Flea and Josh Klinghoffer speak to Italian Magazine, Onstage during a press conference in Milan, Italy. Interview by Stefano Gilardino – Published December 6th, 2011.
After a long break of more than five years and the second depature of John Frusciante – replaced by young Josh Klinghoffer – The Red Hot Chili Peppers are back with a new chapter and record, I’m With You. Flea and Josh Klinghoffer share their thoughts during a crowded press conference in Milan…
Flea, with a Theolonious Monster T-Shirt, and the young guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer are the two deputies to satisfy the curiosity of many journalists gathered to celebrate a band with an enviable career, still able to place some raw class despite the passing years, the debauchery (now abandoned, it seems) and the inevitable loss of some ‘of enamel. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist minutes to show the signs of aging – he’s also recovering from a nagging back pain that has immobilized him for a few days – but with his hair dyed a pale violet, his relaxed smile keeps alive the illusion of being in front of one of the most genuinely wild American alternative rock scenes. Josh Klinghoffer looks at ease in front of a crowded auditorium and, inevitably, he’s the first to be questionned. It could not be otherwise, since he had the difficult task of replacing the much loved and talented six-string ace John Frusciante, in his second – and apparently final – departure from the group.
“Obviously it’s a great honor to take the place of a player so good, but my entry into the Red Hot Chili Peppers was pretty painless. I already knew all of them, I worked with John in the past and being with Flea, Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith in the rehearsal room seemed almost natural. I was a fan, I played many of their pieces already, there was a natural harmony and immediate.” Flea’s adds his thoughts, “The first day we had to try with Josh we received the news of the death of our dear friend, Brendan Mullen. In his honor we launched into a improvised jam that became Brandan’s Death Song, one of the tracks on I’m With You. We can say without fear of contradiction that I’m With You was born that day, with the arrival of Josh and the first song composed. The magic between us was instantly struck, there was no need to say more, we had the guitarist suitable for us, what was needed for RHCP to start playing with conviction. Part of the credit for this album is just contagious enthusiasm for Josh in addition to his talent.”
CITY OF ANGELS
Brendan Mullen, for those not familiar with the history of the punk scene in Los Angeles, was the owner (and sole contractor) of the Masque, a legendary music venue in town where the scene was born, started by the likes of X, Germs, Dickies, Weirdos and countless other unacknowledged bands. In the late seventies and early eighties Flea and Anthony Kiedis were two young boys in search of strong emotions, in love with punk rock, drugs and the wild life of LA.
Brendan Mullen was originally from Scotland but moved to California. Unfortunately he had to close the Masque after bureaucratic and legal trouble, but his passion for music was intact. He himself was among the first to believe in the potential of the immature Red Hot Chili Peppers, pushing in every way and using his knowledge to make them play in the many local clubs. It is rather interesting that a band from the global success takes more to reaffirm its deep bond with the punk attitude and a past that, within their music, is less and less space, replaced by a classic rock from the usual manner and abundant ration of funk. It is left to Flea – the bass player to clarify the concept when I ask him how it is possible to reconcile that kind of background with stellar gigs, world tours, five star hotels and millions of dollars earned in his career.
“I like money as much as anyone else, but it’s not the ultimate goal to pursue. We were born and raised in that kind of scene, immersed in and surrounded by certain bands and people who have influenced and shaped us. The fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a highly successful group does not change our approach to music, or what we like on a personal level. Can I listen to Bad Brains as stated in your t-shirt and, in the same way, even John Coltrane, I have no preconceptions about it. Punk to me is to think for themselves, do what you want without anyone interfering, play what you love. I’ve always done that, I followed my rules and I have had success without ever having to sell out or make crap music. Somehow I was the same boy of eighteen who walked the streets of Los Angeles in search of drugs, and rock and roll excitement. For this reason, I feel totally at peace with myself. ”
Needless to say, after the release of I’m With You began the long-awaited round the world tour with dates in the four corners of the globe and tickets sold out in advance, a sign of a love that never fails to surround the quartet.
