NME September 1995

Note: There are loads of mistakes in this article; spelling of album names, apparently Flea has a daughter called Chloe (his daughters are Sunny Bepop and Clara) a past band member was called Erik Marshall…. I’ve copied the article as it is rather than make corrections.

BTW the title is a pun on a dried meat snack product that had the logo: Pepperoni: it’s a bit of an animal

 

Pepper Army: It’s A Bit Of An Animal!

Have the Red Hot Chili Peppers gone ‘mature’ on us? Recent years have not been easy on them, the pressures of touring, taking their toll, seemingly endless line up problems and, of course druuugs! But they’ve cleaned up and are back on track with their more serious ‘Hot’ new album. ANDY RICHARDSON finds out if they’re still putting the cock in their rock.

Hot shots: STEVE DOUBLE

Anthony Kiedis frowns. He has been standing here, ten feet above the ground, dressed in nothing but a clear plastic mini skirt and black underpants for what feels like an age. A small army of crew, caterers, and cameramen surround him, pampering his ego and arguing about the different angles for the new Red Hot Chili Peppers video.

 

Kiedis stands on a small circular stage in a Los Angeles studio. Two large golden arrows rotate above his heads, flashing bright lights as they whirr past. Technicians fiddle with the set and, at the side of the stage, three lighting men use spotlights to create an imaginary sky. The set is supposed to represent Dante’s Inferno, but the star looks unimpressed and stands with arms folded and an expression that reads ‘bored’.

Across the room, a hassled make-up woman is searching frantically through cases of cosmetics. She’s been cool all day, putting purple lipstick on guitarist Dave Navarro, drawing blue eye-liner on drummer Chad Smith and painting an almost-perfect blue circle on the forehead of bassist Flea.  She’s told stories about Liz Taylor and Cher and talked about how she despises star-f—kers, but now she’s panicking.

“Where the hell is the goddam greasepaint?”

She upturns a box, knocks a bundle of photos to the floor, rummages through make-up cases and sighs, “I got boot polish,” she offers, hopelessly. She looks through two more cases and then her exasperate expression changes. “Yeees,” she says, and hands the small tub of oily black paint to a runner.

Onstage, a slurred guitar booms. Drums crash, a bass is slapped and Kiedis starts to dance. He pounds his thrift store boots, throws his arms back into a crucifix pose, rolls his head and hurls his mane at the camera. He lip-synchs to ‘Warped’, smears paint across his face, then grabs the camera to plant a filthy 

Note: There are loads of mistakes in this article; spelling of album names, apparently Flea has a daughter called Chloe (his daughters are Sunny Bepop and Clara) a past band member was called Erik Marshall…. I’ve copied the article as it is rather than make corrections.

BTW the title is a pun on a dried meat snack product that had the logo: Pepperoni: it’s a bit of an animal

  

Pepper Army: It’s A Bit Of An Animal!

Have the Red Hot Chili Peppers gone ‘mature’ on us? Recent years have not been easy on them, the pressures of touring, taking their toll, seemingly endless line up problems and, of course druuugs! But they’ve cleaned up and are back on track with their more serious ‘Hot’ new album. ANDY RICHARDSON finds out if they’re still putting the cock in their rock.

Hot shots: STEVE DOUBLE

Anthony Kiedis frowns. He has been standing here, ten feet above the ground, dressed in nothing but a clear plastic mini skirt and black underpants for what feels like an age. A small army of crew, caterers, and cameramen surround him, pampering his ego and arguing about the different angles for the new Red Hot Chili Peppers video.

 

Kiedis stands on a small circular stage in a Los Angeles studio. Two large golden arrows rotate above his heads, flashing bright lights as they whirr past. Technicians fiddle with the set and, at the side of the stage, three lighting men use spotlights to create an imaginary sky. The set is supposed to represent Dante’s Inferno, but the star looks unimpressed and stands with arms folded and an expression that reads ‘bored’.

Across the room, a hassled make-up woman is searching frantically through cases of cosmetics. She’s been cool all day, putting purple lipstick on guitarist Dave Navarro, drawing blue eye-liner on drummer Chad Smith and painting an almost-perfect blue circle on the forehead of bassist Flea.  She’s told stories about Liz Taylor and Cher and talked about how she despises star-f—kers, but now she’s panicking.

