1988 January NME

Please note: This magazine is the size of a newspaper and therefore wouldn’t fit onto the scanner. The cover was been scanned in top and bottom halves; the feature was over two pages so I scanned it in four quarters: 1 a is top left-hand side, 1 b is bottom left-hand side; 2a is top right-hand side and 2b bottom right-hand side

Thank you to Kathie Davis for the transcript.

LUST IT SPACE

Stardate ’88.  Warp factor 10.  THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS are preparing to pervert the planet, “hit it to hell in the bread-basket”, and, er do naughty things to the devil.  Spacehack SIMON ‘Shatner’ WITTER beams down for a slab of sonic sexiness.  Picture:  CHRIS ‘Daddy Clanger’ CLUNN.

It was another typical day aboard the Starship Hack.  We were cruising the musical cosmos in search of life, the Freebie Shield deflecting unwanted buckshee lunches and Iron Maiden tour shirts, when there was a ring at the door.

“Speak your business!”  I heard the Hypercon barking.

“Well,” a female voice began, “you know I never bother you unless I know it’s your kind of band.  It’s a waste of my time and yours…”

I glanced over at the decoder screen.  It read:  “I know I pester you with every half-arsed A&R contrivance and clapped-out headbanger on the label, but…”

“Just as I thought,” I muttered, activating the ‘On A Long Holiday, message.  Just then the radar began to crackle.

“Captain Clunn!” I shouted.  “Is that something exciting ahead?”

“That would appear to be the case, sir,” he murmured, hovering towards me with a large gin and tonic.

“Pull yourself together Clunn!” I snapped.  “You’re a trained astronaut, not a bloody butler!”

“Very good, sir,” he demurred.

“Dickhead!” I snorted in self disgust, vowing never again to get my spacecraft pilots from Kelly Girl.

Suddenly the crackling radar screen snapped into focus.  I squeezed my throbbing eyeballs back into their sockets and began to board up the hole my heart had just made in my ribcage.  We had been looking for fun, but not the kind you need a Richter Scale to measure.

“Captain, those aren’t The Red Hot Chili Peppers?”  I queried pathetically.

“I fear so, sir,” he confirmed with sickening composure.  And, of course, he was right.  Fate had crashed me into the Peppers before – when Clunn’s incompetent predecessor accidentally landed The Hack in Detroit – and theirs were faces I was doomed never to forget.

Back then they had been under the command of a portly black man with long rainbow-coloured hair, happy feet and a facial expression next to which TOTP deejays looked like manic depressives.  Funkenstein was his name, a medical man, or so he claimed.  Encouraged by this ‘doctor’, and aided by some of his Mothership cohorts, the Peppers had made a music so violently seductive that, within minutes, The Hack’s most complex defence mechanisms were waving the white flag and pushing out the welcome mat.  Thus prone, The Peppers had boarded us and infected the entire crew with a sinister virus they called Freaky Styley.

I need only mention that the disease’s main symptoms were a lust for bone-crunching mayhem funk, world peace, colourblindness and an obsession with outsized male genitalia, for you to imagine what a strain this placed on the daily running of the ship.  I alone had escaped, ditching the crew – lost souls to a (wo)man – in Detroit, to thresh for all eternity in a quagmire of sensual gratification and shattered character references.  How often I had longed to rejoin them.

“If I might suggest, sir,” interrupted Clunn, not a second too soon. “We should activate Plan X – hyperspace return to London – without delay.”

“Hyperspace Return?!!!”  I gawped.  The man was clearly two bars shout of a pop-up toaster.  “What about the risks?  The unpredictability?”

“I fear, sir, that no alternative course of action presents itself at present.”

He was right, as always, damn him.  I bade him do his worst…

We came to in what appeared to be a hotel garage and, decanting ourselves from The Hack in the direction of the street, found the city miraculously transformed.  The streets were now named after drinks, parks after jazz musicians, the bars were still open at 5am, and a headache-inducing variety of music poured into the street from every open door.  We split into two reconnaisance parties but, within minutes.  Clunn was back.  I sensed that he was excited.  Either that, or he had recently acquired a hobby of flapping his arms like toilet doors in a prune cannery.

