Food & Drink

Perry Farrell's big ideas for 'immersive entertainment'

L-R: Perry Farrell, Stephen Perkins, Chris Chaney and Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction. The band plays the Shindig Music Festival in Pigtown this weekend.

This year in particular should be a time of reflection for Perry Farrell, and yet the lead singer of Jane's Addiction can only seem to think ahead.

In late August, "Nothing's Shocking" — the Los Angeles quartet's first studio album that helped lead alternative rock, with singles like "Jane Says" and "Mountain Song," to its fruitful '90s — turned 25. Following a current touring trend, Jane's Addiction performed the record in its entirety earlier this year in Las Vegas and England. The celebration will likely continue on Saturday, when the band includes "Shocking" songs in its headlining set at Pigtown's Shindig Music Festival.


But during a phone conversation from the road last week, the 55-year-old Farrell was fully concentrated on his next project, "Kind Heaven." He described it as both a musical and "immersive entertainment."

"It's a new platform," Farrell said. "Just think of a Broadway musical, but there's no seats. The patron walks through the theater and they're entertained ... [by] the actors, the dancers, the musicians, the video, the hologram, the gaming. It's all around you."


Earlier this year, Farrell told Rolling Stone that "Kind Heaven" was a fictional love story set in modern Thailand. He made clear that the ambitious production was his (along with his wife and collaborator, Etty), and not Jane's Addiction's. But instead of working on a follow-up to the group's last album (2011's "The Great Escape Artist"), Farrell said he hopes the band will contribute to "Kind Heaven."

"We're going to write some new material for 'Kind Heaven,' and that new material we could perform at festivals for years to come," Farrell said.

He clarified that Jane's Addiction — which also includes guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney — is not on hiatus. In fact, Farrell said, the band is "probably playing better than ever."

"Musicians have that ability to get better as they get older, unlike an athlete or a politician," he said. "Excluding myself, the musicians in Jane's Addiction are, I would say, amongst the greatest on the earth."

Already written, "Kind Heaven" is near the end of its fundraising stages, according to Farrell, and the hope is to start the production in Las Vegas next year. But as "Kind Heaven" dominates his creative thoughts now, Farrell can, when pressed, step back and appreciate the accomplishments of his best-known band.

"Even though ["Nothing's Shocking"] is 25 years old, it is still remarkable to witness the guys playing it," Farrell, almost entirely removing himself from the discussion, said. "I think an audience would be privileged to see these guys at work, tearing into the music that we've created."

Farrell ignores opportunities to include himself in the praise, but he is clearly proud of the band. Another source of gratification is Lollapalooza, the annual music festival Farrell created in 1991 as a Jane's Addiction farewell tour. (The group disbanded at the end of that year and reunited in 1997.) More than two decades later, the Chicago festival remains one of the country's most significant multiday music events, and Farrell plans to hold it in three international locations, undisclosed for now, next year.

Farrell said America's growing music-festival craze is near the point of saturation. He compared the influx to the hotel business.

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"The variance in qualities is extreme," he said. "People are going to have to decide whether they want to stay at a Holiday Inn or if they want to go to a Four Seasons. Our ambition is, and it always was, to bring the best quality experience we could to a patron."

The future of his festival is not in doubt, he said.

"I think Lollapalooza is going to be fine," Farrell said. "I don't know about the rest of them."

The singer is unquestionably busy with artistic endeavors, but his top priority is that of a father and husband. ("It's the binoculars that I look through nowadays," Farrell said.) Jane's Addiction's early days of hard partying and drug use have been well documented, but also remain in the past. These days, Farrell is a family man and an environmental activist.

"As far as my personal life, that has gotten much cleaner," he said. "That's where I'm at today — looking to take care of myself so I can take care of my kids."

Does that mean his approach to art has lost its edge? "I would still say it's daring," he said. When a writer points out that few, if any, of his fans would want him to dull his metaphorical pen, Farrell sounds as at peace as he has all conversation.


"Yeah, man, I would hope not," he replied, before likely turning his attention back to the next project.