Red Hot Chili Peppers Recall First Performance Together, Compare "I'm With You" to "Short Cuts" and "Pink Flamingos"
Mon, 29 Aug 2011 08:56:06
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Red Hot Chili Peppers' new album I'm with You is out today and in honor of this major rock 'n' roll event, the band's rhythm section, which consists of bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for this exclusive and revelatory video chat.
The duo recalled the first time they ever played together in California and how they used to go "real hard" back when they first met. They also talked about what guitarist Josh Klinghoffer brings to the band, stepping into the spot vacated by former guitarist John Frusciante more than once through the years. Flea and Smith said Klinghoffer fills the space that allows them to do their thing without impinging on their space, since the funked-out rhythms that Flea and Smith create are crucial to the RHCP sound.
Don't you just love Flea's shock of purple hair, too?
Watch the rest of the video interview to see what movies the band thinks I'm With You shares a kinship with.
Check out the video below!
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Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs? Is it an intent to be visual as well as auditory?
Flea: Very much so! I think we're painting visual pictures both sonically and in terms of feel. I love Anthony's lyrics a lot. I feel like his way of telling stories is not a traditional way of telling stories. The juxtaposition of words—the color, feeling, and sound of the words together—has as much to do with the story as the narrative itself does. More and more, he tells a story in songs on our new record like "Police Station". There's a distinct narrative thread with a beginning, middle, and an end. We're always thinking of a unique visual story and a song occupying its own space. If you read a book of one of the great short story writers like Anton Chekhov, each story is great, and you know it's all Chekhov. However, each one also occupies its own place and emotional landscape of life.
What does "Dance, Dance, Dance" mean to you? That one stands out.
Chad Smith: Good taste!
Flea: Actually, it's my favorite song on the record too! It started with one of Chad's wicked ass drum beats.
Chad Smith: We improvise a lot when we're writing songs. We get in a room together and jam. We were trying to change and come up with new different stuff. Flea had given me this CD of electronic beats, and he was like, "Check this shit out! This is awesome". That's my interpretation. I don't know if it's one of the beats or not.
Flea: It's just different from what you would normally do!
Chad Smith: Exactly! Naturally, I'd head to the go-to groove. I was playing over here instead, and Flea's like, "That's good!" That's how it started.
Flea: It's interesting because you can really fall into having a go-to groove. It's great because it's your natural thing, and you're good at it because it's yours. I feel like in order to challenge yourself you have to get out of that and do things that feel wrong at first and find new things. It's important to look for those things.
What's the story behind "Brendan's Death Song"?
Flea: Brendan Mullen is a man who booked us in our very first shows in 1983. He was a legendary figure on the Los Angeles punk rock scene. He had a club called The Masque where all of the great L.A. punk rock bands—The Germs, The Weirdos, The Screamers, The Bags, The Alley Cats, and X—played. Brendan was a musician himself as well as a writer. We were in close contact with him over the years. We working on a project with him right when we started making this record. It was the picture book we put out. He died in the middle of it. That was our very first day of rehearsal with Josh. The first time we played with Josh, we found out Brendan died. So we wrote that song, and Anthony started singing that. It was an emotional thing for us. It was a birth and a death. It was that poignant feeling of life and death without us realizing it. It really had a profound effect on the whole record and its lyrics.
If you were to compare I'm With You to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Flea: What's that Robert Altman movie with all of the little vignettes that come together?
Flea: A little Short Cuts mixed with Pink Flamingos and Lawrence of Arabia.
Do you remember the first time you two played together?
Chad Smith: I do! It was at Hully Gully which is a rehearsal spot over in Silverlake. They were auditioning drummers, and there was a drummer before me who I thought sounded really good. He walked out while I was waiting there. I brought my drums along, and I was getting ready to set them up. Unbeknownst to me, these guys had been told that I eat drums for breakfast [Laughs]. As I'm putting my drums together, Flea said to me, "Hey, is that your breakfast?" I was like, "What? This guy's kind of weird." That was the first time we actually met. Playing was just like a bomb went off basically. I really had a lot of fun.
Flea: It was so explosive! We were just wondering, "Was it as exciting for you as it was for us?"
Chad Smith: Yeah! I really don't know you guys. I'm sure you'd been playing with a bunch of different guys. You really didn't know me. I was only a little familiar with The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I knew who they were, but I didn't have their records or anything. In fact, on the way over, I listened to the EP. I actually stayed in the parking lot to get it. I was like, "Oh they do 'Fire'. I know 'Fire'!"
Flea: I remember thinking we were so different. Chad's from the Midwest. I'm really not from the Midwest [Laughs]. I'm just not!
Chad Smith: You could not be mistaken for a Midwesterner!
Flea: I fancied myself this arty person [Laughs]. I remember thinking as hard I could fucking go…
Chad smith: We used to go hard back then!
Flea: Real hard! He was right there pushing me! As hard as I would go, he would push me to go harder. For all us, we were just laughing like, "This is on"!
Flea: Josh has such a textural, ethereal way of playing guitar. He does a lot of different stuff. His way is to surround, color, and support in a subtle way. It fills a space that lets me and Chad really shine too. He doesn't infringe on our space. He really carries his own, and it's just different. I'm sure that he and I are getting better, but the way we occupy space with Josh on this record is great.
Chad Smith: Josh brings the 7.1 to the band. Surround sound!
—Rick Florino and Amy Sciarretto
Read our exclusive review of I'm With You here!
Watch this exclusive video to see Flea talk about I'm With You here!
Read our exclusive retrospective on Blood Sugar Sex Magik from Chad Smith here!