Note: This magazine had a double cover with Morrissey on the outer carboard sleeve (for the free CD) and Anthony Kiedis on the inner (paper) one. The magazine is slightly larger than the scanner so I’ve scanned as much of the covers as I can and I’ve scanned the review page in two sections- one showing the whole photo of Anthony Kiedis and the other showing the column of writing.
Blood Sugar Sex Miracles
Words: Rob Fitzpatrick in Red Hot Heaven
Twenty years ago, Anthony Kiedis and Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary were waving their cocks about onstage in scuzziest clubs. Now, despite embarrassing early albums, more heroin than hot dinners and frequent li changes, they’re in one of the bi • • est bands in the world. How the fuck did THAT happen?
Anthony Kiedis was always destined to be a rock star. Born in November 1962 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, his was a fairly typical suburban upbringing, with the exception that whereas most dads worked locally in regular jobs, Anthony’s had got divorced from his mother and was now partying, taking drugs and getting his poke on while appearing in Starsky & Hutch, Charlie’s Angels and Magnum PI out in Los Angeles. Anthony described his father as a “a super freak, an over-the-edge playboy”, but it was to just this head-wrecking environment that Anthony moved in 1973. Not that his age ever stopped him from doing anything.
“I lived in a world of naked partying girls, lots of drugs, lots of loud music, lots of late night parties, lots of fast cars and lots of Bulgarian albino midgets,” he recalled later.
Soon afterwards, at Hollywood’s Fairfax High, Kiedis, along with Aussie weirdo jazz-fan Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary and unrepentant Kiss fans Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons, will stop fighting long enough to form a band. They chop and change line-ups and names, they split, they get back together, all the usual. But all their lives will pretty much follow that exact pattern for the next 15 years. Every drug known to man will get hammered to the point of madness. Friendships will shatter, a few not very good records will be made. A much larger collection of fantastic ones will follow. One of the band will overdose on heroin in his own apartment and lie dead for three days before being discovered by police. His replacement will spend the best part of six years shooting heroin and cocaine into his arms until his bones melt and his teeth and hair fall out. He should be dead too. That he isn’t is just one of the Chili Pepper miracles. There are others.
It’s spring 2004 and the Chili Peppers’ dressing room is quiet and cool. There are candles, incense, tapestries hang on the wall, antique rags comet the floor. The table offers up a Romanesque feast of berries, raw vegetables, figs, humous and pistachio nuts, herbal, chai and green teas, and jar after jar of raw, organic honey.
Anthony Kiedis, now 41, and John Frusciante, 33, are now so clean that drummer Chad Smith and Flea hare their own separate tourbuses and dressing rooms so their foul-smelling cigarettes and occasional cans of lager don’t interrupt the spartan yoga and raw-veg routine going on elsewhere. Smith gets his junk-food kick from pizzas while the rest dine on broccoli, brown rice and organic chicken. In another lifetime, before going onstage, the band would take acid and strip. Now Flea – in a separate room – meditates, practises scales and yoga, and finishes off with a ‘cleansing’, lighting a stick of dried sage and waving it around the room, himself, and his bass, for “good vibes”. Anthony, meanwhile, is back on the needle, only this time the syringe, administered by an medical professional, is full of nothing more toxic than pure ozone. Once injected into his bloodstream it will, the nurse claims, purify, destroy viral infections and fill him with energy.
