On the eve of Lollapalooza’s kick-off Friday in Chicago’s Grant Park, festival founder Perry Farrell took some time to talk with AccessHollywood.com Managing Editor Jeremy Blacklow about what fans can expect this year, and why the pop/electro crossover being provided by Friday night headliner Lady Gaga is exactly what the festival needs, 19 years after it first launched celebrating the intersection of rap and rock.
This year’s Lollapalooza, running August 6 – 8, features, amongst others, a line-up including: Lady Gaga, a reunited Soundgarden, Green Day, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, Phoenix, MGMT, Erykah Badu, The xx, Hot Chip, The National, Jimmy Cliff, The Black Keys, Grizzly Bear, Blues Traveler, The Temper Trap, Raphael Saadiq, Deer Tick, B.o.B. and Kaskade.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR LOLLAPALOOZA CONCERT-GOERS THIS YEAR? AND WHICH ACTS, IN PARTICULAR, ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR?
I feel this year it’s gotten really sophisticated, like, it’s sophisticated entertainment in that the production of the festival has gotten so amazing, starting with the entrance. We always try to think about the entrance. If you’ve been to Chicago before, the Buckingham Fountain, which is this beautiful fountain that was represented on “Married With Children.” Do you remember that show, “Married with Children”… and they had that fountain? So that’s the entrance. We used to enter in and you would be right at Buckingham Fountain… so, we’ve got an additional 36 acres, over a mile long festival, added this year. So, we’re actually closing down one of their main fares, Columbus Avenue, and we’re going to be pushing out the festival even farther to make room for all the people that have been attending over the years. We’re expecting 70,000 – 80,000 paid ticket holders tomorrow. You’ll notice that it’s still going to be comfortable for people to walk around and listen to music, but there will be no plastic bottles on the ground. We’re doing away with plastic bottles. We are the biggest carbon neutral festival in the world – leaving no carbon footprint behind.
And we’re adding this year, there’s a fellow by the name of Graham Elliott and he is a chef, known as the Rock ‘N’ Roll chef. He is going to be curating the food court. So for people who are foodies, they’re not going to have to put up with hot dogs and pizzas. If they don’t want to they can go down to the food court where Graham Elliott and his, I would say, associates… and other restaurant associates, other chefs, are going to get into the act, so to speak, and bringing you things like lobster corn dogs, meals between $10-$15. So there’s going to be great food. There’s even going to be a farmer’s market down there if you’re fully organic.
So, it’s getting really sophisticated and exciting. And, of course, you have Lady Gaga headlining on Friday, and Soundgarden on Sunday, I mean it’s going to be over the top. Gaga is really going to open it up in a big way on Friday night.
WHO ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO HEAR YOURSELF? AND WHO ARE THE “CAN’T MISS” ACTS? GETTING LADY GAGA AS HEADLINER MUST HAVE BEEN A MAJOR COUP – WHAT WILL SHE BRING TO THE FESTIVAL?
I really do think it was (a coup). Well, what she will add is something Lollapalooza isn’t exactly used to, but is no longer afraid of — and that is the pop crossover. I feel like pop is such a big part of our life today and, you know, how it kind of crept up into our lives more so back in the day in 1991 when the underground didn’t really listen to pop. But the way we really listen to music has changed dramatically since then. We’re on our 19th year and so today people go out to listen to music in live venues, but they also go out to clubs and they hear dance music and club music. And a lot of what you’ll hear, besides the great underground house tracks that you hear from the DJs, you’re going to hear electronic music being played and being a mixture with hip-hop, and pop and rock. Lady Gaga is kind of in the crosshairs of all of this music and what it’s going to do… it’s going to open up Lollapalooza to the world of the best pop stars in the world… and add them in. I’ve always taken great pride in its mixture.
Lollapalooza is a giant, swirling lollipop with lots of different colors and flavors. So, we never really touched upon pop because we never really thought it was that tasty, to tell you the truth, until now. But I think having a little taste of it, because, you know we have six headliners going over the course of three days, and 130 groups total, we can stand a little bit of the best of pop. I would love to one day see Beyonce go there and Justin Timberlake go there. So, Gaga’s opening that paradigm for us.
YOU’RE ALSO DJ’ING A COUPLE OF SETS THIS YEAR – ONE WITH POPULAR GAY DJ CHRIS COX AND ONE WITH STEVE PORTER – TELL ME ABOUT THAT?
I’ve been working with both Steve Porter and Chris Cox on tracks. I’ve been working with Joachim Garraud from France who is protégé to David Guetta. My set is going to be… I’m running down, it’s kind of like new school disco, I guess you’d call it. It touches on hipster – electro, but I’m not really going there because I’m trying to create my own sound. I’m bringing a little rock to it because that’s my background. Again, it’s all these mixtures. All of the worlds of music are kind of colliding with electronics because what I like to say is ‘the software is driving and controlling the sound.’ Just like the way jazz was in the ‘50s, it was… I don’t want to say whipped out…when rock music, when the electronic guitar came in, all of a sudden the sound changed the sound around the world. Electronics and computerized software is driving and changing the sound of music. So, my sound will be the latest software sound, put it that way.
