Perry Farrell: EDM Rock Star

The frontman turned DJ on his second (arguably third) act

Perry Farrell was never content to just be a rock star. After spending the late ’80s and early ’90s leading the alt-rock charge with Dave Navarro and Jane’s Addiction, Farrell founded the Lollapalooza festival, which currently attracts over 300,000 fans and $140 million to Chicago annually. But Farrell (née Bernstein) didn’t let success go to his calendar, he cleared space to try new things, remaking himself into a major EDM act then re-remaking himself into a rock star to release another Jane’s Addiction album in 2011. Today, he’s one of the few musicians splitting time between electronic and rock, two genres that he says require very different things of performers.

“It’s just a different feeling all together,” says Farrell, who also pitches for the high-end Tequila label Maestro Dobel. “I think EDM allows you as an artist to be more creative.”

Part of the reason Farrell currently favors EDM is that he can use it to drench the audience, immersing them collectively in a single sound rather than singing at them. EDM also allows him to collaborate with various DJs and experiment with different types of electronics. His concerts become laboratory trials for his various musical hypotheses.

Still, EDM isn’t completely different.

“A band that really is into working the crowd makes for a kick-ass show,” says Farrell, who has brought that added engagement to his DJ shows. “Fans really appreciate that. They can remember a particular show that was 20 years ago. It’s incredible when you have that connection.” 

And Farrell isn’t just claiming that EDM can create the same sort of connections, as he plans to test the theory in Vegas. He’s currently working with the French DJJoachim Garraud on an EDM musical called “Kind Even.” He’s searching for a venue and—presumably—for some of the big money that has flooded the Sin City EDM scene. The musical event has the potential to become a sort of Lollapalooza for fans of Farrell’s second act.

“I’m enjoying the EDM ride right now and am excited to see what the future holds,” says Farrell. “I never thought [Lollapalooza] would take off as it did, but, man, the people love their music and their commitment to the festival keeps them coming back more and more each year.”

Farrell is clearly loving his new—and, it’s worth noting, younger—audience and seeing his natural hustle pay off in unpredictable ways. He’s no longer a rock star who DJs, he’s a DJ and a singer. He’s two things (three if you count businessman) and that’s fine by him.

“There’s a whole new world of music,” he says. 

Photos by Violeta Alvarez / The Hell Gate / Corbis