Thirty years ago, in 1991, pioneering alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction broke up at the peak of their fame — just one year after the release of their double-platinum album Ritual de lo Habitual, and mere months after the first-ever Lollapalooza tour, which Jane’s frontman Perry Farrell co-founded. Farrell went on to have commercial success with a new band, Porno for Pyros, whose single “Pets” topped the Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1993. But Farrell’s discography extends far beyond those two groups, which is why he decided to release the new 68-track boxed set The Glitz; The Glamour — a retrospective spanning his work with his pre-Jane’s ‘80s deathrock band Psi Com and mid-aughts collective Satellite Party (featuring his wife Etty Lau Farrell and Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt) through his two solo albums.
A sort of taking-stock project for Farrell, who incredibly turns 62 next month, the box also features a “Photographic Memoirs” hardback book. But Farrell, who’s been happily married to Etty for nearly 20 years and is the father of two musically inclined teen boys, tells Yahoo Entertainment that he doesn’t want to write a traditional tell-all memoir, for fear of what his children might learn about his dark, often drug-addled past. (In 1993, Rolling Stone actually voted Farrell the “Rock Star Most Likely to Die in the Next Year,” a shockingly unempathetic headline that would never fly today.)
“I’m a little reserved to tell you everything about my life,” muses Farrell when asked about the possibility of an autobiography, despite seeming like a totally open book during his chatty Yahoo interview. “Some of it’s downright embarrassing, and I’ve got kids now. And I’m not exactly ashamed, but I almost don’t want to set my children on a wrong course, because they’d think, ‘Well, you did it!’ They don’t need to know it all about me. They can go out and live their life. My son already ran away from home twice. He just got back, and you know, I was mad at him a little bit, but then I’m thinking to myself, ‘God, I ran away from home too.’ So I understand why he did it, but I just don’t need to encourage him by telling him some of the wild s*** I did. Because I’m honestly scared s***less. It’s scary out there, man. I don’t want my kid getting put into to the wrong situation, hanging around with the wrong people.”
Farrell, an irrepressibly positive person, isn’t the type to live with regret, even when it comes to his darkest moments. “My only regrets are that I partied so much. I could have partied less and got more work done, more songs done. And that’s my only regret, is that I wish I would have had more productivity when it comes to my art,” he reveals. (Obviously this is an ironic comment, considering that Farrell just released a sprawling 35-year, nine-disc anthology; it’s difficult to imagine any artist being more productive than that.) But, Farrell adds, “I sure had fun, and I sure had wild times! And so, I guess I don’t regret those moments. Uh-uh, not for a second.”
And that’s why Farrell feels conflicted as his sons, ages 16 and 18, now embark on their own artistic paths. He admits, “I’m the last guy in line to tell them that they can’t do something. I find that the most screwed-up people aren’t the guys that are experimenting; it’s the ones that are told by their parents that they can’t experiment and are held back from experiencing life. Those are the kids that usually end up the most screwed-up. … And I do want [my son] to go out there and experience a wild life, because he’s a musician, and with musicians, I think that there’s different boundaries. Musicians have to have the right to experience wild things like absinthe or LSD or mushrooms. I think that for a musician, it is more permissible to experience those kinds of mind-expansive things. The best songs are written about the wild times. … I mean, think what the art world would be without absinthe. Salvador Dali — what would his paintings look like? What would music sound like if the Grateful Dead hadn’t dropped acid?”
We may never get that juicy Perry Farrell autobiography, but Farrell, despite having just dropped The Glitz; The Glamour, seems happy to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past. “I feel like I’m doing better than ever, and my life really is in every aspect of my life is better than it was ever,” he says with a huge grin. And one thing he’s definitely never regretted is disbanding Jane’s Addiction in ‘91, the year when alternative rock exploded into mainstream and Jane’s were poised to be as massive as Nirvana. “You get into all these petty, petty fights with your group when you’re growing up and you’re immature. But fame gets thrown on you, and it’s almost impossible to handle properly,” he muses. Although Jane’s Addiction have intermittently reunited since 1997, Farrell insists, “I feel I left just at the right time. I was in it for the fun, for the excitement, for the art. I don’t like pop music, and everything that goes with pop. It bores me. It sucks. It’s sellout. It’s good if you want to make a lot of money, and that’s great if you make a lot of money, but more important to me is the kicks. And more important to me is freedom.”
Farrell continues: “I still have my lovely group Jane’s Addiction, and I still would love to make music with them live. I can do that a couple of times a year, can still get together with them and write a couple of tracks, but I don’t need to. I don’t need to go get in a studio and spend a half a million to a million dollars anymore. I don’t have to put up with their s***, arguing over who got how many shots in the video and what songs should be on [the album] and how much they should be given for publishing and how much money we’re making, and how ‘we better take that gig because we could be making so much money,’ but it’s a sellout gig and I don’t want to be playing with that [co-headlining] group because I think they suck and it’s beneath us.
“I want to just be free to write incredible music,” says the forward- and free-thinking Farrell, who teases that he is working on a secret traveling post-pandemic party that could be the new Lollapalooza (and will surely be full of glitz and glamour). “I don’t care if [Los Angeles alternative rock station] KROQ doesn’t like it; they can f***off. I love that about today!”
Watch Perry Farrell’s full, extended Yahoo Entertainment interview below, for his thoughts about his new boxed set, fatherhood, and the future.
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— Video produced by Jen Kucsak, edited by Jason Fitzpatrick