Perry Farrell

You’d be forgiven for thinking Art Basel is all about hipsters and collectors from all over the world strolling around spewing profoundly convoluted observations on thousands of artworks. But while there’s certainly a lot of that going on, there are also many other cool events that might surprise you. One such event goes down Thursday, Dec. 2 at the fabulous Bardot in Midtown Miami (3456 N. Miami Ave.),  where Lollapalooza founder and Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell will present Precision Guided Musicians, a project and show that “transcends the barriers between art, technology and music.” One lucky artist will receive an art grant worth $7,000, have his/her works displayed at future PGM events, and receive a gallery series in Los Angeles and New York set up by Lola Ink Media.
Plus, Farrell will DJ and perform new songs with his wife Etty (they call themselves PerryEtty), with DJ Chris Cox providing additional beats. Farrell talked to about the event (doors open at 6:30 p.m., with music showtime at 11:30).
What’s the concept behind Precision Guided Musicians?
As you know, I created this festival, Lollapalooza, that is now 20 years in the making, and this year, we’re doing many things, and one of the things is that we are expanding internationally. The other thing we’re doing is spinning off a new event called Precision Guided Musicians, a sendoff on the term “precision guided munitions,” basically smart bombs. You’ve got munitions for war, and for peace you’ve got music. So we wanna be the peaceful aspect, or when-the-war-is-over aspect of life. What does one do but celebrate, and what do you celebrate with? Music.
So conceptually, that’s where it begins, but it goes much deeper, because the musicians themselves deal with precise instruments, like synthesizers and drum machines and computer programs, and that’s kind of where we see music today – whether it’s Radiohead or Black Eyed Peas or Britney Spears, everybody wants to get in on the dance. That’s where our head is at, the sound that we’re going for. It’s very contemporary, and we think it’s genius.
What can we expect from your performance?
My performance is going to be DJing, and then I will come out from behind the decks and perform a few live songs with Etty.
Will the songs be new or old music?
New music. We have just signed with Ultra Records, Etty and myself, and we’ve worked with David Guetta‘s producer, and I’m writing a song right now with Wolfgang Gartner, a really fun song that’s got some Beethoven in it. But it’s all-new electronic music with vocals. I gotta tell you on the side, this song with Wolfgang Gartner – basically he’s taken Beethoven and glitched him out and rewritten a Beethoven composition. When a song has a certain age to it, you can do whatever you want with the song. It’s kind of funny that I’m singing to a reconstruction of Beethoven, and I’m completely free to do so – that kind of speaks about the day and age that we live in today. It’s exciting that we can update Beethoven, but still make use of him.
How does visual arts come to play in this event?
We want to give an art grant to an artist who can bring the concept of Precision Guided Music to life, and so we thought it would be a wonderful experience to go to Art Basel and meet the people there, and I’m told Bardot is the perfect space.
Are you involved in the decision of who gets the grant?
Yes, I’m gonna be on a small committee – we’re small but mighty.
What inspired you to go from a hard-rock band like Jane’s Addiction to electronic music?
When I was a little boy, I had a big brother and a big sister. My big brother loved rock-‘n’-roll. My big sister loved funk. So even as a small boy I was playing records. That was part of what we did on weekends – my brother and my sister had friends come over and we would play records on our porch in New York in Queens, and everybody would kind of hang out and dance. And as I grew up, I had a record player and I’d have girls come over to my house and I would DJ. So even though I ended up in a rock group and that was the first thing anybody ever knew about me, I never lost my love of playing records and listening to different types of music. Funk and James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone were as big an influence on me as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and The Beatles, you know? In 1990, Jane’s Addiction went to the U.K. for the first time, and I got turned on to The Orb. Man, it just blew my mind. That sound – I always loved disco, I really did – but when I heard The Orb, I really went on a journey to find how they made those sounds. Because at that time, to make Jane’s Addiction’s sound unique, I was listening to a dub-reggae record label with King Tubby and Mad Professor, and my idea of bringing that dub sound to rock-‘n’-roll was really what Jane’s Addiction was built upon, with the delays that I used and the bass-heavy sound. It was all trying to sound like that. Now, years later, I’m still looking for what would make a sound a fresh sound, and I started looking in 1991 into electronic and dance music, and they had that new sound, all those things going on, and I just loved it and wanted to know how they did it.
I understand you’re working on a new studio album with Jane’s Addiction. Are you bringing any of this new inspiration to the new material with them?
Yeah, we finally are. Let me tell you – it was not easy, man. Like I say, it’s not easy for a rock band to catch up and to make use of this – you have to be very open-minded and willing to say, “OK, you know what? I’m gonna discard some of what I’ve learned and what my habits are.” But we are doing that. We’re using lots of different tools and lots of different methods. The writing method is much closer to the way that I write with house producers. There are ways we can modernize what you would call rock music, but I don’t want to necessarily call it anything right now – I just want to enjoy the process of doing it and focus on making songs amazing. And they’re really coming out, I guess the best word I can say is, contemporary. It’s very hard to re-create the wheel when it comes to rock music, you know?


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