Perry Farrell has always been a visionary. When audiences first noticed him as lead singer for Jane’s Addiction, he was melding elements of Led Zeppelin and Joy Division into a musical vision that not only helped his very un-mainstream band find mainstream success, but also paved the way for the grunge and alternative-rock revolution that followed his band’s demise.
In 1991, Farrell decided to create a farewell tour to highlight his often misunderstood band—one that was seen as too metal for punk, and too punk for metal. He brought in other like-minded acts—many of whom have since become legendary in their own rights—and he called it Lollapalooza. It became one of the major music festivals of the 1990s.
Now, Farrell is at it again. Only this time, it’s a different sort of alternative nation he wants to lead.
“Music to me is a tribal thing that brings people together,” Farrell says in a phone interview with Xpress. “The beating of the drum is like a call, similar to like seeing a smoke signal in the air. The music scene [now] should be like that. I think that there is a lot more that can be done with music to bring people together, not only for social commentary, but for social change and awareness, and all of those things are tribal beliefs.”
Farrell’s new tribe, called Satellite Party, is working hard to bring his beliefs to the masses. Originally conceived by Farrell as a theater piece, and later turned into an album, he sees his new band as an excuse to shake off the doldrums of everyday life.
“I think that there is need in this world for celebration,” Farrell declares.
If “celebratory” is one word that can be used to describe Satellite Party, another is “fun.” The band’s debut, Ultra Payloaded (Columbia), is a dance-happy mix of Farrell’s current infatuation with electronic music and the riff-powered stomp of his Jane’s Addiction past.
“On this record I’ve included symphonies, strings, lots of electronic sounds and female vocals,” Farrell explains. “If there is one thing I’ve always wanted to include [in my music] it’s a female voice singing, because when our sisters sing with us, it’s wholesome. Wholesome in the musical sense—on this record everyone gets to sing along with it, because the girls and the guys are getting to sing together.”
If Farrell sounds like the product of a bygone era of free love and burnt-orange shag carpets, it’s because he is. Born in 1959, Farrell has a long history of injecting hippie optimism into the often dark and cynical world of rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s something that he still finds himself doing. To Farrell, rock ‘n’ roll is about possibility, freedom, and the life-changing power of music, not how big an artist’s house is, or if they can time their latest trip to rehab to coincide with their album release.
“The whole idea of pop and celebrity—those are selfish careers, those are selfish people with selfish ambitions,” says Farrell.
On the opposite pole, Farrell sees music lovers—and more specifically musicians—as a clan unto themselves.
“Musicians are their own breed, their own family,” Farrell claims. “Musicians aren’t white people or black people, et cetera; if you can play, you’re in the family.”
Along with his family, Farrell comes to Asheville to shake people up and remind them what a fun rock show can be.
“People work way too many hours, and it affects everyone mentally and physically,” explains Farrell. “I think that the world has gotten so corporatized that people almost feel too embarrassed to let themselves go, or to feel loose, to take their shoes off, to be sloppy, and to be careless. Those things are important, just as important [as] to show up on time and to do all of that work for their boss. We have to make people feel free, happy, and loose. That’s my main objective in Satellite Party.”
Judging by the sounds on Ultra Payloaded and reviews the band has received from its current tour, Satellite Party is clearly meeting its objective. But the question remains, how do they go about this?
“The premise is that we get ourselves up in great moods, we play some high-energy music, the water starts to fly, the girls start to get loose, and the place gets heated up,” Farrell says.
And that might be just what Asheville needs after a long, brutally hot summer.
[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]
Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party plays The Orange Peel on Monday, Sept. 10. 9 p.m. Mink opens. $20. www.TheOrangePeel.net or 225-5851.