“They’re here sir!” he yelped, dragging me by the arm.  We rounded the corner.  He wasn’t wrong.  The street seemed to disappear beneath my feet.

There, swinging dementedly around a lamppost, blasting out an awesome acappella “Bohemian Rhapsody’, were the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I knew then that this wasn’t London, for not a head had turned at this glaring display of mental instability.  I collared a passer by.

“Nawlins!” he grunted with surprising friendliness, clearly under the impression that he had been of some help.  When it later transpired that the words the poor blighter had been wrestling with were “New Orleans”, I decided that a restorative stay in the place might justify confronting the funky fiends on our tail.  They certainly seemed to have no intention of leaving us in peace.

“Sir,” fawned the Captain inappropriately, once we were safely ensconced in our hotel room.  “As you have deemed this meeting unavoidable, might I be permitted to know a little more about the other team?”

I obliged him, reciting from memory the fearful facts:

Origin Or Players:

 

Flea – aboriginal – blooded bassist, ex-Fear.  Turned down John Lydon’s invitation to join PIL.  Skinhead star of Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia and many forthcoming films.  Metabolism and biorhythms still being scrutinized by puzzled scientists…

Hillel Slovak – Israeli guitarist.  Goofy genius and God’s Jewish gift to the six-stringed chunderbus…

Jack Irons – drummer (birthplace unknown).  Defected, along with Hillel, from LA cult band What is This.  Fresh-faced man of mystery and dream rhythm planter.

Antwan The Swan – Midwestern Yankee frontman, Loud, proud rapping ladykiller.  Heir to Mick Jagger’s lips.

Operational bass:  Hollywood California… and proud of it.

LP’s:  ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ (Producer: Andy Gill) and ‘Freeky Styley’ (Producer: George Clinton).  Both on Capitol.  Both hard to find.  Both highly recommended.

Musical Style:  Catholic.  Raging soul stew, predominantly punk, unarguably funky.  Influenced by every music that was ever good (though some of it doesn’t show).  Played with a timing and chemistry that defies description or comparison.

Motto (courtesy Captain Beefheart):  “Hit it to hell in the bread-basket and finger F—k the devil.”

Virtues:  On a good night possibly the best live band in the whole white world.  Passionate loathing of racism.  Tendency to appear naked, but for one strategically-placed sock.  Blissful understanding of rock-funk interaction potential (not overlayed riffola).

Vices:  Mind your own business!  “In short,” I concluded,” they’re a blatant threat to the musical and moral status quo, and, if we don’t stop them, may well change the very way we think about salad dressing!”

“Sounds like a good egg to me,” quipped Clunn, clearly not grasping the seriousness of our position.  Their sinister powers appeared to have claimed another victim.  I now stood alone, a solitary bastion of decency being buffeted by waves of inviting decadence.

Later that evening we were awoken by what sounded like wild animals sniffing our loafers.  The Peppers had us surrounded.  They had stolen our shower caps and were chewing the complimentary shoe mitts with glee, but at last the reason for this invasion had revealed itself.

“Listen to our new album!” they pleaded, pressing ‘play’ on a suitcase-sized tape recorder.  They laughed, they danced, and then they peeled us (and our bedclothes) off the ceiling.  We were slaves to their rhythm, empty vessels waiting to be filled with the puss from these boils on the back of American music.  ‘The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’ had already insinuated itself into my favour in a ‘Best Album Of 88’ kind of way.  Produced by Material man Michael Beinhorn, its 13 slabs of sonic sexiness hurt in all the right places, bouncing and growling with crystalline clarity and going BLAM just when other bands would’ve drooped disappointingly.  A question raised itself above the messy remains of my mind.  Who’s blinder of an idea had it been to engage this Beinhorn Johnny?

“We were looking for a producer,” began Antwan,” and Michael Beinhorn came down to New Orleans to spend a few days on the road with us.  He thought we were one of the best live bands he’s ever seen, and we thought he was young and hungry.”

“Seeing us live made a lot of difference to the production of the album,” explained Flea,” as it’s such a large part of what we’re about.  ‘Freaky Styley’ was a great album, the tracks are great, but physically it sounds real small now.  The guitar isn’t live and in-your-face enough.  Neither George nor the band were there in the mixdown.  We left that in the hands of the mixing engineer, and he sorta lost his erection after we left, and couldn’t get it up for the mix.”

