The Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t achieve real mainstream success until the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991, but by that point they’d been together for nearly a decade. During the 1980s the California group merged funk with hip-hop, punk and psychedelia on classic LPs like Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, but the death of guitarist Hillel Slovak in June of 1988 nearly destroyed the band. Instead, they soldiered on with guitarist John Frusciante, and in 1991 they scored huge hits with “Under The Bridge” and “Give It Away.” The Chili peppers have remained one of the biggest rock groups in the world through the past two decades, and they’re currently on a European tour supporting their new disc I’m With You. Rolling Stone spoke to frontman Anthony Kiedis soon after he found out the band was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
How is the tour going?
It’s going really good. It’s really fun. My only challenge these days is that I have a broken toe and a torn calf muscle. I have to kind of tape up and strap up. In the big picture, it’s nothing to complain about.
You’re like a basketball player.
Exactly. I have my Kobe sleeve over the calf, and my Ron Harper toe wrap. It’s actually pretty amazing to go out onstage with Josh Klinghoffer, our new guitar player, and just listen. He gets better every time we play, and he was good to begin with.
Tell me your first reaction to hearing that you made it into the Hall of Fame.
I called my dad. I told him that he couldn’t say anything because it hadn’t been publicly announced yet. I know my dad is a big Internet freak, and he’s been known to be a Wikileaker. I was like, “Dad, you and I are blood. I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t tell anybody.” I guess it’s just something that you want to share with the people that you’re closest to, like family and longtime friends. My dad cried.
Did you get emotional?
The most emotional part for me was thinking about Hillel Slovak. That was where it got me. I felt very good about it, but I felt very much like our work has only just begun. Now that we’ve got Josh in the band, we have a chance to make some great records over the next few years. But there was something about going back and thinking about something that we started in a living room with Hillel Slovak. Because he’s no longer with us, it seemed emotional and beautiful. It’s really kind of his induction that I’m most excited about. He’s a beautiful person that picked up a guitar in the 1970s and didn’t make it out of the 1980s, and he is getting honored for his beauty.
Do you feel weird about getting in while the band is still so active? Some bands say they worry it conveys the impression that they are done.
I don’t feel weird about it. I know what the next few years look like for our band, and I’m incredibly excited to be playing with these guys. I feel like our creative well is running over. I don’t think it’s going to stigmatize us. Nothing has the power to diminish the love we have for what we’re doing right now. It’s just an interesting interlude to be accepted into the Hall of Fame while we’re still vibrantly going about our business.
One of the cool things about it is that all of the past inductees vote. So, I don’t know, Paul McCartney had the chance to vote for you.
I have an absolute smile on my face while you say that.
And you’ll be on the wall in Cleveland near Elvis Presley.
As a kid, I was anti-Elvis. I just didn’t get it. Once I stopped being so judgmental I found the great wonder of Elvis and all that he did. I was a little self-centered gutter punk in the early 1980s and all I wanted to do was diss everybody. I remember going to Graceland as a kid and talking shit while I was there. Now if I went there, I’d think about all the great things he did and what a great musician he was.
Do you think that John Frusciante will come to the induction?
Ummm… Wow. It would be a guess on my behalf on whether or not he’ll come. I can’t imagine that he would, but it’s a “you never know” kind of thing. I haven’t talked to him in quite a while. I don’t know where he’s at these days. He’ll obviously be more than welcome, and embraced if he does. If he doesn’t, that’s cool too.
I’m guessing they’ll bring your former drummer Cliff Martinez in too, but I really don’t know.
I would imagine that he would want to come. Both he and Jack Irons would want to come.
Any final thoughts on the whole thing?
It really fills my heart with the reality of how much we love doing what we do, and how much Flea and I love each other. We have stuck together through thick and thin and we want to keep on trucking and continue to do what it is we do. I feel an immense sense of brotherhood because we actually did it together. Like I said, I’m happy for Hillel. I feel a great sense of accomplishment with Chad and Flea, and so even more excited about the nightly experience of playing live with Josh.