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Members include Peter DiStefano, (born on July 10, 1965, in Los Angeles, CA), guitar; Perry Farrell, (born Perry Bernstein on March 29, 1959, in Queens, NY), vocals; Martyn Le Noble, (born on April 14, 1969, in Vlaardingen, Netherlands; member 1992-96), bass; Stephen Perkins, (born on September 13, 1967, in Los Angeles, CA), drums. Addresses: Record company--Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.
Begun after the demise of Jane's Addition, Porno for Pyros was the creation of singer/songwriter/entrepreneur/provocateur Perry Farrell. Though the band sported a different guitarist and bassist, the music of Porno for Pyros, which combined Led Zeppelin-style hard rock with punkish insouciance and art-rock pretentiousness, was not all that different from that of Jane's Addiction. Farrell's persona, meanwhile, remained consistent. In Porno for Pyros as in Jane's Addiction, Farrell came off as a seeker of higher consciousness and practitioner of utter decadence.
Farrell, born Perry Bernstein on March 29, 1959, in Queens, New York, worked for his father, a jeweler in New York City's diamond district, as a child. His mother committed suicide while he was still young, and the family moved, first to Long Island, New York, then to Miami, Florida. Bernstein traveled cross-country to attend college in Oceanside, California, but his schooling ended abruptly when he suffered a nervous breakdown. Struggling to make a living, he took a job that put him onstage, if in considerably compromised circumstances: he lip-synched to music and worked as an exotic dancer in a Newport Beach nightclub. If nothing else, this period did give rise to his Perry Farrell persona. The name combines his first name with his brother's, and if the accent is put on the second syllable of Farrell, it sounds like the word "peripheral," a pun which pleased him immensely.
In 1981, Farrell formed Psi-Com, a goth-influenced act whose output consisted of one indie label EP. The band split up in 1985, and the next year Farrell founded Jane's Addiction. The group was thought to be named after a prostitute friend who introduced Farrell to bassist Eric Avery and guitarist Dave Navarro. The band also featured drummer Stephen Perkins. Jane's Addiction became something of a sensation on the arty fringes of the Los Angeles hard rock scene in part for their music, which drew from Led Zeppelin's metallic crunch and featured Farrell's high, thin, yet strangely compelling vocals, but mostly because of Farrell's outrageous personality and mode of dress which included heavy mascara, neon dreadlocks, vinyl bodysuits, and lingerie.
The band recorded a self-titled live album, released on Triple X Records, prompting a major-label bidding war for the band. Warner Bros. Records signed the group and released Nothing's Shocking in 1987. But the group's real breakthrough came on their next album, Ritual de lo Habitual, which appeared in 1990. The single "Been Caught Stealing" became a significant hit, buoyed by the humorous video which received substantial airplay on the MTV cable television network.
By then Farrell was familiar with making a friend of controversy, and the cover for Ritual de lo Habitual provided some heat for the band when various retail chains balked at stocking the disc because its cover depicted a trio of nude figures which Farrell had sculpted himself. Warner Bros. released albums to those outlets with a stark white cover with the words "First Amendment" printed on it.
In 1991, Farrell developed the idea of turning the usual rock and roll tour into something much more. Lollapalooza was conceived as part musical smorgasbord, part three-ring circus, and part Third World bazaar. Featuring seven bands, of which Jane's Addiction was one, plus others on a smaller satellite stage, the tour played an important role in gathering together the disparate audiences of bands that would soon all come under the rubric "alternative rock."
Just as the band seemed to hit its creative and commercial peak, however, Farrell broke it up. His life was further complicated when he was brought up on drug charges in Santa Monica, California. "I got the devil in me," Farrell announced on the lead track of Porno for Pyros' self-titled debut, but the album was received coolly by both critics and the public. Farrell tried to be provocative with songs like "Black Girlfriend" and "Orgasm," but also addressed spirituality in "Sadness." The standout track turned out to be the humorous "Pets," which theorized that once extraterrestrials take over the Earth, "We'll make great pets."
