Tippa His Tongue,
"We were doing it for the love of music and we really wanted people to hear our music and fall in love with it. Everything else was gravy." ~Anthony Kiedis.
Photo credit BBC
Sometimes the music seeps so deeply into the pores and souls of the people in a band, you can almost see a slow-motion type of aura around their performance. When synchronicity like that occurs it seems destined, written. The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are a mosaic in video performances, live performances, and their songwriting has influenced hard rock genres of funk metal, rap metal, rap rock and nu metal. And for those bands who are currently out there trying to find the right band name, just think, RHCP was once called Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.
Whoever heard RHCP back in 1989 when they did the remake of Stevie Wonder’s tune, ”Higher Ground” was probably stunned. First, doing a Stevie Wonder remake in the Rock genre is bold to begin with. Next, they dared to replace the MOOG synth and filter pedal sound with John Frusciante's killer guitar riffs and sound. The sum of the parts included Flea's major deep-pocket grooves, and Chad Smith on drums kicking it with precision fills. Add to that the percussive vocal of Anthony Kiedis; primal, bold, and soulful, it was art and magic on a song that already was enchanting. A wall of chorus was also added; an RHCP signature still used by them. The outro also featured the swag of Anthony whispering “And Stevie knows that, nobody’s gonna bring me down, cause me and Stevie see, we’re gonna be sailing on the funky sound.” Sold! The people dug it. Even the video grabbed the eye. Spinning video frames, groovy background swirling colors. This was a band presenting a true experience. The Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered a hot new style and rock sound.
In the 90’s they again hit us over the head with their single “Give It Away,” where Rap and Funk Rock had a baby. It is still a highly acclaimed unique single for that time in rock music. Hair Metal was leaving the building and Grunge was arriving. RHCP was an indescribable force where it got to the listener, trying to remember Anthony’s fervent lyrics, his percussive delivery, or you just had to move to those primal grooves they brought. The single, “Give It Away,” was contagious:
“Lucky me swimming in my ability,
Dancing down on life with agility.
Come and drink from my fertility,
Blessed with a bucket of lucky mobility.”
Other hit singles by RHCP have included “Californication,” “Under the Bridge,” “Scar Tissue,” “Dani California,” and “Dark Necessities,” “Can’t Stop,” “Otherside.” With twelve albums, the list goes on. They've sold over 100 million records worldwide.
RHCP was formed in Los Angeles by Anthony Kiedis (frontman/lyricist), Flea (bass), guitarist Hillel Slovak, and drummer Jack Irons. Due to commitments to other bands, Slovak and Irons did not play on the band's 1984 self-titled debut album, which instead featured guitarist Jack Sherman and drummer Cliff Martinez. Slovak rejoined for their second album, Freaky Styley (1985), and Irons for their third, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987). Irons left after Slovak died of a drug overdose in June 1988.
With new recruits Frusciante and Smith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded Mother’s Milk in 1989, and their first major commercial success, Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991. The young Frusciante had personal struggles and left in 1992. He was replaced by Dave Navarro, who appeared on the group's sixth album, One Hot Minute in 1995.
In 1998, following Navarro's departure, Frusciante rejoined the band. Their seventh album, Californication in 1999, became their biggest commercial success, with 16 million copies sold worldwide. Albums By the Way in 2002, and Stadium Arcadium in 2006 were also highly successful. Frusciante left again in 2009 to focus on his solo career, replaced by Josh Klinghoffer, who appeared on I'm with You (2011) and The Getaway (2016), before Frusciante rejoined in 2019. They released their 12th album, Unlimited Love, in 2022.
Produced by Rick Rubin, Unlimited Love debuted at number one in 16 countries, including the US. It features “Black Summer” and “These Are the Ways” as hit singles. Also in 2022, their other album, Return of the Dream Canteen, features references to actors, classic bands, and has remnants of their classic style throughout the new creations.
As for Anthony Kiedis, in 2004, Hyperion released his autobiography, Scar Tissue, authored by himself and Larry Sloman who conducted the interviews. It is a raw and deeply honest book about Anthony's struggles with drug addiction, which began at age 12. He has been sober since 2000. His book and continued conscience about preventing others from falling into drug addiction has saved many. His life is full with a busy tour schedule, and he has a teenaged son named Everly. It was an honor to ask this eclectic, path-paving frontman some questions.
By Abbe Davis, October 2023
AD: Hey Anthony, so much great music continuing on from you guys. Two rockin' albums last year, Unlimited Love, and Return of the Dream Canteen. Great albums. I've really loved RHCP from way back with "Higher Ground" to now. It's been a long rock 'n roll ride for you guys. The first time that you jammed with Flea, how was it for each of you?
