Thank you to Rita Bussetta for the transcript & translation into English.
RHCP 1999. Anthony Kiedis is almost unrecognizable because of that platinum blonde hair. Flea is a little bit numb but he doesn’t forget to pull down his trousers so that we can recognize the humorous bassist.
Chad Smith is bigger and bigger, amusing and amused. And then there is John Frusciante, he is back in the band and has got a very late-hippy look. Yeah, it is really him, the prodigal-son-guitarist who got lost somewhere inside the drugs world during the epic BloodSugarSexMagik period (four times platinum disc) in 1991. That was eight years ago. From then on the Red Hot have kept on reinventing themselves together with the ex-Jane’s Addiction Dave Navarro who has been playing guitar in One Hot Minute, at Woodstock 94 and at several concerts with them (the one on the Mount Fuji, Japan included – where the gig was hit by a typhoon).
Afterwards, Flea and Kiedis’ movies experiences, The Simpsons’ episode and the track “Rollercoaster” inside the Beavis & Butthead’s compilation. Moreover, broken elbows, car accidents, the relapse into drugs, the chaos…
But now they are back and determined! The new album Californication has jumped to number one even in the Italian charts (yay!) and – just to describe it in a word: beautiful!
“Hard!” has met the four guys during an Italian stage of the promotional tour that also took them on the MTV Sashimi stage in Milan to perform the only showcase in Europe for the launch of Californication…
Anthony: “This atmosphere – all of us around the table – reminds me ‘The Last Supper’ painting by Leonardo…”
Flea: “and either the ‘Viridiana’ by Bunuel…”
LET’S START FROM THE TITLE, CALIFORNICATION…
A: “It’s a new word, not necessarily connected to sex. Giving a definition is up to you. It can probably be a way to describe the effect of art, culture and everything that happens in California on our musical universe…and on the whole world. It’s our love-n-hatred ballad for our country.”
MOTHER’S MILK AND BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK’S ENERGY AND ENTHUSIASM SHINE THROUGH THIS ALBUM TOO…
F: “Everything has been done in a very instinctive way, nearly sage: we were feeling like it and boom! We were hit by an almost hormonal storm of inspiration and wrote very many songs, about thirty or forty. We got started in my garage with some never-ending jamming sessions until the idea came out. We had an incredible feeling since the beginning. As soon as we were ready we got into the recording studio and everything went straight forward. It’s been a new experience – during a crucial moment in our career like this – that has done so much good to our mood.”
SO EVERYTHING’S BEEN MORE IMMEDIATE THEN IN THE PAST…
A: “We have spent some time getting close-knit anew, just playing together to get on the same wavelength as much as the past times cause we deeply wanted to start on the right foot.”
C: “Then it took a little time: the tracks haven’t been elaborated till the exasperation!”
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FROM ZERO HOUR TO CALIFORNICATION?
J: “Eight months, even though we were forced to stop for a while after Flea had closed his garage to leave to Australia and had taken the keys with him!”
A: “Yeah, but you and I haven’t actually stopped working…”
J: “Ok, but not even one of those songs has ended up on the album!” (*laughs*)
A: “There was a mutual sense of excitement but we never lost the attention and the direction: our ears and looks were straight on what was to come into the studio…”
JOHN: WHY DID YOU LEAVE THE RED HOT AND WHY HAVE YOU REJOINED THE RED HOT?
J: “My decision has come from the feeling that – being already overwhelmed by myself – the 1992 world tour would have completely destroyed me. We hadn’t been enjoying anymore and we hadn’t mutual respect any longer. So I left and did what I was feeling to do, trying to figure out what my role was in the universe. Now I got it… and throughout the last year I’ve only been focusing on being the best guitarist on the Earth, at least for the Red Hot! Everything has gone smoothly. They asked me whether I wanted to be back and I was like ‘Yes…why not?’”
A: “Since the very first moment John returned, I’ve never had doubts, uncertainties or apprehension. His sound is RHCP.”
J: “I remember the first rehearsals: we weren’t playing anything particular and yet it happened to sound good! Maybe because of the human harmony that had awakened among us. We were friends and members of the band again, like never before.”
