08/2003 Kerrang! (968 )

Transcript by Rebecca Billingham

It’s May7, 1992 and the sun is rising slowly in the Land Of The Rising Sun. Across Tokyo, thousands of bleary-eyes salary men are wearily buttoning up crisp white shirts in dread of another hard day at the office. In a luxurious hotel room, in one of the city’s more fashionable districts, 22-year-old John Frusciante knows how they feel. The young American doesn’t want to go to work today either. He’s totally sick of his job, and, just for a few moments, he considers breaking his own arm to provide himself with a cast-iron excuse to dodge his duties. He slams his right arm against a desk and recoils, swearing. Exasperated, he picks up the phone and punches in a four-digit number.

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tour manager, Tony Selinger, checks his watch as the shrill tone of his phone wakes him from sleep. It’s 6:30 am. John Frusciante is screaming down the phone. Frusciante wants Selinger to give him his passport back straight away, and wants a seat booked on Concorde, or any other plane available, to take him back to LA. With three shows of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Japanese arena tour promoting their wildly successful ‘BloodSugarSexMagik’ album yet to be played, this is not good news.

“I immediately thought I was in trouble with the police,” says Selinger, a man who has spent much of his adult life smoothing over problems caused by errant rock stars. “He assured me I was not. I stalled him for as long as possible.”

Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Chad are summoned from their beds for an emergency band meeting.

“I can no longer stay in the band,” Frusciante tells them. “I’ve reached a state where I cannot do justice to what we’ve created.”

The three musicians plead with their friend to play that night’s gig in Tokyo. Reluctantly, Frusciante agrees. Twenty-four hours later, he’s on a plane back to the US. Three years after joining his favourite band, his dream is over.

Back in Tokyo, Kiedis, Flea and Smith are stunned, the singer telling the world, “It’s really sad because we love him.” Frusciante’s departure is greeted with shock by fans worldwide. Deep down, there’s a strong feeling among them that having survived breakdowns and drug addiction and death, this might finally be the end of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

California has always been inextricably linked with the American dream. In March 1848, one month after the Mexican government ceded California to the United States, San Francisco newspaper. ‘The California’ reported that gold had been discovered in January along the American river near Sacramento. The following year- encouraged by newspapers thundering ‘Go West Young Man!’ tens of thousands of hopefuls headed for California, in what became known as the ‘Gold Rush.’

At the tail end of the 20th century, young men – and women- continued to “go West” in search of riches, to Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. One such man was John Kiedis, making a living in the Hollywood Hills as a bit actor and screenwriter under the pseudonym Blackie Dammett. In 1973, Dammett was informed by his ex-wife Margaret that she was sending their son out to live with him. Margaret, known to friends and family as Peggy, thought it would be good for 11-year-old Anthony.

Anthony Kiedis was born on November 1, 1962 in St Mary’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Grand Rapids was not an untypically dull Mid-Western town, and young Anthony grew up fascinated by the bohemian world his father would describe in letters back home. When Anthony arrived in LA, he found that his father’s lifestyle and surroundings were even wilder than he’d imagined. Blackie Dammett, his son recalls, was “your basic semi-subversive underground hooligan playboy womaniser” with an appropriately ‘anything goes’ attitude to bringing up his boy. Within weeks of arriving in LA Kiedis had smoked his first joint with his father, within the year he’d lost his virginity to one of his father’s many lady friends.

He enrolled at Fairfax High School on Melrose Avenue in 1977. An outgoing, charismatic and cocky kid, he was a member of the school drama class (he would  go on to follow his father into the movies, playing Sylvester Stallone’s son  in the 1978 trade union movie ‘F.I.S.T.’ under the pseudonym Cole Dammett), and was popular with other students. One lunchtime he wandered into the school playground to find his best friend Tony Sherr being repeatedly punched by another kid. Kiedis separated the pair and got talking to the other kid, who gave his name as Michael Balzary, aka ‘Michael B The Flea’. Years later, in the sleeve notes to the RCHP compilation album, ‘Out in LA’, Kiedis mused, “it is delightfully absurd how one might take a left instead of a right to end up crossing paths with a stranger who will forever change your life. Michael Peter Balzary changed my life.”