“Where the hell is the goddam greasepaint?”

She upturns a box, knocks a bundle of photos to the floor, rummages through make-up cases and sighs, “I got boot polish,” she offers, hopelessly. She looks through two more cases and then her exasperate expression changes. “Yeees,” she says, and hands the small tub of oily black paint to a runner.

Onstage, a slurred guitar booms. Drums crash, a bass is slapped and Kiedis starts to dance. He pounds his thrift store boots, throws his arms back into a crucifix pose, rolls his head and hurls his mane at the camera. He lip-synchs to ‘Warped’, smears paint across his face, then grabs the camera to plant a filthy greasy kiss on the lens.

“Jesus,” shouts the make-up woman. The director smiles. “Cut.”

REWIND: 1991 The Chili Peppers have signed to Warner Brothers and are recording in a converted Hollywood Hills house with bearded genius Rick Rubin. The resulting album, the six-million selling ‘Bloodsugarsexmagik’, propels them into rock’s league of superstars and they spend the final day of 1991 playing with Nirvana and Pearl Jam in San Francisco in front of 14,000 fans. A two-and-a-half year world tour follows, including a joint headline slot on 1992’s $18 million grossing Lollapalooza.

The Chilis receive awards from MTV and Rolling Stone. They play a Grammy’s Awards slot, Glastonbury in 1993, Reading in’94 and add formidable former Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro to their line-up. On the surface, all seems remarkably well.

But the success of ‘Bloodsugarsexmagik’ takes its toll. The intensive touring and promotion leaves them exhausted and smack addiction precipitates the decline of Kiedis and Flea. Their guitarist of nine-years-standing, John Frusciante, quits during a head-spinning Japanese tour and the band employs at least four replacements before eventually settling on Navarro.

They are sued by one guitarist, Jack Sherman, who claims fraud, malpractice and breach-of-contract. Kiedis falls victim to a rare strain of dysentery, and the hot-headed Flea quits on at least two occasions. Oh, and his marriage fails. In short, the success of ‘Bloodsugarsexmagik’ pushes the Red Hot Chili Peppers over the edge.

“It was an emotional grind,” says Kiedis, as he relaxes into a black leather sofa near the band’s dressing room complex. “There were so many mixed emotions about being alive and being in that band, especially after John went. It seemed pretty awkward a lot of the time, not having John and not being able to carry on with something we worked so hard to create. But there’s not really much to complain about when you think about it, I mean, how can you think, oh shit, it’s not going exactly the way I planned. So f—king what? Nothing ever does.”

ROLL FORWARD to 1995.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have made a morbid and revealing new album, ‘One Hot Minute’, which graphically reflects the paranoia and chronic f—ups that plagued them between ’91 and ’95. So ‘My Friends’ is an ‘Under The Bridge’ style ballad about the problems and deaths of Kiedis’ friends, ‘Warped’ is a song about drug denial, ‘Aeroplane’ inclines that pleasure is always spiked with pain and ‘Transcending’ is Flea’s tribute to his friend River Phoenix. He wrote it after travelling in the ambulance that carried him away from his fatal drugged-up night at LA’s Viper Room.

European journalists reviewing ‘One Hot Minute’ describe it as “mature” a description which makes Kiedis flinch. The Chilis point to the two token sex songs in defence, but the bulk of the record deals with the crises of band and friends. The effects of toxic and emotional overload are omnipotent.

Drummer Chad Smith says: “Out of all the people in the band, I’m probably more on the even-keel tip than the others. But it’s frustrating for me to see the friends that I care and love go through terrible things. Flea was feeling… He just had a helpless feeling, it’s a drag. Same with Anthony. Personally, I didn’t go through those things but I feel what they feel. It’s hard to see your friends go through it.”

Smith talks cryptically about the heroin addictions and subsequent rehabilitations of Flea and Kiedis. But Flea is more open. He describes how his addictions and the problems of excessive touring caused an illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a debilitating condition that saps mind, body and soul.

“I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and as soon as the tour was over I let my body relax for a second and I just crashed. I was sick all the time, my immune system was f—ed up, I couldn’t get out of bed and I felt like shit, emotionally I was really down. I felt very sad, very lonely, very distrustful and I just didn’t want to be around anyone. I was very insecure, very scared. I was just a mess.”

Did drugs contribute to your illness?

