Bruin (U. California-Los Angeles)
(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Kiedis sits in the front of the
classroom, looking at the faces of each of the 15 eager University
of California-Los Angeles students who are about to interview him.
He must be aware that the eyes he looks into as he scans the room
are taking him in carefully -- those students jotting down notes
describing the red pants he is wearing, the way his black hair falls
across his forehead, and the tanned muscles peeking out beneath
his T-shirt. He seems undaunted by this.
After all, the Kiedis-fronted Red Hot Chili Peppers have been around
for nearly 20 years, and have survived drug addictions, a seemingly
endless string of lineup changes and other forms of high-profile
controversy. The group was reunited with guitarist John Frusciante
in 1998, and its 1999 album "Californication" was a multiplatinum
hit; expectations for its next release, as yet untitled, are high.
to UCLA for this interview is somewhat a return to the past for
Kiedis. He attended the university for one year, before deciding
it wasn't for him and quitting.
back here gave me some creepy feelings," he said.
hated it here. I really did. My personal experience at that time
didn't meld with any kind of conformity or structured environment.
But I also remembered the positive things. I love certain ideas
about school. I love what it does to your head to be forced to read
and write. I had a couple of cool teachers, but the rest just terrified
that day, Kiedis was recording vocals for the new album, to be released
in June. The band's sound continues to evolve, with Kiedis' lyrics
starting to delve into relationships and Frusciante starting to
play keyboards. When describing a few songs off the album, Kiedis
used words like "sparse" -- a revolution considering the
band's roots in punk and funk.
another change in sound, Kiedis is incorporating more harmonies
into his vocals on this album than on the last, describing the effect
as something like "the Bee Gees meets the Beach Boys."
He says he is also incorporating his feelings about his ongoing
breakup with his girlfriend of three years into his lyrics.
never felt comfortable writing 'love songs' or 'relationship songs,'
but it's sneaking in there and certainly not in a typical way,"
Kiedis said. "When I read through my lyrics I can see where
she's kind of the initial point of inspiration."
song that Kiedis is particularly proud of off the new album is "Don't
Forget Me," which he describes as a "painfully simple
a cornerstone of our record, because no one's ever heard us play
anything like this," he said. "This song is my ideal of
what God is, and what life is, and what this whole picture's all
about, and how it's just everything and everywhere, and the good
and bad and the in between, and the experiences of a lifetime. ...
I think it will be our opening song for the next three years or
so because it puts us in such a good mood."
excited as Kiedis is about this album, he said he is still nervous
about it. The band has written 30 songs, from which they plan to
choose 15. The sheer number of tracks they are recording makes him
feel that he's lost perspective.
can't even tell if it's good anymore," Kiedis said. "I
mean, there are days I feel like this is the greatest thing we've
ever done, and there are days that I'm like, 'This is just going
to die in the water.'"
fact that the band is still recording after 20 tumultuous years
is somewhat amazing. The Chili Peppers have made it through a total
of 14 lineup changes, as well as drug addictions that killed the
original guitarist, Hillel Slovak, and sent Kiedis to rehab twice.
Having spent more than half his life on drugs, Kiedis, at age 39,
is now clean, although he declined to say for how long.
drug use began at age 11, when his father gave him marijuana. By
18 he was injecting heroin. His father encouraged Kiedis to use
drugs, at the same time introducing him to art, literature and sex,
all at an early age.
drug addiction, having taken root at an early age, was not shaken
by Slovak's death, although the loss of a best friend was a terrible
blow to Kiedis and the band as a whole.
that aren't alcoholics by nature or drug addicts by nature, would
think, 'Hey, your best friend died doing drugs, why don't you just
stop?' It's really not a rational illness. It's completely irrational,"
were not the only taboo subject that was tied to the Red Hot Chili
Peppers. One other source of controversy was the group's focus on
sex. From the famous image of the band members covering themselves
only in tube socks, to Kiedis' often explicit lyrics, the group
has sometimes gotten more attention for being shocking than for
said he never saw anything wrong with addressing human sexuality,
and that performing live is a feeling comparable to sexual energy.
especially songs that were inspired by sexual energy, is definitely
earthy," he said. "You feel really connected to Earth
and that paganistic sensation of flesh and touch and inside and
wet. It's great to be all intellectual. It's great to be ethereal,
but let's not underestimate the beautiful feelings of our physical
existence. I'm not saying I get an erection while I'm playing, but
I definitely feel the spirit of sexual energy."
all of the ups and downs, the band has clung to its individuality.
said he doesn't listen to much modern music for the fear that it
might influence him and change his sound.
listen to stuff that has nothing to do with what I'm doing, like
electronic music or hard-core hip-hop," he said. "I don't
want to have contemporary influences, and I don't really want to
have obvious musical influences."
he hesitates to train his voice too much, even though he has been
criticized for having a lack of range. He takes voice lessons only
to protect his throat from permanent damage caused by performing.
don't want to learn and study so much that I start sounding like
somebody else. I don't want to become a classically trained-sounding
guy because it really does affect your tone," Kiedis said.
is a bit of a contradiction in Kiedis' insistence on individuality
and his band's participation in mainstream music culture. He is
happy to be played on radio stations that he accuses of being too
homogenized and won't listen to. He doesn't watch MTV and called
an interview on its hit show TRL "robotic," but said he
doesn't mind appearing on the show himself in support of a new album.
don't know what it is," he said. "I just can't relate
to MTV. I'm still going to make a video and hope they play it. I
don't think that's a reason to not participate."
explained that as long as he puts out the best work he can, he will
be proud of it. It doesn't matter where it's played as long as people
like throwing a little something different in the mix for these
kids that are used to getting soulless pap dribble on their plate
every day," he said. "I like to play something new --
the best I have to offer them. I believe in what we do and I'm all
for shoving it down the throats of the young kids out there."