MICHAEL PETER Balzary was born in Melbourne, Australia on October 16, 1962. Like Kiedis, Balzary’s parents divorced when he was young, and at age five, the young boy was taken to New York by his mother and her new husband, aspiring jazz musician Walter Urban Jr. When work in New York dried up, Balzary’s father decided to relocate the family to Los Angeles.

Flea remembers his early days in his new hometown as “very violent”. His alcoholic stepfather would get into fights with the LAPD, and young Balzary learned to stay out of the way. Like Kiedis, he soon learned to abuse his new-found freedom, acquiring a taste for drugs and alcohol by the time he hit his teenage years.

Kiedis introduced his new friend to his Israeli-born friend Hillel Slovak. Slovak in turn introduced the pair to his best friend, Jack Irons, with whom he’d recently started a Led Zeppelin/Queen-influenced rock band called Chain Reaction (who also featured guitarist Alain Johannes, later a member of Chris Cornell’s touring band).  Chain Reaction changed their name to Anthym, and when their original bassist left to attend law school, Slovak and Johannes decided to replace him with Balzary, unperturbed by the fact that their new recruit couldn’t play. Indeed didn’t even own, a bass guitar. F**k it, it’s not like we’re even going to get a gig in Hollywood, they reckoned.

AS THE 1970s melted into the 1980s, the Hollywood music scene was a weird melting pot. As Kiedis, Slovak and Balzary- now known simply as Flea- were graduating from Fairfax High, a new breed of LA bands – Black Flag, The Germs, The Go-Gos – were attracting potheads and pillheads, trannies and bikers, artists and arseholes, the bored and the beautiful alike to barely regulated venues like The Masque and the Cade De Grande on Hollywood Boulevard and The Starwood, on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights. For Kiedis, Flea and Slovak these clubs were Los Angeles in microcosm, a place where nothing was out of bounds or off-limits. They took to hanging around The Starwood parking lot, afraid to actually enter the building because anything could happen in there, but afraid to head back home to their shared apartment on  Wilton and Franklin in case they missed out on something.

“We weren’t cool enough to get in,” Flea admitted subsequently. “One time we painted ourselves in my mother’s lipstick and went out stark naked.”

In 1982, with his friends’ blessing, Flea decided to quit Anthym to play bass with Fear, whose inflammatory appearance in director Penelope Spheeris’ infamous LA punk scene documentary ‘The Decline of Western Civilisation’ had made them local heroes with the gob-and-amphetamines crowd. Slovak and Irons changed their band’s name to What is This? – an appropriate moniker given their apparent desire to incorporate everything from punk and funk to hip-hop and metal (essentially  everything they heard blasting from f**ked up boomboxes in the Starwood parking lot) in their sound.

Sometime in 1983, Gary Allen, a local promoter and friend of Flea, asked the bassist to get together a band to open a show at his club The Rhythm Lounge at the Cafe De Grande. Kiedis, Irons and Flea had been messing around at home with a song called ‘Out in LA’ –actually song would be misleading, it was little more than a funky bass line and a random piece of Kiedis poetry celebrating the friendship between the little gang (‘a bunch of bothers livin’ in a cool way). Still, it made them laugh.

On the night, the four friends dosed themselves up with a batch of Hollywood Boulevard’s finest LSD, took the stage as Tony Flow and The Miraculous Majestic Masters of Mayhem, busted out some syncopated dance moves and performed their one and only song.

“People loved it”. Flea recalls. “We didn’t even know what we were doing, it just happened by its own force. We just started playing and it exploded.”