“I irreparably harmed myself by doing drugs. Any of the good things I got out of drugs I could have got without them. I hurt myself. For at least 15 years everyone I dealt with, I dealt with high. I know a lot of the problems I deal with on a day-to-day level as far as my fear, my insecurity and my ability to deal with people in a social situation, or any situation, is f—ed because of that. But I don’t regret anything.”

When did you realise you were ill?

“There was a point towards the end of the last tour in Australia and I was partying and getting f—ed up, I got back and decided to get as healthy as possible and I quit doing everything. I was hanging out with Henry Rollins every day and lifting weights and all this stuff and I just really decided to discipline my body and that was when I got sick. I let myself get so clean that all of a sudden all this shit just started coming out of me. All this toxic shit from years and years and years.”

Where there any benefits from 15 years of drug use?

“I definitely had some experience where I learned valuable things about myself and about humanity. I think maybe I untied some knots in my brain and made myself open to understanding other things by being in certain states of mind, specifically with LSD. When I was younger I took a lot of acid and definitely saw some beautiful things. It was kind of like stripping away walls that were in front of me so I could see things that are really important.”

Kiedis is also frank about his former addiction. Smack dependency plagued him from the ‘80s and, though he managed to clean up, it came back to haunt him throughout ‘Bloodsugarsexmagik’.

“It’s a disease that never really takes a vacation,” he says. “I don’t think one rids oneself of that affliction. It’s just something that I have to recognise as something that I have and is part of what I am. I just have to do everything possible to avoid ever getting back into using drugs because that completely destroys my life and tears me away from everything that is sacred and loving in my life. It pretty much throws my life down the drain, which is something      I don’t want to do. So I have to be constantly aware of it and deal with it and try to improve my ability to deal with other people and myself so I don’t end up back there.”
Kiedis pauses, stares into space and then adds: “I don’t ever feel it’s something I would find impossible to get back into.”

 

WHEN JOHN Frusciante quit the Chilis on 7 May, 1992, he sent the band into a tailspin that lasted for three years.  He was replaced by Zander Schloss, Erick Marshall [sic], Jesse Tobias and others, but none managed to fit into the band’s cartoon world. So the Chilis asked Navarro to join in summer 1993. He refused, but offered the irresistible parting shot: “There’s no other guitarist in the world capable of filling that role, except me.”

The Chilis persisted, Navarro broke up his intermediate band, Deconstruction, and on 5 September 1993 he joined.

For months, Navarro and Flea fought their own private wars, and rehearsals were peppered with rows and over-emotional outbursts. On two occasions, Flea quit.

“There was one day when I thought, ‘F— it, I quit’, where I walked out of the studio and sat down on the corner for about an hour, a block away. Then I went back and said, ‘Guys, I’m sorry’. I was just really f—ed up.”

But today Navarro is the quintessential Chili gang member. Talk to him alone and he is surprisingly open. But talk to him as part of a gang and he transforms into Red Hot Chili Man.  He cracks as many jokes and pulls as many goon poses as the rest. During the NME photo shoot, he walks along a sunlit street outside the studio, pulls down his trousers, sticks a flower in the top of his pants, then jokes about The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia: “Hey, I hear they’re calling him Jerry Gar-See-Ya.”

“When I joined we were united by a common darkness and just made music that was true to how we all felt,” he says. “But we’re a new band now. This inception of the band is called the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I think it’s a brand new band and I’m excited about that.”

“When Jane’s Addiction ended it was a sad loss and a seriously missed experience. But I was going through some serious life changes and drug problems. I had so much other stuff to worry about in terms of getting healthy that I didn’t miss it for two years. I’d rather be living and not in that band than the other way round.”

What was the best thing about being in Jane’s Addiction?

“The one thing about that band that I really appreciate and which has taught me one of the most valuable life lessons that I’ve ever known, is that my experience in that band is one thing that has brought me closest to death and saved me from it at the same time.”

Navarro is, in common with his Californian-psychobabbling bandmates, a frank talker. He speaks about his girlfriend and says they are having problems because she is uncomfortable with his rock star status and thinks their relationship will suffer. He talks about his relationships with his father and his best friend D’Arcy, who he has known for 12 years, and then he tells the incredible story of his mother and aunt.

