Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Interview
1994 by Mark Marvel
Why do you think the Red Hot Chill Peppers are so popular?
ANTHONY KIEDIS: Why are we so popular?
MM: Well, what do you
think it is about you that caught on?
AK: It's weird, because
music that I really love and believe in and think is extraordinarily
honest and beautiful doesn't always become popular. And I like
to think that that's what our music is. There's a lot of music
that becomes huge that is completely fabricated and empty to me.
We're only really capable of doing something that is directly
based on what we feel and what we know and the experiences that
we've had. So we have these built-in mechanisms of not being able
to do something that we don't believe in, and that's good for
MM: One of those real
experiences that you've brought out in your music, and I think
in a real honest way, is the fact that you were a junkie.
AK: The fact that I
was a junkie for a long time is only one slice of my own personal
pie, which is made up of a lot of different slices.
MM: So let's talk about
those other slices. For example, I know by the way the Chili Peppers
use fashion that you are open to changing certain stereotypes
people might have about gender and about sexuality.
AK: That's all unconsciously
exuded. We don't sit down and formulate a concrete approach to
expressing our fashion interests or our love interests or our
sexual interests. We're lucky not to have those barriers that
would prevent us from expressing such things.
MM: But by being so
popular, you guys have helped break down those barriers for other
AK: Yeah, but many
others have paved the way for us for years and centuries.
MM: I just saw the
Chili Peppers at Woodstock, which I went to because I wanted to
see some of the musicians there, but also to see what happened.
A lot of people said, "You can't redo that revolution."
Of course, you can't redo a revolution. But that doesn't mean
something else can't happen. This time, it wasn't, "We're
going to save the world." It was, "This is our life,
this is our music, we're gonna have fun."
AK: That feeling was
definitely there. The idea of trying to re-create an atmosphere
and an ideology that was present in the '60s is ridiculous. It's
a totally different time, and although we were celebrating an
anniversary, one of the things that's happened since then is that
the promotion of music has become much more corporate. Fortunately,
though, when you get that many people together, with music that
is honest and that is explosive and beautiful, all that other
bullshit becomes impotent and irrelevant and, at Woodstock at
least, it just disappeared.
was a true pinnacle of exhilaration for me. To look out and see
all those people and to have some sort of a connection with them
was something I'll never forget. And I think everyone who was
there will never forget that, either. You know, that picture you've
got on the cover was taken at a very hyper moment for me. I was
totally nervous and excited and I had about twenty gallons of
adrenaline running through my body, because after that I was going
to be playing with my friends onstage. And we were getting ready
to party with over a quarter-million people.
Still, the world seems
a little bit short on revolution to me right now. There are a
few bands out there, but on the whole it seems like the computer
age is really the current revolution, and that doesn't flow well
with my own natural tendency to gravitate toward organic expressions
and actually do things with your hands and your feet and your
body and your vocal cords and your fingers and stuff like that.
That appeals to me more than sitting in a room with a screen.
Even if you are creating art on a screen, personally I'd rather
do it in the flesh.
MM: Speaking of flesh,
do you see yourself as a product of the sexual revolution?
AK: Yes. I grew up
with a father who was sexually revolutionized to the point of
being, like, over the top. That sort of free-flowing sexual expression
was something that was encouraged and not frowned upon when I
was a kid. So I didn't grow up with any sexual shyness or sense
of sexual taboo. I moved into my father's house in the early '70s,
and he just didn't have the normal parental outlook on sexual
behavior. He was something totally different. But sexual behavior
has really changed since then. Especially in the last decade.
What happened, in my opinion, is that AIDS came along and really
derevolutionized people's outlook toward sex. Suddenly, sex became
a deadly game. And I think that has something to do with, you
know, why clothes got incredibly baggy--because it wasn't about
seeing bodies through clothes anymore. And that's understandable,
because suddenly the world was at risk.
MM: So how do you think
your music responds to these times?
AK: We don't try to
speak on behalf of the world or today's generation. To me, art
always comes out better when you're talking about something that
you know about. It's more powerful that way.
MM: You guys have pushed
through the sexual oppressiveness of the last decade in terms
of your music and your sexual attitudes. But do you ever feel
like you're fighting against a wall?
AK: I don't feel like
we're fighting against a wall, and I don't feel we're trying to
break through one, either. Sex is a simple and natural function
of life, and to deny it, or be afraid of it, or to hide from it
is something that ends up causing psychological ailments. To me,
it's heinous and obnoxious that there is the level of homophobia
there is in the world today, especially in America. The same thing
when it comes to a lot of people's attitudes toward women. The
ironic thing is, so many people have accused us, because of our
own personal desire to express our sexual feelings, of being sexist.
If they only knew the equal regard that we hold people in, they
would understand how untrue that is. But if I stopped too long
to think about how people were reacting to us, it might interfere
with my forward progress.
MM: You're thirty--one--do
you feel cut off from the younger generation, and yet not part
of the older generation?
AK: I gravitate toward
the eclectic collection of ages, shapes, sizes, and individualism.
I relate as well to people under ten as to people over seventy.
In fact, I probably relate better to people under ten and over
seventy than I do to everyone in between.
MM: Some bands have
a kind of uniform. If the Chili Peppers have one, it might be
described as a birthday suit, because you were one of the first
bands that seemed comfortable taking off your clothes on stage.
AK: To me, nudity defies
uniform. Initially, we got naked just because it felt good. And
to do the two things that feel the greatest to us simultaneously--to
play music and to be naked at the same time--just seemed like
a very obvious combination, just an organic rush of happiness
and expression. It's also a lot easier to do what we do with the
least amount of clothes on. [laughs]
MM: Do you feel the
world is getting better?