By all accounts, it was a good night. Gary Allen handed over $50 for their appearance fee, and the giggling, sniggering out-of-their-boxes quartet looked at one another and said, “we must do this again sometime.”

LINDY GOETZ- a familiar face on the LA music scene thanks to his work with record companies, management companies and production companies- thought he’d seen it all by 1983. He’d never seen anything like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiedis’ new name for Tony Flow And The Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.

“A record company friend tipped me off to go and see them,” he recalls. “They were so different to anything else around at that time. I think they only had five songs but I was impressed with what I saw. I went backstage to meet them and told them that I was interested in being their manager. They told me that they were interested in being taken for dinner.”

“I was the manager, the collector and the bouncer,” laughs Anthony Kiedis. “We got that $50 for our first show, but then we quickly went up to $200 by show four. A promoter called Limey Dave offered us $350 for show number six or seven, at which point I thought, ‘Okay there’s money to be made doing this.’ I always got the money. I would not take no for an answer.”

A smart and savvy industry player, by the time he’d forked out for dinner, Goetz had convinced the band that he’d get them a record deal within six months, all the band had to do, he promised, was keep playing and keep writing. The writing came quickly to Kiedis, who drew upon his surroundings for inspiration, attempting to encapsulate the disparate, often contradictory images of Hollywood- violence and poverty co-existing with glamour and glitz, feel good spirituality juxtaposed seamy, lustful debauchery- in his lyrics. For their part, the band had figured out a way to ensure that no-one seeing the Chili Peppers play would ever forget them, by taking to the stage wearing nothing but strategically placed white tube socks.

“The socks on cocks?” laughs Kiedis. “The first time we ever did that on stage was at the Kit Kat club which was a strip club. Everyone talked about it afterwards.”

Genitals-related tomfoolery aside, things were getting more serious for the Chilis. A man of his word, Goetz had secured the band an eight-album record deal with EMI within six months of their very first show. Unfortunately, Slovak and Irons were still tied to a development deal with MCA Records for What Is This? Faced with having to choose between their two bands, the guitarist and drummer elected to stick with What IS This? Kiedis was gutted, but there was no time for sulking as EMI had already booked studio time for the recording of their first album, and the Chili Peppers urgently needed to replace their old pals.

With new men Jack Sherman (guitar) and Cliff Martinez (drums, formerly a member of Captain Beefheart’s band) thrown in at the deep end, the sessions for the band’s first album were pretty disastrous. The musicians were stiff and nervous, and received precious little guidance from producer Andy Gill. When the band heard the final mixes, they were so incensed that they famously delivered a steaming turd to Gill in a pizza box.

“Now we’d calmly explain.” Laughs Flea. “But we were so explosive at the time and it’s not an explosive record.”

STILL, IT was a record, a springboard for the band to take their music beyond their beloved Hollywood. Lindy Goetz’s plan for promoting the band was realistic and straightforward.

“I knew that radio was not going to touch any of our songs,” he admits. “But I did know this: the band were fantastic live. Each time they played, by word of mouth, the attendance doubled the next time. I got them out touring the country hard, playing eight days a week.”

“We just smoked tons of pot, drove around and played shows,” Kiedis smiles. “It was a month after our first record came out, and we had our friend Bob Forrest (Later frontman of LA’s Thelonius Monster, of who more later…) as our roadie and our manager crammed along-side us in our blue Chevy van.”

“We were really proud of what we were doing but it wasn’t like it was before Hillel and Jack quit,” he admits. “At that point, when we went somewhere to play it was like we were the four motherf**kers from Fairfax and we were a gang. With Jack and Cliff… well, we hadn’t grown up with those guys.”

To no-one’s surprise, Jack Sherman was long gone-replaced by Hillel Slovak- by the time the Chilis decamped to Detroit to work with funk legend George Clinton on their second album. ‘Freaky Styley’ was funky and brash and lewd, a mixture of priapic sexual yearning (‘Catholic School Girls Rule’, ‘Sex Rap’) and hard-edged funk (‘If You Want Me To Stay’). Clinton liked the band so much he brought them with him to Europe for a short promotional jaunt, during which the quartet managed to slot in a debut UK show at Dingwalls in Camden, North London.