“It’s true, we have some amazing fans and I am proud to be able to use my position as a member of the band to express what I feel in the most genuine. Who comes to see us play knows that we are exactly in that way, four musicians who identify themselves in their music, is a spiritual matter if I have to tell the truth. We have prepared an hour and a half show with eighteen / twenty songs or so, we’re having fun like kids.”
FIVE LONG YEARS
You can easily understand the excitement of Flea and companions for the physical side of their profession – not to mention that their live shows have always been a vital and cathartic moment for the group – especially since five years are really a lot of rest for those who are accustomed to rhythms tightened and hyperactivity.
“Five years is a long time, true, but we were certainly with our hands, even if we needed a long period of decompression after the previous tour. To tell the truth, when we took a vacation, I was not sure what would happen, only that I knew at that moment I did not want to hear about the Red Hot Chili Peppers in any way. I was unloading, I needed to stimuli, for all was well and everyone has responded in its own way. John, after long deliberation, decided to continue on his own without us, made a brave choice, but I think it is not possible otherwise. Our paths were sharing. Chad performed with Chickenfoot, for example, but I have attended a piano, when I went back into play. It was enlightening, I also served as an exercise of discipline and all that I used then when it came to compose the new album. So, back to the original question, five years have flown by now that I think about it, and you must also add the entry of Josh as a new guitarist and recording of evidence.”
Just talk about the Klinghoffer ladder prepared for the tour from his point of view, the last arrived which is being confronted with a classical and challenging as that of the RHCP. A task that would shake the wrists also well experienced musicians with him.
“It’s weird to be part of a formation that you have been a fan of for many years. I clearly remember when I bought One Hot Minute, and how much I liked that album. Too bad that John Frusciante has never wanted anything to do with the material written with Dave Navarro, but I understand. Even now, those pieces do not fit live, there are far more important to give the public even though I’d love to be able to play some. Who knows, maybe in the future we will make an exception to the rule and play some, I think the fans would appreciate it.”
The cover art of I’m With You has been entrusted to one of the greatest contemporary British artists, Damien Hirst, known for his shark in formaldehyde, his skull entirely covered with diamonds and his irreverent and provocative works.
“Damien is a close friend of the band and it seemed natural to ask him to design our cover. We have not given any indication about that, only the title, but I do not think we needed it. He is one of the most talented and famous artists in the world and certainly did not need our suggestion. Damien should ask, we love it because it is great art and, as often but we tend to forget, the art is mainly used to ask questions and get answers.” If, by chance, you’d like to also know what kind of pill would be Flea and Josh (on the cover stands a fly lands on a capsule), the bass player does not hesitate when it explodes with “acid” in the general hilarity, while oblivious to the guitarist with a sheepish grin on the subject. His shyness was palpable and even the certainty of being in a vortex that led him to become a famous musician is able to diminish its natural defenses.
“I do not think that the very fact of being a famous guitarist in a rock band can change the way I am and where I do. I am aware of the reputation the Red Hot Chili Peppers have, but I do not scare easily. Then maybe I’ll end up destroying hotel rooms, to corrupt young girls, take all kinds of drugs and break guitars on stage (laughs).”
The conference returns to more normal tracks when Flea starts to talk about the great healing power of music. From his words come out a little more sedate statements: “I’m a fucking hippie! I truly believe that music comes from a divine place and the best I can do is try to reach that place and let it flow through me. My whole life revolves around this magical place even though I am not religious.” The conference is over and the general chaos Flea ask if the small circle tattooed on his hand is a tribute to the famous “Germs burn”, the symbol of the fans of the Los Angeles punk band. He looks surprised and smiles, saying that the next will be the flag of the Black Flag logo, another classic hardcore. I show him the mine and all I say pleased to add a sentence from one of their songs, TV Party. “I write the text of Rise Above and I will do a tattoo from Lars Frederiksen, Rancid guitarist, just back home in Los Angeles. If we see a next time I’ll show you. ” So long, Flea… So long, Flea …