Perry Farrell knows the value of a weird rock-'n'-roll name. In the late '80s he fronted Jane's Addiction, the artsy Los Angeles punk-metal outfit. He christened his next group, Porno for Pyros, while flipping through a fireworks catalog. And when he started an eclectic summer music festival complete with freaky sideshow acts, he dubbed it Lollapalooza after hearing the absurd word in a Three Stooges short. Even his stage name is a word twist. Born Perry Bernstein, he renamed himself "peripheral": Perry Farrell.
For Song Yet to Be Sung, his first new album in five years, Farrell considered forming yet another provocatively named band but ultimately decided to launch a solo career instead. "I've always titled projects as if they were a movie," says the 42-year-old singer, as wiry and wild-eyed as ever. "This time I didn't want to share musical responsibility. It was simply mine."
Simple the album is not. Wowed by electronic-rock innovators Bj÷rk and Thom Yorke, Farrell spent years learning how to program computers, spinning turntables as a club DJ and then applying these skills to create what he calls "sexy party jah music." Ambient pulsations and digital blips bubble alongside more familiar rock instrumentation on the CD, which also continues his fascination with swirling raga rhythms and quasi-mystical lyrics. "I took my cues from Bob Marley, because his sounds are warm and organic and inspired," says Farrell. "If the songs get too cerebral or wordy, you can't kick with them relaxing in a hammock."
Farrell's persistent infatuation with techno may seem strange, since his M.O. has been to set trends, not follow them. "Perry was into piercings, dreadlocks and scarification rituals before anybody else in rock," says Jane Bainter, a former housemate whose heroin habit cued the name of Farrell's early band. "Jane's Addiction was a precursor of sorts; they tapped into an undercurrent of neoprimitive feelings among youth."
Farrell's latest obsession is Hebrew mysticism. The opening and closing tracks on his new album celebrate Jubilee, the Old Testament edict of forgiving debts and abolishing slavery. He dreams of mounting a Jubilee mega-concert event in Israel this year featuring Bob Dylan, Snoop Doggy Dogg and U2. Farrell's hazy and grandiose plans were mentioned as the possible reason that a Jane's Addiction reunion suddenly derailed this year; despite some well-received appearances at concert events, the group recently pushed a full-scale tour back from August to later this year-if it ever happens at all.
Farrell's solo album, first slated for July, has also weathered a few delays; only recently hitting music stores. He downplays any major problems or obstacles, continuing to speak optimistically about Jubilee, Jane's Addiction and, yes, sexy party jah. "I've set myself up nicely," he says. "I didn't buy into idol worship. Or worshipping myself and becoming idle."
Idle Worship ... now that's a great name for a new band.