“British music was very popular over here- and the music that I love now- but I really rebelled against it at the time or at least pretended to,” smiles Anthony Kiedis. “So we went to England and had this really antagonist attitude and relationship with the country and the people in this club. It was so much fun.”

In autumn ’85, Cliff Martinez’ membership of the club Chili Peppers was revoked, and Jack Irons re-joined the band. The ‘four motherf**kers from Fairfax’ were back in business again.

“No-one knew who the f**k we were,” says Kiedis. “We were just these punk rock weirdoes from LA. It was exciting and challenging to sleep with different girls in every town, and get absolutely annihilated drinking alcohol in every town and crash cars in every town. That all made sense.”

That it all made sense was helped in no small measure by the fact that Kiedis and Slovak were now using heroin in a big way. Flea, no angel himself, admitted, “We did drugs from a very young age and it just started to kind of steamroll.” Slovak and Kiedis tried to conceal their habits from their friends, but they didn’t try hard enough.

“With Hillel you saw strange things at first like mood swings, him going missing for a few days, and his bandmates getting grouchy, “ says crew member Robbie Allen, who was taken on initially as the band’s merchandise guy. “I was 17 and had never seen the effects of a heroin addiction. The band knew and were trying to help… but of course Anthony was struggling himself.”

The band’s escalating drug use was all too obvious by the time they re-grouped to work on their third album in January 1987. Producer Michael Beinhorn was disgusted to discover that the quartet intended to enter the studio with just five new sings completed. They were sent home with their tails between their legs and told to shape up. They rose to the task. Given fresh impetus by the drug-free Irons, ‘The Uplift Mofo Party Plan’ was the band’s best album yet, and with tracks like ‘Fight Like A Brave’, ‘Backwoods’ and ‘Me & My Friends’ displaying a wired and sophisticated approach to songwriting. That didn’t mean that the band’s innate horniness had been quelled: the teasingly named ‘Special Secret Song Inside’ was actually cock-waving fratboy anthem ‘Party on Your Pussy’.

“It was hell at times, with all the drug problems that were going on,” admits Lindy Goetz, “but in the end everybody wanted to work hard and succeed.”

Things seemed to be finally working out. The album broke into the Billboard Top 150 albums- at a modest number 143- selling more than their first two releases combined in just two months.

Emboldened, the band released the ‘Abbey Road EP’ in May ’88, cheekily parodying The Beatles’ famous album cover by crossing the famous zebra crossing in NW8 wearing just those trademark socks on cocks. Europe fell in love with the band, and it seemed everything was in place for the Peppers to take a proper tilt at global stardom on album number four.

Back in LA, though, tragedy struck. On June 27, Hillel Slovak was found dead in his LA apartment, victim of a heroin overdose. The news was a hammer blow for the band. When Flea received a phone call telling him the news, he thought at first that Kiedis had died.

Kiedis says: “It was a severe slap in the face. It should have been me.”

Irons, who’d been best friends with Slovak since they were classmates at Bancroft Junior High was inconsolable. He refused to answer his phone and began to hate the band for what it had done to his friend. In the end he suffered a breakdown and was admitted to a mental hospital.

“I was on tour with the Circle Jerks when Hillel passed away,” remembers tour manager Louis Mathieu, “and therefore not in town for the immediate aftermath. But I remember the feeling in town after, I got back. Then Jackie departed… It doesn’t get much lower than losing a brother and having our best high school friend be so bereft that he’s forced to retire from the band. It was a really sad time.”

