Transcript by Rebecca Billingham
THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS ARE FITTER, HAPPIER AND MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN THEY’VE EVER BEEN. YET AS THE BAND FACE THE FUTURE, THEY ADMIT THAT “IT COULD ALL END TOMORROW…”
“YOU KNOW the old expression: if you’ve got one foot in the past and one foot in the future then you’re pissing all over today.”
Anthony Kiedis is sitting on a couch in the band’s backstage meditation room—having recently left the stage at Valle Des Pop, Caracas, after an almost indecently tight performance for 30,000 Venezuelans- the frontman is cool and composed even in the oppressive late evening heat.
Along with his bandmates, Kiedis seems content to live in the moment, grateful that, after nearly two decades of perseverance though some difficult personal and questionable musical times, the Chili Peppers- Kiedis, bassist Flea, guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith- have somehow emerged as a global force with their demons wrestled into submission and their songwriting at a career high. The band express a bemused gratitude that somehow they have reached this point, but all see reluctant to over-analyze their turbulent history or anticipate what lies ahead, almost in fear of jinxing the whole thing.
“I try not to think about the future,” says a bare-chested Flea, running a hand through his bleached hair. “It could end tomorrow, you know?”
You seem very happy as a band at the moment.
Flea: “Yeah, we’re happy. The underlying love we have for one another is very powerful and it’s always there; there’s always a very deep understanding that we believe in what we’re doing, which is really important to us. But we definitely have our dynamics of not getting along with each other and frustrating each other sometimes. But we’re in a good place as a band; we’ve been together for a long time and cut through a lot of the bullshit, you know, we feel like we work hard.”
Anthony: “It’s fun, it’s really fun. I can’t think of a better way of spending my time.”
And you operate at a pretty good comfort level presumably?
Chad Smith: “Oh shit, we fly around in private planes and stay in the nicest hotels. It’s ridiculous. Way too pampered little adolescent rockers in our little bubble, we just move our bubble around. We appreciate what we have, though, we’re just so into playing.”
Anthony: “On our very first tour, we set out in a blue Chevy van to cross the United States of America. We’d show up at these bars and clubs and barns- that was pretty interesting, about as real as it gets.”
Do you miss those days?
Anthony: “Well, I don’t. I’ve definitely grown to enjoy our new style of travel. One time me and Flea had to push a giant bass amp half a mile down Hollywood Boulevard to play a show because we had no other means, so I love the way we travel now.”
Chad: “I miss playing smaller shows when it was easier to walk around in the crowd, but we’d have to spend two weeks in one city to do that now.”
If you had to go back to sharing a room with someone else in the band, who would it be?
John Frusciante: “It would be Flea, probably. It’s very difficult to imagine it because you get used to stuff like that when you’re touring as a club band, but when we started touring for ‘BloodSugarSexMagik’, we started getting out own rooms and at that point it instantly became unimaginable to share with anybody else.”
Anthony: “I’ve shared a room with everyone in this band, but I think at this point Flea and I are most bio-rhythmically in sync with our sleeping patterns. It doesn’t sound pleasant, but it would be the lesser of all the evils. Definitely not Chad Smith. Love the man, don’t want to room with him.”
Flea: “Chad, I always used to room with Chad. One night- and this really gave me an insight into Chad’s mind- he was sleeping, I looked over at him. I thought he was awake but he was dreaming with his eyes open, looking up at the ceiling shouting, ‘You motherf**ker! I can see you up there. I’ll get you, you motherf**ker! Come on!’. He told me afterwards in his dream he was seeing some 12-legged spider monster. In my dream, if there’s some 12-legged spider monster thing there, I’m running away, but Chad wanted it.”
If you could visit yourselves as the young Red Hot Chili Peppers, what would your advice be to yourselves?
Anthony: “(Laughs) Well ,I can guarantee my 18-year-old self wouldn’t listen to any advice coming from me, my 39-year-old self. It just wouldn’t happen.”
John: “Well, it’s a hard question to answer because I did get the perfect advice from voices in my head… tons of it. Simple things like how I should dress or how I should have my hair to how my music should go, which I ignored.”
Flea: “Just to love myself, not beat myself up so much. I’ve done too much of that over the years.”
Chad: “Don’t do as I do, do as I say (laughs). No, I’d say be your own person, follow your heart and whatever you do, do it with mucho gusto.”
Have you started work on your next record?
Flea: “no. We’re always writing stuff, but we’re touring this record right now.
John: “Sometimes things cross my mind for the next record but I really still don’t feel done with the last one. I’ve done so many interviews about this last this last record, I get people asking why it isn’t more punk rock or why it isn’t more funk and sometimes it just makes me want to show those people, because we play the hardest things at rehearsal; we play the funkiest things, the fastest heaviest shit and it doesn’t wind up being on the record because it ends up the way it ends up. I constantly have to explain why it sounds the way it does, which makes me just want to do a record that’s everything this record isn’t, because even though the response from people is good, critics who don’t give a f**k about punk rock… in 1979, when punk was my whole life, who knows what those people were listening to? It wasn’t punk because they certainly don’t get what the spirit of punk is, they think it just means playing fast and hard. To me punk is doing something new, being original… being yourself, that’s number one what it’s about.
Do you feel that you’ve mellowed?