F: “No one had ever kicked out John and he had never been like ‘Guys, I’m leaving’. The point is that at a certain stage it wasn’t working any longer and each of us chose their own route. Us with Dave, him alone. These are unpredictable events. During the past we had lived great moments and experienced huge fun, ‘rocking, everything is in full swing, we’re having fun’. And then, there are moments in life that you’d better have a change of scene. It’s something you cannot control. There are loads of unpredictable things in a band like this and it’s cool: being at full gallop that is the essence of every real rock band. Otherwise, we would be just a load of piecework-freelancer-session-musicians paid for our job on instruments. That sucks! John’s nature is like ours. Here’s what happened: last year I asked him to rejoin us and he was so excited that when we started jamming together the atmosphere was electrifying.”
WAS IT DIFFERENT OR WAS IT LIKE IT HAD PASSED NOT EVEN A MINUTE SINCE THE LAST TIME?
J: “The chemical energy among Flea, Anthony and me was different to some extent. Anthony and I have always been close friends, the kind of friends who go out together in the night, regardless of the band. Flea, instead, never paid us any mind when it came to living social life! Now it’s different, there are three minds and just one heart…it’s a matter of feeling…but – just to be clear – we don’t sleep together!” (*laugh*)
A: I reckon it’s a natural process. True friendships get through ups and downs, yet if they don’t end up losing touch one another then it means they’re really genuine and unassailable!”
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?
F: “We’re the same band as we were during the Freaky Styley and Mother’s Milk era but – of course – we have aged and grown up music-wise. Today music sounds different because this is a different moment. We have written the songs like then, taking our chances, following our emotions, intuition and spirit. Yet, our music is the result of all we were breathing at that moment. Only, this time we have better organized our practical work in order to convey the inspirational energy that was surrounding us, without any leakage any absent-mindedness, neither chemical nor alcoholic… got it?”
DOES “SCAR TISSUE” HAVE A SPECIAL VALUE, GIVEN THAT YOU CHOSE IT AS THE FIRST SINGLE?
A: “To us it’s sort of the ‘Under The Bridge’ of the 2000: it’s a ballad and its lyrics are as strong as it. Only, Bridge was a personal outburst which had got a melody, some accompaniment chords and its own text before becoming a song. ‘Scar Tissue’ instead, was born from some group ravings, with no limits or restrictions on genre, style, speediness. That’s the Red Hot’s fascination: one day we feel gloomy and a piece like ‘Porcelain’ comes out from the desire of extreme simplicity. The day after, instead, our dirtiest sounds come out in ‘I Like Dirt’… and yet both of them fit with our repertoire and even with the album itself! Isn’t it awesome? When we started making ‘Scar Tissue’ – there, in the garage – the words came to me immediately, in a stream of unconsciousness. I could hear them in my head…there, they had no sense but in the context, suiting perfectly with the music vibe. It was the first song to be completed. The album was getting off a good start.”
DID YOU GET CONFUSED WHEN DAVE LEFT THE BAND OR DID YOU HAVE CLEAR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FUTURE?
A: “Flea’s a very sensitive and intuitive guy: he always manages to value all the possibilities and always finds the right solution. I guess his big heart must hold the secret…He has ever known that John would have come back one day and the probability turned into possibility when we were at loggerheads with Dave. To be frank, I didn’t believe this reunion could ever happen. Once John and I used to be really friends but then we lost touch with each other so I didn’t think it could have worked again. Last year though I was in a particular moment of my life when I publicly admitted my strong drugs addiction and I felt the need to get close again to my best friend, so I dropped by the hospital to visit John, just to see how he was, without any secret purpose. Thinking about him back in the band was one of those things too good to be true! I wished he had been but…Flea’s smarter than me in these things…”
IT WAS FLEA’S IDEA, THEN?
F: “No, first I talked to Anthony and Chad… then I acted.”
DID THE CHOICE COME FROM THE HEART OR FROM TECHNICAL REASONS?
A: “Suddenly everything was obvious and certain…for thousand of reasons and without a precise one…”
J: “All in sudden, we magically figured out our role in the others’ life and in the band… a strong irresistible feeling, the best thing that ever happened to this band. We were getting on well together… and that was as it had to be.”
THE NEW ALBUM IS SLIGTHLY POP RELATED TO THE OTHERS: ANTHONY’S NEW CONTROL ON THE VOICE AND JOHN’S GUITAR PIECES CAN BE PERCEIVED IN SONGS LIKE “PORCELAIN” AND “EASILY”.