KIEDIS AND Balzary thought long and hard about continuing with the band. They decided to persevere.  Replacing irreplaceable friends was a nightmare. Former Dead Kennedys drummer DH Peligro and ex-Funkadelic alumni Dayne Blackbyrd McKnight lasted a matter of weeks in the band before being sacked. Peligro did make one lasting contribution though, introducing Flea to a young guitarist he’d met at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, named John Frusciante.

“I first met Frusciante outside Bob Forrest’s house on Gardner and Fountain,” recalls Louis Mathieu, then a guitar tech. “It was at a Thelonious Monster rehearsal. I was blown away by him.  He was so self-possessed and had this presence about him. He was a little cocky, but when he strapped on his guitar, you saw why. Needless to say he wasn’t in Thelonius Monster for very long.”

John Frusciante was born in New York on March 5, 1970, the son of classically trained pianist-turned-lawyer John Sr. When his parents divorced, Frusciante moved to Santa Monica, California, with his mother Gail. By age 10, young John had graduated from a love of Aerosmith and Kiss to learning Germs songs on his guitar. In 1985, the 15-year-old guitarist saw the Chili Peppers play at LA’s Variety Arts Center, and they instantly became his favourite band. Three years later, after a jam session with Peligro and Flea at the bassist’s house on Fairfax Avenue, he was officially asked to become the new Chili Peppers guitarist.

“There were boot marks five feet high on the wall in my room for months after that call,” Frusciante remembers.

Finding a new drummer was much trickier. The band had auditioned 30 sticksmen before 26-year-old Chad Smith walked into the room wearing a ripped Guns N’ Roses T-shirt and tiny denim shorts. Kiedis and Flea sniggered when they saw the metal-loving drummer, and laughed out loud when he admitted that he didn’t actually know their songs. The laughter stopped when he started beating his kit.

“We told him, ‘Okay, shave your head and you’re in the band.” Kiedis recalled in a later interview. “He said ‘No’, and we thought that was even more punk than being pushed around by a bunch of assholes like us.”

Chad Smith was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on October 25, 1962. All he ever wanted to do was to play drums, and he did so in a succession of loser bands-bands with names like Tilt, Tyrant and, er, Terence. In 1989, just like his future bandmates before him, he too decided that LA was the place to make his dreams come true.

BANDS TALK a lot about the importance of ‘chemistry’, the indefinable mix of personality which truly sets great bands apart from the common herd.  The Kiedis/Flea/Frusciante/Smith line-up clicked from the off, and it’s interesting to note that each member of the band has a different blood type- Kiedis an A, Flea B, Chad Smith O and Frusciante the rarest blood type AB. The Japanese put great faith in defining personalities according to blood type, and it’s amazing how closely each Chili Pepper’s character bears comparison with standard traits. Kiedis for instance, according to type, should be confident tenacious, loyal, attentive to detail and easily wounded by criticism, a pen portrait which should ring bells with anyone who has met him. Flea, according to type, should be ambitious, fearless, driven by curiosity and the desire to experiment, but prone to sudden rage, again unerringly close to reality. In the early days of the new look Chilis, though, Frusciante and Smith seemed eager to conform solely to band stereotypes.

“I thought, ‘Girls, money, drugs…”, admits Frusciante. “I was so one-dimensional. When I see pictures of myself back then I just want to strangle the person.”

Smith was no shrinking new man either. In 1990, as the band filmed a performance for MTV’s ‘Spring Break’ programme at Daytona Beach in Florida, a spot of clowning took a serious turn when the drummer playfully spanked a young female fan on the ass as she was being held by Flea. Florida police arrested the two men at a concert two days later, charging them with battery and also charging Flea with disorderly conduct and solicitation to commit an unnatural and lascivious act. The duo were found guilty and fined, with the money going to a local rape crisis fund. Coming just one year after Kiedis was charged and fined for indecent exposure and sexual battery for another misguided joke backstage at a show in Virginia, the incident did little to derail the band’s reputation as pimped-up cock-waving hedonists.

