Anthony Kiedis: Tattoos


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

Penthouse January 2002



Anthony Kiedis: Right arm tattoos. December 2011 (Turin)



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: coloured tattoos on inner forearms


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.

Anthony Kiedis with no tattoos


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.

Photo showing first tattoo of Chief Sitting Bull while the second tattoo is being completed.

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)

left-arm-dagger-anthony-kiedis 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.

Close up detail of heart


Eighth Tattoo: Dagger (right arm)


By September 1988, the second dagger has been added. (Stockton concert)

Both dagger tattoos


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.” 

Blender March 2007 interview

The tattoo seems to have been added sometime early on in 2006. I think it’s visible on the Dani California video but it’s definitely on the Tell Me Baby video which was released in July 2006.

Please note: I have tried to make this information as accurate as possible ; if you have any additional information, or want to point out any mistakes, please contact me.

66 Responses to Anthony Kiedis: Tattoos

  1. Stan says:

    Hi. I was just wondering if you could tell me who got their asterisk tattoo first: Anthony or John Frusciante. I always thought it was John, he has had a huge influence on my life through his music, and have thought about getting the tattoo. If you could let me know it would be hugely appreciated.

  2. admin says:

    I can’t find anything definite; sorry. I’m assuming it’s Anthony. Have just scanned an article (was hanging on for it to see what it said exactly) and added a link to the article but it’s vague. I think it was Flea first, and then AK- remember reading something about it once but can’t remember where. I’ll update if ever I find it… but it’s THINK; sorry don’t know for sure. I have one other person to ask so I’ll see if they know any more.

  3. CB says:

    Does anyone know what his left arm bicep means ( the heart / broken heart ). It’s super nice : )

  4. admin says:

    I’ve never read anything as to it’s meaning; I don’t know if anyone else has? I read somewhere that the bands were designed to fit in with the other tattoos and be symmetrical but nothing as to why the Fleur de Lys and the broken heart were incorporated into them.

  5. CB says:

    Damn ! No one seems to know , and I’m really considering getting it , I love the design and have major respect for AK. It may say it in scar-tissue , will have to give that a read!

    • admin says:

      I’ve re-read Scar Tissue in detail recently and I’ve seen nothing in it; was looking for info for the articles on this site so I would have quoted it if there was anything about the tattoos. When I get a few minutes, I will look through some of my other RHCP books- one has got a bit about tattoos in it (there’s the quote in this article. I copied that when I wrote the first version of this tatto article for another website a couple of years ago; I haven’t read the book since so there may be more in it). The other place where there might be info, is in the magazine articles. I haven’t used them for info (yet! Reading them all and taking quotes/info from them is on my loooong list of things to do!) But it might be worth having a glance at them – are even more on my other website ! If I ever find anything, I will update this. It’s a really cool design! :D

  6. CB says:

    Thank you , it sounds like you have a real passion for the chili’s. I will keep searching also. Looking forward to the new album and interviews to follow! If only we could ring him up eh !

  7. Layla says:

    I Love Anthony’s tattoo,especially the Totem..but he doesen’t have earrings?

  8. Derek says:

    I do believe that in Oral/Visual it is mentioned somewhere about the asterisk tat… if it was not there, then in the 1993 book Red Hot Chili Peppers by Dave Thompson. I read them both nearly back to back. The only other place I may have seen something on it was Me and My Friends, but I am doubting that.

  9. I would be interested to know if Tone has a small Ant tattoo on one of his arms. My brother tells a story of spending time with him in singapore on a Chili’s tour some years ago. The tattoo was done in about 20 minutes by Singapore Tattooist Tommy Two Thumbs. Love to get picture/confirmation of that.

    • admin says:

      Never heard of it or seen it but I’m going to check that one out for you; give me a couple of days and I’ll see what I can find out.

      • admin says:

        I’ve asked my two AK experts and both are saying they know nothing about such a tattoo and there’s nothing on any photo, I or they, have ever seen.

  10. Billy Ford says:

    Does anyone know who’s asterisk is on the back of the bssm album, and what colour it is, cause wherever I look people say black, but on the album sleeve it doesn’t look like a full on black, it looks kinda faded, which is the effect grey ink gives (my girlfriend had a tattoo with grey ink), I really like the one on the back of the bssm album cover, it’s the perfect size (a lot of people have it done too big in my opinion) and as I said, I prefer the shade over a jet black colour, thanks.

  11. Billy Ford says:

    Haha, thank you so much! I think I’ll probably go for the same shape and size as AK’s then, but in a grey colour. I just love exactly how it looks on the BSSM album cover!

  12. Eva says:

    i’m really sorry,this is my last question!didn’t he wear an earring ?or does he not like earrings?Thank you so much!!!

