Rolling Stone 1995
RHCPs (from left): Flea, Chad Smith, Dave Navarro and Anthony Kiedis
PEPPERS stir up a red-hot new album
By Chuck Crisafulli
IF THERE WAS A MORE bitchin’-sounding word than mature, I’d use that to describe this record,” says Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Mature isn’t a word that turns up often in analyses of the Peppers’ gaga punk funk, but the band hopes that its still untitled new album, the long-awaited follow-up to its 1991 breakthrough, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, will surprise listeners, especially those who’ve pegged the band as cartoon characters. “I believe we’ve evolved,” Kiedis intones, mock solemnly.
As the Peppers mill about the Sound Factory, the Los Angeles studio where some final vocal tracks are being assembled, the emerging consensus is that the group’s new material is deeper and darker than previous creations.”This whole recording process has been unlike any other I’ve encountered,” says Flea. “I remember when we started writing this record, [drummer] Chad [Smith] kept saying, ‘Everything’s so dark and dismal.’ But the dark and dismal shit felt good to me. It felt real. This is the most emotionally diverse record we’ve ever made, and I’m really proud of that.”
Due out on Aug. 8, the band’s sixth studio album was written and recorded over the past year, with Rick Rubin again serving as the Peppers’ producer. Ex-Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro now rounds out the quartet, turning the group into what Smith calls “a new, improved four-headed monster.”
On Blood Sugar, the groove-happy Peppers demonstrated an ability to handle departures from the funk. The smash single “Under the Bridge” blended Kiedis’ feelings for his hometown L.A. with a beautifully harrowing evocation of addiction. This time around, Kiedis bares his soul on similarly cathartic tracks like “The Melancholy Mechanics of My Mind.”
“I guess I’m just an emotionally disturbed character at heart,” the singer says, smiling calmly. In fact, Kiedis’ recurring emotional lows are part of the reason why the new album is just being completed this summer — a year after basic tracks were recorded. “I’ve been on a blistering roller-coaster ride of mental-health ups and downs,” he explains. “Germs of psychosis knocked me out for a while, but I feel good today.”
Another song with a painful genesis is “River,” written for Flea’s close friend River Phoenix. “It was just horrible that someone I loved died, and it was this sensationalized press thing,” he says softly.
“I was getting calls and having people knock on my door, and I just didn’t want to talk about it. It was too weird. I think the song says what I have to say —in a respectful way.”
The record also features “My Friends,” a bittersweet Flea-Kiedis collaboration that further explores some of the gentle melodicism that made “Under the Bridge” so affecting. “There are a few slow, pretty songs on this one,” says Flea. “That’s an interesting way for me to work now just because for so many years I’ve been whacking away on the bass like a monkey.”
But there isn’t anything slow or pretty about the (still untitled) track that’s currently being polished. It’s starting to jump like classic, ripsnorting, bug-eyed Pepper funk. Newest member Navarro seems some-what uneasy with that loopy, unhinged sound. “I get a little uncomfortable with the wackiness,” he admits. “But this is definitely the darkest Chili Peppers record. At least I thought so till I heard what’s happening today.” He slowly shakes his head and then lets a half-grin show. “I still don’t know what business as usual is with these guys.”
“We went from being just another band in L.A. to being rock stars,” says Flea. “We were finally playing arenas and going to the Grammys and riding around in limos — all that stuff that bands dream about — and I was fucking miserable. Not a happy guy. Scared of life. When Dave joined the band, I was having a hard time just getting out of bed — even to play music. And when you’re too fucked up to do the thing you love most in life, you’re pretty fucked up. Now I’m feeling great. The only thing bringing me down are my allergies.”
What’s bringing Smith down is the time it has taken to get the record finished. “It’s been my job to bitch at the little guys when they get out of line,” laughs the sizable drummer. “C’mon, play. Hurry up and write lyrics.’ This record’s taken so long that I’m going to have to relearn my parts when we get ready to tour.”
The protracted creative process hasn’t bothered Kiedis, though, who says the Peppers’ finest funk has never come easily: “It’s been a tragic and miraculous struggle of love over the last year to get this record done. But for us, tragic and miraculous struggles are what it takes to make beautiful and powerful pieces of work. We haven’t ever made any good music just being on an even keel.”