As a band, though, the Peppers went from strength to strength, on the back of three brilliant singles- a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher’ Ground’, ‘Taste The Pain’ and ‘Knock Me Down’ (an affectionate tribute to Slovak)- ‘Mother’s Milk’ (released in September 1989)became the band’s first platinum album. Recorded in two months with Rick Rubin in the same haunted house in Laurel Canyon, Hollywood, where it’s reputed The Beatles first took LSD, ‘Bloodsugarsexmagik’ was an even stronger collection, hard-hitting singles ‘Suck My Kiss’ and ‘Give It Away’ propelling the band into Top 10 chart positions across the world. The band toured the US with The Smashing Pumpkins and Peal [sic.] Jam (and on West Coast dates, Nirvana) in support.  But at a time when they should have been at their happiest, the Chili Peppers’ world was getting darker. Flea had a nervous breakdown. Kiedis fretted over AIDS test results. And John Frusciante’s sanity was beginning to visibly unravel as he fretted about becoming simply a performing monkey.

“I took over the ‘Bloodsugar’…’ tour in Europe,” tour manager Tony Selinger recalls. “We were in Holland on the first date and I got on the tour bus excited to see everybody. I walked into the back lounge and John completely freaked out on me. He said he thought I was trying to kill him. I thought it was my fault for bursting in on him and maybe shocking him. But as the tour got going I realised there was more to it than that.”

“My one lasting memory is of watching John fall apart on that tour,” says Robbie Allen wistfully. “I was his crew guy, so it was kind of hard to watch every night.”

“I had a weird premonition that I should quit immediately after I finished my guitar parts on ‘Bloodsugar’,“ John recalls. “I’d say to myself, ‘I know you don’t have any reason to, but you gotta quit the band’.  I had this feeling that the road was really gonna f**k with me.”

In Japan, Frusciante’s instincts were borne out.

“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” he recalls quietly. “I felt like a guy with 400 ghosts telling him what to do all of the time.”

When he returned to LA, though, life would not get any more comfortable.

FRUSCIANTE’S MELTDOWN left the Chili Peppers with a problem; they were booked to headline the Lollapalooza festival in July and they had no guitarist.  After frantic auditions, LA scenester Arik Marshall was recruited, and cheered on by huge crowds-‘Under The Bridge’, Kiedis’ ode to Los Angeles and his darkest heroin days had just become a massive radio hit- the Peppers looked ready to transcend their problems. But when post-Lollapalooza writing problems surfaced, Marshall was jettisoned. In came Jesse Tobias, who barely had time to plug in his guitar before he too was shown the door. There was, the band felt, only one obvious replacement.

Even before he joined the band, Dave Navarro was a Chili Peppers in spirit. Like his bandmates, he had a dysfunctional childhood (horrifyingly in 1983, Navarro’s divorced mother and her best friend were murdered by a man the then 16-year-old had grown to accept as father), an on-off relationship with hard drugs and a larger-than-life carnality which expressed itself in his guitar playing. In September 1993, Navarro became Chili Peppers guitarist number seven. The band’s joy was short-lived, for one month later, Flea’s friend, 23-year-old actor River Phoenix died of a drug overdose at his feet on the pavement outside Johnny Depp’s fashionable Sunset Boulevard club The Viper Room.

Given all that preceded it, ‘One Hot Minute’ (released in October 1995) was the darkest Chili Peppers album to date, with Kiedis reflecting upon addiction, friendship and loss. It was not an easy album to write and the lengthy tour that followed wasn’t much fun either, with the new tracks receiving a lukewarm reception. As early as July ’96, rumours were circulating that the band was about to split. Backstage at Wembley Arena that month, as the Chilis wound up their European tour, Dave Navarro candidly admitted to me, “At times, it’s just the money that keeps me going.”

With time on their hands the next year during a self-imposed hiatus, both Kiedis and Navarro lapsed back into heroin use. No-one was too surprised to see the guitarist quit/fired over “creative differences” in April 1998. Long-term manager and friend Lindy Goetz also bailed out, noting that things were falling apart again.