    • admin says:

      No he doesn’t wear an earring; have never seen any evidence of him with one and I’ve just asked my AK expert – according to his mother Peggy has mentioned him wearing one as a child but there is no photo of that and he’s never been seen in one since. Hope that helps! And feel free to answer all of the questions you like; sorry it’s taking me a while to answer them but real life has been getting in the way :( )

  13. Eva says:

    Thanks!:)Your answer is very clear!Could it be a question of look?Does He prefer himself without?

  14. rene says:

    cool tatto

  15. Ana Onghero says:

    Cara mais foda do mundo ! RHCP

  16. johnF says:

    hey! look I live in Mexico, and I´ve been looking for the Scar-tissue book for years!! can you tell me where I can find it in Mexico please!!?? thanks

  17. Erin Floyd says:

    I’m wondering what his affiliation is with Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Joseph if any.

  18. Matheus Dutra says:

    Man, I’d just like to say thank you! Handsome website! Congrats

  19. will langford says:

    i love Anthony and his tattoos but i wish he would have never cut his hair and grew out his mustache.

  20. Miley says:

    Like his back tattoo!

  21. mari daz says:

    hai sos hermosos esos tatuajes !!=)

  22. gloriia says:

    please could put more tattoos anthony ??? please respond… :D

  23. gloriia says:

    please put more tattoos anthony

  24. Nairia says:

    What kind of earring he worn when he was a kid?Please!
    Someone just tell me that he likes indian’s earring,but i don’t think so!


  25. J says:

    Hey thanks for the site! Any idea who took the back tat you posted (5th down) of Anthony or where I could get a high res image? Any help would be hugely appreciated!!!

  26. Sunny says:

    Hey! I was just wondering about his asterisk tattoo, roughly how big would you say it is? I’m think of getting one done when I am older:)

  27. john strickland says:

    hi anthony , i was wondering what the fore arm ( celtic daggers ) represent as i am having them done myslef next week , so when people ask why then i can say , i noticed on a site they said love underneath the picture , so are they for that,
    many thanks john

  28. Nairia says:

    Does Anthony Kiedis hate wear an earring?

  29. Nairia says:

    I love him too much but i’m really curious about this! Thank you admin,you’re great!

  30. cg says:

    What is the tatt that most defines AK as im getting tatt to represent each of my kids n one of them was named Kiedis as a tribute to him and the band.

  31. Dino says:

    Hi there. 3 years before the doctors discovered a tumor on my leg. So at the age of 17, i lost half of my left leg. i was 5 months in hospital. I had there only my phone, and on him was few songs of RHCP. They was my companions in that hard time. And to say Thank You , i made a tattoo few days ago. The same heart that AK have on his left arm. Its made to say Thank You !!! I love your songs. One day i buy a guitar, and the 1st thing i want to play is Under the Bridge, after that i can die in peace :D

  32. Oscar Myers says:

    I was just wondering if you have an original image of the inca bird that Anthony got

  33. Charlotte says:

    I read something that he may be Mohawk? Though the article said “Mohican” which isn’t really a tribe. Mohegan is, Mohawk is Mohawk, of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy. So it’s a little confusing he has a NW Coastal on his back, and Chief Joseph (Nimiipuu, or Nez Perce), a plateau tribe. Awesome, but, a bit confusing. I guess if one were honouring their heritage, I’d figure they’d use something from their own nation.

  34. Luana Bandeira says:


  35. Hi! somebody knows places wher anthony get tatoos in USA? somewhere in NY or FLORIDA? specially the asterisk or the broken heart? Thanks!

  36. Karrina says:

    Hi guys, I am an Aussie Chilis fan. Heading to the states in a few months and keen to get the asterisk tattood on me while in LA. Does anyone know if Anthony used any LA tattooists to do any of his tatts? I would love to have mine done by someone who has done some work on AK. <3

  37. ZanyZephyr says:

    Hi.. I’m a huge fan of the peppers.. I would like to know who got the logo on the right inner wrist first? Does the 4 of you guys have it? I’ve got 1 & its red in color.. Hope u guys reply..

  38. JAC says:

    I have a Branded Garment leather jacket my brother gave to me in the 90′s. I still have this leather and it has Anthony’s tattoos embroidered on it in with turquoise thread. Any idea when these were released exactly? I think this is a pretty rare item cause I can not find any information on it at all.

  39. ismu widjaya says:

    I heard Anthony Kiedis travel to Borneo – Indonesia to make a tattoo, is this true?

  40. dimas says:

    He went there to catch some waves a.k.a surfing @ Mentawai, Indonesia. i’m not sure about the tattoos, but it has a similiar type / shape with Dayak tribe / Borneo drawings.
    Not many chili peppers fans know this, because it’s ‘Asian’ things, you know… doesn’t sound european / american.. doesn’t sound cool. haha.. and i don’t know whether it’s a big issue / not.

    and one more, FLEA’s back tattoo: a Balinese evil folklore creature named: Léak.
    Go google it. A VERY similiar shape. and the most notable two sharp teeth (what d’you guys call it? like ivory?) like a Léak mask.

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