A Talk with the Members of Porno for Pyros

When Perry Farrell disbanded Jane's Addiction in 1991, announcing that he would soon re-emerge with an entirely new group and a markedly different sound, it was clear that he wanted to make a clean break. He wanted to have the music he would make in his future viewed on its own terms.Of course, it was one thing to proclaim that wish, and quite another to face the reality. As a group that paved the way for the commercial breakthrough of alternative rock supergroups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Jane's Addiction stands as one of the most influential and talked-about bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Bands don't lose that kind of history overnight.But with their second CD, Good God's Urge, Porno For Pyros have made a major bid to separate themselves from the imposing shadow of Jane's Addiction -- and make good on Farrell's promise to create a decidedly new and innovative group.Stark contrasts between the two bands emerge even with a quick listen to Good God's Urge, whose upbeat messages and gentle tones on songs like "Porpoise Head," "Bali Eyes" and "100 Ways" are a major departure from the hard-edged, sometimes jarring guitar sound that typified Jane's Addiction.The differences between the two bands, however, becomes even more evident when drummer Stephen Perkins -- the only band member from Jane's Addiction that Farrell invited to join Porno For Pyros -- talks about the lyrical intent of Porno For Pyros and the chemistry he enjoys with Farrell and guitarist Peter DiStefano."Jane's would only hang out together when we were at our instruments," Perkins said, recalling the often contentious relations he and Farrell endured with Jane's bandmates David Navarro and Eric Avery. "(In Porno For Pyros), I just think we found that, you know, we're good people. We like each other without the instruments. We'd hang out anyways."That's really the big difference is we're really close friends," Perkins said. "And if people can't hear that in the music, they'll have to listen a little closer, but I think if you listen closely, you can hear that we're really getting along as people."Much of the bonding process that brought Farrell, Perkins and DiStefano closer together occurred during the 18 months the band spent on Good God's Urge. The experience also helped foster a decidedly fresh lyrical message for Porno For Pyros, whose 1993 self-titled debut was harder edged and darker in its tone."We did some traveling, saw some beautiful things in this world, went to Figi and Bali, Tahiti, and put those experiences into our music," Perkins said. And it wasn't really the music that I heard in Bali, but it was the culture, you know, the food, the air, the people. And all these things combined equals into a more positive environment for us. We found ourselves just on the beach having fun, playing acoustic music. It seemed to be really needed, some positive music."I think a lot of bands are still in complaining," he added. "And it's OK because rock and roll also equals rebel and some angst, some teen-age angst. But we're finding that it's good to spread some love, and with Jane's and Porno, me and Perry have a stack of records that we've made that are pretty aggressive. They have moments of beauty, of course, and moments of ugliness, but I think right now we'd really like to spread the word of growing, planting, cleaning the air, of falling in love. I think that's where we were when we made the record."Positive music can really bring a good smile out. I think that's what we were looking for," Perkins concluded. "I think that was our duty for this record, to kind of spread some love."Though Perkins is clearly excited about musical direction and the inner-band harmony of Porno For Pyros, he still has plenty of pride and fond memories of Jane's Addiction, which made only two studio records and was disbanded in fall 1991 by Farrell just as the band's second CD, Ritual De Lo Habitual, had gone platinum following a groundbreaking headlining stint on the first Lollapalooza Festival. (Lollapalooza, of course, is the alternative music festival Farrell founded and helped to coordinate through 1995)."It is hard to say how far we stretched and what really Jane's did for people, but I feel like we were pioneers in a way, and pioneers sometimes don't get what they deserve," Perkins said. "Maybe they don't get the recognition or maybe they don't get the props. But at the same time it's great to spread the word and get the snow off of the road for someone else to drive. I'm not really much of a top 40 man now, but I know a few years ago the top 40 was Nirvana and Pearl Jam, which was a little harder than the years before, which was Whitney (Houston) and Janet Jackson. Things are always changing, and who knows what the future holds. The New Porno is so romantic and gentle that I don't know if that will really start spreading its wings for other bands to be like that because our next record might not be that way."Pride aside, Perkins hasn't forgotten about the tensions that also defined life within Jane's Addiction during the group;s six years together. He even feels the different musical tastes and goals of the band members may have kept Jane's Addiction from reaching their full potential."Jane's, if we would have put our minds together and kind of channeled everybody into one straight line, we could have done some amazing things with that band," Perkins said. "But things were dissipating and no one was focusing in the same direction. It was just becoming weaker and weaker. People may not have seen that, but inside we knew we weren't focusing on the same goal, so you can't get there."There were some differences, and we really had to sometimes swallow some things, swallow some principles, to get on with it," he said. "There was the love of the music. It's almost sometimes like staying with your girlfriend, and you're not talking, but you're still (having sex). I mean, Jane's would go on stage and that was our sex. After sex we wouldn't talk. So we loved the sex, we loved the stage. That really kept us together. You can be not too happy to see each other, but once you get on stage and start playing 'Pigs' and 'Zen' or 'Whores' or something, that (friction) dissipates. It feels good to exorcise that pain and that anger. So we all needed that music to keep us together. Without the songs we would have definitely split up. Those songs were our connection to each other."And friction was good and bad for that band," Perkins added. "Me and Perry obviously continued on. I still talk to Dave (Navarro) a lot. I'm not that tight with Eric at the moment, but I've got some fantastic memories, and he's one of my all-time favorite musicians. So it's not bad to have a little friction. It definitely created some amazing, amazing records, I think. We really had a good time. But if we had had to go back into the studio with Jane's, it would have been a disaster because no one would have been thrilled driving to the studio, and that's a big problem."

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