Discretion prevented the Peppers from naming the unsuccessful candidates for the production seal, but I knew Malcolm McLaren to be amongst 20 or so who had failed to hit it off with them.

“We weren’t interested in their CVs, just in whether they understood us, and Beinhorn was about the only one who did.  We also seemed to get off on the same music, the same rhythms, Jimi Hendrix, Fela Kuti, Stevie Wonder, Sly And The Family Stone.”

“A lot of producers asked us what we wanted to make – a rock record, a funk record, etc.  Michael understood that we weren’t trying for a defined commerciality, we just wanted to be ourselves as hard as possible.  We liked good music, soulful music, and could get as much out of Billie Holiday or AC/DC as Art Blakey.  We both felt that categories are bullshit, that music should be personal expression.”

I pointed out that in the real world categorization exists, and if you don’t fit, you may get left by the wayside, making your point to a few converts.

“We can’t worry about that,” raged Antwan.  “We stand very strongly for breaking down barriers.  If people say this is too white for black radio, or too black for white radio, we just ignore them, ‘cos music is the last place we need bullshit racial barriers.”

“If we started worrying about what other people thought of us we’d be lost,” continued Flea.  “The main thing is to make music that makes us happy, that makes our penises hard, ‘cos we’re the ones that have to live A lot of people like us.  In America we’re selling out 1000-seaters in almost every town we go to.  Our third record had outsold the first two put together within two months of its release.  We don’t get much commercial radio play, but our next single, “Behind The Sun’ may just crack that.”

That’s the one about listening to dolphins singing symphonies.  Are you going acid hippie on us?

“That song,” explains Antwan, “is based on natural psychedelia, inspired by love and the desire to be at one with people and animals and earth, as opposed to LSD psychedelia.  Which is not to say we’re anti-LSD, ‘cos we’ve all tried it and enjoyed it immensely.”

“We’re all pro-LSD!” adds Hillel, “but drugs are a touchy subject.  We’ve experimented and found some drugs a weeny bit death-orientated.”

And what about the current single “Fight Like A Brave’?

“It’s about freedom, freeing yourself from all the bullshit and sad things in life that you can bail out from.  To move forward in an uplifting Mofo direction.  The album is about an upwardly mobile feeling, satisfying people’s souls with music.”

So it’s a yuppie groove thang.

“No, no, no!  We’re talking about spiritual mobility through music.  The relationship between music, sex, environmental and racial issues.  It’s based on freedom.”

“A Mofo’s like a mojo,” contributes Hillel,” Uplift yourself Mof — ker!”

A common comparison is currently being drawn between the Beastie Boys and the Peppers, about which the latter (having rapped for the last five years) are none too pleased.

“That comparison,” says Antwan with forced restraint, “is made from a standpoint of ignorance.  If you look at both acts you’ll see immediately that one is a band and one isn’t.  We create live, organic, fresh in-your-face music every night.  They go on  stage and lip-sync to a turntable.  Enjoying their records is one thing, but live they’re one of the most boring bands you could waste your money on.  If you see our name and theirs on the same line, it’s because we’re both white.”

And, judging from ‘No Chump Love Sucker’, both a tad sexist.

“It’s a love song,” counters Flea.  “A vicious, bitter love song.”

It reminds me of rap’s uglier underbelly, the very tiresome dissing of women.

“It’s dissing one particular woman, not womanhood.  Our repertoire will show you that we’re not sexists.  It’s about one particular bitch, and how drugs interfere with a relationship.  Anyway, the Beasties thing is ridiculous.  Anthony raps all the time, and it’s a beautiful thing, but no way are we a rap band.  Rap today is completely associated with drum machines and synthesizers, which is not the deal with us.  We’re not a psychedelic funk band.”

In truth hardcore tradition the Peppers have endorsed a skateboard, and were recently voted number one band in a surfers’ pole.

Huh?!

“Skateboarding and surfing are very akin to our music,” warms Flea.  “It’s all about moving forward, riding the beat, and grooving and thrashing and cruising.  Also, skateboards have round wheels and we have round testicles.  It’s the phallic thing, boards and guitars.  When we become big rockstars, we’re gonna have a penis-shaped jet.”

