Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction chats about new album, maintaining his voice and the band's reunion before Miami Beach show

Jane’s Addiction is one of those bands that just refuse to unplug the amps and call it a day – and we’re all the better for it. The L.A.-spawned psychedelic, art-rock meets metal band – fronted by the almost cartoonishly visionary lead singer Perry Farrell (who founded Lollapalooza) – kicked America’s ass with two albums in 1988 and ’90 that gave us howl-along anthems such as “Jane Says,” “Three Days,” “Stop!” and “Been Caught Stealing.” Since then the group has gone through a roller-coaster ride of changes and breakups, but now is back again with Farrell, original guitarist Dave Navarro and a sharp new album, “The Great Escape Artist.” Jane’s Addiction rocks the Fillmore Miami Beach on Friday, May 18. Farrell talked to about the show, the new album and how he takes care of his inimitable voice.
How’s the tour going so far?
The tour has been fantastic. We’re really having so much fun – it’s a new show, new production, new record, and it’s a beautifully theatrical show. And the music is dramatic. And I’ve just really been immersing myself into the show.
And the new album fits right in with Jane’s classic songs. How much of it are you playing at the shows?
We’re doing at least three or four new ones, and it’s been fantastic. You know, back in the day, even as little as 10 years ago, if a band that was well-known would try to put in any more than one or two new songs in a show, people might be a little upset. But today the internet has really changed people’s desire to hear the new music – it gets out there so quickly and spreads so fast that people gobble up music today. So much more music is digested by the world today that it’s been really remarkable to see the response, how literally delighted they are to hear the new material, and how well they know the material. And our record was pretty remarkable, because although it was Jane’s Addiction – and we’re a band that has been around for 25 years – it did come out with a very contemporary sound without losing our personality and our sense of who we were. So the songs fit in just perfectly to our set, and it’s invigorated me to perform. It’s been really a thrill, and I’ve been keeping myself in shape because I’m just looking forward to performing every day.
So you feel somewhat reborn creatively?
Absolutely, and the best part about it is, it’s an evolution, a step forward, but the plan is to continue to step forward. This show that we’re doing now is a departure from the old show, but we have another year of building upon this show. I won’t give you the details, but it’s so exciting, because we’re on to something.
What inspires the burlesque side of the band?
Well, I guess it’s the same thing that inspires every man and woman [laughs]. I mean, it’s the first request in the Torah – Thou shalt procreate. Nothing tops it – I’d say it’s No. 1 on the list of things to do. I’ve never outgrown that request – I’ve never outgrown that desire.  To be honest with you, though, I look at the stage and I look at recording music really no differently than a director or those who work in film. I like to present something that’s compelling – it could be violent, it could be sexual, it could be loving. But it has to be compelling. Violence, sex, voyeurism – these are just powerful tools that you use to initially bring in an audience, and initiate them into other things, other concepts. That is pretty much the entrance level for most human beings, that area of sex and shock and violence.
Your voice sounds as dynamic as it ever has, unlike other hard-rock vocalists like Robert Plant, who has kind of lost the upper range. How do you keep your voice fresh?
Well, I’m a very different character from Robert Plant, who is one of my all-time heroes. So I just want to start off by saying I’d never want to say anything derogatory about Robert Plant. However, historically, I believe what happened with Robert Plant is, back in those days I don’t know if he knew how to warm his voice up. I don’t know if Robert Plant used drugs extensively while performing. I do know that he ended up in the ’70s having an operation on the nodes of his vocal cords. That is a sure sign that he wasn’t taking care of his voice properly – and that can be everything from gargling with salt water before and after a show every day, to having too many days performing in a row and not giving your voice a proper rest. Opera singers will perform once every five days – they’re crazy about the rest that’s required to sing. Singing is a physical act – your body is your instrument, and I look at myself as a professional athlete. And so I don’t let them push me. As you see this year in the NBA, people are getting hurt all over the place because they’re squishing the season together and they’re forcing them to play five games in six days. It’s a recipe for disaster.
So for me, getting back to the differences between me and Robert Plant, I don’t sing falsetto. I will very, very rarely put myself into a position of singing falsetto. I might sing one note in a song falsetto, because I chose early on to be this type of a singer like a John Lennon or a Jim Morrison, where I sing it from my heart and from my guts. And if you sing that way, as the road wears your voice, it can kind of add a nice interesting rasp, but you can get through a tour. When you sing falsetto, the first thing to swell up and disappear when your voice is tired and overused is your falsetto areas.
So I today know to take care of my voice, whereas back in the ’80s and ’90s, I didn’t. I mean, I smoked everything – crack, heroin, marijuana – I smoked everything while I was on the road. And now I won’t even smoke weed during the tour, because it affects my highest notes. And I’m so in love with performing these days that I just really take the precautions and take the time to warm my voice up. It’s all because I’m inspired by the performance and the music – it’s just been really delightful. I feel so fortunate.
You seem to have a true artistic vision of what a live show should bring.
It’s not so easy. There’s a lot of mediocrity, and I think that it’s very hard these days to have a crowd enjoy themselves. For the most part, people today when they think about music, they think about going to a nightclub and listening to a DJ. But the performance itself has been lacking. And I have personally not seen as of late very many live musical groups that are sonically great but also theatrically great. And this is what we are striving for – this is what the plan is. We are the living, breathing, genuine article that is performing on a level of a play, but with the virtuosity of one of America’s great groups. And I’m delighted to be a part of it, and I just wake up happy.


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