From Jane’s Addiction to oil addiction: alt-rock activist Perry Farrell on being green
n the early 1990s, Perry Farrell spent $1 million of his own money to help preserve Costa Rican rain forests. Then, in 2001, he flew to war-torn Sudan and paid to free more than 2,300 slaves. Now the former Jane’s Addiction and Porno for Pyros frontman wants to save the world—with a concept album. Ultra Payloaded, the first release from his new group, Satellite Party, is about a fictitious faction of dreamy do-gooders called the “Solutionists” whose mantra is “Just try and stop us; we’re going to love!” In real life, Farrell and his band of neo-hippies—including contributing artists Flea and Fergie—have promised to offset the carbon used on tour with an ambitious, eco-friendly plan to plant trees, recycle, and rely on bio-fuel. Farrell, now a 48-year-old married father of two, likes to call it “partying for progress.” Move over, Bono.
As he readies to spread the good word, Farrell spoke to Radar about social consciousness, his mission to infiltrate the Great White Way, and his wife’s fondness for groupie cleavage.
RADAR: You’re in the middle of rehearsals with your new group, Satellite Party. How are things shaping up?
PERRY FARRELL: I think it’s going to be the best project I’ve ever done. I’m inspired first by the music and what a grand, awesome sound we’ve created. It is very fresh and maintains the grandeur of rock music, but it is also infused with subsonic frequencies that most people associate with hip-hop and house. I’m also excited about the alliances I’ve made and the great strides taken to create this “Solutionists” movement—where allies and philanthropists and environmentalists and fellow artisans are getting together to create change and social awareness and do it with music being the catalyst.
What changes are you trying to make, exactly?
I think that we live in a day when new communities have to be assembled and planned. I’m hoping that these new communities on social and tangible levels are heavily infused with art and green and oxygen. They should be refitted with better ways to not just conserve energy but to use energy. Things like replacing the old oil company and electric company with renewable fuel companies, power stations, and doing it with style, with better planning.
When did you go so green?
It’s kind of an interesting story, but I met an American Indian at one of my shows back in 1992. He was a young kid who had come to one of my concerts and he was really trying to impress upon me that he grew up in Toronto and he said his family lived on the Great Lakes and he said that two of his family members had died recently of cancer. The rest of his family was sick and he was sick. He said he really wanted my help to do something about it. I went on and started to do research about pollution and dioxins. I became further engaged and involved and I started to put together demonstrations and protests that year—maybe 1993.
We put together a music demonstration in front of the White House, and I went on to do things like purchase land in Costa Rican rainforests to preserve land for posterity. I guess I contributed a million dollars to Costa Rican rainforests that remain there. And you know, I started to work with groups like the NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] and stop global warming. And we’re at the point now that the word is out, the message is out and people are ready are raring to go, so it’s a good time to be alive. I think it will be the greatest transformation in human history that we’ll see in the next ten years.
What do you say to the scientists who seed doubts about climate change?
I think that the world is as plain as day, as plain as a hurricane, the devastation of a tsunami, it is plain for everyone to see that we have an extreme temperature and we have to do something about it. If anybody wants to call him or herself a scientist and deny that there’s global warming, then I think they lose their license as a scientist.
Lollapalooza is going green this summer. How are you planning to do that?
It is a band-aid answer but the first thing you do is carbon offset, which involves calculating how much carbon you’re emitting and then investing in green energy or replanting trees to offset what you’re expelling. That’s the first thing you do but we’re going to go a lot further. We’re going to be composting our garbage, using recycled plates and forks and cups. And then we’re going to be using bio-diesel generators. And we’re going to be donating over a million dollars to the city of Chicago to put oxygen back into the air by working with the Parks & Recreation to plant rooftop gardens. If you have rooftop gardens, it keeps the summers cooler and winters warmer.
Will you be up there planting?
I don’t know if I’ll be there or if I’ll be invited or if I’ll have time or be on the road. I would love to do it. What I would love to see is Mayor Daley’s beehive. He’s got a honey-making factory up on the rooftop of the City Hall, and he gets honey from it. I’d like to be part of that thing, like a beekeeper.