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Perry Farrell’s Words of Wisdom: ‘Play Clubs, Play Parties, Play a Hot Dog Stand’

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Perry Farrell arrives to the Elmer Valentine Award honoring Jane's Addiction at House of Blues Sunset Strip on September 19, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/WireImage)

It’s hard to miss Perry Farrell‘s blinding white teeth as the 56-year-old Jane’s Addiction singer, Lollapalooza founder, and pioneering ’90s Alternative Nation personality leans all the way in when he speaks. Those pristine chompers can’t possibly be real; they don’t go with the rest of his worn-in face, which is slightly sunken and matches his narrow, lanky figure.

Sitting kneecap-to-kneecap with me under a tree at Lollapalooza 2015, Farrell barely blinks his intense green eyes, which, despite witnessing 30 years’ worth of music industry indulgence, have an air of total zen.

Farrell, who also spent part of that time involved in neo-psych project Porno for Pyros, along with alt-electronic outfit Satellite Party, sat down with SPIN in Chicago’s Grant Park to impart a few words of wisdom including (but certainly not limited to) how to book a killer music festival, why you shouldn’t trust major labels, and how to just sit back and relax, man.

The Way to Put on a Good Party Is By Having Great Music. 
That’s what I started thinking about [when booking Lollapalooza]: music that I loved. If you have bad music, then you have a bad festival. “Bad” is if music is speaking of nothing interesting. The party must grow like an ecosystem. People who love music are great, too; they’re smart, they’re intelligentsia. [You need] great music, great people, and a great location. But the root of it is good music.

Lollapalooza Is a Way to Mentor New Artists.
I give them their first big stage. Now, this woman here [motions to stage where SZA is performing] goes on at 1 p.m. When I went on at 1 p.m. [as a young artist], I played at a hot dog stand, and there were maybe five people. I’m not kidding. She’s got probably 10,000 people in front of her. I have 150 acts here. I do this around the world, and I give them stages.

Always Remember to Relax.
Enjoy yourself. When I sing and perform, relaxing is half of what I’m doing. I go out there, and I know I’m about to deliver a note that’s going to blow their f—king mind. And what do you think I do? I say to myself, “Relax, make it easy.” I’m smiling. I sit there and light a joint. That’s how easy it is.

If You’re a Young Musician, Put Yourself Out There.
Play music. Go play clubs, go play parties, play a hot dog stand. If sounds like it would be fun and it will bring you around more people, then that’s a good place for you. If you want to make a career out of [music], then you have to be very crafty but stay honest and decent.

You Don’t Have to Step on Anybody’s Head.
Don’t be in such a hurry. If you slow down and you’re good company, then you’re fine. Life is great. You don’t have to rush. You don’t have to step on anybody’s head. Don’t worry about your position in life if you look around and see you’re in good company.

Stretch and Smoke Joints. 
I do yoga. I’m not so dogmatic or regimented that I can tell you the postures; I just stretch. I know what works for me. I know how to get my neck lose. I also smoke joints. That loosens my mind. Like right now: I’ve been talking to you and half the time relaxing.

Find a Good Manager. 
They can take you to an agent. They should be able to get you the technology necessary for distribution. They might be able to get you a label. You’re going to need to depend on their opinion. Always look at your surroundings and see where you are. If you’re in a good surrounding, then you’re in a good place.

The People You Surround Yourself With Should Have Respect for What You Do.
Major labels don’t respect the group. They don’t look at them on the level of art and say, “I respect you so much, I want to do this for you, I’m good at it.” They look at you as if you’re a slave, working for them. They’re your master, and if you don’t do a good job, and if you don’t bring in money right away, they throw you away. You can’t trust a major label. It’s tough out there.