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POP MUSIC : From Jane's to New Addictions : When Perry Farrell dismantled Jane's Addiction, he saw rock 'n' roll burnout in his future. But he's recharged, guiding 'Lollapalooza' and a band, Porno for Pyros, in which he says 'sparks are flying' creatively

April 25, 1993|RICHARD CROMELIN | Richard Cromelin writes about pop music for Calendar

Perry Farrell has turned his back on the restaurant table and buried his nose in a rock fanzine as his two new band mates, guitarist Peter DiStefano and bassist Martyn Le Noble, sit beside him and try to describe the pressures that come with being the successors to Farrell's old band, Jane's Addiction.

"The expectations of the world, yeah, I feel it in my stomach," says DiStefano, 26. "People have high expectations. Like our first show, it's like everybody's already there checking us out. We wanted to feel what it was like to party and have a good time and be a little loose."

"Instead," says Le Noble, 22, "we got reviewed by Rolling Stone."

Farrell suddenly lowers his magazine and turns to the musicians.

"What you've got to do is, you just got to get oblivious. You guys aren't gonna get a natural growth," he says, in the tones of a firm but supportive father. "It's not fair--Rolling Stone shouldn't have been there reviewing you, but they were, so don't read it. As far as you're concerned, you did pretty good for being together for two months."

Farrell sounds almost like a manager, which is no small shock since he and managers have a history roughly like that of the Balkan states. This paternal persona--and his recent fame as the entrepreneurial spearhead of the annual "Lollapalooza" tour--is something new for the singer, whose reputation was built not only on the exotic rock music of Jane's Addiction, but also on his role as volatile rock rebel.

Though Jane's Addiction released just two major-label albums and never quite made its commercial breakthrough, Farrell's new band, Porno for Pyros, has quite a legacy to live up to.

Jane's' blend of metal, psychedelia and art rock was a challenging and invigorating hybrid--jarring and dreamy, intimate and majestic. Fronting it with a raspy wail and kamikaze recklessness, Farrell exhibited a naked emotionalism and a confrontational manner that made him a symbol of freedom and fearlessness.

Part shaman and part jester, he conducted tours of the extremes, and though his detractors saw him as a showboat with a knack for self-promotion, when all was said and done, he really did mean it.

"Most people would say they want to be in a great band or a famous band," Farrell says. "To me, famous doesn't mean (expletive). Being important is what counts. When I retire or die or get thrown out of this whole thing, I want to leave behind a great body of work. That's all that matters. Reputation is bull----. So I want to get to work now."

Sitting in slanting sunlight at a table the band has cluttered with full ashtrays, Pez candy dispensers and the remains of lunch during an afternoon of interviews, Farrell looks older than his 34 years and wears the signs of hard living in his drawn, lined features.

With his gangly frame, dark, soulful eyes and elongated face, he looks like a comical puppet, or maybe a piece of the Mexican folk art that intrigues him so much.

His manner reflects some of the intriguing contradictions that fuel his work. He's alternately arrogant and self-deprecating, and his attention level ranges from distracted to intensely engaged.

When a subject comes up that interests him, he'll dig in with such preambles as "OK, good point, I'll help you on that one." But when an unpleasant issue is pressed, he can turn petulant or wary. As in his music, Farrell's emotions are always close to the surface, and he remains a restless figure, someone more afraid of being bored than being poor.

Farrell ran away from an unhappy home in Queens, N.Y., at 17 and arrived in Los Angeles, where he was drawn to the experimental edge of the city's rock scene.

Farrell, drummer Stephen Perkins, guitarist Dave Navarro and bassist Eric Avery formed Jane's Addiction in 1986 and quickly became a sensation on L.A.'s underground club scene. After an independently released album, their major-label debut, "Nothing's Shocking," came out in 1988 and established the band nationally.

Along the way, Farrell's colorful antics and combative relationship with the music business fueled the legend, and the singer developed into something of a sage and a cultural spokesman.

He also became known for his erratic behavior, and has spoken in published interviews about his use of drugs. But drummer Perkins, who has made the transition to Porno for Pyros with Farrell, downplays that side of the Farrell mystique.

"He's unpredictable," Perkins says in a separate interview. "There's a couple of incidents that are pretty outrageous and people think were uncalled for, but it's really his personality."

But the volatility wasn't confined to the creative process. Internally, the band was cracking under the strain of personal tensions between Farrell and the Avery-Navarro axis. The 1991 tour supporting their second album, "Ritual de lo Habitual," would be the band's last.

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