Porno for Pyros played Lollapalooza in 1992, but not on the main stage. This may have been a reflection of either their somewhat compromised circumstances or Farrell's desire to simply maintain a lower profile. One thing was certain, Farrell was intent on keeping the entertainment value of his shows high, and he augmented the performances with dancers and performance artists, contortionists, and even a fire-breathing stripper. At times, the music seemed almost incidental. "We had the swingingest things going on, fire shooting everywhere and dancers, but people turned on us and didn't believe in us," Farrell said in comments included in Warner Bros. promotional materials. "All the great theatrics were overlooked. I don't know what it was, but there was no faith in what we were doing. So, we just said, 'Look, we're gonna do this, we're going to start off as a new band.' But at the same time, I think what I wanted was extra attention paid to strange detail."
The group did score some high profile gigs, including headlining England's Reading Festival in 1993 and playing at Woodstock '94. After that, they disappeared for an extended period, writing and recording what would become their second album, Good God's Urge in 1996. Inspired by surfing trips to Bali, Fiji, and Tahiti, the disc carried with it a strong spiritual vibe, or as Spin magazine put it, taking listeners "to places no Lollapalooza laminate can get you." The album featured numerous guest appearances by Farrell cohorts such as Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist Flea, former Jane's Addition guitarist Dave Navarro, Minutemen/fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt, and the members of Love and Rockets. In the middle of recording the album, Le Noble left the group, and Watt was tapped to play with the group on tour.
After kicking off a series of live dates, however, the band was put on hold when DiStefano was diagnosed with cancer and treated with chemotherapy. DiStefano returned to good health, but the band never recovered. After a number of cancellations, including a show at which Navarro and Flea were to play with the band, Warner Bros. issued a statement that said the band decided to stay home and record new material. Farrell then decided to resurrect Jane's Addiction for a series of live dates, and Porno for Pyros quietly disbanded. Their last track together was "Hard Charger," which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1997 Howard Stern movie Private Parts.
In 1999, Farrell released Rev, a compilation album of his days with Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros, plus some new solo tracks. Later in the year, he broke away from Warner Bros. and signed with Virgin Records. He then began recording The Diamond Jubilee, his first full-fledged solo album of all new material. "This is where music is heading: ancient, global music married to beautiful modern technology to awaken our spirituality," Farrell said in comments available at the Launch website. "I've found salvation in the expansiveness of electronica ... opening the door to an endless combination of sounds as old as time with fresh-baked rhythms like bread and wine." Farrell also began organizing a multi-day music festival to be held at Tel Arad, the ruins of an ancient city in the Judean desert. "It won't be called Kabbalapalooza," quipped the Los Angeles Times, referring to Kabbalah, the study of ancient Jewish mysticism that has become Farrell's passion of late, and which informed his songs on The Diamond Jubilee.
Whatever he does and however he chooses to describe it, it seems likely that Farrell will continue to be one of rock's most enigmatic, intriguing, and provocative performers for some time to come.
by Daniel Durchholz
Porno for Pyros's Career
Farrell formed group in Los Angeles, CA, following the demise of Jane's Addiction, 1992; released self-titled debut, 1993; participated in Britain's Reading Festival and Woodstock '94; band re-emerged with Good God's Urge, 1996; Farrell resurrected Jane's Addiction for live shows, 1997; Porno for Pyros disbanded, 1997.
- Selected discography
- Porno for Pyros
- Porno for Pyros , Warner Bros., 1993.
- Good God's Urge , Warner Bros., 1996.
- (Contributor) Private Parts: The Album (soundtrack), Warner Bros. 1997.
- Perry Ferrell
- Rev , Warner Bros., 1999.
- The Diamond Jubilee , Virgin, 2000.
- Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2000.
- Spin, July 1996.
- "Perry Farrell Finds His 'Salvation' On New Album," Launch, http://www.launch.com (December 13, 2000).
- "Porno for Pyros," Woodstock Online, http://www.woodstock.com (December 13, 2000).
- Additional information was obtained from Warner Bros. promotional materials.
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