Exclusive Interview with Perry Farrell About Lollapalooza ’08
The loveably spacey Lollapalooza founder and onetime Jane's Addiction frontman chats about keeping the "alternative nation" alive.
Lollapalooza, taking place Aug. 1-3 in Chicago’s Grant Park, has made a spectacular re-emergence over the last few years. By positing itself as a singular event and working in conjunction with the city of Chicago, it’s engendered a sense of stability and community that’s hard for other hodge-podge rivals to compete with.
Not that founder Perry Farrell views things in terms of competitiveness. For the ever-evolving ex-Jane’s Addiction vocalist, solo artist, DJ, and enviromentalist, events like Lollapalooza should be about community, common ground and the fostering of new and unexpected artistic partnerships.
And with a 120-band roster ranging from first-generation headliners Nine Inch Nails to current hip-hop king Kanye West, all the way down the line to DJ du jour Girl Talk and boundary-busters Battles — not to mention a few-thousand capacity dance club on the premises — Farrell has righteous cause to feel optimistic about such cross-pollination.
Farrell was kind enough to take a few moments away from plotting festival culture’s most revered post-Woodstock forefather to enlighten us about this year’s event.
Is the goal to compile a roster that’s less about following trends than putting together artists that will still be relevant in 10 years?
Perry Farrell:“We always had a way of not following but more leading. Not to boast about it. [Lollapalooza] is a lot less about pop culture and more about the alternative nation. That’s where we began and that’s where we stayed and remained. It ends up in the long run to serve you better because pop stuff goes stale very fast… We’re kind of sharing information and sharing an experience rather than sitting back and waiting for the pop artists.”
And that can often translate to much more passive experience for the audience when the show actually commences.
Farrell:“I look at musicians as extremely rare, I look at them as extremely important. And there’s no better place for a musician than to be placed into a celebratory situation, a place where we all want to take a vacation, where we want to go out and experience relaxation and getting away from work and there’s no better place and possibility to put a musician… With the people that we select, these are artists that are telling their story and these are real musicians that play… This is where the whole meaning of their life comes.”
Is it strange to see bands from the original generations of the festival, like Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails, still remaining relevant enough to play it today, or was that always part of the plan?
Farrell:I always felt in my heart that there was a certain generation that was just before the Lollapalooza generation that didn’t really accredit the musicians that came up after them. They didn’t think the alternative groups were as great as the classic rock groups… And we all went through a bit of a head trip wondering why we weren’t getting recognition… We had faith in them then and we knew of their talent then. It’s just that they weren’t given the credibility.”
There hasn’t always been a cross-genre acceptance at rock festivals, and just lately are you starting to see Jay-Z play Glastonbury and Clipse play Pitchfork Festival, etc., but from the beginning Lollapalooza from had a certain duplicity.
Farrell:“Ice-T you can use it as a classic example. He and Nine Inch Nails, those are the extreme genres that we still have today. You know, [there’s] electronic music, and then there’s rock music, and then there’s hip-hop… For the alternative nation those are the three prongs of sound they have in their iPod…We didn’t have iTunes or Beat Port to download immediately so you had just simply be open-minded… It was a concerted effort to open your mind to different music and bring it in.”
I would imagine, given your own varied musical explorations, that artists like Girl Talk, Brazilian Girls or Battles might be acts you’re really interested to watch.
Farrell:“I love listening to hybrids. I love people that do it all. I’ll never not love rock music… But I love working with electronics and I love the idea of the community of musicians and producers working together. The most exciting suggestion you could suggest to be would be to say, ‘Let’s collaborate.’… If we can all combine I think we’re going to have some amazing songs the world never even expected, because cavemen — when they were banging on rocks with bones — they never would’ve expected that some guy would come up with a computer that could make a sound that could throw a bass frequency across a desert floor or a park in Chicago that could stoke 70,000 people.”
So if you had to pick one thing, what can audiences expect to fully blow them away at this year’s Lollapalooza?
Farrell:“Well,my gosh, there’s one thing I have in my head but I’m not gonna even say it because if it doesn’t rise to the occasion then people are going to say, ‘That was it?’… But let me just calm down just a little bit and try to remember that we have Kanye West and Nine Inch Nails and they’re going to be pairing off basically on one night. These guys are very driven to put together an amazing production… And they know they’re going to be working together on the same day and I think that they’re both looking to put together a show that will make people have an unforgettable memory of either group… But I just feel that all these groups are going to seize the moment and it’s going to be a pretty powerful summer.”