From the Archive: Red Hot Chili Peppers Discuss their New Energy and 'Californication'
From 1999: Dark days behind them, the Red Hot Chili Peppers learn to put the fun into funk.
Such joyful enthusiasm comes in stark contrast to how things were in '92, when Frusciante checked out. "We had gotten to a point where any sort of communication between us that was positive would have been forced, because so much bad vibes had accumulated over the course of the tour for BloodSugarSexMagik," he says.
That's not to say Frusciante had bad feelings toward the band as a whole. "I was talking to Flea the whole time I wasn't in the band," he says. "Our friendship was fine. Anthony -- we didn't really talk much for the last year that I was in the band. And once I quit, we didn't talk to each other at all, until one occasion, about three years after I quit."
Then, almost a year ago, Kiedis approached Frusciante again, and suddenly it seemed as if all the problems of the past were behind them. "I saw that there was a possibility for friendship there that I hadn't realized was there before. We got along real well. All that's necessary for me to enjoy being in a band is for all the people to be enjoying each others' company and be able to be friends with each other.
"Another reason I was real excited about playing with them is that, as a musician, I look around in the world and see all these people playing music for reasons that don't make any sense, or that I just can't relate to. I don't see what it is that they feel is the purpose of music, you know?
"In this band, we have this thing where each one of us has our reasons for playing music, and they somehow all fit together. I mean, the reason I started playing music was because of punk rock and new wave. And the reason that Flea started playing music was because of Louis Armstrong and jazz people. But because of what he's grown into and what I've grown into, we're playing music for very similar reasons. When we each hold our instrument, we're trying to do a very similar thing, but in a different way. So when we're all getting along, we're capable of making really good music."
"Well, why do I want to play music?" asks Anthony.
"You wanted to play music to have a good time with your friends?" says Frusciante.
"Yeah," says Kiedis, laughing. "I wanted to play music because I was inspired by the funk, and I wanted to do something with my friends, who I saw being very creative, and make music that made me feel great."
The free-flowing, funky creativity that first moved Kiedis to sing was very much in evidence as the band convened in Flea's garage. There is no Lennon or McCartney in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, because this is not a sit-down-and-write-a-song kind of band. Instead, the Chili Peppers are a jam band in the George Clinton sense of the term -- one that uses improvisation as the basis for composition.
"There is no one way that the songs start," says Smith. "We just get over to Flea's, sit down and start playing. Just jam. Lots of songs come out of that, and that's something, I think, that was lacking when we were working with Dave. He's more of a reactive guitar player -- he puts parts to stuff that already exists.
"With us, it's just the chemistry between the four of us, and there's never any one way that it happens. Like, Flea might have been sitting at home, and he'll come up with a bass part. So he'll say, 'What do you guys think of this?' And we'll fall in and start playing. Or John, the same thing.
"There are no preconceived plans, no 'We're gonna write a funky song today.' Or a slow song. Or a fast song. It's just however we're feeling that day, that's what comes up. It's the most natural way to do it, and a big part of why the album sounds the way it does is because it's not forced."
"I think that we're conscious of what we need to do to make each song work," says Flea. "Some of the songs we play behind the beat, some we play ahead of the beat, some we play dead in the center of the beat. It's really about feeling the dynamics of the song and what serves the song the best.
"I think that with a lot of the 'youth culture' bands who are playing funk-oriented music, what they're really about is doing this perfectly in-sync, matching-up-to-computer type of music. But that lends itself to one spot, which is right square on the beat. You know what I mean? It takes the emotion out of the music.
"I'm not saying that there's not some amazing music that is done that way. But in general, there are very few bands -- very few that I can think of-that have an original sound or original style. I think everyone is just like copping the same shit. Okay, Beck did a great job of having the Dust Brothers do beats, and putting human, organic sounds on top of it. But how many bands are gonna copy him and do the same thing? Fifty billion?"
Who does Flea consider original? He mentions Tricky, Fugazi, Radiohead, P.J. Harvey, Unkle and the last Wu Tang Clan album as current faves, while Mingus and Black Flag top his oldies list. (Smith tends more toward Marvin Gaye, James Brown -- particularly the period with bassist Bootsy Collins and drummer Clyde Stubblefield -- and John Lennon.)
But for overall inspiration, Flea says, nothing tops the music of the late Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
"I listen to Fela like crazy," he says. ''All day long."
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