Stereogum scores the win with a One on One interview with Flea. Together, they go over the new album, Flea going to school and other general rocking the fuck out. Swipe:
NAME: Red Hot Chili Peppers
PROGRESS REPORT: Flea opens up about going back to school, the fine art of collaboration, and the Chili Peppers soon to be released new album
Given all the talk about Nirvana reissues, Soundgarden reunions and generalized nostalgia for the ’90s, it only makes sense that we’d also eventually get around to talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even though the Chili Peppers aren’t explicitly a ’90s band (they’ve been releasing records since 1984), they will forever be cemented in my own thirty-something mind as the band I drove to see at Lollapalooza in 1992 (and during whose set I was accidentally punched in the face) and whose music provided a funky augmentation to all the scowly grunge that permeated the first half of that decade. Of all the alterna-acts to strike gold in the early ’90s, the Chili Peppers might have been the least likely to imagine still having a gangbusters career some 20 years later. (To put their success into a crazy perspective, the band’s last album, 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, debuted at number one simultaneously in 28 countries around the world). After a great many of their forebears died, disappeared, or simply threw in the towel, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would go on to sell over 60 million records, due in no small part to the austere musicianship of guitarists John Frusciante and uber-bassist, part-time movie star, and all-around super collaborator Flea, as well as the band’s hit-making partnership with producer Rick Rubin. On August 30th the band will release their 10th studio album, I’m With You, which will presumably continue their winning streak as the world’s most popular band to ever wear stuffed animals for pants or perform live on stage with socks on their penises. We caught up with Flea to discuss the new record and his recent foray into higher education.
Stereogum: How would you characterize the experience of making I’m With You? How was it different from how you guys have worked before?
Flea: Well there are a few huge differences. The number one difference is John Frusciante left the band, and he was a huge part of our creative process for a long time. I’m so grateful for him. He wrote the principal parts for many of our most popular songs, and the parts for many of our most artistically profound songs, which weren’t necessarily popular. He just gave us so much as a songwriter, as a player, as a human being, and just his relationship to music, which is such a beautiful and pure and powerful one, but we took two years off from the band during that time he left, and I didn’t think I’d want to continue the band without him. But once he left, I realized that dealing with this different situation, it seemed like it would be, I just felt so much love for the band, and love for Anthony, I just wanted to keep doing it and once we made that decision I decided to get Josh, so my point is — I kind of went on a big tangent there — a big difference is having Josh Klinghoffer as our guitar player, because he’s a much different guitar player then John. It makes our band move in a completely different direction, you know? We still sound like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it’s really a lot different. Josh is a very textural, poetic, and sublime musician, and just comes at it from a different angle than anything that we’ve had before. So we’re just reacting to him, and it makes us play different, so we’re just going a different way, and it’s great. Another difference is, during the time off, I went to school. I went to USC for a year and studied music theory, and got into playing the piano because of that — because I needed the piano to do my homework — and so I started playing piano and writing songs on the piano, so it’s just a much different place. Having never played a chordal instrument before, I just always played the bass and trumpet, I started writing songs on piano. A lot of the songs on the record were written on piano. And Josh also writes on the piano, so all this music was coming from the piano and that’s just never happened before. Stuff had been written on the guitar or on the bass. And it’s not just the fact that it’s being written on a different instrument, but you write something on the piano and you have melody and chords and rhythm and bass and all these things that exist within it and then reinterpret it for a rock band, and just the act of the interpretation, like taking something that exists and reapplying it, that act in itself lends a much different energy to what we’re doing. So, those changes are really big for us, you know, aesthetically and emotionally and spiritually; it’s a much different thing, our career has been a series a lives and deaths and rebirths so it’s just like a very … meaningful and rejuvenating rebirth for us.