Red Hot Chili Peppers are a miraculous band. If you stuck only with the image and the headlines you’d, quite sensibly, assume they were the world’s most rubbish group. After all, the idea of pec’d up tattooed rock-funk satyrs delivering half-sung, half-rapped paeans to native Americans, dolphins and getting their end away, is the most heinous, knuckle-bitingly bad thing imaginable this side Limp Bizkit. And to be fair, back in the mid- ‘80s it was. If you need any decent reasons to dismiss the band forever then let us point you towards early tracks like the moronic ‘Special Secret Song Inside (Party On Your Pussy)’ from 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, the pointlessly bitchy ‘Nevermind (“Nevermind the Soft Cell shit/That’s strictly for the twits” etc etc) from 1985’s ‘Freaky Styley, or the horrific ‘Mommy Where’s Daddy’, a track dealing less sensitively with incest than perhaps the subject deserves, from their 1984 self-titled debut. But if you’re at all interested in the redemptive power of music, of friendship, of unbelievably stubborn perseverance in the face of unstinting trauma and death and, ultimately, of some brilliant, free-spirited records, then you’ll have to get over those minor hurdles and embrace the Chili Peppers for who they are: one of the finest bands on the planet.
“What we originally set out to do was to be complete and utter perpetrators of hardcore, bone-crunching mayhem sex things from heaven,” says Anthony Kiedis. But things didn’t start out brilliantly for the Chili Peppers. Despite progressing within months from small club gigs to huge shows supporting Run-DMC and other massive acts, their early recorded work often let them down. Anthony and Flea hired Andy Gill, the former guitarist of the English post-punk experimentalists Gang Of Four, to produce their first record, but the sessions were a nightmare. Guitarist Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons had signed a deal with another band called What Is This? and so replacement Chili Peppers were dragged in.
Then the band fell out with Gill. “Maybe he was just too English for us,” Flea said later. At one point, the band presented him with a turd parcelled in a pizza box. Nice. But the album was a huge critical-if not commercial – hit and Flea and Anthony were certainly ready for the attention. “We’re the grandaddy groove gooses and we drink our smooth juices and we’re the slidenest, glidenest, movinest, groovinest, hippinest, hoppinest, rockinest, jamminest, slamminest…” riffed Flea. But by January 1985 there was a rapidly developing sideline to the band: heroin. Slovak and Kiedis were both addicts and only trouble could follow.
It did, repeatedly. In June 1988, after being clean for a whole European tour, Hillel decided to have another taste of heroin. It killed him immediately and the remaining band members were at his funeral on the day they were meant to be starting work on what would become ‘Mother’s Milk’. The band recruited 18-year-old John Frusciante, who’d recently turned down a gig with Frank Zappa’s band, realising that his chances to do drugs and get girls would be severely hampered by the arch-stylist’s strict rules. Of course, no such rules existed in the Chili Peppers.
Summer 2002 and in the last 15 years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have sold 26 million records. New album ‘By The Way’ shows a band at ease with themselves and confident in their powers, with tracks such as ‘Midnight’, where Flea’s love of classical music meets Anthony’s abiding interest in jazz and Buddhism, and ‘Minor Thing’ where John’s adoration of The Smiths is apparent in his jangling guitar lines. This is not a band churning it out in the hope their audience hasn’t ditched them for some other hot new band.
However, the truly miraculous thing was not that the band had sold so many records, but that they’d done it by getting better as they got qlder. This is not how it’s meant to work. Bands are meant to crash in with mind-bending records then go seriously downhill as the cash comes in and the intoxicants get passed over for carrot sticks and tai chi. Seems no-one told the Chili Peppers any of this.
Although you could consign the first three albums to a pit of fire, somewhere around 1989 the Chili Peppers got good. The trauma of Slovak’s death and the rebirth brought about by Frusciante’s arrival made ‘Mother’s Milk’ their most coherent and striking album to date. They even had hit singles with ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Taste The Pain. MTV began to love them and they entered the ‘9os with a new $5.5million recording contract and legendary producer Rick Rubin on board for their new record. What could go wrong? Fucking plenty, that’s what.
‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ was immediately enormous. ‘Give it Away’ and ‘Suck My Kiss’ were huge hits and ‘Under The Bridge’ put them in the superleague. But, as the band were in the middle of a Japanese tour with the album approaching the two million sales mark, John announced he was quitting. He reasoned that the “400 voices” living in his head had instructed him to give the whole thing up.