AK: Truthfully? Not
as much as I would like. It's always seemed to me there's more
hope for small pockets in society to reach a higher level of consciousness
about things like race and sex and lack of fear. And, on the whole,
I really don't know how far we've come since the '60s. Sure, on
the surface, things are different. But not too far beneath that
surface, things haven't changed that much.
level of people that I deal with directly, I see certain types
of fears diminishing. You know, fears of difference between yourself
and someone else; that fear isn't so strong. But it's a pretty
tough world to be in right now. It's also a very exciting and
interesting world to be in, because it seems like we're either
on the verge of ultimate collapse and apocalyptic never-neverness,
or we're on the verge of turning shit around. So it's exciting
in the sense that we're alive during this time when human beings
have created a monster that is either going to experience some
sort of a rebirth, or it's going to completely destroy itself.
Which, in a cold way of thinking, is just a natural flow of evolution.
So many life-forms have evolved themselves into extinction over
the last twenty million years, it wouldn't surprise me if we did
MM: As a recovered
junkie, does the tradition of rock stars martyring themselves
ever make you feel pressure?
AK: Before we started
this interview, you asked me about pressure. Pressure is just
something that gets in the way of natural expression, so I try
not to think about it, and so far I think I've managed to maintain
a real sense of what life is, and--when I see these people that
have been making music in the public eye for twenty or twenty-five
years, and they're just destroyed to the point where they can't
relate to other people--I hope I always will. I don't ever want
that to happen to me. As long as kids or geriatrics or anyone
is getting some thrill from listening to our music, that'll make
me sleep a little easier at night.
AK: Yeah. Flea's grandmother
in Australia is a fan. Last time we were in Australia she came
to all the shows and sat on the side of the stage. She's in her
eighties. You'd think, "O.K., she's there because her grandson
is in the band." But every time I looked over at her while
we were playing, she reminded me of an angel in a painting, with
this glow of light and divinity around her.
MM: So how would you
describe the perfect world?
AK: I don't
even bother trying to picture a perfect world, because I don't
think that perfection is something to strive for. I prefer imperfection.
That's what makes things special. You know, things that change
. . .
Interview with the Red Hot Chili Peppers
In a way John made and broke the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his guitar
work influenced your sound in a major way and was partial reason
for the band's success. When he dropped out, the spirit of the
Peppers seemed to fade...
It seemed like a good idea at the time. When Hillel died, I asked
John to join us. We had had a couple of jam sessions together.
I knew he liked us and I knew he was a great guitarist. I still
think that he was the missing link, only with him were we able
to create an album like Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
But we should have seen it coming, you know. John was 18 or 19
at the time. He had no experience what it's like to play in a
band, let alone a band like RHCP. I'm a huge Zeppelin fan, and
I think I would have freaked as well if I would have been asked
to join Led Zeppelin as a drummer. It was pretty obvious that
it couldn't work out. We just didn't see it at the time.
It was too high, too far, too soon. Everything happened or better
everything seemed to be happening at once and I just couldn't
cope with it.
John, it seems strange. I read that before you joined the Chilis
you rarely drank, didn't smoke pot because you were afraid it
would interfere with 15-hours-a-day routine practicing guitar
riffs. Then all of a sudden you became an addict. It seems a major
jump from one extreme to the next.
I really don't know how it all happened. There wasn't a single
incident where I could put my finger on it and say, "This
was it." It was just hard for me to cope with it all. You've
got to remember that I was an absolute RHCP fan. Their music meant
everything to me, and all of a sudden I was a part of them. They
called me "Greenie" because I was the youngest, but
that didn't do it. I don't know what did it. I probably tried
to fit in, make experiences the others made in a long time in
a short time.
We were never a band that promoted a clean and healthy lifestyle
(laughs). I had drug problems. Anthony was a junkie. We were all
battling with our addictions. It is easy to get sucked into this
lifestyle, and I guess that's what happened to John. He was too
young and inexperienced to deal with it all. We were older and
knew the game and had a hard time dealing with it. But drugs weren't
just a part of the band, somehow we grew up in Hollywood and drugs
were part of the whole rock culture. They just suck you in.
Is this a second chance for the Chilis...
It is a second chance for all of us. There is a weird chemistry
between us. The way I play guitar, it only works when Flea is
the bassist, and Flea can only write songs the way he does when
Anthony sings. In a way we're all co-dependent and we know it,
but we also trust each other.
It's pretty simple. The old magic is back. Everything is possible
and that's a great feeling. We've grown as people and musicians.
So, the music is different. It's a different time, but it's still
great, even better than it was.
What is the secret of RHCP? The magic you mentioned? Apart from
the fact that you work well together, how does it all gel?
We're jamming and that works really well. We don't talk much about
songs or how songs should be constructed. We just start to play
and see what happens, how they develop. We improvise a lot. We
find a groove. We experiment and somehow it turns into music.
With Dave (Navarro), it wasn't possible to work like this. With
him it was more like a long thought process, endless discussions
and it took a long time. We talked about what riff should be played
and all that. With John it's completely different. We just play.
I don't mean to dis Dave in any way. He is a great person and
he's a great guitarist, but the way we work is just different.
You never know why it happens with some people and not with others.
It's pointless. It's like asking why you fall in love. There is
no real reason, nothing that can be explained or that would make
We also found out that we work a lot better if we know what we
want before we enter the studio. It took us only three weeks to
record the album.
What's in the future for RHCP?
It might sound funny, but I think we've got a very solid foundation,
maybe the most solid foundation we ever had. Even Anthony seems
to be far more relaxed and confident.
Everything seems possible. It's a great feeling.