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
Credit: Blackie Dammett
Photo showing progression of tattoos
Anthony Kiedis has 11 (visible) tattoos:
1. Large back Haida totem/bird tattoo with wings and an orca’s face.
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.
8. Pyramid on his chest.
The majority of Anthony’s tattoos are in black ink although the two inner arm ones are coloured and his latest one is just red. His arm tattoos are symmetrical in layout across his both arms with balanced, but not identical, designs. The pyramid tattoo is the odd one out in terms of symmetry.
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
People have long speculated on the nature of Anthony’s back tattoo with the most comment interpretation being that it’s a falcon or a thunderbird. In a video from 1996, Anthony stated that it is a design from the north-west Pacific area.
UPDATE: During a discussion about sea mammals during a 2022 podcast with Joe Rogan, Anthony made the comment that the central face is that of an orca:
“Orca’s my guy. That’s what’s on my back… that face in the middle is the Haida interpretation of the orca…”
Anthony made the comment and turned around to show Rogan the tattoo:
Source: Joe Rogan podcast #1884 22nd October, 2022. Time stamp: 58.34-58.53
Fourth Tattoo? Asterisk (wrist, right hand)
This is Anthony’s smallest tattoo but probably the most significant to RHCP fans as it’s 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). It was apparently not the work of Henk Schiffmacher but another artist (possibly because John Frusciante and Anthony got their asterisk tattoos at the same time?):
Roberts*, who tattooed many in the scene over a period of many years later gave Anthony his famous tattoo the band’s asterisk logo on his wrist.
Out in L.A. by Hamish Duncan; page 170. [*Bob Roberts from Spotlight Tattoo on Melrose Avenue, LA].
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. In a video, he states that the design comes from Borneo.
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) although it seems likely that it was done in/by 1995. A previously unseen video clip has recently emerged that is titled as being from the unreleased Deep Kick documentary which was due for release in 1995.
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.”
11th Tattoo: Pyramid Outline
Anthony got another tattoo, in March 2019, while RHCP were in Cairo for the concert at the pyramids. Once again, the tattoo was the work of Henk Schiffmacher who joined the band in Egypt with a number of other long-time friends (it was assumed this would feature in the documentary that was made of the concert, although it seems unlikely now that it will ever be released given the change in guitarists).
It is an outline of a pyramid in red presumably in reference to the location of the concert. While tattooing the band, Henk was photographed with this book and it seems likely that he used it as a guide:
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.
I have tried to use my own photos where possible. Source unknown*-Please contact if you would like a photo credited or removed.