C had: I think there’s as much fire and passion in the music as ever.”
Flea: “My feelings are still pretty f**king intense. I feel I’ve deepened and learned to deal with my anger and put it in a better place. I used to fly off the handle a lot, but I don’t do that anymore, mainly because I’ve realized it’s useless, just a waste of energy and a waste of time. I used to get really frustrated with people and things. When I felt misunderstood or I felt people were being disrespectful to me I’d just explode. Now if someone’s frustrating me I just try to give them as much love as I can.”
So what can we expect next from the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Anthony: “Well, try not to expect anything and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with whatever you get. We really have a lot of work to do that we’re looking forward to doing. I feel like we’ve just begun to tap into this great pool of inspiration and excitement about music and songwriting, we’re barely getting into it and I feel if we can stay cool with each other…”
Is that a problem?
Anthony: “It takes work, for sure. At the beginning and the end of every day we just love each other as friends and as people, but in-between it can get a little sticky sometimes. We work it out though, we’re pretty willing to get over these things.||||”
Can you imagine life without the band?
Anthony: “I suppose some day that’s going to happen, but right now I see myself much more clearly going about the business of playing shows, writing songs and recording. I feel like I just joined this band.”
John: “Someday. I’m pretty happy with the way things are going right now. As long as we’re passionate about it, if the energy is coming as strongly and powerfully as it has been in the last few years then we’ll keep playing. It’ll be very obvious when we’re forcing it and at that point I won’t be able to go on doing it.”
Flea: “I try not to imagine the future at all. Maybe once in a while I have a really cool vision of me really old with long silver hair in a nice suit, sitting by the firepace reading a book. It’s funny, I remember 20 years ago I was sitting around with a friend getting high or something and I said, ‘What’s it going to be like when we’re old?’ He goes, ‘Oh we’re going to be sitting around in a hot tub listening to Led Zeppelin, taking bong hits and getting blow jobs. It’s going to be great!’ I remember thinking that was reassuring, that secure vision of the future. I really try not to think about the past of the future, just be in the moment that I’m in.”
Anthony: “I’d rather be in the moment than anywhere else, it’s the least terrifying place for sure. I guess I have some things I’m looking forward to in the back of my mind, like touring with The Mars Volta for instance. They’re going to be with us during the second leg of the tour through Europe. They’re my favourite band in the world and they’re really sweet, cool, smart, friendly, loving guys to hang out with. I’m looking forward to the holidays as well. Christmas and New Year’s. I always go to Michigan for Christmas, because that’s where my family is, but we usually have a little break at the beginning of January and I find some island somewhere to swim in crystal clear aqua. I try to swim wherever I can, but I won’t go in chlorine. I don’t care for it, I like salt water.”
Do you surf on these little breaks? Are you a good surfer?
Anthony: “No, I’m not a good surfer. I don’t surf that often- but that doesn’t stop me from surfing. We were in Costa Rica recently and we had a day off. We got lucky, took a little plane and landed in a small village that had a perfect surfing beach. I caught one magical ride, and that’s always enough to keep me coming back. That was a pretty genius little day off there.”
Flea, you seem to be the glue that’s held the band together through some tough times…
Flea: “Sometimes. I think at different times each one of us has been in that position. There’s been times when I’ve been that and other times when I’ve not been that at all- sometimes I’ve been totally off in my own world. It’s really important for someone like me… I really have the tendency to float off, to not be present. I’m making much more effort to be there for everyone all the time.”
Do you have any regrets?
Chad: “In the words of the great Butthole Surfers, it’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do. People make mistakes and you live by them, it’s just that we’re a little more in the public eye so people know about our ups and downs. I don’t regret anything.”
John: “Somebody who’s as happy as I am and as proud of what they have done as I am, it’s silly to say that I regret anything. There are things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of, but they’ve all gone into making me the songwriter and musician that I am.”
Flea: “No regrets… I’ve made a lot of mistakes, a lot of terrible mistakes…”
As everyone does…
Flea: “Some people don’t! Some people are really f88king smart from the get-up. Some people never self-destruct or ever hurt people or do things that are blatantly harmful to their emotional and spiritual state.”
So what keeps the band together?
Flea: “The band stays together because it’s fun. We believe in what we do and we believe in each other. We believe in the whole ball of wax. It’s always moving and changing, so it stays interesting. If we were just repeating ourselves then it wouldn’t really be… we’d probably have broken up.”
Chad: “Our love for each other and the passion for playing music together, there are some common goals there. As long as we have those things there’s no reason for us to stop playing music together because we love it. When it stops being like that then we won’t do it anymore, we’re not going to do 20 farewell tours…every tour’s our farewell tour because you never know what’s going to happen!”
John: “At this point, we are all very aware of each other and we all want the others to be happy, so if there’s any weird energy sensed by anybody we try and get to the bottom of it. Its more important to the band that I’m happy than it is that they’re happy, and the same goes with me for them. I’m, more concerned with how Flea and Anthony and Chad are feeling than how I am. That’s definitely what keep us together.”
Anthony: “We all love the same thing which is making music together and none of us want to sacrifice that, so I think were willing to look at ourselves and get over ourselves and make more records.”
Chad: “We’re like Jason in ‘Friday The 13th’, you can’t kill us man, we keep coming back.”