A primary force in the rise of the alternative music scene of the early 1990s, Perry Farrell was the singer for Jane's Addiction, a ferociously inventive hard rock act that produced such modern rock h...
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|Testimony: 20 Years of Rock on MTV (1999-2000)||Actor||n/a||1999||1|
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Born Peretz Bernstein on March 29, 1959 in New York City, Perry Farrell's early years were marked by emotional turmoil. His mother, an artist, committed suicide when her son was three years old, prompting the family to relocate to Miami, FL. From there, Farrell lit out for California, briefly attending college in Oceanside before suffering a nervous breakdown. He took to surfing while supporting himself as a dancer at a Newport Beach nightclub, where he adopted his stage name, a play on the word "peripheral." In 1983, he made his debut as a singer with the Goth-alternative act Psi Com, which became a staple of the Los Angeles underground music scene. The group played numerous bills with such up-and-coming acts as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, X, Fishbone and Sonic Youth before breaking up in 1985 due in part to a factory pressing mistake with their self-titled debut EP, which warped more than half of their initial order. Farrell then became acquainted with guitarist Dave Navarro and bassist Eric Avery, with whom he would form the core of Jane's Addiction. The name was derived from Farrell's housemate, Jane Bainter, who struggled with drug dependency.
With the addition of Stephen Perkins on drums, Jane's Addiction soon made a name for itself on the Los Angeles club circuit. Their music fused punk and metal with a decidedly psychedelic sensibility, fueled in no small part by the band's prodigious appetite for drugs, and anchored by the keening vocals of Farrell, who cut a striking figure onstage with his green dreadlocks, heavy mascara and affinity for public displays of affection with his bandmates. In no time, the band had culled a sizable fan base from various factions of Los Angeles music fandom: metal aficionados loved the volume and Navarro's epic guitar solos, punk listeners appreciated the thrash and anti-establishment attitude, while Goths identified with their outrageous sense of style and affinity for doomy subject matter, including Farrell's own drug issues on "Jane Says." A 1987 self-titled debut album preceded an extensive bidding war for the band by the major labels, with Warner Bros. eventually winning the rights to release their second album, Nothing's Shocking (1988). A favorite among college and alternative audiences, the album generated a Top 10 Modern Rock hit with a revised version of "Jane Says," and helped to foment the first stirrings of the alternative rock movement that would dominate the music business in the early '90s.
Its follow-up, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, crossed over into the mainstream charts on the strength of "Been Caught Stealing," its relentlessly catchy lead single - complete with barking dogs - which helped the album attain platinum sales status. A second single, "Stop," reached the top of the Modern Rock charts, but by this point, the band itself was coming undone due to external pressures and heavy drug usage. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Farrell organized a massive traveling rock festival called Lollapalooza, which would serve as both the band's farewell tour and a showcase for some of their favorite underground acts. The festival became a cornerstone of the alternative rock movement, introducing bands like the Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails to larger audiences while supporting such long-running acts as the Rollins Band, Ministry and the Ramones. Jane's Addiction called it quits after the conclusion of the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, and Farrell tried his hand at filmmaking with "Gift" (1993), an improvised, largely indecipherable drama co-starring Farrell and his then-wife, Casey Niccoli, and featuring music by his now-defunct band.
That same year, Farrell reteamed with Perkins to form Porno for Pyros, a sleeker if less adventurous take on musical tropes already touched upon by Jane's Addiction. Farrell embarked on a major national tour with the band to generate interest, resulting in a hit single with "Pets" and their eponymous debut reaching No. 3 on the Billboard albums chart. A second album, God's Good Urge, followed suit in 1996, but generated more modest sales, prompting Farrell to shutter the group and revive Jane's Addiction. Avery declined to participate in the reunion, and was replaced by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea for the eventual tour and recordings that ended up on a compilation album, Kettle Whistle (1997). During this period, Farrell wrested control of his addictions, which had taken a severe toll on his health in the years following the first break-up of Jane's Addiction.
The year 1999 saw Farrell release rev, a compilation album featuring songs from both of his previous bands, as well as a collection of new solo work. Two years later, his first full-fledged solo record, Songs Yet to Be Sung (2001) was released. The album reflected his growing interest in electronica and worldbeat music, which he had begun to explore as a DJ in Los Angeles and New York clubs. That same year, Farrell reconvened Jane's Addiction, this time with former Porno for Pyros bassist Martyn Lenoble in Avery's stead. The success of the Jubilee tour prompted the band to return to the studio for Strays (2003) with Chris Chaney replacing Lenoble. Though only a modest success, the album spawned the song "Superhero," which became the theme to the popular HBO series "Entourage" (HBO, 2004-2011).
The reunion proved short-lived, as internal tensions once again conspired to drive the band members apart. Farrell then formed The Satellite Party, a loosely constructed, highly theatrical music group with his second wife, Etty Lau Farrell, and former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt. A debut album, Ultra Payloaded, was released in 2007, but the departure of Bettencourt in 2007 and the loss of their label, Columbia, left the future in doubt. A reunion with all four original members of Jane's Addiction followed suit in 2008, as well as a tour with fellow alternative rock veterans Nine Inch Nails. Avery once again left the lineup in 2009, with ex-Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan taking his place. The new arrangement began previewing new material in concert prior to McKagan's abrupt departure in 2011. That same year, Jane's Addiction's fourth album, The Great Escape Artist, was released after numerous delays. It reached No. 12 on the Billboard albums chart, prompting another tour, this time with Chris Chaney on bass. Farrell proposed a fifth album during an interview in early 2012.
By Paul Gaita
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