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UCLA Paper on Anthony
Anthony Kiedis spoke at a class at the University of California in L.A. and this is a paper the student wrote about their evening with Anthony.
March 4, 2002
The Art of the Interview
An evening with Anthony Kiedis
Anthony Kiedis is totally high. His drugs are just of a different sort now, that's all.
"I can honestly say that being clean has been the biggest boost to my creativity than anything. There's a high in being clean for me."
After what he called a "lifetime of abusing drugs" and experiencing first hand the repercussions of addiction, "being self-centered and selfish and taking as much as possible, giving as little as possible", Kiedis turned away from it all (with the help of a few angels, he says) and began the long road to recovery and self enlightenment.
Oh yeah, as the front man of an enormously successful band called "The Red Hot Chili Peppers", Kiedis also sold millions of records and rocked the world with his innovative musical stylings with such landmark albums as BloodSugarSexMagik and Californication. And now he has a boost of creativity for their new album?
"We recorded a huge body of work, wrote thirty songs or more, and we probably threw out ten along the way. We all still have this weird fire burning in us to keep creating music. (To) keep making good music that actually means something at this moment, something that is vibrant at this point in the history of the universe and not repeating something we did a long time ago that no longer makes any sense. And for some reason it just works with this band. We have a really good drummer, a really good bass player, and a really good guitar player. And then there's me who kind of diffuses all of their expertise in a way and makes it all not too supertechno. I'm not a trained musician, and they're all very trained, so kind of a combination of their expertise and my lack of expertise make for a nice palate of combination. I don't feel any less inspired or excited about music than I did 20 years ago. Sometimes a lot more now because I have a larger palate to choose from."
Being creatively and spiritually inspired is a good look for Anthony Kiedis. He looks absolutely deliscious wearing his new mindset. It's like how he wears his clothes; stylishly and without any ostensible effort. His hair is shaggy, straight and back to its natural brown hue, a far cry from his shock of platinum blonde from a few years before. And his clothes hug his frame like so many giddy girls would if they could get the chance. He looks content and serene and all put together. There has to be something he's not telling me.
"I've been breaking up with my girlfriend for the last few months in an unusual way where we're staying really good friends; but we're realizing that we don't share a common dream which is tough, because I still love her. And normally it's a lot easier when you fall out of love with somebody. It's hard for a minute and then it's easy. This is tougher so a lot of stuff about her, just the way my spiritual connection with her."
This new development may be, in the long run, a positive influence on Kiedis' professional and lyrical life, but right is now it seems to just plain hurt losing someone you love. Anthony Kiedis, under the layers of his rock iron status, is still nothing but human.
"I hate being insecure, you know. I guess everyone just wants to be loved. Whenever I do something where I perceive that it's not going to get me loved, I go into that feeling of insecurity, whatever that may be. It's kind of hard to get terribly specific about it. It's usually all made up stuff, so it kind of comes and goes. It's not always there. But I'm doing allright at the moment."
He's like a caterpillar emerging from a cocoon, reborn into a butterfly. And even if the tattoos still mean the same thing, what Anthony has to say about life, love and his new album, is totally different.
"I was kind of forced to discover a spiritual lifestyle, which is basically getting rid of my old ideas and starting to look at ideas of packing something into the stream of life."
These new ideas are emerging in the form of the Red Hot Chili Peppers new, as-yet-to-be-named album, which is going to be released this June. Californication was a major commercial success for the Peppers, but Anthony seems more confident and excited that the new album will supersede any previous success, eventhough they never plan it that way.
"With us it just sort of happens, we show up and start playing and the influences of our lives at that time definitely materialize later, thing do develop, but never consciously and never by the way of discussion. It's more like what's in the air."
With Kiedis writing "99.9 percent" of the lyrics, what's influencing his mind these days?
"Pain and suffering", he muses, and then quickly retracts. "But (it's) pain and suffering that I'm happy to have. I haven't experienced this feeling before, but I've also never felt comfortable writing "love songs" or "relationship songs". It's sneaking in there, and it's certainly not the typical way. When I read through my lyrics, I can see where (my ex-girlfriend) is kind of the initial point of of inspiration. A lot of songs that are about free-floating feelings, textures and imagery that people can relate to. Imagery like that makes me feel something really strong. And I know if it's gonna make me feel something strong, chances are that you and I have something in common and you'll feel something strong too."
Is this guy ever open. He looks you straight in the eye and draws you in, infusing you with his life energy and strength of character. Here is a guy who stared his own self destruction in the eye, watched people around him self destruct, and fought battle after battle and, the moment it becomes a tangible memory for him; he turns it into art. He wants everybody to feel as good about life as he does through listening to his music.
