11/1991 Rock and Folk


Between sex symbols, there is connivance. You wouldn’t understand, of course. With singer Anthony Kiedis, official spokesman for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a small but well-proportioned boy, we were among professionals. We would talk freely about everything, George Bush’s wife, Baron Munchausen’s sperm, the message of “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” producer Rick “Run DMC” Rubin, those Faith No More copycats, sexual nirvana and – not incidentally – rock ‘n’ roll. A mission for the Ninja. Shortly before, we had received the press release, as a California wave washed our surfboard to the sand of Malibu on the beach of the Beach Boys, Surfriders. Warner’s messengers were prodigiously efficient, good swimmers too. The announcement said: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rick Rubin unite for Warner Bros debut. A house geographically located on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Hollywood, California is also cosmically located in the fourth dimension. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have practically shut themselves up in this house, built in the twenties, to devote themselves entirely to their art. They are very happy here, partly due to the multidimensional aspect of the legend that surrounds this house. It is said that the Beatles first took LSD here and that Jimi Hendrix lived here in his time. With them, they took all the recording material from the fifties and seventies… The Red Hot Chili Peppers are Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith. They spend most of their time arm in arm.

So, the Ninjamobile had crossed Sunset Boulevard, on the West Hollywood side, to re-join Beachwood Canyon, close to the famous Hollywood sign. Perched on a hill, Anthony’s new house (paid for with the comfortable advance from Warner, who had thus bought the band’s fifth and new album) was a white, hi-tech building, with metal structures underlined with blue. “It’s an anti-shoe house, take off your shoes,” says Anthony. The Ninja in socks had then discovered big white rooms, with on the walls, some hideous paintings like neo-sub-realist-chic-ugly. But we were in America, Warhol was Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney was Moliere and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were a fun little underground band. We had more questions than answers, it was time to sort out.

You are “back to the 70’s”, back to the four-track, soul and breath?

It’s not that we were particularly looking for the sound of the sixties or the seventies, we were just looking for something warmer, richer, more appealing than the usual hi-tech stereo production that you get systematically these days. But the house where we recorded the thing took care of that better than anything. It’s an old building built in the Hollywood Hills around 1917. Bands that record in this kind of place are rare, nowadays. As a result we got a rather unique sound. And our engineer, Brandon, is not the type to ask for a gold-plated XPR mic with a radioactive tube, he usually points to the thing and says, “plug in the grey thing, or the black thing,” it’s about the music, which is much more interesting.

Rick Rubin is not known to be a nostalgic fellow?

Rick Rubin is not Inspector Gadget, he is a brilliant guy, and he has a very diverse background, he knows all kinds of music. This is not to scare us, since we are ready to mix all the genres and to play anything, as long as we feel it. The fact is that Rick Rubin has turned out to be the best producer we could ever dream of. I must admit that the first time we met him, I was in doubt, he had just produced Slayer and Danzig, the kind of energy I don’t identify with because it’s a rather dark side, isn’t it? And then I realised that this kind of band, for the American youth, is a way to rebel against their parents and the rest. It’s a healthy thing, to say “fuck off” to mom and dad and find your own way, that’s the kind of test you go through when you become an adult.
Yes, Rick Rubin makes the kind of music that parents can’t humanly handle, thank God.

And you know what? Now that he’s become one of my best friends, I’ll say, to illustrate the point, that if Baron Munchausen were to masturbate, if he were to ejaculate, we, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, would be his sperm of some sort. And if we ever landed on the chessboard, Rick Rubin would be the ideal chess player to deal with the situation.

Uh… let’s be more specific. What did he get you?

Comfort, and he’s a smart guy, if he found the house on his own, a spectacular house like a Hollywood ruin, forty rooms, that kind of thing. He furnished the place beautifully, with chandeliers everywhere, stylish furniture. We all took up residence in the house, away from distractions, I sang the vocals from my room. He was incredibly relaxed, he knows how to make the small strategic decisions that really make the music, here is a man who knows how to listen with a prodigious intelligence. The best thing a producer can do is, without interfering with the music, to know how to shape it into something better.

How does this experience with Rick Rubin compare with the one you had previously with George Clinton?

