2016/06 The Sun

IT’S been five years since we caught up with Anthony Kiedis and the other Peppers but they’re back and bang on form with new album The Getaway.

Kiedis, looking forward to the band’s debut Reading and Leeds appearances this year, calls the record one of their best and says: “It marks a new chapter and a new, different era for sure.”…

ANTHONY KIEDIS is surprisingly lively for a man rumoured to be at death’s door. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s frontman needed a hospital stay after complications from intestinal flu and the band were forced into a last-minute can-collation of a performance in Irvine, California.

Even flying in to LA, I’m still unsure if the singer will be fit enough to talk to me about new album The Getaway.

But in the Malibu mansion the band have hired for the day, when he appears at the top of a staircase he’s in fine form, offering to make green tea for everyone in the room.

“Yes I’ve been poorly,” he says: “But I don’t think I was entering the realm of death — just pain and discomfort.”

It’s been more than five years since we last met the Chili Peppers. Then they were moving on from the loss of genius guitarist John Frusciante, who walked out of the band for the second time in 2008 to concentrate on his solo work and was replaced by former Beck and PJ Harvey guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.

Today we meet Kiedis, 53, drummer Chad Smith, 54, and bassist Flea, 53, (plus his dog Blizzard) in a stunning ocean-view location.

“Making the last album (I’m With You) with Josh and then as all being on the road, was an incredi-bly positive experience,” admits Kiedis. “It’s not one of our best records and there are only a handful of songs off it that we ended up playing live regularly.

“But it’s like when John joined our band in 1988, we made Mother’s Milk and that record is OK, but was followed by Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which was one of our best. “I think it takes us two records to get it right. I’m With You is interesting and lively but this new record is one of our best.

“It marks a new chapter and a new, different era for sure.” For The Getaway, the band chose not to work with regular producer Rick Rubin but Broken Bells and Gnarls Barkley musician/producer/ DJ Danger Mouse aka Brian Burton. “We love Rick and the thought of not working with him was painful.

“He’s a friend and was a security blanket. But we needed something new. Brian is really talented although one of the busiest people in the world. So when we finally agreed to roll the dice and take the risk and go with Brian, then Flea broke his arm snowboarding. Very inconvenient.”

Luckily for the Chili Peppers, Burton was keen to still work with them and moved work aside.

“We’d found someone who cared about our music as much as we did.” says Smith.

“Brian only works on material that he loves and we’d written new songs and rehearsed as best we could with a guy with a bad arm.

“And as Flea went through the rehab process we were writing in the studio, which we’d never done before. It was scary at times but Brian had always done his creating in the studio as he comes from a hip-hop background.

“We eventually embraced this different process of writing and it was really fun.”

But there was another worry emerging, Flea wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to play again.

“It was scary. I’d broken my arm in several places,” he says showing me the scars.

“This part shattered. This all broke down in here. Big pieces of bone got shorn off, I had to get it put back together with screws. “It was tense. I didn’t even think it was that bad at the time. I snow-boarded back down the mountain with they were trying to put me in the ambulance. I said, ‘No’ and the next thing you know I was in an ambulance on a morphine drip. I needed a lot of surgery.

“I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to play again. For four months I didn’t play at all. That was depressing, sad and boring. And when I was recovering and could play, I couldn’t play meaningfully. And it was that that really scared me.

“I know I didn’t want to do it unless I could really do it. But it all came back. It took a while and now it’s all back.”

With Flea’s accident and being pushed in a new way in the studio by Burton, The Getaway marks a new chapter in the Chili Peppers 33-year story and also introduces a new sound.

“Brian and I never clashed in the studio but I was taken out of my comfort zone, admits Kiedis. “I never took any criticism personally but we wrote entire songs again and again and each time I would sing it to him and he’d be like, ‘We will try it, but I don’t think it is good enough.

“We Turn Red was one that came out that way and I love that song'”

First single Dark Necessities mixes their funk groove with electronics over Kiedis’ melodic vocal while Go Robot has an Eighties Prince feel to it. And Kiedis, who was friends with the superstar who passed away in April, says knowing him was a “positive experience”.

He says: “I’ve been to his house to listen to music with him which was great.