Having dabbled with drugs during his time with the band, by 1992 the money he was receiving from record sales and airplay meant he could devote his time exclusively to heroin and cocaine. Six years later, with by his own reckoning maybe three months to live if he didn’t stop, Frusciante booked himself into rehab, quit drugs and rejoined the band.
In the intervening years, after ploughing through a series of unsuitable new guitarists, the Chili Peppers finally hooked up with ex-Jane’s Addiction sleazeball Dave Navarro in 1993. The band were so happy they went out and bought Harley Davidson’s and dubbed themselves The Sensitives – surely the most useless motorcycle gang name ever.
Many fans weren’t sure. They believed Navarro’s dark sound and dislike of funk would destroy what they loved about the Chilis. Then Flea’s good friend River Phoenix overdosed and died in front of him outside the Viper Room club in L.A. Another drug death pushed the bassist over the edge and he was ordered by his doctor to take a year off. The band ground noisily to a halt. When they returned it would be with the darkest record they’d ever make.
‘One Hot Minute’ arrived in September 1995. It went platinum in two months, but got a mixed reception to say the least. The subsequent world tour was seriously rattled by Anthony getting knocked off his bike and smashing up his arm. Then a typhoon hit the Japanese festival they were playing while they were onstage. Then Chad was nearly killed on his bike.
Navarro, said to be battling old drug demons himself, was spooked. Jane’s Addiction had reformed and his loyalty was sorely split. In April 1998 he left, clearing the way for John’s miraculous return. “He was like my dead friend,” said Anthony. “The one I thought I’d never see again.” Within weeks they were gigging again and by June 1999 ‘Californication’ was at Number Three in the US album charts. By the end of the tour it had sold eight million copies. John immediately ordered shiny new teeth.
After time off for “our dogs and our children”, the Chili Peppers spent 2001 working with Rick Rubin recording at the infamous Chateau Marmont on LA’s Sunset Strip. Anthony and Rick would listen obsessively to melodic ‘6os radio hits by The Mamas & The Papas and The Seekers and a new Chili Peppers sound was forming. In July 2002 ‘By The Way’, probably their most diverse and far-reaching was released. NME decreed: “Their hearts are on their sleeves and in their work” The album went multi-platinum in a couple of months.
In summer 2004, the Chili Peppers’ tour reaches the UK. Nearly half a million tickets have been sold for eight shows. There is no new album to promote, and Flea’s promise to NME.COM that the next album would sound like “Bulgarian pygmies (them again?) crossed with a Transylvanian choir” has yet to be borne out by any actual music. Anthony’s long talked-up autobiography is still not out and John’s solo albums, though charmingly obtuse, probably aren’t driving all those ticket sales. Perhaps it’s Chad’s pizza obsession speaking to the people in a language they understand? Whatever, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ miraculous life just carries on and on and on. And on.
FIFTEEN MIRACULOUS CHILI PEPPER MOMENTS
1977 Anthony Kiedis and Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary meet at Fairfax High School, LA.
1983 Kiedis, Flea, Slovak and Irons perform a one-off show at LA’s Rhythm Lounge as Tony Flow And The Miraculously Majestic Masters Of Mayhem.
1983 The very next week they return as the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
1983 One month later they sign a seven-album deal with EMI.
1985 The band persuade Funkadelic legend George Clinton to produce their second album, ‘Freaky Styley’.
1986 Sixteen-year-old John Frusciante sees his first Chili Peppers gig at the Variety Arts Center in LA.
1988 Eighteen-year-old John Frusciante joins the Chili Peppers following the death of Hillel Slovak. Anthony Kiedis kicks heroin.
1989 The band chart. Twice. In one year.
1990 Flea and drummer Chad Smith are arrested at a concert in Florida and charged with sexually harassing a woman during a show. A rare charge.
1991 ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ sells more than a million copies in its first six months.
1993: The band appear on The Simpsons.
