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Red Hot Chili Peppers

Interview by Laurie Kammerzelt
first published in Artist Magazine, San Francisco

Red Hot Chili Peppers c Ed Colver/Artist Publications

Red Hot Chili Peppers (1984)
photo © Ed Colver/Artist Publications

“If you can't take a joke seriously, then what can you take seriously? What's more soulful than a good joke?”

-- Flea

Believe it or don't, something unique has invaded the Los Angeles music front. If you haven't already, you  need to experience the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They are not a Latino band, as their name may imply, but they are hot! The music is best described by singer Anthony Kiedis as "bone-crunching mayhem funk."

What kind of guys are they, you ask? "Well, we're kinda zany, kinda zesty, kinda wild, kinda now, kinda hip, kinda hop, kinda bip, kinda bop, kinda move, kinda groove, kinda splish, kinda splash..." That sounds brash, but talent and brains are an explosive combination. Indeed, don't be deceived by these innocent-looking faces. In reality, they are lascivious lunatics bent on destruction, debauchery and the Bud Club.

The band was formed originally by vocalist Anthony Kiedis, guitarist Hillel Slovak, bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary, and drummer Jack Irons after they met while attending Fairfax High School

Currently, the band consists of an excellent three-piece rhythm section (Flea on bass, Cliff Martinez on drums, Jack Sherman on guitar) and natural-born rapper, Anthony Kiedis. Their main goal: to make as much money as possible. "We're gonna teach George Lucas and Van Halen how to make money," according to Cliff Martinez.

The concept was the brainchild of high school "buds," Anthony and Flea, who spawned this phenomenon almost by accident—Flea laid down a bass line and Anthony started rapping to it. They got a gig, engaging the help of the guitarist, Hillel Slovak, and drummer, Jack Irons, from local LA band, What Is This. The response was so positive, they realized they had something worth pursuing.

Lindy Goetz (former manager of The Ohio Players) approached the Chili Peppers after hearing a tape of their songs. I asked Lindy what originally impressed him about the band. "I thought they were black." When the band told him they needed a personal manager, how could he refuse? "I gave up a very successful business to do this," said Lindy, with no regrets. "There aren't many bands as good as the Chili Peppers."

Things began to roll very quickly for our heroes after that. Then the guitar player and drummer had to leave (much to everyone's dismay) in order to attend to their commitment with What Is This. This "minor" drawback, however, did not stop EMI from awarding the band that elusive prize, a record deal.

Flea and Anthony then snatched up Cliff Martinez (drums), having been well aware of his extraordinary talent. And after auditioning thirty guitar players, they found Jack Sherman. Hence, in less than a year, the Chili Peppers as we know and love them today. With Martinez and Sherman aboard, the band released their eponymous debut album on August 10, 1984.

Anthony, originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the only member who had had no prior experience with other bands. He has, however, acted—having appeared in several commercials and movies, including the Sylvester Stallone film, F.I.S.T, in which he portrayed Sly's son. The most visible member of the band, he carries himself like a real pro and is really quite individual in his style.

Flea is part Australian Aborigine. He's been playing bass for only four years but coming from a musical background (his dad was a jazz musician), he is very dedicated to what he's doing. He's played with several bands around town, including Fear and the Circle Jerks. Like Anthony, Flea has done some acting. He had a principal part in Suburbia, a movie about wayward youth with the potential of becoming a cult classic. As a result, he's getting a lot of calls for auditions. He wants to do more acting but only as long as it doesn't interfere with his music, which is his first love.

Red Hot Chili Peppers c Ed Colver/Artist Publications

Flea (seated) and
photo © Ed Colver/Artist Publications

Cliff is a veteran in the industry and has played with the Wierd-o's and his hero, Captain Beefheart, among others. Not for the squeamish, Cliff is an important factor in the unity of the band.

Jack is a most versatile guitarist, and has played with, most notably, John Hiatt. But he believes the Chili Peppers will be his biggest success to date. Jack has a lot of things to say to the world, but too much for one article. Here are a few key points:

  1. The dressing room at the Club Lingerie (in Hollywood) is far less than adequate.
  2. Rebok aerobic shoes are necessary to one's well being.
  3. Never eat Haagen Dazs ice cream before a gig.

He has been called the worst kind of hippy, a bad homo, a twit, a geek, and everything you called people in junior high. I've never met anyone who could take so much abuse so graciously.

How can you go wrong with a formula like that? The Red Hot Chili Peppers are very confident that the above series of events and combination of personalities will catapult them to stardom and the financial and artistic success they deserve.

Flea describes the phenomenon thusly: "We are the best band in the world because we have a secret plan. It's the three G's—You have to make a Great record, a Great video, and have a Great tour.

Tentatively titled, There's a Funkus Amongkus, the Chili Peppers' debut album on EMI/Enigma is scheduled to be released in early August. The first 10,000 copies, destined to be collector's items, are reportedly to be encased in special Day-Glo covers.

Produced by former Gang of Four guitarist, Andy Gill, this milestone of current music will include such favorities as "Sex Rap," "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes," "Hank" (inspired by a Hank Williams song) and "Baby Appeal." Having seen a lot of the songs performed live, I can personally attest to their social significance and jumpability.

I spoke briefly with EMI Records' A&R director, Jamie Colten, who is apparently not alone at the record company in his enthusiasm for the band. The Chili Peppers have already been interviewed by "The Cutting Edge" for MTV, and have appeared on "Thicke of the Night," not to mention all the press coverage in local papers and magazine.

The Bud Club is the most important organization known to mankind, according to the Peppers. A very exclusive fellowship, its distinguished members include Vice President Flea, Mayor Anthony Kiedis, Emperor Earache (god of Hollywood), Grand Poobah Lee Ving (of Fear) and Treasurer Greg Hedson (Circle Jerks' guitarist). Bud Brothers greet each other with a secret handshake and enjoy a special lifestyle. As Mayor Anthony puts it, "We drink Buds, smoke buds, and have some buds to bud around with."

Cliff coined the phrase: "Our motto is to play like you have a big dick." This is an important part of the Chili Pepper Philosopy.

Jack: "You've seen the show. You know what the boner thing is all about. It's not the flaunting of the cosmic cucumber down the pants. I's a manly thing."

Flea: "People don't realize that they go through their whole lives and everything they do is geared towards getting their boner satisfied. They try to put it in the back of their minds and think that sex is what they use, to escape thinking about everything else. But if they were smart, they would realize that sex is the culmination of everything."

Cliff: "It means that you play every note like it's your last, and to play as hard as you can.

Anthony: "Play like you have erect nippies."

The Chili Peppers strive for unity among themselves (that includes Lindy) and with their audience (the Cosmic Love Vibe). Some people have dismissed the band as mere hype or just a joke, and have inaccurately compared them to certain rap and funk bands. But as Flea so slyly retorts: "If you can't take a joke seriously, then what can you take seriously? What's more soulful than a good joke?"


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