“When I was 15 my mother and my aunt were murdered by someone that I loved and trusted. It’s a kind of powerful message to send to an evolving mind. I mean, a guy that I’d know for five years broken into my house and shot them. It was a very close woman (his mother) in my life, probably the closest woman I will ever have in my life. Prior to that, I’d dealt with all the typical traumas of childhood and divorce. I’m an LA kid.  But it was shown to me very early that, yeah, anything can happen that you possibly can’t imagine. It can or will happen. So I’ve got an iron wall around my heart and I think for understandable reasons. I guess I’m a little guarded and that stuff seeps into my relationships with women, But I’m 90 per cent sure that none of these guys would hurt me and I’m 90 per cent sure that I would never hurt them.”

 

LAST YEAR the Chilis took a break. They flew down to Hawaii, hired a group of houses and escaped the seedy sprawl of LA. They spent two months on an island: scuba diving, jumping off cliffs into the ocean, getting into fights, riding bikes for 300 miles and walking up volcanoes. Then they dived, they stayed under the ocean for hours at a time and swam with pods of dolphins.

“They were just some pretty heavy bonding things and they go way beyond the connotation of thrill-seeking,” remember Navarro.

Kiedis also went on a separate trek to Alaska.

“I need to be in the wilderness and there’s a big part of me that’s just a straight-up nature boy that likes to be a part of the mountains and the rivers and the oceans and the skies and away from the city. It kind of gives you a perspective on what it is to be alive. All of the mundane stresses and rigours of life suddenly disappear and you realise that you are just this human spirit trying to evolve.”

The idea of the Chili Peppers as explorers and nature-boys hardly fits their carton caricature image. For years, they have created their own image as riotous loons whose sole passions are sex, body-building, funk and drugs.

Kiedis responds: “There’s a song on Freaky Stylee [sic] which is called ‘Singing Sweaty Man In a Green Suit’. And you might look at that and think it’s just a bunch of cartoon imagery. But it’s actually about Hillel (Hillel Slovak, Chilis guitarist who died on June 25, 1988 from a heroin overdose. It’s about the way he danced and the way he moved and the way he ate and the way he socially interacted in a party environment. I guess now we’re less of a riddle.”

Were you affected by the death of Kurt Cobain? You played with Nirvana several times, in America in 1991 and also toured with them in South America.

“Personally, I’m still really strongly affected by it. Listening to his records so much and seeing him play live so much I probably felt a lot closer to him than I really was. So in a way it feels like I lost a really close friend. I think about him all the time and I miss the fact of him being alive on the planet. Even though I wasn’t with him. I just liked knowing that he was around because he was my favourite singing, writing, playing guy. He was an incredibly inspirational person and artist. It’s weird, I’ve lost a lot of much closer friends, but I have a very similar feeling about Kurt Cobain as I do for those closer friends.”

 

THE CHILI’S don’t talk about sex today (though Chad offers a revealing bollock shot during the photo session). They agree to be interviewed separately because that way they know they won’t give stupid answers and there won’t be any peer pressure from the rest of the band. Flea is the most reluctant to talk, but that is because his daughter Chloe [sic] is with him and he wants to spend time with her rather than spend time with a foreign journalist. The Chilis speak enthusiastically about their new record and dismiss the notion that Warner Bros were angered by the four-year wait for ‘One Hot Minute.’

“We are to some degree impervious to outside pressures,” admits Kiedis. “Warners never once called up and said (adopts the accent of a cigar-chewing fat cat boss), “Where the f— is the record?”

Flea says he will refuse to play gigs for more than three weeks at a time because he wants to spend time with his daughter: “She’s the most inspirational thing in my life, without a doubt.” Smith says he feels like he is no longer a full-time member of the Chilis gang because he is married and spends more time at home rather than hanging out. Kiedis talks, more predictably, about returning to England and wanting to “rock”, and Navarro talks passionately about the music.

As we leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers they are lounging in their dressing rooms with a group of friends and hangers-on. Flea has just returned from a massage and all four look relaxed and fit.

But before we go, Kiedis has one more thing to say: “If anything, I think I fall more into the category of a manic depressive where I have periods of elation and periods of extreme sadness and depression. I try to treat people with love and respect, but that’s kind of a struggle because of fears, insecurities, egos and self-loathing. Things like that tend to manifest themselves in treating other people like shit. But basically I feel alright. I feel pretty fucking good.”

 

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