Fifty percent of people later in life want to remove tattoos. Think you ever will?
I’ve never regretted any, and I still want more. It’s beautiful to watch the tattoos grow old and fade and become like worn-in jeans. They’re all representative of times in my life, so I can’t imagine ever wanting to erase any time in my life. source
Anthony Kiedis has 10 (visible) tattoos:
1. Large stylized bird/Indian design on back
2. An Indian chief at the top of each arm
3. A Celtic style band on each arm
4. A dagger on each arm.
5. A tiger on the inside of his right arm
6. A koi carp (and flower) on the inside of his left arm.
7. The Chili asterisk/star of infinity.
The majority of Anthony’s tattoos are in black ink although the two inner arm ones are coloured. His arm tattoos are symmetrical in layout across his both arms with balanced, but not identical, designs. Many of the designs reflect aspects or stages of his life e.g. his North American heritage (on his maternal side) is reflected in the Indian chieftain designs.
Several of his tattoos were drawn by, Hanky Panky (real name Henk Schiffmacher), a tattooist based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with Kiedis using touring as a chance to fit in visits when possible.
“On our visits to Amsterdam, I had befriended an amazing tattoo artist named Hank Schiffmacher. Hank, also known as Henky Penky*, was an icon of his country-an underground philosopher, artist, Hell’s Angel associate, booze hound, drug hound, girl hound, an absolute rapscallion of Dutch proportions. Over the years, Hank had injected much ink into my skin, and in the process, we’d become close.”
‘Scar Tissue’ Anthony Kiedis with Larry Sloman; page 303
(* It states Henky Penky in ‘Scar Tissue‘, I’ve seen the name given as Henky Panky and Hanky Penky, but Henk Schiffmacher’s website states Hanky Panky. Likewise the website and his book gives his name as Henk (not Hank).
Anthony Kiedis: Tattoo History
Please note: It’s hard to date Anthony’s tattoos exactly; using photographs can be problematical as the issue date can be different to the time they were taken so unless it’s at recognisable event, photos are not necessarily the best source for dating and there is very little mention of Anthony’s tattoos in his interviews. Unless a reference is given, most of the details below are based on concert videos.
First Tattoo: Chief Sitting Bull (upper right arm)
This tattoo was completed sometime between the end of 1987 and the beginning of 1988. There are few videos of this time of sufficient quality to check tattoo details but there’s a video from August 1987 (Arsenio Hall) and Anthony’s arms are definitely bare. There is a video from the following month taken at Vision Skate Escape, LA, on September 20th, showing the tattoo but there are other videos with a later given date that show his arm to still be bare and the Skate Escape video was later re-released with extra footage added so it’s hard to know which video is accurate. However, the tattoo is definitely visible on a confirmed video from February 1988 taken at Eindhoven.
Second Tattoo: Chief Joseph (upper left arm)
This was completed sometime between February 1988 (the same video from Eindhoven shows Anthony’s left arm to be bare) and June 1988 as there’s a clear video from the Pinkpop Festival in The Netherlands showing it (Anthony’s back is clear at this date so work on his back tattoo hasn’t begun at this point).
Third Tattoo? Back Design
In the left corner sits the owner of the emporium, Hank Schiffmacher, his brow furrowed in concentration. A grizzled bear of a man, the Da Vinci of the tattooing world, Hank screes the gun across the back of Antwan. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s singer remains as impassive as a cliff-face. He’s been here before, knows the pain factor involved. Hank has been working on the massive cubic native-American Indian image on the vocalist’s back over a period of several years.
Source: NME February 1990
The earliest clear evidence for Anthony’s asterisk tattoo is from 1989 so I’m assuming the back tattoo was the next one to be started although it took many sessions for it to be completed. The back tattoo was started sometime after Pinkpop in June 1988 (the video from that concert shows no tattoo) – probably immediately afterwards as Kiedis fitted in visiting to the tattooist while touring in the area.
“On that first trip to Holland (around the Pink Pop Festival dates in Finland), however, Kiedis was preparing to endure the fist pricks of the enormous cubic Indian totem image that would eventually engulf his back. Schiffmacher told him it would be the work of many visits, each one time-consuming (up to six hours at a time) and also very painful. Kiedis replied, jokingly, that given his own schedule, it would also take several years.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way: The Biography by Dave Thompson; page 120-1
There are various online interpretations as to the origin of the design. The most common views are that it is of an Inca/Aztec falcon but some people claim it is a Haida thunderbird or a totem pole design.
Fourth Tattoo? Asterisk (wrist, right hand)
This is Anthony’s smallest tattoo but probably the most significant to RHCP fans and probably the most copied among the fan base. The earliest clear evidence I can find for Anthony’s asterisk tattoo is from early 1989 (but it might have been from the end of 1988; I can’t see it in a video before that then). I’m assuming that work began (if it was not completed) on the back tattoo before this one was started, but that is an assumption. Whenever it was completed, it’s clearly visible on a video from March 1989 (Austin, Texas)
The meaning of the asterisk is another one of RHCP’s legends! The most accepted explanation is that someone wanted a t-shirt design early on in the band’s career and that Anthony came up with this symbol apparently based on the Star of Affinity/Chaos according to an explanation he gave at some point. However, it seems that the band got fed up with explaining the meaning and started offering alternatives including the infamous explanation that it represents an angel’s asshole!
Fifth Tattoo: Celtic Style Band (upper right arm)
Completed early 1990. This tattoo is not visible when the Chili Peppers were playing Kawasaki in January 1990 but it is visible on the footage from the UK TV Jonathan Ross Show in February of that year. The band incorporates a fleur de lys style design.
Sixth Tattoo: Dagger (left arm)
The next tattoo added was the first of the pair of daggers. I’d always assumed they were of Celtic influence but I’ve read (Kerrang! Legends RHCP Edition) that they are a Maori design symbolizing love. The tattoo was completed by February 1996 (Madison Square Garden concert)
Seventh Tattoo: Celtic Style Band (upper left arm)
This tattoo can clearly be seen at the Fuji Rock Festival in June 1997 (earliest evidence I can find but again, it could have been before this date). It mirrors the band on the other side but features a heart rather than the fleur de lys style design.
Eighth Tattoo: Dagger (right arm)
By September 1988, the second dagger has been added. (Stockton concert)
Ninth Tattoo: Tiger (inner right forearm)
Apparently added in 2001, symbolizing several things:
“A tiger, added in 2001, was to help him get over the pain of creaking up with his girlfriend, and represents both his Chinese birth sign and the Thai tradition of tigers bringing longevity and protection to the wearer- and he enjoys adding the detail that he is Tony the Tiger, the cartoon cat from the Kellogg’s Frosties add.”
‘Inside the Veins of the Velvet Groove’ by Martin Roach
Tenth Tattoo: Koi Carp (inner left forearm)
The koi carp was the final addition and was added in 2006:
“He obligingly reveals the latest tattoo on his famously inked-up body: a beautifully rendered koi fish on his forearm. It’s a symbol of overcoming adversity,” he says. “Of swimming up current, so to speak.”