Transcript (by Rebecca Billingham) :
Chilis Words by Jacqui Swift
They’ve survived drugs kids and even losing their mercurial guitarist. Twice. So just how are the Red Hot Chili Peppers still standing?
Like many people who dine at rock’s top table Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis thought he was bullet proof when it came to drugs. The 48-year-old’s tales of addicted debauchery have long been chronicled tutted over and mythologised. There were the week long heroin binges in LA motel rooms. There was the time when his drug reservoir ran dry as did his bank account. In desperation to score? Kiedis frantically flogged a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones worth thousands. In return? he received enough cash to get high for about 10 minutes.
In fairness? it was all he knew. As a pre-teen in ‘70’s Los Angeles? he watched his father Blackie Dammett- one of Hollywood’s go-to drug dealers-claim Led Zeppelin and Keith Moon as satisfied narcotics clients. He was used by his old man as a mule? smuggled onto planes with cash strapped to him after Dammett completed successful drug runs. Then at 14? he shot coke for the first time. “Twenty seconds later” he recalls “I felt like Superman.”
At 12? with Dammett’s blessing Kiedis lost his virginity to his father’s 18-year-old girlfriend. Sort of puts the slightly awkward chat loaded’s dad gave us into a more manageable context. Kiedis would mature into one of Hollywood’s more prolific swordsman squiring…
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… director Sofia Coppola? supermodel Heidi Klum? actress Bijou Philips amongst a few hundred others.
As he sits loaded down in the opulent Santa Monica hotel where our audience with one of rock’s most durable? and well? consistently excellent bands is to be hosted. Kiedis is on breezy and reflective form. “Today? I am thankful just to be here?” he muses. “I’m also thankful to still be creative and making great music.”
“You are never really aware of how bad things are for you at the time?” he continues. “I’d grown up with drugs and so it was quite normal and acceptable? but thankfully I grew up and got clean. Drugs and alcohol give you a false sense of confidence of well-being. But it’s not a reality and when you’re clean you realise that.” He stops? fixes us with a look and smiles. “Although? I had lots of fun at the time.”
Part of the clan
Kiedis first attempted to quit his 15 year drug relationship after the death of original Chilis guitarist Hillel Slovak in 1988. A relapse five years later saw him fall into a freewheeling tailspin throughout most of the ‘90s? until rehab in 2000 led him back onto the straight & narrow. He admits it’s a daily struggle to resist the temptation (“It’s easy to be a junkie?” he says. “But it’s not easy to be one of the best guitarists or songwriters of all time.”) ? but he’s resolute in his stance since the birth of his son? Everly Bear (named after the Everly Brothers? and? um? the fact Kiedis feels “like I’m part of the Bear Clan”) now three? with ex-girlfriend Heather Christie.
“We’ve all changed so much personally especially me by becoming a father?” he says. “It affects the songs and we also have new blood in the band which has given us a fresh look at writing. We’re just ready to go out there and tour.”
Does having such a tempestuous relationship with your own dad affect the way you rear your own? “Listen? I feel lucky to have my son in my life. He’s a joy and I just want to be the best father I can be. It’s given me a new energy and a purpose in everything I do. Whatever… [text obscured by quote].. relationship I had with my own father? I know that he did love me? whatever his behaviour.”
Suddenly? we’re joined by drummer Chad Smith? bassist Michael ‘flea’ Balzary and newbie Josh Klinghoffer? the recent replacement for virtuoso but deeply troubled guitar hero John Frusciante. Quickly? they pair off. Kiedis & Klinghoffer (17 years his singer’s junior) joking in one suite of the seafront hotel while? in the adjoining room? Flea sits with giant drummer Chad.
And there’s no missing the most distinctly named bassist in the world. With his turquoise hair and matching tracksuit he dicks around on his guitar while talking at several million words an hour. Before we’ve even asked the obligatory question about the new album? he’s off. “There is a song called Ethiopia on the new record?” he starts. “Did you know I got lost out there?” It’s crazy? right? But I totally did.
“Damon Albarn has started his African Express Project? where basically a group of musicians go to a different country in Africa and jam with Africans? listen to African music and trip around. It was fucking amazing. So? Josh and I decided we’d go to Ethiopia. One day? we got the bus somewhere? before I got out to check this little side road. I turned around and the bus was gone. I was totally lost. I walked around this little town for about an hour. No one speaks English there and it was kind of crazy. I started getting really scared.” He looks scared even now? telling us about it.
“People were coming up to me and speaking to me? but I didn’t understand. I was tripping out with all these people staring at me and speaking to me. Eventually I managed to track down this guy and started screaming at him that I didn’t understand. But then? I thought? hang on so I do. So he found my friends and was totally nice. I told that story to Anthony when I got home? he wrote some lyrics and it became the song. To me it reflects the feelings of never letting fear dictate anything? only love.”
On the rocks
You get a fair bit of this new-fangled reflected schtick from the Chilis these days. We’re half expecting Chris Martin to slip though the door brandishing a microbiotic tub of natural yoghurt any second. Still? you can’t really blame them for chilling the fuck out. After decades of mutual excess? socks-on-cocks live performances and 65 million album sales? most expected the departure of Frusciante to put the final nail in the band’s drug ravished coffin.
Mercurially talented though he was? their former guitarist endured a five-year heroin addiction in the ‘90s? struggled to shake his crack cocaine and booze habits before flogging his rehabbed guts into exhaustion after he’d rejoined the band in 1998.
They admit that the pressures of being on the road had a major effect on band morale. “We’d had enough of each other by the end of the Stadium Arcadium tour?” he admits. Flea nods. “My friendship with Anthony wasn’t a fun one at the end. We’ve been friends since we were 15 and been through so much? but we needed time out.
“We see this album as something of a rebirth” he says. Suddenly? Chad Smith grabs his bandmate and they grapple at loaded’s feet. “I mean?” he grunts between headlocks “how many bands have been through what we have and still wrestle?” loaded