One question — that’s all it took. One question presented to former Jane’s Addiction frontman and Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell about his satisfaction or, as it turns out, dissatisfaction, with the way last summer’s Kind Heaven album was received. After that, we may as well have put our notes away, because that was enough to get the charismatic and visionary artist off and running.
It didn’t matter one bit; this is a guy that knows how to talk about his own work with passion, fascinating insight and glorious depth (not everybody does). Back in November 2018, when we chatted to Farrell while he was deep in the creation of Kind Heaven, he was super enthusiastic about the high concept which tells of the coming of a messianic era.
“I’ve been working on this project, Kind Heaven, for about five years,” Farrell said then. “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.”
Fast-forward 15 months, and the record has been out for half a year. A Vegas production of Kind Heaven happened, and now Farrell is carefully considering his next move. If Lollapalooza proved anything during its glory years, it’s that Farrell is forward-thinking when getting music out to the people. The perfect combination of artist and story-telling businessman. Nothing has changed in that regard, but the methods. First though, he had to reconsider the recording industry.
“Diving back into the world of making records, every time I do I learn new things about the record company and none of it’s good,” Farrell says. “It really has to do with the state of the world, the state of the record industry, all those things. Kind Heaven is I guess you could say a concept album. The music itself, I couldn’t have been happier with. I thought we made lovely music together — Tony Visconti and my friends. But every time I put a record out, I’m disappointed in the record industry.”
Farrell admits that he suffered through a period of depression over it. Having come up with Jane’s Addiction in a time when people did buy records and listen to the radio, when record companies gave musicians room to grow, it was a period of readjustment. Those days are long gone, and bands of a certain vintage that don’t want to resign themselves to the nostalgia circuit need to have a rethink. Fortunately, there are few that are better equipped for that task than Farrell — a man staunchly opposed to clinging onto the past.
“Playing live is wonderful and amazing, but it’s tough work, and it’s even harder today to sell a ticket than ever before,” he says. “So I learned that lesson — I’m learning what the economy really is like because my clients are not just that 1 percent that have all that money. My clients are the middle class and the poor, to be honest with you. I can tell you what the economy is doing almost better than anybody in the world because the people that love music, they might love it but they might not necessarily have the money to buy tickets. So I’m living through all of this, scratching my head and getting depressed. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel, but ready to accept defeat as all musicians go through. I thought that this record just didn’t work! But that’s not the case.”
Farrell got talking to people in the industry that he trusted, including former Linkin Park manager Rob McDermott and also Ian Jenkinson, co-founder of the groundbreaking Tribal Gathering rave in the U.K. Both provided sage counsel.
“Rob said to me, ‘Perry, you could look at it like, you can’t depend on KROQ. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have the greatest time with this project’,” says Farrell. “Once he said, ‘We’re gonna think outside of the box,’ my mind immediately went out of the box. So now, we’re working on not concerts but pop-ups. We’ve never had better tools and platforms to spread our message as musicians. You just have to be clever and come up with new ways of marketing. Getting out there.”
When Perry Farrell’s mind gets working, amazing things will inevitably happen. He mixed Kind Heaven in 7.2 — movie theater quality. With the pop-up concept in mind, he wants to put concerts on in surround sound. What that will eventually bring remains to be seen, but it’s exciting. Farrell knows that he, and all musicians, are fighting for career survival right now. Evolve or wither.
“I’m watching nightclubs go away,” he says. “My boy is 17 years old and just this year, he went to his first few concerts. To his generation, going out to clubs is not as important as it was to my generation. So I bounce things off of him and his younger brother to see if it’s important to them. I’m finding my way. Sometimes it stings because I wanted my kids to love the way I love music. But it’s leading us to come up with, how do we entertain people and make things fresh? If you look at the business and you see that the business is starting to fizzle, that means you have to come up with something new. Don’t try to follow anybody.”
Discussions with his sons led to the idea of collaborations, hip-hop and EDM-style, with other artists. Starcrawler is performing on bills with Farrell, so they’re making a song together.
“These are the kinds of ideas we’re coming up with and it’s turning me on and giving me hope,” he says. “I wake up inspired because what have I got to lose? That’s how I’m looking at it, and the ideas are starting to come to fruition. Without negativity, it is what it is. You’re faced with a challenge, and you can either fail at the challenge or you can succeed. Right now, what I’m telling you is, we’re succeeding but it’s a challenge.”
Perry Farrell’s Kind Heaven Orchestra’s shows with Starcrawler at the Roxy have been postponed for obvious reasons. We’ll announce the new dates when we have them.