C: “When inside the studio, many guitarists are often more concerned about the amplifier – should be the right one – or about the pedals – should be at the right place. The sound that comes out from John’s fingers belongs only to him because it comes from his heart and his mind, with no shitty filters. It’s him! He plugs the guitar and plays. He’s really unique…”
F: “…and he manages to bring out many amazing, brilliant arrangements. Spontaneously. He gives heart and soul to his music. As for us, he’s the best guitarist in the world…”
J: “Guitar has always been my dream since I was a two-year old kid. And I’ve always tried to make up for my technical limits through being inventive and original. Just like Jimi Hendrix, with all due respect… or kind of punk and new wave. That’s the style, and yet each song sounds – must sound – amazingly fresh and unique.”
A: “I got completely carried away by his music. It’s been a voluntary and unconscious process at the same time. This time I simply captured the melody in the air only by following John’s tunes and Flea and Chad’s grooves. I listened to the magic of that sound and gave it the voice…”
J: “Our songs come from jamming sessions; it’s always been like that. At a certain point Anthony usually starts to record pieces without telling us. Then he listens to them during the night and the day after he comes over and is like ‘You can’t figure out how cool this piece is, why don’t we work on it?’ We are the machines, he’s the mind!”
A: “The expensive equipment is Flea’s. A million dollars DAT equipped with tens of lights and push-button controls. Well, I’m not really good at using it, just as much as I need. The point is that Flea financed it and I’ve got the patience to make it work! Though my 22-dollar tape recorder is still my favorite! After the rehearsals I use to listen again to the tape while driving my car and – if necessary – I revise the most tickling idea all night long, till the dawn. Adrenaline keeps me awake until the idea gets into shape. Sometimes it takes a month, sometimes a day…”
WHAT ABOUT LYRICS?
A: “Sometimes I start crooning on a music base and then the band help me to find the melody. As for words I need to gather my thoughts in quiet solitude… I sit down for hours looking for the poetic mood and the vocal solution”.
J: “Anthony is an amazing talent: he’s got an instrument that can’t be bought! His incredible vocal cords! His strength is his great patience and self-examination. Sometimes he mulls over things we have been playing together in the garage and then he brings out solutions that apparently don’t fit with the music and yet suit perfectly. They magically create the song harmony! He enjoys listening to music and going beyond, analyzing its secrets, freeing up the melodies that are entangled on the staff…”
WAS EVERY YOUR ALBUM BORN LIKE IT?
C: “There’s not a precise method. For example John is very different than Dave. With him we even have fun experimenting new things and noises: we get to Flea’s garage, get started and one day the song of the century can come out, the day after maybe nothing. But mood and enthusiasm never go down. John brings out the best from the band and gets inspired during the jamming sessions. Let’s say jamming is the best way of working for the Red Hot Chili Peppers…”
J: “I start with a riff, Flea engages it through his bass and Chad follows the two of us. This way the arrangement is given a shape… and then occurs to everybody something that has been forgotten in a drawer months or years before. And here it is, the chaos gets shaped and becomes a real song… Vice versa, sometimes we argue and each of us go to a different room and try to bring up something… Competitiveness tickles talent… The important thing is not to forget the final goal: the band’s life! Mother’s Milk was born in this way. Only, Flea – the very Red Hot’s character – used to win any time whilst today all of us are the winners…”
C: “Sort of wild west, but the all of us struggle to achieve the same goal. There are no losers here when the result is Californication”.
A: “Music is a means to give sounds a sense! As far as I’m concerned my thought is that today ANTHONYKIEDISJOHNFRUSICANTEFLEACHADSMITH is a unique entity and has got very noticeable skills. They are four different guys, 4 musicians who are perfect to play together.”
JOHN: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ONE HOT MINUTE WHICH THEY MADE TOGETHER WITH DAVE NAVARRO?
J: “Dunno, I’ve never listened to it…”
THE QUESTION ABOUT THE ITALIAN BOOK WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN MENTIONED IS INEVITABLE…
J: “Someone told me about it. I haven’t read it though. Maybe I skimmed over the page that involves me at Barnes & Nobles, a big American bookshop where nobody bothers you if you leaf through the books. Honestly I don’t remember a lot of it…”
ANY PLAN FOR THE FUTURE?
F: “We’re going to be in Europe at some festivals around mid-August and after Woodstock ’99. The tour will last more than two years: we’re just at the beginning of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new millennium…”