MAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
FUNKY MONKS, THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS ARE ABOUT TO SLEAZE THEIR INFECTIOUSLY GROOVY ROCK TUNES BACK INTO OUR HEADS AGAIN AFTER A COUPLE OF YEARS OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT. NEW ALBUM CALIFORNICATION IS ONE SERIOUSLY SEXY MOTHER AND THE CHILI’S ARE HITTING THE U.K TO HEADLINE READING IN AUGUST. ROCK SOUND FLEW OUT TO L.A TO HEAR ABOUT THE SPLITS AND STRUGGLES THAT WENT ON BEHIND THE SCENES AND TO FIND OUT IF CALIFORNICATION REALLY DOES SLAG OFF COURTNEY LOVE.
It’s late April and we’re at the Beverley Hills Hotel hanging out with the Chili Peppers. Notorious for enjoying the high life (drugs are always somewhere on the agenda with sex lagging not far behind) the band are in fine form. Singer Anthony Kiedis is sporting a new hair-do, ex-guitarist John Frusciante has rejoined (replacing Dave Navarro), bass loon Flea is, as ever, hyperactive and drummer Chad Smith? Well, let’s say Chad’s been having fun. Yesterday his press officer discovered him with a particularly inspired French journalist who thought she could get the best interview out of him by stripping off and asking for a damn good spanking. The two of them got naked and were caught as she was bent over his knees begging to be hit! So Chad walks over with a glint in his eyes, takes one look at me and asks “Are you French?” oh shit!
Back From The Dead
Twenty minutes later, having eluded his grasp, I’m shown into a room with John and Flea who are drinking mineral water and thankfully fully clothed. Time to get the lowdown on Californication and the rebirth of one of the ’90s greatest bands.
“Rebirth?” laughs Flea. I dunno, I just feel that we always exist. Y’know, John, Chad, Anthony and me. It’s like we’re still around, we always have been.” It’s John’s turn to laugh. Not me! Everybody thought I was dead. But as you can see, I’m very much alive.”
Seven years ago it was a different story. John jumped ship and disappeared, seemingly unable to handle stardom. It wasn’t the stardom stuff that bothered me so much, he protests. The people who are living the rock star life aren’t my heroes but it’s a weird thing. If you look inside yourself and you’re comfortable with your relationship with the world, then you can exist as a human being and you can be in magazines. But I was discovering too many things about myself and I didn’t get the chance to understand them because I was in a band that was always on tour and didn’t get along.” Flea shifts uncomfortably but John continues. We were on stage pretending but we weren’t paying any attention to each other. We all had a different purpose and Flea found out that we didn’t share any sort of beliefs in what we were doing it was, um…hard. We were so tired but good as a band that we didn’t need to listen to each other to be able to play well. In fact, I was looking at that tape a few days ago and it’s so obvious we just didn’t care about each other.”
“What?!” asks Flea incredulously.
“It was a gig in New York,” explains John.
“It’s like nobody is looking at anybody else.” Flea laughs: “We did, honest.”
“but sometimes we did,” agrees John, “but sometimes we didn’t. You got mad at me for not spending time trying to get my relationship with Anthony together. I was fine not talking to him at all! But you wanted us to get along…I just didn’t see how I could be friends with him, how I could stay and carry on my relationship with him. It’s different now. He really is one of my favourite people in the world. But we all had a different response to success and it was good that I quit. Some bands keep on going even though they’re not talking to each other and I can’t imagine having to be forced to write an album. It would sound awful. You stop enjoying a band when they start to hate each other. You feel it in the music.”
I take it you never listened to One Hot Minute then?
“Why should I? Anthony may love what I’ve written for this album but he’s never heard my solo album either.”
So how did you get back together again?
“I saw Anthony at a Jane’s Addiction show. He was really nice, I liked him a lot. He wasn’t on drugs, but I was, and he wasn’t judgemental. He used to give you a bad vibe about pot and drinking, but then he was just cool. He came to visit me a few times in the hospital and he was really nice. Things had changed…”
Flea is itching to have his say. Was he concerned about the future of the band after Dave’s departure? “It’s weird”, he grins, “because fundamentally I would never worry about the future of the band. This band makes me happy, sad, bored, excited but I’m never worried. So at that time I went off to Costa Rica because we had to fix things with Dave and I didn’t feel good. I came back thinking I’d make a solo album and the day I got back my doorbell rang and there was John holding a guitar Anthony had just bought him. The sight of seeing them together smiling and holding a guitar like that (he bounces like an excited child), I mean, man, I just couldn’t believe it! Because last time I saw them together was at the Viper Rooms where John was playing . He said to me, ‘Anthony’s a fucking loser’ and I’m like ‘So? Stop motherfucker!’ ha ha. So just to see them together smiling was an amazing thing. Right then we started to write songs for Californication.”
The Hole Truth
The title track is a bit provocative. It’s obviously aimed at one particular celebrity isn’t it? “Well, it’s about the influence that showbusiness has on California and the rest of the world,” says Flea, side-stepping neatly. “To me, when I think about it, I think about how Hollywood is fucked up, taking everybody’s conscience away and keeping individual cultures from developing themselves.”
You’re avoiding the issue, I tell him. The lyrics, ‘Pay your surgeons very well to break the spell of ageing / Celebrity skin, is this your chin? / Cobain can you hear the sphere? / And earthquakes are to a girl’s guitars…’ seem to suggest that’s it’s very specifically about one rock star widow.
“What, Hole?” splutters Flea, looking almost shocked. “Courtney Love? No, no! It’s not!! As a matter of fact, Anthony wrote the lyrics before the Hole album came out. Then he found out that the entire ‘Celebrity skin’ line could be misunderstood and he was like ‘Oh shit!!’ That’s a total coincidence. I know for sure this is NOT about Courtney, nothing to do with that. And the line about Cobain is just because Anthony loved Kurt so much. It’s about him in heaven and being a constellation, a beauty, an inspiration. You know what? This is going to be a fucking terrible misconception. It’s so disrespectful, we would never have done that!”
Perhaps, but Red Hot Chili Peppers have never shied away from controversy. From songs about heroin to famously wearing socks on their cocks they make the world a brighter, more entertaining place. As Flea says just before we go, “What we do is still attractive to people. When we find something exciting we just think, Let’s go!’ and that’s something that touches people. That’s just magic.”
And Californication is one impressive trick.
Many thanks to Anton for help with this transcript.