Photograph by Max Vadukul
Jane's Recovery: A sweeter, gentler Perry Farrell comes to the Catalyst with Satellite Party on Oct. 3.
Perry Farrell's Satellite Party
The formerly drug-addled frontman for Jane's Addiction turns his eyes heavenward.
By Don O. Marino
Ultra Payloaded, the virgin release from Perry Farrell's new band Satellite Party, is far and away the most upbeat thing the ex-Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros vocalist has ever recorded. With its irresistibly catchy rock/techno/disco/funk hooks and its optimistic themes of love and celebration, it makes one suspect that the singer has either kicked drugs or at least found some better ones. Yet, as Farrell explains, the period of his life in which he conceived the album was not one of joy, but of utter despair.
"My life was falling apart," the flamboyant frontman recalls. "I lost Lollapalooza [the music festival that Farrell created], or so I thought, and I had lost Jane's Addiction. It was like I was coming out of two bad breakups. You know, you can either decide to die and kill yourself, or you can get yourself together and take up something that you always wanted to do, because you have the freedom and the time to do it."
The 48-year-old vocalist says that for him, that "something" took the form of a weekend party that would capture the look, sound and feel of a commercial spaceflight. As he busied himself writing music and lyrics for this theme party, he soon found that he had a concept album on his hands. The story pivoted on the idea of a group of artists calling themselves the Solutionists, an assembly of free thinkers dedicated to finding antidotes to planetary ills.
"In this world, as we walk around, all we see is advertisements for Exxon and Gap," he says. "It shouldn't be that way. Children need to see art. They need to see green, and they need to be breathing fresh air."
As Farrell's quest for solutions to his personal crisis expanded, he began putting together Satellite Party, whose members included his wife Etty on backing vocals and former Extreme member Nuno Bettencourt on guitar. A full three years after beginning work on the project, he and his band mates emerged with Ultra Payloaded, which features contributions from such guest musicians as Flea and Fergie.
Hair metal enthusiasts and/or fans of badass guitar playing who come out to Satellite Party's Oct. 3 show at the Catalyst will mourn the absence of Bettencourt, who left the band shortly after completing work on the album. One has to wonder if the guitarist was put off by Satellite Party's message of hope for humanity, which may come off as New Agey to some people who are expecting the smack-addled, hell-raising Perry Farrell from Jane's Addiction's heyday. Why the profound change?
"Well, I had children, to start with, and I had to climb out of my cave, because I was very happy being a doper and writing music and never meeting people," the singer says. "The world was scary to me, if I can be quite honest."
Farrell explains that having children forced him to get out into the world and meet people.
"I found that there were some great people, and the world is a wonderful place, worth saving, worth maintaining. I find through meeting everybody that I get a positive outlook, because it's the only outlook you can have. You can be an asshole and just say, 'Screw it all,' but I don't feel like that. I feel like, 'No, let's fight! Let's save it. And let's party! Let's celebrate!'
"Work and celebration need to be put into balance," he adds. "Right now people are working until, like, practically, 2 in the morning. When do they celebrate? They might celebrate one weekend night. I think it's making people crazy. If we're going to be crazy, we need some sweet madness; we need to be out of our heads and forgetting our troubles."
SATELLITE PARTY plays Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 8pm at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25 advance/$25 door. For more information, call 831.423.1338.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.