Melody Maker September 1991

melody-maker-september-1991-Blood-sugar-sex-magik-a melody-maker-september-1991-Blood-sugar-sex-magik-b



Six years after they started the whole funk-rock-metal ball rolling with their ‘Freaky Styley’ LP, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have recorded a classic follow-up in the shape of the new ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’. NEIL PERRY reports. Pic: MARY SCANLON

‘THREE OR FOUR TIMES IN MY life,” Red Hot Chili Pepper’s fragile 21 -year-old guitarist, John Frusciante, says in faltering tones, “I’ve completely lost my mind to the point where I had no relationship with this dimension … and in a bad way, too …”

Looking at him, you’re inclined to believe him.

This is a man who decided at the age of nine that “Kiss was bullshit and punk rock was where it was at” and has since listened to virtually nothing else apart from Captain Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica”, which he plays at least once a day. While many of his contemporaries have preferred to lose themselves in a miasma of alcohol and drugs, John largely eschews such sybaritic excess. For John, losing himself in a Van Gogh painting is heaven on earth. When he goes on tour, he says, he doesn’t plan on wasting his time getting wasted in the time-honoured tradition. No, he’ll leave that to everyone else. He’ll be in his hotel room with his sketchbooks and paints.

It’s at this point you start wondering what the hell such a highly sensitive, withdrawn, obviously warm and kind individual is actually doing in The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I mean, California’s notorious funk exhibitionists area bunch of muscle-flexing, cock-brandishing, ego-touting, loud mouthed yobbish miscreants.

Aren’t they?

THE Red Hot Chili Peppers have just recorded their finest album to date. “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” is the natural successor to the band’s date. “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” is the natural successor to the band’s ’85 classic “Freaky Styley’, the record that set the whole funk-rock-metal ball rolling. That LP was produced by P-Funk hero George Clinton and “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” is the living, swaggering embodiment of the man’s proclamation that you must “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow”.

At the suggestion of producer Rick Rubin, the band moved into a run-down, 20-room mansion in LA’s Laurel Canyon to record the album, a place where Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles stayed in the Sixties and where various two-bit gangsters met allegedly bloody deaths.

Everything was going right for the band. They had the experience of Rubin on tap, a freshly signed multi-million deal with Warner Brothers, and were riding the crest of a creative wave. More importantly, John and new-ish drummer Chad Smith were fully locked in, physically and spiritually, with prime Chili movers, bassist Flea and singer Anthony Kiedis.

And, it seems, if you’re a Chili Pepper, the spiritual connection is the guiding light. The care for each other that flashes between John and Anthony – in London together to promote the new LP – is almost tangible. There is no sign of the lads-out-on-the-pull mentality that makes up about four fifths of the Peppers’ press cuttings. In fact, Anthony’s just read a Peppers interview in a British glossy, and he’s not at all happy about it. As he makes clear to Anthony.

“God, it makes us out to be sexual perverts or something. Every damn paragraph goes on about it .. .”

He shrugs. If the Peppers did once deserve this kind of reputation, they just don’t anymore. They certainly used to indulge in all manner of psycho-babble concerning sex and their masculinity, and several songs – notably “No Chump Love Sucker” from the third LP, “The UpliftMofo Party Plan” – were way over the mark, but they would also talk about many other things. As Anthony points out later, they just didn’t make such good copy.

John’s presence in the band has undoubtedly had an effect. Coming from anyone else, his wide-eyed statement that recording the new LP “felt like we were doing it underwater, because our cosmic juices were flowing so much that they filled up the room to the ceiling” would leave you gasping. With John, his planet-orbiting freaky styley just leaves you mightily moved.

“This album, man, it was a soulful experience,” he goes on. “It was the happiest time of my life. Being in that house, the outside world just wasn’t intermingling atoll. No aluminium foil from ordering takeaway food, no obnoxious sweaty secretaries, just ourselves and our friends. Artists rarely get that opportunity to concentrate 100 per cent on their art… It was beautiful. Any artist is connecting themselves with spiritual feelings – or should be whether they verbalise it or not. Music and all art forms are originally completely separate worlds from those of money and business and ambition. It’s about totally separating yourself from those worlds. When I listen to Beefheart or read Burroughs, those worlds to me are so much more real than the one I see when I walk down Sunset Boulevard and feel like strangling someone just to remind them we’re f”‘ in alive, you know?

“We love each other very much. And it’s not the sort of thing that anything verbal can have anything to do with. This album is a representation of the four of us really loving each other, understanding each other both personally and musically.”

The following day, unable to handle any more interviews, John takes an early flight back to LA. You have to wonder, however, if he’ll ever come down to earth.

ANTHONY, aka Antwan The Swan, is a charismatic mixture of steely conviction and softly-spoken charm. It’s a pleasure to concentrate on his words instead of the tattooed biceps bulging out of his tee-shirt.

‘When I was a teenager and started getting into funk,” he recalls, “it had such a profound and deep effect on my gut, it was so much of an experience for the body. I remember thinking, shit, this is such a great feeling, what if . . . that’s what got us going and the funk rolling. George Clinton said it best, that funk is strictly colourblind. It’s all about not buying into definitions created by society and being true to yourself, fighting off the desensitizing qualities of the world. Because there are so many films and TV shows and publications and governments that are strictly out to do that to you, and they will numb your head and your soul … if you let them.

“We’ve always been about going against any sort of prejudice when it comes to playing music, it’s so full of textures and emotions that characterising it into the colour for the person playing the music is so completely … feeble.”

“Blood Sugar Sex Magik” is, says Anthony, his proudest achievement and the most sheerly exhilarating record he’s ever been involved in. Before recording, the band spent six months, five days a week, in solid rehearsal.

“So many eruptions of sound and inspiration were coming out, and for me to sit and listen to Chad and John and Flea just playing without a care completely inspired me. I’d be sitting there with pen and paper to see if I’d get any ideas, but so many times I just dropped them and jumped up to sing the first thing that came to me. The whole point of being in a band is to create one sound, one feeling. Only after being on the road, one and a half years after ‘Mother’s Milk’, did we really get to know each other and that’s when we started to develop that telepathic musical conversation that is so necessary to create a beautiful piece of art.”

Anthony, however, was originally apprehensive about involving Rick Rubin: “What he’s done before, stuff like Slayer and Danzig, that’s an energy that the Peppers aren’t a part of, that darker side . . . lout then I realised that all Rubin did was let those bands be themselves. And in a sense those bands do a great service, in as much as they give the youth of America a vehicle with which to rebel, and that’s such a healthy part of growing up. Rubin is very aware of that, and he made us feel very comfortable.

“You know, George Clinton was constantly spinning yarns, he loves to talk of past times. He explained what it was like being a young black boy, growing up in North Carolina, how he’d have to choose certain routes from town to home to avoid getting beaten up, always skulking through the woods or whatever.

“It’s impossible for me to truly imagine that, but this music is about alleviating the pain that comes from that sort of thing… it’s a physical exorcism of those emotions. But, you know, I don’t spend much time analysing what it is we’re all about, because it stops you going forward.

“I do know that we’ve made a record that has inspired us to stay together for many years, because if we can make something this great there’s no telling what the future holds.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.