By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"When I started studying the Kabbalah, it was as an adult man reading something cold and saying, 'Fascinating. Unbelievable. I want another book.' Before, I could sit down with you on any drunken night and say, '[The Bible] is baloney, I can't believe you buy that, you actually follow that stuff?' With reading additional mysticism, you realize that the Torah's not really as simple as you thought. It's like, you have a little kid, and you can say to him, Do you want ba-ba? Or you can say, Are you hungry? Something really beautiful happens to my son when I speak to him as if he's got some sense to him. The Kabbalah is almost like the 'inside scoop.' It's not the baby talk. And it spoke to me. But it also gave me additional respect for the 'simple.'"
Still, Farrell openly flouts many laws of the Torah. This leaves the impression that, like other recent celebrity Kabbalah dabblers (Roseanne, Madonna, Tool, etc.), he's cherry-picking bits of wisdom that he's probably misunderstanding. On the other hand, Farrell studies with a legitimate Hasidic rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Langer of San Francisco, a flamboyant former hippie and rising star in the Chabad movement. Chabad encourages the dissemination of certain formerly forbidden Kabbalistic concepts and practices.
"From what I understand, this is the time to let people know," says Farrell. "You can look at the world as a body and say, Is the world really mature enough to receive the concepts of the Kabbalah? I think we're at that age now when we could maybe start to understand these things and use them. This is knowledge that comes at no cost. I only say, Go out, find reputable people that understand it, ask questions. Be very gentle with it. It's a nice structure for putting yourself in balance. And then you can look out to the world, and even help balance the world."
FARRELL'S SOLO RECORD AND THIS FALL'S Jubilee tour represent his attempts to put some of these ideas in motion. The word jubileeis derived from the Hebrew word yobel, "ram's horn," which is sounded at the beginning of each year. According to Leviticus, every 50 years is to be a "jubilee" year, in which slaves are freed, debts are forgiven, land reverts to its original owners. A yearlong celebration of freedom, renewal and redemption occurs. Conventional Jewish teaching holds that the practice of Jubilee applies only to Jews, and that it takes place only when the majority of Jews are gathered in Israel.
Farrell wants to take the biblical concept of Jubilee and extend it to encompass the entire world. He's worked for three and a half years on songs about it. He named his 3-year-old son Yobel. His activism for Third World debt relief is Jubilee-inspired. And now he's organizing the Jane's-headlined multiband Jubilee festival, which will partly benefit the American Anti-Slavery Group (www.iabolish.com), an organization that literally buys freedom for people enslaved in nations like the Sudan and Thailand. With luck, his Jubilee festival will tour the world next year, with a stop in Israel. Pretty ambitious for a drug addict . . .
"Sometimes you run out of options," Farrell says. "I'm letting you know the deep recesses of my mind now: I have absolutely no urges to be smoking crack or shooting up heroin. Where did they go? You get older. I can be 30, completely strung out and building Lollapalooza, but I can't be a 42-year-old, strung out and building Jubilee. So I made my choice. I said, Let's see something out there -- not in my room, not in my head, not in my 'future.' Let's see something tangible."
Farrell's recently released Song Yet To Be Sungis designed to be a soundtrack for the 12-month celebration that marks a Jubilee year. It's shimmering, energetic dance music, a spiritually loaded bacchanal given pop-song structures and lyrics couched in Kabbalistic concepts. The sound itself takes its inspiration from the electronic music Farrell has immersed himself in for the last four years. This makes sense: rave music, especially the trance and tribal genres, has always combined celebration and spirituality, the same one-two Farrell is now going for. (That the best raves usually occur in that most biblical of settings -- the desert -- probably didn't hurt, either.)
Although Song is a decidedly Roland MC-505/ProToolsbased album, there's plenty of live playing from a host of guest musicians, including Perkins, Navarro, dub scientist Mad Professor, War keyboardist Lonnie Jordan and the ubiquitous Jon Brion. Farrell's vocals are the best of his career, varying from devotional chants and reggae dancehall-style toasts to deeply melodic, honey-layered singing to a beautiful sigh-wail that sails high above the music. Song may be sonically closer to Björk's sunnier dance-floor moments and Madonna's William Orbitproduced work than to Jane's or Porno, but it's not without precedents in Farrell's work: The first Jane's recordings Farrell made with bassist Eric Avery used a drum machine, and Farrell always put an echo-filter on his voice, giving his vocals a manipulated, almost posthuman feel. And of course there were the electronica-tinged Jane's Addiction songs that made it onto Kettle Whistle, the odds-'n'-sods album released in '97 to coincide with the Jane's Relapse tour.