Chili Peppers Book: Part Scrapbook, Part Love Letter After 25 years together, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released their first book. The Red Hot Chili Peppers: An Oral/Visual History pays tribute to co-founder Hillel Slovak, who died in 1988, and chronicles the band's journey from the early days in Los Angeles.
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Chili Peppers Book: Part Scrapbook, Part Love Letter

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Chili Peppers Book: Part Scrapbook, Part Love Letter

Chili Peppers Book: Part Scrapbook, Part Love Letter

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GUY RAZ, Host:

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the biggest bands in the world. Two of the founders, Anthony Kiedis and Michael Balzary, better known as Flea, met at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. And with their friend Hillel Slovak, they created what's become their signature mix of L.A. funk, punk and psychedelic rock.


RAZ: Many critics have called Flea among the greatest living bass players in the world. But few of his fans know that his background is actually in jazz.

FLEA: I started playing trumpet when I was a kid in junior high school.

RAZ: And you were raised in a jazz household, I think.

FLEA: And, you know, it really felt good to me to get away from what my parents wanted and what they were teaching me in school. And then it turned out that Hillel told me that they weren't happy with their bass player and how do I feel about learning to play the bass. And next thing you know, like, two weeks later, I was on stage at Dizzary's(ph), a nightclub in Hollywood, rocking.


RAZ: When you look through this book and you flip through it, it almost feels like you're looking through a private scrapbook at times. And then you realize that actually flipping through the pages, you guys are naked on a lot of these pages. It becomes clear that throughout, sort of the history of the band, you guys really must have loved or liked being naked. What is it about nudity?

FLEA: For us, it was just a silly joke. You know, we do it around the house. Like Hillel and Anthony and I all lived together and we'd do it just to be funny, you know? And then it was like, well, this is a bold look, you know?


RAZ: Well, I mean, there's a story that you guys even ran naked through the offices of EMI during like a high-level meeting at one point.

FLEA: And we said oh, okay. And we were just walking through the company. I think Anthony and I had smoked a joint or something. And he was like, you know, we should take off our clothes and run in that meeting and jump up on the table and dance around. That'll freak him out. And, you know, the last thing it was, was calculated, you know? And so, I was like, great idea, and we did it. And, you know, they were really pissed off and we danced around. The expressions on their faces was something that I hold dear to my heart. And then we put on our clothes and ran out of there.

RAZ: You guys had "Higher Ground" under EMI, which was your first sort of (unintelligible).

FLEA: Oh, yeah. Yup.


RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS: (Singing) People, keep on driving...

RAZ: And my personal favorite, "Magic Johnson," as an L.A. Laker fan. I always penetrating a lane like a bullet train or wanting to.

FLEA: I hate to burst your bubble but triple double trouble, is coming to your town and it's going to make rubble.


HOT CHILI PEPPERS: (Singing) Penetrating the lane like a bullet train, comes the magic blood a telepathic brain. Knucklehead suckers better duck when the buck comes through like a truck. Scott stops, pops and drops it in, on his way back gets a little skin, from the hand of a man named A.C. Green, slam so hard it break your TV screen. Worthy's hot with his tomahawk, take it to the hole make your mamma talk. I hate to burst your bubble but triple double trouble, is coming to your town and he's going to make rubble.

RAZ: Flea, this book is, I mean, I think it's fair to say it's almost a love letter to Hillel Slovak. And of course, he died of a heroin overdose in 1988. And a lot of what you write in the book, especially in the beginning, is about him and his influence on you and his impact on you.

FLEA: But more than that, you know, he was a brother, a beloved friend and just a beautiful person and a great artist. You know, I have paintings hanging in my house that he made that are just beautiful paintings that he did when he was a teenager, you know, these beautiful, deep oil paintings. And, you know, any gratitude that we can show to him would - doesn't come close to measuring, you know, the love and gratitude that we have for him.

RAZ: Flea, I know it's an unfair question...

FLEA: Mm-hmm.

RAZ: ...and I hate to ask this question of artists, but it's always something that people are interested in knowing. What are your favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers records?

FLEA: You know, it's hard as the years go by because you hear them so much, you know? And I really - like the time when I really like them is when we make them, you know? I felt like "Californication" really captured us as a band.


HOT CHILI PEPPERS: (Singing) Psychic skies from China try to steal your mind elation. And little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotations. And if you want these kind of dreams, it's Californication.

FLEA: It was a real all-for-one-one-for-all feeling when we made it.

RAZ: It was a sort of a millennial album, just at the turn of the millennium.

FLEA: It was. Yeah. Yeah. That one, I feel like - and the last one, "Stadium Arcadium," I felt like, you know, as a band we've continued to grow as time has gone by. And, you know, I feel like all our records are different, but I felt like "Stadium Arcadium" was a record that really encompassed everything that we had done from our beginning until that time.


HOT CHILI PEPPERS: (Singing) Come to decide that the things that I tried were in my life just to get high on. When I sit alone, come get a little known but I need more than myself this time. Step from the road to the sea to the sky, and I do believe it, we rely on. When I lay it on, come get to play it on, all my life to sacrifice. Hey oh, listen what I say, oh.

RAZ: And you guys are in the studio now again.

FLEA: And I started playing the piano. And for this record, for the first time, wrote - you know, almost all of my writing contributions come from the piano, which is a new thing for me and a new feeling and sound for the band.

RAZ: Well, you're going to have to come to Washington, D.C. and play at the Kennedy Center, a piano solo night.


FLEA: Well, I do have a fantasy of a Flea plays Bach record. So I'm working on it.

RAZ: Well, we will definitely talk to you when you put that out.

FLEA: Yeah.

RAZ: Flea, thank you so much.

FLEA: Okay, man. Thanks for having me on.

RAZ: Before you go - Flea?

FLEA: Yeah, yeah.

RAZ: Before you go, I know that you're in L.A. and I'm in Washington. Is there any chance that you'd play a little Bach for us?

FLEA: Oh, a little Bach for you?

RAZ: Yeah.

FLEA: Yeah.

RAZ: I know you have a piano there where you are.

FLEA: Okay. Yeah, yeah. Well, it's just a funky old piano in a lounge here.

RAZ: Yeah.

FLEA: I'll play you a little Bach.

RAZ: Great.


RAZ: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. You can hear the best of this program on our new podcast, Weekends on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Subscribe or listen at We're back on the radio tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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