“I decided to quit as I had made enough money,” he says today. “Maybe on reflection I should have taken a three-month vacation, who knows?”

In his (still unpublished) book ‘Don’t Try This At Home’, Navarro pulls no punches about his departure. Allegedly told by Flea that Anthony Kiedis felt “the chemistry wasn’t working’, Navarro says he confronted Kiedis, called him a coward, and told him he had less respect for him than he did for the man who killed his mother.

In public, the guitarist couldn’t help have a final dig. “I have, and always will have, a tremendous respect for all of them,” he told ‘Spin’ magazine in 1999. “I’ll also say that my favourite member is John Frusciante.”

PETER MENSCH is one of the most powerful men in the music industry, his Q Prime management firm looking after the affairs of Metallica and Lostprophets. When the Chilis approached him to take over their management in June 1988, he dropped in to see them play the Bowery Ballroom Club in New York on June 17 and didn’t recognise a single song they played. They seemed like “good guys”, though. The following spring, the band brought him a rough tape of their forthcoming album ‘Californication’.

“I fell off my chair,” he laughs. “It was incredible. It was obvious they’d hit a whole new level. What do I put that down to? John Frusciante. The man is a genius.”

To the astonishment of outsiders, Frusciante officially re-joined the Peppers on June 12, joining them onstage at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC for a warm-up show for the Tibetan Freedom Concert gig in the 130,000 capacity RFK Stadium. Frusciante looked older and rougher: for those who knew how he’d spent the intervening years since May 7, 1992, it was simply astonishing that he was alive at all.

Frusciante had been enduring- perversely, actually enjoying- a hellish existence since quitting the band. Addicted to heroin, his entire body was covered in bloody scabs, track marks and bruises, his gums were rotten and he’d lost most of his teeth. He lived in such squalor and filth that Johnny Depp and Butthole Surfers frontman Gibby Haynes made a film called ‘Stuff’ about it. The house later burned down, destroying much of the guitarist’s treasured paintings and music. Temporarily lodging at LA’s Chateau Marmont Hotel, Frusciante told one local journalist, “I don’t care whether I live or die.”

Astonishingly, Frusciante was clean when he re-joined his bandmates to work on ‘Californication’ in Flea’s garage in the summer of’98. His playing was mesmerizing, his ideas and energy boundless. When Rick Rubin became involved, the band recorded the album in just three weeks.

‘Californication’ took the Chili Peppers to a whole new level artistically. As Warners pulled single after single from the album – ‘Otherside’, ‘Scar Tissue’, ‘Around The World’, the title track- it took them to a whole new level commercially too, the rising sales figures now totalling 12 million. And rising. It was a truly remarkable resurrection for the band.

AT THE last count, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s current album, ‘By The Way’, has been classified platinum (or multi-platinum) in 26 countries. Right now, they’re in the studio in LA writing new tracks for a forthcoming ‘Greatest Hits’ set due in November.  On August 16, the band will step on the V2003 stage at Chelmsford’s Hyland Park to play the first of four UK and Ireland shows- V2003 in Staffordshire, Slane Castle in Ireland, and Glasgow Green will follow- in front of a combined crowd of 250,000 people. There will be no elaborate backstage rituals- “Goats blood is really hard to get out,” jokes tour manager Louis Mathieu, “and the cleaners look at you funny when you drop off the laundry”- but after the four musicians have done their stretching exercises and Anthony Kiedis has written out the day’s set list, they’ll gather together in a huddle they call the ‘soul circle’, put their arms around one another and exchange a few words, a prayer perhaps or an encouraging smile. And then they’ll step onto their favourite turf, still searching for that perfect moment, that perfect melody, four men- American by birth, Hollywood by choice- still looking for that perfect golden nugget glistening in the sunshine.

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