1996 The band appear in Beavis And Buff-head Do America.
1998 Frusciante rejoins the band after six years spent lying in bed doing heroin and cocaine.
2000 The band win a Grammy for ‘Scar Tissue’. Seventeen years into their career, ‘Califomication’ becomes their best-selling album to date.
2002 After 19 years together, they release ‘By The Way’, their best album to date.
THE FIRST REVIEW OF RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ EUROPEAN TOUR
Joy Division covers! Uma Thurman! Last week the Chili Peppers kicked off their European tour in Germany. Here’s what to expect at Hyde Park
By the end of Rock-Am-Ring – Germany’s biggest rock fest – the anticipation awaiting the Chili Peppers is thunderous. Bass player Flea – shirtless and sporting a bright red woollen hat – rushes onstage, yanking out the jerky opening notes for ‘Can’t Stop’… and then stops. Doh! Red Hot Chili Peppers’ attempts to reclaim the stage after an extended holiday gets off to a false start due to technical problems that will continue to plague the set and – in combination with the lengthy mini-meetings the band allow between songs – will prompt one member of the audience to dismiss the gig as “a public rehearsal”. But if this is a rehearsal, it has more to offer than many a headliner’s full-on performance.
The man at the centre of most of the truly brilliant moments is John Frusciante. Sporting a light-blue Adidas cardigan and a style-free short haircut, the Peppers’ guitar-genius-turned-junkie-dropout-turned-guitar-genius is truly something to behold. A musician who never abuses his powers, he eschews indulgent noodlings in favour of producing flawlessly phrased ultra-funk riffage at breakneck speed.
Tonight he kicks maximum arse, mainly in collaboration with his perfect match, Flea .The pair, often standing as close as nose to nose, click together like components in a Swiss clock and, when they tighten the springs on frantic highlights such as the stunning ‘Throw Away Your Television, ‘Purple Stain’, ‘Right On Time’ and ‘Parallel Universe’, the moshpit boils over with flailing limbs. All the while, Chad Smith – beaming with his patented just-hopped-off-the-pick-up-truck charm – backs them up with a tightly executed percussive spine.
So far, so great – but then we get to the man responsible for many of tonight’s less-than-brilliant moments. Anthony Kiedis’ long, pitch-black hair features a fringe that, in combination with his white shirt and dark tie, makes him look strangely like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction in had need of a shave. On top of that, he is having difficulties with his singing. Monitor problems aside, on harmony-heavy songs such as ‘Around The World’ and ‘Californication’ he sounds painfully out of tune. He still represents an impressive physical presence (ie jumps around like a nutter), but instead of flexing his abs, the long-standing health freak seems to have taken to wielding a sizeable mug of ginseng tea as his onstage trademark.It makes for an amusing sight between songs but may look a tad disconcerting to fans of the rock sex-god of yore.
As well as playing their own songs, the set is playfully interlaced with minute-long micro-covers of Cat Stevens’ Hard Headed Woman’, Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ (both sung by Frusciante), The Clash’s ‘Guns Of Brixton’ and Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’, as well as a somewhat indifferently received full-length rendition of the decidedly non-pumpin’ ‘Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl); originally by ’70s disco-soulsters Looking Glass.
Kiedis leaves much of the scarce talking to Flea, who expresses his appreciation for Nuremberg sausages (despite the fact that he is in Nurburg and is supposed to be vegan). His cry of “Fuck George Bush!” by way of introducing the only new song in the set is better received. The track’s actual title is not revealed, although ‘Kill For Your Country’ is probably a reasonable guess. Kiedis describes the mellow affair as “a love song for the world and a bit of a hate song for our government”. Point taken.
After 90 hot and only a few not so hot minutes, the lasting image is that of the enchantedly smiling John Frusciante picking out the opening notes of ultimate crowd-pleaser ‘Under The Bridge. Mostly thanks to him, this will go down as a great gig, if not the triumphant return it was meant to be. Anthony Kiedis should really see a vocal coach. And maybe a hairdresser as well.