Bassist August 1999
Chill get hotter during ‘fornication
Flea on the making of the new Chili Peppers album, Californication, and the reappearance of John Frusciante
Flea has been talking to Bassist about the recording of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new album, Californication, their first in four years and the first since 1991 to feature original guitarist John Frusciante.
Californication reportedly marks a return to the sound of the BloodSugarSexMagik album which delighted millions in 1991, a fact that could be down to the reappearance of Frusciante, who re-joined the line-up in January 1998, replacing former Jane’s Addiction guitar-meister Dave Navarro.
Flea was the only member of the band to keep in touch with Frusciante – who quit the Chili Peppers seven years ago -and was pleased to have him back. “I found his return to be a very natural, straight-forward process,” he said. “Very enjoyable, very fluid. We are very happy that he is back… The first time we got into a room together it was just like he had never been away.”
While Navarro is reknowned for a more studied and considered way of working, Frusciante instinctively knows where the band is going during a jam, and brought a new spontaneity to the band, enabling the album to be recorded in just three weeks. With Rick Ruben at the production controls, the band laid down 31 songs which had to be cut down to the final 14 on the album. (The rest might surface on an EP, appear on film soundtracks, or be used as b-sides.)
“When we are in a room we make a lot of noise and out of it come some really great ideas,” explained Flea. “It was exciting to get back to doing that. One of the best ways of working for this band is just to jam. It’s a great way to find something in the air and a good way to explore yourself as a musician and to establish communication with other members of the band. Each member contributes to creating a song. Our music is always a product of all members, it’s the result of a chemistry that exists between us and it is a feeling that comes out of all four of us.”
Flea also spoke about the personality clashes that have plagued the band in the past. “Yes, we all changed and went through some shit. Before John left there was no relationship between him and Anthony. When we toured BloodSugarSexMagik, before John left the band, it was really difficult to function because nobody was getting along and we couldn’t stand each other. That was one of the most difficult times in my life.”
Singer Anthony Kiedis and Flea (real name Michael Balzary) have known each other for 21 years, and have been known to have had a stormy relationship. “It has had its ups and downs,” confirmed Flea, “but we’ve stayed friends through all of it. At the same time, it is amazing that we’ve been friends for so long.
“It has really become easy lately; over the past year Anthony has become a more mature, supportive and humble person. He’s grown up and a lot of things that used to annoy the shit out of me don’t even happen anymore. I have really found new respect for him.
“Drugs might have had something to do with the band’s mental state in the past and we had our share of fights and disagreements. At times it was really difficult… He can talk about it now, be sincere and laugh about it but at the time it was a real hell. He is really cool and sweet right now: (SW)