Uh… actually, we’re talking about a totally different planet here. Clinton came at a different time, a different place. He’s probably one of the greatest musicians, composers and performers of all time. We were working with our ultimate funk hero. But that was a long time ago…

You wouldn’t do it again?

Probably not, we’d love to collaborate with George again in some way. But I don’t really see him producing any of our records anymore. He’s doing his own right now for Paisley Park and there’s no saying that we won’t be involved in a track or two on the record.

With success and wealth, what happens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

They’ve all bought a house, but it shouldn’t change our music. We were made to play from the heart and only from the heart. If you listen to the new record, you’ll see that we’ve only gotten better, as a beautiful evolution of what we’ve always been musically.

Money rarely helps to revolt…

This is not our case, we are not detached from the rest of the world, we are still human beings, the things that we feel invariably land in our lyrics, whether they make us angry or fill us with joy.

You quoted Lenny Kravitz in an interview. Any connection?

I happen to like his work a lot, I like his records.

Music videos seem to be a medium of choice for you?

I just came back from the desert, we spent two days there. We were making a video for “Give It Away” with a French director, Stephane Sednaoui. Funny, Salvador Dali would have been proud of us. And the proximity of the desert has turned us all spiritually into philosophers.

You quote Dali and we also read in the interviews that Bukowski and Traci Lords are major influences?

For others, it’s mainly music or musicians, for us, it’s the world around us, whether it’s a porn star, the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Bunuel.

Would you say that you are part of the Los Angeles scene?

We live there, we eat, we fuck, we read the morning papers, we drive our cars and our music reflects all of that. It doesn’t mean we belong to the local scene, we live here, we feel some affinity with our fellow Fishbone and others who play from the heart, period.

So, if not for Hendrix, whom you often quote, where are your musical ties?

We could name a few thousand. I don’t listen to the radio too much, but as far as America is concerned, I only see Public Enemy and Ice Cube. Those guys are doing the most exciting stuff right now. Otherwise, because Ice Cube wanted a little too much money to support our tour, we’ll be on the road with Soundgarden, one of the bands of the Seattle ‘Sub Pop’ scene. Sub Pop is a label from Seattle that has signed a lot of really cool bands.


We start on October 17th with the Northeast and come back for Christmas in Los Angeles and San Francisco. January-February, it will probably be Europe for a month and a half.

The Parisians are waiting impatiently…

Oh, my boy, I don’t see any problem, long live the French girls!

These days, there has been some friction with Faith No More, do you feel plagiarized?

I don’t think there are so many similarities between us. On the other hand, I’m pretty happy that they’re doing so well. Now, after about ten thousand people pointed out to me that Faith No More’s singer Mike Patton looked and sounded like me, things got a little ridiculous. Patton started in a band that was obviously inspired by the Red Hot, he was very young, he probably identified with me and incorporated all of that into his stage act. After a while he will find his own style because I think he is a remarkable singer. I don’t have time for that, I have what I have, he has what he has.

Yes, the long hair.

Oh, everybody has long hair!

How do the Red Hot Chili Peppers write their songs? On repeat, on their own?

There is no particular method, we write in the most abracadabra situations, we start with a word, a bass line, a guitar riff. One thing is true, it is the bubble of us quarte, equally distributed, in group. We jam together or I think of a line of text while driving on a highway, Flea composes in the bathroom, John on his roof, that kind of thing. Of course, the ideal situation is when we all play together and everything miraculously fits together. Because sometimes it takes me ten hours behind a table to write a text, but when we are together and things are going perfectly, I need ten minutes.

There are songs on the new album that have an obvious theme, “Power Of Equality” sums it up, but what about “Suck My Kiss?”

Very simple, Suck My Kiss is about a person looking for tenderness but in an anachronistic way, the kind of ‘fuck-you-universe-give-me-a-woman!’

Uh… well, what about Blood Sugar Sex Magik?

Achieving spiritual nirvana through sex, that’s the point.

“Power Of Equality?”

An idealistic view of what this planet would be like without prejudice, racism, sexism, or generation barriers.

Ah, what if the Los Angeles Police Department was civilised?

Yes, if they were dressed as sexy maids!

