Red Hot Chili Peppers: Carry On Frontman Anthony Kiedis says that, even with a new member in tow, the band still hammers out ideas the same way it has for three decades.
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Red Hot Chili Peppers: Carry On

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: Carry On

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Carry On

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SCOTT SIMON, host: We try to write introductions to interviews that will interest people in listening. But Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote his own best introduction when he described his group's music in a 1990 interview as, quote, "hardcore, bone-crushing, mayhem, psychedelic, sex-funk from heaven."


SIMON: That's Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1989 version of the Stevie Wonder song, "Higher Ground." The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been together for nearly 30 years, and over that time they've fought addiction and sometimes each other. But the sound of hardcore mayhem lives on.


SIMON: Try humming that. The band is set to release their 10th studio album. It's called "I'm With You," and we're joined now from NPR West by the band's front man, Anthony Kiedis and the group's newest member, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. So good of you to be with us. Thanks very much. That song we just heard, "Monarchy of Roses," is the first track on this new CD. As we noted, you guys have been around for 30 years. What do you go through in the process to come up with a new idea for an album?

ANTHONY KIEDIS: Well, first of all, I actually can hum that intro to "Monarchy of Roses."

SIMON: Okay. I stand corrected.

KIEDIS: Yeah. It makes me so happy to hear that cacophony of noise, knowing where it's going. It's kind of the false introduction because that song ends up going to lots of different places that are somewhat hummable.


KIEDIS: I don't know about what it takes to come up with new ideas, other than putting people with passion for music in a room together and just letting the ideas start to flow. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always been very prone to improvisational jams to kind of get the juices flowing. And, you know, we were so incredibly and even cosmically lucky to find a new partner to make music with in Josh Klinghoffer. And so when we got into that room and started that process again, we were all kind of curious to see if it would take off, you know, if it would start soaring like we were used to. And it kind of surpassed our wildest dreams.

SIMON: Josh Klinghoffer, let me turn to you. We mentioned, of course, that you're the newest edition to the group. You're replacing John Frusciante who left the group for a second time. Is there a generational difference between you and your band mates?

JOSH KLINGHOFFER: Numerically there probably is, if you look at our passports. But I think I've always felt welcome in every situation I've been in and we're motivated by the same things. And, of course, if you analyze things, you know, I am younger, but I don't think it's a big thing.

SIMON: Were you a fan of the group before you started playing with them?

KLINGHOFFER: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

SIMON: Let's listen to a bit of the song "Did I Let You Know."

KIEDIS: Interesting choice.


SIMON: I mentioned that we'd be hearing "Did I Let You Know" and you said, interesting choice.

Yes. And interesting choice because it's a weird song for us, you know. It's got a distinctly sort of African flavor, which is new for us and, yeah, I wouldn't have predicted it. And you may be the first to have ever played that song on the radio.


SIMON: Tell us about the album title, "I'm With You."

KIEDIS: We went through a process of trying to determine what the real title of our record would be and we were a little befuddled because usually we look at a song title, or a song lyric, or some kind of a slogan that happens during the process of making a record. And none of those things were revealing themselves to us. And so, finally, one day, towards the very end of the process, we were sharing ideas for record titles, and Josh had written down on a piece of paper, I'm With You. We all kind of looked around at each other and said, you know what? That feels perfect. We'll take it.


SIMON: Let's also ask you about one of the slower tracks on the album. And this is "Brenden's Death Song."


SIMON: Is there a Brenden?

KIEDIS: Oh, there is a Brenden, yeah. He was a close friend of ours who died on the first day of working with Josh. And he's a person that Flea and I met in 1983 when he was booking a club in Hollywood called The Club Lingerie and we went in there and played him a demo tape and basically begged him for a show. And he gave us that show, opening for The Bad Brains and that was the beginning of our relationship with this very beautiful man from Scotland, who had come to Hollywood to kind of help service the music and art community by giving people a place to exist.

And then, on the very first day of going to work with Josh, we get a call that he had died of a massive stroke. So kind of without really thinking too much about it, we started jamming and wrote the genesis for that song.


SIMON: I offer inadequate apologies if this sounds like a strange transition, but was Sonny Bono your godfather?

KIEDIS: That is one of the most genius transitions I've ever heard. I'm just going to start asking people that randomly.

SIMON: I try it on everybody figuring, at some point, I'll get a yes.

KIEDIS: Technically, no, but yes, he was like a godfather to me. My surrogate mother, who was the girlfriend of my real father, ended up being Sonny Bono's girlfriend when I was about 11. And so she kind of took me into her fold and her relationship with Sonny and he sort of guided me and gave me a helping hand when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1973. So from about '73 to about '77, I was very close to Sonny.

SIMON: May I ask both of you, do the Chili Peppers still perform with athletic tube socks? I've believe they're thoughtfully and strategically placed, right? Isn't that the...

KIEDIS: Yeah, that's - God, it's amazing that something that happened in 1983 and probably only ever happened a total of maybe a dozen times over 30 years, yet it's still resonates with...

KLINGHOFFER: It's the - with people.

KIEDIS: it's been brought up to me far more than it was ever done, I'm sure. You know, it was very liberating to perform with just a sock. And exhilarating and kind of, you know, almost like a Mongolian warrior going into battle. But it sort of got grouped into that, like, oh, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a gimmick band, which was never where we were coming from.

I mean, we were - particularly Flea and Hillel and Jack Irons in the beginning were such incredibly disciplined musicians that lived their life, you know, for the art of music. And then, when people started misinterpreting what we were doing just because we were all so funny and entertaining and didn't take ourselves too seriously, we kind of had to shed that at a certain point just to kind of reveal what we were really up to.

SIMON: Yeah. What songs do both of you look forward to doing live the most?

KIEDIS: I really like playing "Monarchy of Roses" live. There's something ultra dynamic about that. And I think all of these songs stand the chance of being really good live, including the very last track on the record called "Dance, Dance, Dance," which has a great percussion part and just a real good feeling.

SIMON: Oh, I think we'll go out on that, okay?

KIEDIS: Let's do it.

SIMON: Thanks so much for letting us talk to you.

KIEDIS: Good to hear your voice and thanks for taking the time.

SIMON: Anthony Kiedis and Josh Klinghoffer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their new CD "I'm With You" is out on Monday. Speaking to us from NPR West.


SIMON: This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon.

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