And Empire of the Sun is coming in from Australia. It’s their first U.S. appearance. They’re electronic music, house-like, but they’re live and kind of Lady Gaga-esque, but they’re Australian. And they have people go out into the crowd. It’s a wonderful location, the Perry’s area, for dance music. It’s not in a tent. It’s a beautiful outdoor area with trees and grass and a beautiful nole. I’m hoping people don’t climb the trees because we’re going to light them and it’s gonna definitely shade you, almost like a semi-surround sound going right now so it can blast out.
I WAS AT THE 1ST LOLLAPALOOZA AND HAD THE CHANCE TO SEE JANE’S ADDICTION BACK THEN – THIS WILL NOW BE MY 2ND — BUT I WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT THE LINE UP — WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE LOLLAPALOOZA MEMORY TO DATE?
When I think back, it’s crazy. So Lollapalooza has had so many amazing artists, but when people ask me that question, my mind goes right back to Eddie Vedder… in 1992. And it’s because Eddie Vedder is such a sweet man. And so… my memories, the ones that stick in my mind are sweet ones. The moment when I realize something, or the moments when I realize something for someone else… or somebody else realize themselves. And with Eddie Vedder it was such a great experience because they were going on like that in the afternoon, and he was so energized, again it was like 2 o’clock. And everybody was telling me, ‘You’ve gotta get over there.’ I like that song of theirs…(sings) “Even Flow” and I go, ‘Yeah, I really like that song,’ so I said, ‘I’m gonna go over there’ – and he was so energized. He jumped onto a speaker stack, and it was like two stories… he took a swan dive, and the crowd just ate him up. I was like, ‘Wow, this guy means it man.’
And as far as I’m concerned, it was a historic set day and those kinds of things, those moments when you realize a group for themselves, it’s their moment. Those are the moments that stick in my mind. It really does… it does etch itself into history.
YOU ALREADY SPOKE A BIT ABOUT THE FESTIVAL’S GREEN INITIATIVES… WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE CHARITABLE ASPECT OF LOLLAPALOOZA?
It’s great. I don’t know if any other festival in the world does this, but any other events I ever do, I’m going to try to assimilate and use the same model we have with the Chicago people and the The Parkways Foundation. So The Parkways Foundation is a group of people, they are a nonprofit, but they work with the city to beautify the parks and recreation with things like after school programs or building parks, inner city parks. We’ve built parks in the city. We refurbished Buckingham Fountain. That was a project that went on for about a year and a half. So we raised money for the city to beautify the city. So, I love the idea of — when we enter into a place as their guests, we leave the place better than when we came in — we leave it enhanced. We leave it cleaner and we leave with little guilt, so to speak.
THERE’S A NEW JANE’S ADDICTION ALBUM COMING OUT THIS WINTER – TELL ME EVERYTHING!!! YOU BROUGHT ON DUFF MCKAGAN … WHAT ELSE? HOW IS IT GOING TO SOUND?
The sound is changing a little bit – and it SHOULD change. If you hear the exact same thing I have a feeling even though you go, ‘Oh this sounds like classic Jane’s Addiction,’ you want growth --- you want to be able to see a person and just like with your friends, you want to be able to say, ‘You look great,’ but you look a little different or the same. They have a twinkle in their eye, but there’s something updated about them. So that’s what we… the music we’ve been writing because we’ve been…I don’t want to say held up, ‘cause we all do our own thing, but we’ve have been working hard on writing and so over the course of time, you develop a rhythm.
Once you write one song, there is a sound that starts to develop. And the songs are really good songs. The way I like to describe it as, you know, there’s lazy writing in rock ‘n’ roll especially, you can write a groove and kind of leave it at that. That’s your part, that’s your verse, let’s say. Then your core changes and that’s just another groove. And people when they get together, writing as a band, they tend to, it’s sometimes very hard to get deeper and more meditative.
And you develop those grooves. Well, we have taken the time to come up with more than just grooves and so there’s melody and groove and forethought. And the players have gotten so good over the years. The thing about musicians, I’m in the right business because musicians get better with age. They learn how to play their instruments. They learn where the hole should be, in other words, where the notes shouldn’t be. And all of this is coming onto tape for us and we’re sounding fantastic. You’ll hear it in the first quarter of next year.
WILL JANE’S TOUR NEXT YEAR? IF SO, WILL YOU PLAY FROM THE BAND’S ENTIRE CATALOG?
I’ll give you a little insight… you always wanna play from the whole catalog. I always have had the mindset that people aren’t showing up to not hear “Jane Says,” or “Stop!” or “Mountain Song.” I mean, if I went to a Lou Reed show and he didn’t play “Sweet Jane” or some of those classics, I would feel cheated. And I know it’s the same thing with anybody. I mean the whole point when you get going is… It’s funny because people record a record. That’s the only record they have and they play every song from there and that’s their set.
But by the time they’ve recorded 10 records, they have so much material and they stop to realize those classics they have in the beginning when people first loved them — those are going to be the songs you’re going to be known for in life.
And for a young person, that might be the only time they get to see you when you come to town ‘cause hey, you might die. You want to make sure you give them that little piece of history so they can say, ‘I saw Led Zeppelin, or, ‘I saw Jimi Hendrix.’ And, of course, they did all this stuff … you don’t want to say you heard Jimi Hendrix show up playing jazz.