1992 February Kerrang (381)

Thank you to Kathie Davis for the transcript.

THE KIEDIS IS ALRIGHT

 

Backstage in Paris, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS frontman ANTHONY KIEDIS is in thoughtful but happy mood… There’s no Blood being spilled, a complete shortage of Sugar and little Sex in evidence.  Verbal Magik, on the other hand, is the kind of trickery the vocalist specializes in as he leads JASON ARNOPP on a Red Hot romp through the workings of his mind on the eve of the band’s UK tour, beginning next week…

“Originally, I thought we’d get to Paris and there’d be a bunch of pompous, stiff, uptight, anal-retentive Frogs in the audience,” remembers Anthony Kiedis, the man with the Red Hot voice.  “But I was completely wrong.  “The typical impression of a Parisian is someone who doesn’t wanna deal with foreigners, but when we played our first gig the crowd went completely bananas.  They pretty much have every time we’ve played here since, too…

“I find Paris very welcoming,” he muses in that drily-spoken and perfectly polite was of his, “and I happen to have a lot of friends here.  I’m also very much into paintings, so I’ll be visiting the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition tomorrow…

Kiedis is modeling a bulky parka jacket, adorned with a fluffy white collar. We’re talking in a bare and partly mirrored dressing room area, backstage at Paris’ Zenith venue…

“We have a ridiculously intense schedule ahead of us,” he informs, “so I feel like I’m riding on a tornado of touring right now.  We’re doing Europe for another month, then its Japan, Australia, New Zeeland…

“Touring’s one of the most preposterous things you can put your body through,” he marvels, without genuinely moaning.  “Every day you’re travelling to a new city, and every night you’re sweating blood onstage.  You don’t get the best food, you start missing your friends… You can start to go insane, but if you keep things in perspective and try to give your best each night, you can do it and stay strong.”

HE SLIDES upright on his chair:  “I feel ridiculously strong and very healthy.  Chad (Smith, solid drumster) and I both have touring attitudes, whereas Flea (bass-demon, as if you weren’t aware) is less likely to wanna tour ‘n’ tour, and John (Frusciante, guitarist and obnoxiously reluctant photo star this issue) even less so.”

Do the Chili Peppers ever have really lousy nights onstage?

“Usually we have ‘supreme’, ‘great’, ‘good’ or ‘wish it could’ve been better’ nights.  We never really suck, cause we’ve been doing this so long, but sometimes it’s really about pushing the ride completely over the edge, and that’s when it feels really good.”

Have you come up with any new onstage antics for the UK to await?

“Well, y’know… antics, schmantics!” he dismisses, sounding weary.  “It’s really about the music, the mood and the exploding volcano of energy that we can erupt for our audience.”

But you can’t deny that people expect strikingly wacky visuals from the band now?

“Well, that’s their situation, and not something I apply myself to,” he shrugs.  “But we did hit upon a great idea while playing in LA and San Francisco arenas on a bill with Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

“We wore silver construction helmets with construction helmets with little spigots coming out of the top, and tubes running down to a propane tank on our waists.  So, for the encore, we had four-foot-high flames shooting out of our heads.  It was very expensive though, so we just did it for the big shows.”

YOU SAY ‘antics, schmantics’, and then go on to tell me that?!  Come on, you obviously love doing stupid, fun things onstage…

“Yeah… but it’s the idea of people expecting it that I’m not into.  I mean, when we used to ‘rock the socks’, so much attention was focused on that – especially by the press – that it became a sort of farce-of-a-sham-of-a-scam-of-a-fraud, and a shadow of its former self,” he speedily recalls with an almost entirely straight face.

So when you did your last slip socks on cocks for that ultimate, naked, funk-buzz?

“The socks?  They pop up sporadically (Oe-er-ED!) and rarely.  The audience have to be very lucky, if they consider it luck…

“But I just try to avoid getting trapped,” he concludes, “because I don’t expect myself to do anything that other people expect of me.”

KIEDIS CLAIMS to have discussed the 75-minute collection of soulful sounds that is ‘Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik’ “too many” times.

“It’s not really my fovourite affair, talking about what we do – or about myself, for that matter.  It tends to take away from what it’s all about, which is creating songs and playing them live, as opposed to analyzing and explaining things.”

Do you not relish interviews, full-stop?

Well, y’know,” he ponders, “I feel fortunate that there are people who are interested enough in what we do to wanna talk to us, and I’m willing to subject myself to it for that reason, because I’m willing to subject myself to it for that reason, because I’m sure there’ll come a time when no one really gives a f**k, and they don’t wanna talk to us!

“But it does tend to subtract, rather than add, to what we do…”

Isn’t it mainly a sharing thing, though?

“Sometimes it is, but when people ask you the same questions over and over again about what you do, it decreases the magical qualities,”

IS THAT because the Chilis like to keep their magical qualities to themselves?

 

“It’s not so much a selfish thing as… well… I just don’t get any great pleasure out of discussing myself with the media, because they’re generally so absurd in what they write to begin with.”

“They usually miss the big and beautiful picture, and concentrate on what they deem the ‘important angle’ of the band.  Because of that, the picture they give is often limited and untrue.”

Such as the seemingly common idea that the Peppers are interested solely in sex?

“Yes, and that’s not true.  Sex is just one particular element of what we’re not afraid to express.”

I’ve seen you accused of sexual insensitivity and even penis envy by one male journo.  Whaddaya think of that?

“I think these writers are sexually frustrated and have no sense of humour.  If they took the time to interview the romantic loves of our lives, they’d get a much different impression as far as sexual insensitivity and so on.”

So what are the Chilis really like in this respect?

