The Main Attractions: Perry Farrell

WRITTEN BY
Lane Brown

For our May cover feature, six stars of this year's festivals give the skinny on ginormous outdoor shows to (sun-)baked crowds. SPIN.com was on hand for the historic cover shoot in Hollywood, and we filmed our own quick interviews with the cover subjects. Watch our on-site video interview with Satellite Party's Perry Farrell, and keep checking this space for interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Perry, AFI's Davey Havok, Rage Against the Machine/Nightwatchman guitarist Tom Morello, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Wu-Tang's RZA, and Spoon's Britt Daniel.

In its current incarnation, booked in Chicago through 2011, Lollapalooza is very different from what you started back in 1991 -- a traveling show with low ticket prices and no corporate sponsors. Why still call it Lollapalooza?
That's like me asking you, "Why are you still calling yourself Lane?" There's a heritage associated with the name Lollapalooza. It always was that original festival that toured the country and brought the European sensibility of festivals to the entire United States. We did it on wheels. Just because we're parked right now doesn't mean that this festival doesn't have wheels. You don't know how much gas is in that tank. I do.

What's your take on the current state of the American summer music festival?
It's in a transformative period right now. A few years ago, one company started buying all the concert promoters, and it wasn't very healthy for the industry. But things are hanging. Now that company is starting to lose its ass. For the short term, people decided that destination festivals were the solution. We looked for one location where we could have our party, rather than a lot of bad, sterile environments. But I'm a vagabond and a Gypsy. I like being on the road entertaining people. It's exciting when a foreigner comes to your town, because they bear gifts.

Does that mean you'd consider taking Lollapalooza back on the road?
Well, please don't discount that.

What's the best festival performance you've ever seen?
Henry Rollins [at Lollapalooza '91] sitting there in his crouch at high noon, first act of the day. He was just prowling around like a madman in a pair of shorts that looked like they were from high school gym class. Just sweating his ass off and dishing it out for the entire set.

You're playing Lollapalooza with your new band, Satellite Party, featuring Nuno Bettencourt, the guitarist from Extreme. What did you think of his old band before you met him?
I might have seen one of their videos back in the '80s, but I don't even remember the '80s. I didn't know who he was. My wife dug hair metal, but it wasn't really on my radar. But, man, can he play guitar.

How does the Satellite Party album, Ultra Payloaded, stand up to the rest of your discography? Is it as good as Ritual de lo Habitual or Nothing's Shocking?
I would rate it up there. My vision is that it will make the greatest impact of any work I've ever done. The whole concept of Satellite Party and Ultra Payloaded is that you can change the world all by yourself. You can be a do-it-yourself, world-altering multimedia hub. And we're not just telling that story with the music; we're actually doing it -- Lollapalooza is going green this year.

The concept for the Satellite Party album -- basically, a rave in space -- sounds like your concept for the Enit Festival in 1996 and 1997.
That was a really good one. I personally lost over a million dollars -- my whole life savings -- because I was in such a rush to just do it. I don't even think people remember it, but we had great intentions. We were shooting sounds into space to see if we could make contact.

What's the one drug to avoid taking at a summer festival?
Ecstasy. We've all done Ecstasy, but it's not a pharmaceutical drug. And as with any drug that they're making on the street, you don't know what they've cut it with. You never know what's going to happen when you get handed drugs. I'm a guy who's about moderation, harmony, and balance. I think people have the right to participate in ritual magic. There's an old Indian proverb that says, "It's not what you do that kills you; it's what you don't do." Meaning that if you drink too much, the next day you should take some vitamin B-12 and look to get some fresh air and maybe get into a pool of water.

Two years ago you told Spinthe music industry was "going to make a huge comeback" because it had finally done something about free downloading. What happened?
I'll tell you what happened -- they didn't do anything! The problem is, we have one of the few products in the world that can be obtained for nothing. So how do you now make a living and secure your intellectual property? Congress should be helping us, but they're not going to. Republicans don't really care if musicians suffer, because musicians have never traditionally supported Republicans. And Democrats have gone so far to the center that they're not much different. For a fee, I'm sure they would help us. We need to change the laws. We need to legitimize peer-to-peer sharing as a business model, because it's already a business. If [the P2P companies] are going to make money on us, we should have a chance to make some money along with them.

What would you say to the people doing the free downloading?
If you don't care what happens to music, keep downloading. Look at music and look at the polar caps -- they're melting at the same rate. If you hear garbage music on your radio station, you have only yourself to blame. If you don't support the arts, that's what you're going to get. You're going to get American Idol. It's fine if you want to hear that, but I don't. So I'm going to try to do something about it. We'll go out there and raise hell. Raise hell in a good way, I mean. We'll party. LANE BROWN

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