There are few experiences quite like engaging Perry Farrell in conversation regarding something he cares passionately about. The Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros/Satellite Party frontman has built a career out of reinvention, thinking outside the box, and never settling. The man is an enigmatic soul — gentle and intensely warm, while also artistically ambitious to an insane degree. And all of that bursts out when talking to him.
It certainly did recently when discussing his new Kind Heaven project over the phone. The L.A. icon delved deep into the high concept for the new solo record, his second and the follow-up to 2001's Song Yet to Be Sung. As he's keen to stress, though, Kind Heaven is a different beast altogether,
"I've been working on this project, Kind Heaven, for about five years," Farrell says. "I was writing it while I was performing with Jane's Addiction. It's a much bigger idea than just a solo record. I was trying to come up with a concept for an immersive theater piece. So with this, the music ties to a much bigger idea of performing live entertainment — kind of writing a musical. But not exactly a Broadway musical. This would be an immersive entertainment complex musical."
That "immersive theater" aspect will burst into glorious life next year, when Kind Heaven opens in Vegas, in the former Imperial Hotel across the street from Caesar's Palace. Yeah, this isn't your run-of-the-mill rocker's solo album.
"When you go into the theater, it's not going to solely be this music that you're gonna hear, but it tells the story of Kind Heaven, and it's the first installation for the first body of music for Kind Heaven," Farrell says, barely able to contain his excitement about the whole thing. "The music itself, what we're calling an album, we're going to put it out end of March/beginning of April. But we also decided to do two shows for the Bill Graham Festival of Lights."
There's a lot to look forward to, then. But it all begs the question — what is the story behind Kind Heaven? What's the concept? This is where it gets a little wild, so strap in.
"It's really about the subject of the upcoming Messianic era," Farrell says. "It tackles the subject of what would the Messiah be living through if he were living today. What would he have to go through? What would the environment be like? That's part of it. The other part of it is, the prophecy says that when the Messianic era arrives, that we go through all these things: the rise of the Antichrist, and Mystery Babylon. Back in those days, prophets didn't know what Mystery Babylon would be. Fast-forward to today and they wouldn't understand that we would have this amazing machine called the computer and the cellphone to spread the message. Probably, the Messiah would be hated by the Antichrist. The Antichrist would maybe want to kill him. I was weighing all these things, like the CIA and Secret Service — how they actually know your business. They spy on you with sophisticated machines and techniques. They're on your internet and your cellphone, listening to you and everything else. Would they do that to the Messiah?"
Let's take a breath. A lot of what Farrell says regarding Kind Heaven and its relationship to the coming Messianic era sounds very out there. It can be a little tough, not to grasp, but to take seriously as a genuine state of affairs, a prophecy or a prediction. That said, much of what he says can be taken as highly allegorical. Not least the idea that, in Farrell's mind, the Antichrist would likely be a powerful politician.
"Maybe that politician, instead of wanting the Messiah, he would want to kill the Messiah," Farrell says. "So that's what I wrote about , and that's what the scene will be like at Kind Heaven when you get there. You'll be immersed in an environment where there's all these things going on. There's Antichrist stuff happening on top of Messianic stuff happening. At the end of what is supposed to happen in the Messianic era, everyone comes to know God and Heaven comes down to Earth. God lives on Earth again. It's like, we re-enter the Garden of Eden, or the Garden of Eden descends down."
We told you — this isn't your average solo album, and Farrell isn't approaching it that way. This is theater but also temple. This is a concert but also a sermon. And key to the whole thing is the ultimately positive message flowing throughout.
"But to get there, you have to go through lots of drama," Farrell says. "There are people that will dispute it, people that don't want peace, people that don't know how to love properly. Inevitably those people perish. I really attribute the problems that we have right now to people who don't know how to make love. They're bad lovers. Bad lovers in the bedrooms, bad lovers for their brothers and sisters, and they don't feel it."
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Fair enough. Stormy Daniels said something very similar. To perform this music live, specifically for us on Nov. 30 at the Teragram Ballroom, Farrell has assembled a band, the Kind Heaven Orchestra, that is blessed with the talents of Jane's Addiction's Chris Chaney and Matt Rohde, plus Nick Maybury and Farrell's wife, Etty Lau Farrell. Add to that the fact that Tony Visconti produced the forthcoming album, and Farrell has been working with some stellar people of late.
"I live life and I look at life through the eyes of a musician and artist," he says. "To work with people I admire as artists and as people, that make what I do even greater, it's like being on a championship team. When you simply write only your own music and don't collaborate with people, after a while your song is going to sound the same. It doesn't matter who you are. You have a certain body resonance. We all resonate slightly differently. If I would only write my own music, by the fourth record you'd say that you've heard it before. I write and collaborate with people. Working with these guys frees me up to be more of a specialist. I like the idea of having the freedom to concentrate on a certain part of it."
Whatever he's doing, it's working and it has worked for decades now. Farrell is a Los Angeles treasure. An uncompromising artist, in the truest sense of the word. If he wants to write a concept album and produce an immersive theater production about the coming Messianic era, nobody should stand in his way. Because very few people are capable of tackling that subject and making it great, but Farrell is one of them.
Perry Farrell's Kind Heaven Orchestra perform with Dhani Harrison and Palms Station at 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, at the Teragram Ballroom.