“He’d play me all these interesting songs that he had in the vault. He made so much. It was pretty remarkable what he accomplished in his life.”

Another iconic figure playing a part on The Getaway is Sir Elton John who appears on Sick Love.

Says Kiedis: “That song was inspired by the chord changes to (Classic Elton John hit) Benny and The Jets so we gave Elton and Bernie Taupin a writing credit and asked him to play on the record to give it his blessing.”

Smith adds: “We asked Elton who said, ‘I’m a big fan. I’ll be there and he came in and he was very sweet.

“He was even a bit nervous when he came in. As soon as he touched the piano it was magical. You try not to be a fan boy, but it IS Sir Elton John.

“He talked about everything and was really cool.

“It’s a real honour for us to have him on the record.”

Lyrically the darkness on The Getaway was influenced by the end of Kiedis’ relationship with 22-year-old supermodel Helena Vestergaard who he split with in late 2014.

He says: “It’s about the end of a relationship and heartbreak. “I was a mess for the last year of my life. To be so in love with somebody and then have it not work out even though you would have done anything to figure it out. I was definitely shaken and saddened.
“But I got through it and felt even more turned on by life and playing music and so I had something to write about.

“Those two years of the relationship turned out to be a very valuable experience and material for singing about. One of my best mates said, ‘Dude you got a record out of the deal so don’t even sweat about it as she was worth all the aggravation.”

While Kiedis admits he’s had plenty of ups and down in relationships, his role as a father to his young son Everly, with model Heather Christie, has brought him “nothing but joy”.

Particularly because of his own “unconventional” upbringing by his father, actor Blackie Dammett who introduced 11-year-old Kiedis to marijuana.

“Well, I learned a lot of what not to do as a parent from him,” he smiles. “Even though my father loved me and thought he was doing the best he could, he was a little out of his mind and I think I learned from his mistakes.

“Growing up, my dad was doing tonnes of drugs so it just seemed like it was the thing to do.

“But now I know to not put my pain, sorrow, sadness, misery and psychosis onto my son.

“I just make him feel safe all the time and let him enjoy every minute of being a little boy.

“When I was a kid it was about growing up as fast as possible. “I wanted to do all the grown-up stuff like smoke cigarettes, drink and take drugs. But it stunts the growth of the mind.”

A lot of Kiedis’s troubled child-hood was laid bare in his searingly honest memoir, the best-selling Scar Tissue. When released in 2004 it caused rifts between Kiedis’ family and friends — including Flea after Kiedis revealed he’d slept with his friend’s sister.

Kiedis says: “I did regret the book for a while as there was some pain caused. But then, I started seeing the long term positive reverberating. People were reading it in hospitals, in prisons and schools and it was having a positive effect.

“I realised that the whole point of writing that book wasn’t for me, but to show that somebody can go all the way down and come all the way back and have a productive, successful happy interesting life.

“And so whatever shame, pain or difficulty or discomfort I went through, then it was worth it because I get so many people coming up to me saying their kids had read it and got their act together because of it.

And will Flea, now writing his own memoirs, be revealing any hidden secrets?

“Well I’m writing it all on my own with no one helping me,” he says.

“It depends how people see stories from their past — we all tend to have different viewpoints.

“But it’s really important to me that I write it.

“I’d rather be a bad writer and make a book that might not be as professional, but do it in my own voice.”

In August the Chili Peppers headline Reading and Leeds Festival for the first time. Kiedis says:

“It is an honour and nice to as that on the list. We have played a tonne of festivals like Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight but for some reason we’ve never played Reading.

“I don’t know what fans can expect but it will show how relevant we still are.

“This new album shows we aren’t a heritage band, we never have been. I love those 15-year-olds but I also love the 85-year-olds.

“I love all the people we play for and connect to our music. Flea and I said that if we get to the point where we are just playing the hits, we wouldn’t want to do it.

“It’s the same with this new album. I played it the other day and I was floored. I’m a fan. The tones and the groove that Josh and Flea play – I’ve never heard them sound like the before.

“This band are at their very best. Right now. Forget the past as it’s a new chapter and a brand new era.”

•Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album The Getaway is out today


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