The Peppers are into all things tribal – check out the black light bodypaint and Indian gear in the ‘Brave’ video – but their clan is far removed from LA’s thrash scene.  It’s the little-known Hollywood Kids, whose soundtrack and attitude comes courtesy of The Peppers themselves and Fishbone.

“The Hollywood Sound is a real happy, groove-orientated sound.  It’s about being happy, groove-orientated sound, it’s about being happy, playing and standing up for what you believe, not shouting at the devil and all that bullshit.”

What’s the Hollywood attitude?  Fishbone and The Peppers are so frantic, so opposed to the laid-back hey-manism that the letters LA conjure up.

“For us it’s anti that feel, that whole middle class bullshit.  It’s living in Hollywood, our sexual desires, the things we’d like to change.  It’s love‘n’hate rather than love’n’peace.”

So you love Hollywood and hate what it stands for.

“Not at all!  That southern California groovy, mellow hippy thing is a silly stereotype.  You can find anything you want in Hollywood, all of life is there, and the high voltage electricity that’s in the Hollywood air is the feeling we choose to perpetuate.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are truly the most eye-tiringly energetic group to richochet about a stage, but even their mojo is feeling the strain of an inhumane tour schedule.  I point out that skiving off work, trekking across continents in a mobile home and being showered with adulation every night, is not everyone’s idea of a hard life.  Flea is not convinced.

“But we’ve played 52 shows in 52 different places in the last 58 days.  You don’t see anything.  After a while it starts to look like another town, another night and another bunch of drunken assholes.”

And he’s not wrong about this particular night’s crowd, a 1000- strong rabble of drunken, slamming, detrousering students.  New Orleans should have held a lot of resonances for the Peppers – past scrapes, meeting Beinhorn, The Meters (a cover of whose ‘Hollywood’ has been the Peppers’ only UK single to date), relative racial harmony, Red Indians, etc. – but once inside the Storyville Jazz Hall, you might as well have been in Boston or Rhode Island.  The group accurately sized-up crowd within minutes, and unleashed a hell-for-leather set, noticeably lacking in light and shade.  Even on a (very rare) off night the Peppers deliver up the pure joy of grunge (with a spring-heeled step in its stride), but some slower, heavier interludes wouldn’t have hurt.

Walking down Bourbon Street at two in the morning.  Flea is in a mellow, pensive mood.  He turns to the band’s manager.

“Was it a good show tonight, was there some special kind of magic, or was it just another night on the road?”

“It was just another night on the road,” replies Mr. Goetz, with an honesty uncharacteristic of show biz managers.

Above the hiss of delating egos I wonder whether the group see themselves on stadium stages.

“However big the Arena,” Antwan assures me,” however far away you’re sitting, four guys going completely crazy has got to be more interesting than someone falling asleep over a guitar.”

“I’m all for us getting a bunch of money,” interjects Flea,” but it’s not a priority.  Our mental health comes first.  I already feel like the richest man in the world.  I’ve got a place to live, a car, loads of food and clothes, and I get given everything for doing what I love.  This band’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

“Those two get all the money,” explains Hillel, “Jack and I are the grovelling idiots they keep in a trailer and occasionally throw scraps to.”

“Don’t be so ungrateful!” chides Flea, “whenever there’s a joint going round, don’t we give you guys the roach?!”

When the talking’s over, The Peppers turn out the lights.  Tomorrow Texas must be tackled, and Clunn and I are allowed to slide.

The next day we reboarded the Hack a changed party.  We knew that The Red Hot Chili Peppers were planning to instigate musical earthquakes across the European continent soon, but we were no longer afraid, for now their seismic funk raged like an unforgettable fire through our veins.  And, should duty prevent our paths from crossing, we’d bagged copies of a sparkling chunderfest called “The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’ to keep us going.

“Well Clunn,” I practically chirped, “that encounter turned out really rather well, eh?”

“Indeed sir!” observed the soon-to-be-made redundant Captain.  “One may safely assume that The Red Hot Chili Peppers will continue to commit their funky crime, and keep the world a safe place for music that’s not the same!”

 

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