building. I wake up just wanting to know how it’s going to turn out. Something is being designed and created, and it’s kind of like people are pregnant all around me – pregnant with ideas and businesses, so it’s really exciting – it’s a really exciting time for us.
Jon Shakill: You started to touch on it already – what inspires you and drives you?
Perry Farrell: Well I definitely have a very active mind. But I’ll tell you something about all men, that when you’re successful – if you are lucky enough and work hard enough to be successful, that success breeds creativity and wanting to do more. The success launches you to do something else.
I’ve often thought how Jane’s Addiction launched me into creating this thing called Lollapalooza. Now Lollapalooza is launching me into designing the Kind Heaven show in Vegas, and the other idea for a winter show in Chicago, which is called Winter Active.
Jon Shakill: That’s great – well for the last question, can you leave us with a memorable, crazy or fun story that stands out in your mind from your career?
Perry Farrell: Sean Parker put together this awesome backstage compound pop-up bar and restaurant at Lollapalooza one year. On the last day we got pretty tipsy [laughs]. I didn’t remember this until my wife reminded me, but I took off his shoe, I poured my drink in it, and I threw it across the room. Now we’re dear friends – I attended his wedding. But that was pretty awesome. It was before I really knew him though.
What’s great about Sean is that – he’s loaded right – but he loves life and it’s really fun to be around him. He really grabs life and is really happy, and likes to do things with his money. That’s what I like about him. But when he went to Lollapalooza, I was just trying to give him a hard time I guess.
Jon Shakill: That concludes the interview – thank you for your time and sharing your stories with us.
Perry Farrell: Sounds good Jon, it was nice talking to you.