Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell Talks the State of the Industry, Downloading Music

Jane's Addiction almost single-handedly bridged the gap between heavy metal and what would come to be known as Alt Rock with the release of their 1989 album "Nothing's Shocking." Now considered a classic which is included in almost every "Top 100" list, Jane's Addiction's sound and popularity helped pave the way for the Grunge scene while lending credence to, and inspiring, similar hard/alt rock bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Butthole Surfers, Smashing Pumpkins, even the more stripped-down heavy-metal-by-numbers stylings of Tool.

I was no late-comer to this incredible act: Introduced to "Nothing's Shocking" while still in highschool, I was too deeply into "...And Justice for All" and similar thrash acts of the day to admit it, though the cut, "...Ted, Just Admit It" was one I openly enjoyed. I didn't get my own copy of the CD until I was out of highschool and had my own job and was no longer concerned with social constraints that would have forced me to hide my love for Jane's Addiction from my peers who eschewed anything that wasn't balls-to-the-wall thrash or Floridian death metal (specifically Deicide and Cannibal Corpse). But I had always gone my own way to some extent.

As a percussionist, I had been into rap since the seventh-grade, when Run-DMC's "Raising Hell" and The Beastie Boys' "License to Ill" crashed through mainstream barriers and into our suburban homes via MTV. A lot of great guitarists around my age gravitated toward me because I was a damn good drummer and they brought with them experimental, guitar-driven music like Frank Zappa, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and Steve Vai. I was also a big fan of punk and industrial, which were again eschewed by many of the musician friends with whom I hung around but were loved by my "alternative" friends -- specifically the skaters -- and these bands included the Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, and Suicidal Tendencies (who eventually crossed over into thrash then more mainstream heavy metal). Although I had other friends who listened to what would eventually be called alt-pop, such as The Sundays, The Smiths, and The Cure, I never enjoyed those acts, nor that vein of whiny New Wave crap.

The point to that lengthy paragraph is to note that Jane's Addiction's "Nothing Shocking," moreso than any of the aforementioned acts or albums, also bridged the gaps between all those types of music fans, at least among my friends. While there were still a few holdouts, they were almost exclusively the longhairs who didn't listen to anything other than extreme/death metal. Primus soon built that bridge and Primus sucks!

Like many rock acts of the era, Jane's Addiction's "final" full release, "Ritual de lo Habitual," was faster and heavier than their first outing but the catchy "Been Caught Stealin'" crossed-over into the mainstream thanks largely to the music video, which went into heavy rotation on MTV.

In this interview/conversation with Anthony Green, lead vocalist for Circa Survive (never heard of them), Farrell talks a very little bit about those days and how the President of one of the major labels placed a moratorium on rock acts, which really hurt bands like Jane's Addiction; the shift toward rap and hip-hop had begun. Farrell then gets into pirating music a bit -- this was the time of Napster, after all. He also explains why there have been so many festivals, or touring "packages," over the past several years -- which Perry Farrell actually started himself with Lollapalooza.

I watched parts of Coachella this year from the computer chair on which I am sitting as I type thanks to it being simulcast live over three or four "stations" on YouTube. The touring package in which Jane's Addiction and Circa Survive are a part is not being broadcast online but Farrell and company have a new single that did debut online just last week. It deals comically with online dating and it rocks. Updating their unique sound while remaining true to their roots and embracing the Internet and its too-easily-mocked culture, both the song and the video are about as good as it gets for any band that's been playing together (off and on) for a quarter of a century.

A quarter of a century!

Yes, "Nothing's Shocking" turned 25 this year, making me and my generation feel really, really, really old. However, it remains as cutting-edge an album today as it was back in The Day -- in fact, some websites won't even show the cover to this day -- ON THE INTERNET (although this particular outlet also spent an entire article comparing them to Led Zeppelin of all things, so...)! It's exciting to know that Jane's Addiction is back together, at least for a minute, and have released new material. It's even more exciting to know that they not only understand the role of the Web (and how it killed the music industry) but have jumped in with both feet, embracing the medium so many other artists of that bygone era neglected right up to their bitter end. Hopefully Jane's Addiction will incorporate the Web as both a medium and a new media and help do for online music/acts what they did for hard and alternative rock back in the 1980s and '90s.

© C Harris Lynn, 2013

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