“If You Have To Ask”

Inspired by something Louis Armstrong said in the 50’s. He was asked, “what’s going on in New Orleans, this music, what is it all about?” and he replied, “if you ask the question, you’ll never know…”

Ah, that’s clever! And me asking questions… “Breaking The Girl?”

How is it that when you are in love, you can’t imagine that things could be different one day? How does love evaporate?

Any theories on this?

No, it blows me away, how can you be in a car kissing a girl while listening to Stevie Wonder, loving her to tears, wanting to spend eternity with her, but a year later you are looking for someone else. The process is crazy, it kills me.

Uh… maybe you’re not faithful?

Maybe I am.

“Funky Monks?”

Um… it’s a song about infidelity.

“I Could Have Lied.”

Uh… I don’t want to explain that song.

“Mellowship Slinky?”

… in D major, it’s a modern version of “here are some of my favorite things…”

“The Righteous & The Wicked?”

Hell, this song is too deep… it’s about how we don’t treat mother nature with the same respect as we do our own mother when it’s exactly the same thing.

Do you think you’ll pass one of these four to literature?

I can’t imagine writing anything that doesn’t end in music, somehow it sounds better. Maybe in ten years.

“Give It Away?”

About people who think they’ll get more by keeping everything to themselves. In reality, the more you give, the more you get.

Under The Bridge is a… ballad!

Under The Bridge is a salad!

A salad?

A salad.

Good. “Naked In The Rain?”

Being friends with animals rather than people.

Are people more concerned about their dogs than the homeless?

It’s very easy to understand, not that I turn my back on the less fortunate, I have compassion for those people. But it turns out that if you look at society as a whole, the life of animals seems much more attractive. Long live Dr. Doolittle!

Soon the elections, are you going to get involved?

I happen to abhor politics. It is only a reflection of individuals and their twisted philosophies. That said, I have a theory, if you look at our presidents, it is obvious that they are not sexually full. This has a direct impact on the way they conduct the affairs of state. The last vaguely respectable president we had in this country, Kennedy, was a president because he had an interesting sex life. He had sex with people like Marilyn Monroe and, of course, he was a much happier man, his views on governing seemed much more valid than, for example, George Bush’s, who only has sex – or perhaps no longer has sex – with Barbara Bush. Hence the sexual tensions that are necessarily manifested in his way of running the country and international affairs. How can he think clearly if he is constantly frustrated?

Does Gorbachev seem to you to be more fulfilled?

I don’t know his wife. You have to see.

“Apache Rose Peacock?”

A fantasy, I’ve always been attracted to New Orleans, the architecture, the mystery, the culture, I imagined falling in love with a girl from there.

“The Greeting Song?”

Pure energy, no matter the lyrics, high-power, hardcore, nutcracker, classy, psychedelic, sex, funk… all thrown in your face.

“My Lovely Man?”

On my best friend, guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Hillel Slovak, overdose in 88), dead, I hope to find him somewhere else.

Do you think you will continue forever? At fifty-four years old, stage-diving might be difficult?

It all depends on how you treat your body and mind. At fifty-four years old, I hope, no matter what, to feel wonderful and it doesn’t matter if I live ten or fifty years old.

“Sir Psycho Sexy?”

A great story, my favorite piece, a character and his many sexual concessions… Eve in the garden of Eden, the perfect partner. A woman cop that stops him in the car, they end up doing it on the front hood. And a punk rocker that Sir Psycho Sexy falls madly in love with.

Is there a moral?

You choose.

“They’re Red Hot”

The cover of Robert Johnson, the cover of the album, recorded in the garden. Chad was playing with his hands, the baguettes were too loud.

What are the others?

Flea has some of his paintings framed – you know I have an incredible collection of paintings, I love to collect. John plays guitar, Chad rides around the hills on a motorcycle. We come back from the shoot, day off, and I do press, which I hate because I’m proud of the record.

You guys are doing pretty good.

I can’t think of any reason why a music journalist should exist. It doesn’t matter what their opinion is.

There are no more bad journalists than there are bad musicians, as far as I know. And perfection is not of this world.

I happen to like perfection.

Thank you for everything.

Many thanks to Iva at Invisible-Movement for sharing these scans and a massive thank you to Jamie for the translation into English <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.