AK: Flea is an incredible musician who knows more about music and rhythm than anyone I've ever known. He keeps things in line, and on time. I'm a riffer type of guy. The first time we jammed, he's there doing these cool things on the bass, and I'm trying to keep up with him. He's one of the most talented and amazing bassists of all time.
AD: He's beyond. Some don't realize it but you guys didn’t become a household name until your fifth album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, eight years into your careers. Did you or Flea in that time ever feel like just throwing in the towel on music?
AK: Did we feel like throwing in the towel? You know, I don't think we did. There's definitely a level of frustration and anxiousness around when you feel you're "this close" to becoming mainstream, but again, it doesn't happen yet. But, we were doing it for the love of music and we really wanted people to hear our music and fall in love with it. Everything else was gravy.
AD: John Frusciante was the youngest and newest band member when you finally had major success. Is it fair to say you lost him because maybe success was scary for him at his age?
AK: Nah, John wasn't afraid of success. He just had his own demons. Hell, we all did at that time. Unfortunately, the demons really got ahold of John and it was so hard for him to break free. We were so concerned for him, and were trying to do whatever we could to help him. He did rehab and he did rehab....and he did rehab. Finally, when he was ready, he was able to get sober. And, we're thankful he's here to tell his story. We've all had some pretty harsh times, and lots of hard life times.
AD: I read excerpts of Scar Tissue, wow. You have to be very strong to survive that, and the band, too. When you consider how hard the drug scene got with RHCP on tour, how do you suppose you guys are still alive, have you and the guys ever talked about that much?
AK: We have, but it's not something we talk about all the time. We were young, and easily influenced by others around us. We were really into partying back in the day, really partying hard and often. I don't know if I'm surprised that we're still alive. I think I'm more surprised that we were able to function and perform at a high level, while not knowing what the fuck we were doing or where the fuck we were most of the time. LOL. Kids, if you're reading this, stay away from drugs. Make the most out of your life and your God-given talents and use that as your high.
AD: I second that statement! That is incredible, given what it takes to write and perform music live from place to place. Not everyone makes it out alive partying that much. Tell me one of the strangest stories at a show, stuff about others besides band members, where you can barely believe it went on.
AK: One of the strangest stories? Man, there's a bunch. One that really stands out is when we did the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock. We did a song by Hendrix, "Fire" and we look out into this ginormous wave of people there, and they're setting the fucking field on fire. We didn't know what to think. We kept playing and hoping nobody would die that day. Looking back, it was really a fucked up scene. I mean, the crowd was insane, burning trash, tents, and anything they could set fire to. It was really fucked up.
AD: Holy crap! That's insane! Maybe you guys should've suddenly switched the song to "Rain" by the Beatles. Scary stuff. I wanna know how it was when you met a musician you looked up to, once you had fame. How'd that go?
AK: I've been fortunate to meet so many really amazing musicians. Who really stands out? So many. Stevie Wonder, Elton John. Having Stevie tell us he really liked our version of "Higher Ground" was too cool. We had Elton sing on our song "Sick Love" because we felt we owed him credit for the song, because it was inspired by "Benny and the Jets. "
AD: Wow, that's so cool that Stevie liked it, and that Elton was on your other tune. OK, let's get to this. In earlier years of the band, at a strip club, your band walked out onto the stage with nothing on but socks on your penises. Yet, then it became your trademark thing. By age 40 you guys stop doing that. Erectile dysfunction or what? Also, I have to ask you, how the hell did your band keep those Socks on the Cocks ("a new adult book series out in winter" ha) yet seriously, Tape? Glue? Because there was no Viagra back then, so how?
AK: That was one of the first shows we did. I don't know whose idea it was, probably mine, to get naked, get on the stage and put socks over our cocks. LOL! Man, we've done some really crazy fucked up shit, haven't we? LOL. Yeah, we did that. We did it quite a few times over the years. We don't do that anymore. I guess we could but shit, I'm 60 now. I don't feel 60. I definitely don't always behave like I'm 60. Erectile dysfunction? Where do you come up with this shit? LOL. No Viagra but I'll say I've used them. Pretty cool stuff. Let's you go and go and go. LOL! How did we keep the socks on? Trial and error! LOL.
See, you just pull it on all the way over the balls. Wait, you wouldn't know how to do this. Are you married? Try it on your husband. The sock has to have a really tight elastic top. You pull it up all the way, covering the balls, you gotta make sure to cover the balls. That's key, right there, gotta pull it all the way up and cover those balls. The balls are the anchor for this. Man, are we really going here? I should do a seminar on how to do the cock sock. I guess you could use tape, gorilla glue, velcro, honey? I've discussed this before but I don't think really in this manner. Kinda nuts, huh? Big pun there!
