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His latest party is to save the world

Saying it's now or never, Perry Farrell creates a multigenre supergroup, Satellite Party, to stave off environmental ruin.

February 04, 2007|Susan Carpenter | Times Staff Writer

HOW'S this for a concept album: Jim Morrison's spirit summons a collective of Internet-savvy artist-activist-environmentalists to slip the surly bonds and attend a party up on high. There, from the vantage point of Morrison's satellite party pad, he invites them to take a break from the wine and revelry for a moment and get a good, long look at the world -- to admire the planet's beauty but also ponder its imminent doom. He shows them the pollution and melting polar ice caps, then sends his party guests back to earth where they are christened as Solutionists and charged with saving the world.

That's the concept for the debut album from Perry Farrell's new supergroup, Satellite Party, featuring half of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea and John Frusciante), Fergie, British composer Harry Gregson-Williams, Portuguese guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, Joy Division/New Order's Peter Hook, Thievery Corporation and a constellation of other stars from various points in the musical universe.

But there's a concept within that concept. Saving the world isn't just the theme of Satellite Party's music but its goal as well. Blending rock, electronic, theater, hip-hop, country and orchestral music into one far-out sonic soup, Farrell hopes to bring listeners of all stripes together to hear his message and use it as a call to action.

The day after the prototypical alt rocker had done his best Morrison impression before a sold-out crowd for the Doors 40th anniversary party at the Whisky, Farrell was at the Village studios in West L.A., where he and his band were hammering out the final mix for "Ultra Payloaded," the album that's due May 15 on Columbia.

It was noonish, and the sun had been up for hours, though Farrell's desperation for coffee said he hadn't been along for the ride. From his quips about the interview time, it was clear he was hurting, but from what, he wouldn't say. Otherwise, he seemed to be floating on the residual vibes from the show, as he settled into an overstuffed couch and unwrapped what appeared to be breakfast -- a bite-sized Snickers, which he proceeded to nurse for the next 10 minutes.

Farrell's adenoidal vocals aren't a perfect substitute for the laconic stylings of the legendary Doors frontman. They're more spiritually than musically aligned, but as a friend of the surviving band members, Farrell was invited to be one of several singers handling vocal duties at the show.

The Doors, Farrell said, "epitomized everything that I loved about musicians and music. They were the voice of their generation. They saw things, and they set it to music."

That's precisely what Farrell is trying to do with Satellite Party, only what he's seeing is environmental ruin. What he's setting to music: The "revolution solution."

"We only have a few years," said Farrell, who was dressed rocker chic with a spiritual twist; his tightfitting T-shirt and jeans showing off his low-fat physique, a string of red, semiprecious stones demonstrating his allegiance to Native American philosophy.

"The pollution and the devastation we've already done will continue if we don't turn around and redesign the world, everything from the clothes that you wear and the shoes that you have on, the car that you drove here, the building we're sitting in," he said. "Everything has to be redesigned, and it's going to take the artists."

Or, as Farrell calls them, solutionists.

Farrell's is the ultimate in cosmic thinking -- not the drug-addled delusion that you'd expect from an artist who at one time was as well-known for his heroin habit as his music, but cosmic as in universal, as in visionary, as in the product of extensive reading, study and drive.

Farrell seems especially affected by William McDonough and Michael Braungart's book "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things," about rethinking the manner in which objects are designed so they don't rot in a landfill but devolve into reusable "technical nutrients." Several times during the interview, Farrell talked about a return to quality, particularly with regard to clothes and food.

Farrell is an avid reader of sacred texts. He counts Buddhism, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, black magic, the writings of Madame Blavatsky, the New Testament and the Torah among the spiritual philosophies he's studied. The Torah "stands above them all," he says, "because every word and every letter is a scientific mathematical equation ... and it says nothing awful. It puts no other people beneath, and it tells you who you are and how you should behave, and how you should behave is with love."

It's that philosophy that seems to inform Satellite Party, and also his revamped Lollapalooza festival, which, as of 2004, no longer moves around the country for an entire summer but lasts for a single summer weekend in one city, Chicago.

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