“Well, take a song like ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’,” he offers.  “That’s a fictitious and somewhat animated portrait of a particular character, name of Sir Psycho Sexy.  It’s just a fantasy tale – a comical cartoon – and that doesn’t necessarily reflect my behavior in a relationship!”

“Other songs come closer to revealing what is more non-fiction, but I don’t see why I should have to explain myself to critics in order to gain their emotional acceptance.

“The more you explain yourself, the more you have to explain your explanations!”

YOU FEEL sadly misunderstood, I take it?

“Yeah, but who are we misunderstood by?  Probably the media.  I don’t think the true fans and lovers of our music misunderstand what we do, and that matters more to me than some superficial observer.  Basically, I don’t give a shit.”

“Sex is not an obsessive part of our lives,” he emphasizes, “and does not overshadow equally potent elements like friendship, nature or exploring other art worlds at hand.  It’s all part of a multi-dimensional balance of life – you’ve got your spiritual, physical and mental and you’re missing out if you don’t express them all.”

With ‘Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik’, the Chilis appear to be expressing themselves in a more soulful way, as opposed to the more Metallic shenanigans of its EMI predecessor ‘Mother’s Milk”…

“I think the new album sounds more soulful because we were so much more relaxed with this line-up.  We knew how to create space, and listen to each other.”

Would you say your voice has strengthened?

“I don’t know,” he casually returns.  “Stronger, weaker… whatever.  Hopefully the longer you apply yourself to your craft, the better you’ll get, and the more options you’ll be able to explore.  You find you have more pockets to choose from when it comes to different styles for different moods.”

‘Give it Away’ is one of ‘BSSM’s undoubted highlights, utilizing an extremely original style.

“Yeah, you can’t pigeonhole it,” he agrees.  “That song was born in a rehearsal room jam.  Flea started playing the bass line, and didn’t intend to put it in a song.  I told him I loved it, ran into the corner and started singing to myself.  If just came, so that was a very easy tune to write.”

Lyrically, it is anti-materialism?

“It is, but more than that, it’s pro-sharing.  It’s not so much anti-selfish as it is about the virtue of actually having more by giving more away, in terms of feeling better about yourself.”

“It’s nothing that hasn’t been said before, admittedly, Bob Marley pretty much summed it up with the one line, ‘How can you give your more to give your less?’.”

WE’VE HEARD about the band’s positive mental octopus outlook, but do they possess a never-ending supply of energy?  Does Kiedis personally stay bright even most of the time?

“Of course I get down,” he instantly replies, “but that’s where positive energy comes from.  You might be having an incredibly lonely, depressed, dirty-dog day, where nothing seems right, and write a song about it.  So when someone else listens to that song, they relate to it, and are therefore uplifted.

“If I’m ever feeling completely dismal, a song that shares sentiments makes me feel better – it’s the ‘misery loves company’ thing.  You can actually be uplifted by negative energy!”

Is there a lot for a Chili Pepper to become depressed over?

“Not really.  My personal philosophy of life is that I’m happy to be alive.  When I wake up and experience a new day, I can find the most simple pleasures to feel fortunate for.  Waking up and having a bicycle to ride is pretty much enough for me to feel alright.  Not everyone in the band has the same attitude, but that’s how I generally feel.

“I’m able to do what I want.” he says contentedly.  “That’s like the ultimate level of happiness for me.  Recording ‘BSSM’ the way we did was a privilege and it’s also an honour and a very great pleasure to be able was also an honour to be able to go on tour like this.”

CHANGING THE subject rather drastically, I ask Kiedis for his thoughts on the American basketball player Magic Johnson, whom the Chili Peppers dedicated a song to, and who recently emerged from the gay closet to publicly proclaim he was HIV positive.

Kiedis speaks in a tone even more sincere than before: “Magic Johnson’s just a great, powerful person and we didn’t find out he was HIV positive until November 7, 1991, when we were already touring for ‘BSSM’ in the States.

“I was also completely amazed and impressed by the way he dealt with the whole situation, ‘cause a lot of people that famous would’ve just skirted the public knowledge of his condition, which would’ve done nothing to help the cause of fighting HIV and AIDS.”

“For him to step up and face the music, I found very beautiful and moving.  He’s one of the heroes of my life – an amazing person and athlete.

“There’s a lot of sad things about the disease, ‘cause in America our government is so right-wing and anti-human rights.

“The disease primarily affects gay people and drug addicts, and the Bush administration deems those elements of society undesirable, so their efforts to try and find a cure for this disease are pretty much limp and non-existent.”

“The saddest thing is that people are so uptight about other people’s sexuality,” he laments.  “They don’t find it necessary to treat it like cancer, for example, which could affect anybody,”

But surely you recognize the very real risk for all of us?

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely a risk, and I actually just had an AIDS test about a month ago.  It was my second test and they were both negative.  That was an extremely relieving thing to find our – it gives you a new lease on taking care of your health.”

Did you have any major doubts before the test?

“Oh yeah, you can’t have a test without having doubts.  I wasn’t scared to death, but the good news was definitely a weight off my shoulders.”

HAVE YOU considered the number of rock musicians there may be with the disease?

“I don’t really spend my time considering what other people do.  All I can really comment on are the people within my band.

“My guitar player has a girlfriend, my drummer’s getting married, my bass player has been married and is presently separated.  I don’t necessarily equate rock music with promiscuity, and the Chilis are not nearly as promiscuous as people might imagine.”

“I prefer a monogamous relationship anyway,” he asserts.  I’d be completely content to have a woman who I was in love with, and restrict my sexual relationships to that one person.”

With that, he disappears to prepare himself for tonight’s powerful performances, and the anguished cries of a thousand groupie floozies seem to linger in the air after he’s gone…

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