AD: LMAO!! (catching my breath) wait, LMAO!! The balls are the anchors.... I really do learn something new each day. You're being so good about instructions, I may have my husband try this now. I wonder how fast you guys did that before you got onto the stage, like was there some scrambling? "C'mon man, get it on there, we need to get onto the stage!" I might have my husband do this, just to time it. "I'm figuring their time to get the sock on was like, a minute? Let's just see if you can do this, Anthony said anchor it, just anchor it!" OK, now seriously. Your singing seems so free for you to do. You're bold, but, what scares the crap out of you? No, really.
AK: What scares the crap out of me? Falling off the wagon and getting hooked on drugs again. I've been clean for a long time. Thinking about my childhood, all the crazy fucked up shit I did. My dad got me started on coke as a kid. I was always getting into trouble and I didn't give a shit. I guess what really scares me is thinking about my own son, Everly. I would never want him to go through what I went through as a kid. No one should. I love my son and will do anything to keep him safe.
AD: In your own awareness and how you are living sober, hopefully you've stopped the addiction cycle in your family and for so many out there in sharing your story. Fucked up childhoods take a lot of work to heal. Your book, Scar Tissue has helped a lot of people relate to your story in their own struggles. The more rock 'n roll artists and people talk about it, the more people can feel connected to, less alone. Spiritually speaking, you're an eclectic type, your style, a chameleon, do you believe you've had many lifetimes? If you could guess, give me some eras you think you might have been in and why you think so.
AK: If I had other lives, I'd say I was definitely part of the Renaissance period. That was a crazy period in history, really anything goes type of behavior. Dressing real funky, those funky pants, cool hats with those feathers and stuff. That would have been my time.
AD: A cool time in music and style, l bet you were there. You have a teenaged son, yet if you had a daughter and she loved going backstage to hang out with musicians would you let her?
AK: It would depend on which bands and which musicians. Most of the guys I know are really good guys and they'd be out to protect my daughter. If it's some bands or musicians I don't know, I'd have to keep her on one of those kid leashes. LOL
AD: No doubt! LOL I feel like you're relieved you don't have a daughter right about now. On that note, it's time to relax and do a last fun THANG. Let go, wordsmith, try to do these quickly. Please complete the sentences..flim flam it, man!
AK: Alright, let's do some flim flam shit. Been a while since my last flim flam.
AD: Ha, cool. If I never met Flea I would be ________
AD: LOL! Relationships are ______ because you want a partner who is________ most of the time.
AK: like a block of cheese sometimes swiss, sometimes gouda but sharp
AD: HA! I think aliens are __________ and they need to reach us if they exist so they can __________
AK: looking at us here and shaking their heads get rid of all the scumbags in Washington
AD: Preach! Besides our songs, the best song I have ever heard where I hit rewind..is always _________
AK: anything by Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Hendrix. There's not really one song.
AD: stellar Besides us, the best rock band is________.
AK: Spinal Tap
AD: OMG, LOL! "It goes to #11" People who ______________ scare the shit out of me, esp when I perform.
AK: Do hard drugs in front of their kids and don't give a fuck
AD: Yeap, that is just so messed up, OK, last one!
I once thought I was ___________ but then I saw it wasn't me.
AK: A mature, responsible adult ;)
AD: Ha. You totally flim flammed this! So, what do you wanna say about upcoming shows or singles? Wait, are you still talking to me after this?
AK: We've got a show in Connecticut this coming weekend and then we're gonna be in Latin America for several shows through the end of the year. That's always a good time. Great fans there for sure. As far as releasing any singles, we're always writing so we'll see what happens. Abbe, thank you for this interview. This was pretty cool. You definitely threw me a curveball at the end here with the wordsmith stuff. Pretty cool.
AD: Thanks! Namaste, Anthony. Looking forward to your shows and music ahead with RHCP!
Abbe Davis, Editor of TRR / Musician
Abbe Davis is the frontperson and songwriter of Abbe Davis band. Abbe has performed alongside legendary Blues artist, Buddy Guy at the Riverwalk Blues Festival. She performed at the Parkland Memorial concert. Band members are Ray Kurtz on bass, Rob Flewell on guitar, and Noel St. John on drums. The band will be at Day of Rock Fest in Oct in Asheville, NC. They begin recording sessions in Nov. Abbe found her intuitive healing abilities thru transcendental meditation during the pandemic.