"There's a song (on the new album) called 'Don't Forget Me'. It's a painfully simple song. It starts off with just bass strumming chords, which has a beautiful vibration to it. It's definitely an original sound for us and to me it's going to be a corner stone of this record, just because no one's ever heard us play anything like this. This song is just simple and powerful. It's kind of my idea what God is and what life is, and what this whole picture is all about, how it's just everything everywhere - the good, the bad, the in between and the experiences of a lifetime."
Now Anthony Kiedis looks for beauty in everything he sees.
"I was spiritually way off (before). I was selfmedicating these combinations of maladies that I had. At that moment I had to do something else. It was either that or completely disintegrate."
Anthony Kiedis' longest relationship has been with drugs, with women it seems three years is his limit, which doesn't settle with the future Kiedis is looking for, and may lend to reason why he is now a single man.
"I'm trying to get some kids going on there."
He still has his dog, Buster, who Kiedis says admittedly has a hard time sharing Anthony's affection, but Kiedis seems ready to take that step as a creator of life, rather than just music.
"I was always in awe of my father; he was my main guide to life, my sensei. I mimicked him starting at age eleven up until I was fifteen with women, drugs, literature and lifestyle. He was a drug dealer when I was a kid and so I wanted to be a drug dealer and live that whole lifestyle. But then he gave that up pretty suddenly because he got in trouble with the law and lost all of his money and lost that whole thing."
Kiedis' father may not have been the best influence on a young Anthony at times, but with time and his own life experience, Kiedis has found comfortin the notion of "progress, not perfection", a mantra that applies to his own life, and very well to his father's as well.
"It helped me to forgive all the stuff that my dad introduced me to that later on almost killed me. He didn't have the best life; he was doing the best he could. I always expected him to be better than everyone else, just because he was my dad."
And even without a girlfriend who doesn't share Kiedis common dream, Anthony can always turn to his other family; Bassist Flea, Guitarrist John Frusciante and Drummer Chad Smith, for support.
"Being in the band is like being married to three people at the same time because we all have equal say.Business decisions can be tough. But basically what's good for the individual is good for the whole and what's good for the whole is good for the individual, so we don't have that much conflict. And we usually work it out better than most, because we've managed to stay together for almost 20 years."
Each Chili Pepper seems to also share a common goal of health living and spiritual self - disvovery these days too, which is what Kiedis says gets him through a day without drugs.
"I still have a mental obsession about it sometimes, but not to the point where it overwhelms me into getting loaded. It would be unnatural if I didn't have the occasional thought."
And if anyone knows anything about Anthony Kiedis these days, is that he is all about being natural. He dabbles in many spiritually enlightened outlets, like meditating and yoga, and thrives on the simplicity of nature as a life force.
"My backyard is very inspirational to me. It gives me a magical feeling."
But he never underestimates the power of raw physicality, something that Kiedis is known for as a performer who often wears little more than a sock while performing.
"(There is a) certain kind of sexual energy, because performing, especially songs that were inspired by sexual energy, is definitely earthy. You feel really connected to earth and that kind of paganistic sensation of flesh and touch and inside and wet. It's great to be all intellectual, it's great to be ethereal, but let's not underestimate the beautiful feelings of our physical existence. We have these bodies for a good reason and I think one of the things that we kind of stumbled into as a band was the celebration of that. So yeah, there is some sexual energy going on. I'm not saying that I would have an erection while I'm playing, but I definitely feel the spirit of sexual energy there."
And he looks great doing it too. For a man with 40 years under his belt he has the energy of a puppy dog and the wisdom of an owl. But he likes to think of himself as something a little wilder than that.
"I have the diet of a Grizzly bear when I go on the road, I eat tons of salmon and tons of blueberries. There's something about it that works. I never knew why, but recently someone told me that they have been doing studies on blueberries and they contain like ultra life giving antioxidants that can't be found in any other fruit or vegetable. So I pay attention to these cravings."
Actually, Kiedis pays attention to a lot of things. He seems aware of his place in the universe and the ability he has to give back what he, for so many years, took away. The band is involved with many charities, benefit concerts and personal conquests of their own. Along with donating a percentage of their concert proceeds to various charities, they, in an absolutely touching display of love and caring, put on a concert for a friend of the Pepper's who had cancer, and, although she was eventually taken by the disease, Anthony says "We made her last year a good one."
It's moments like that, that truly evoke a sense of awe and wonder out of such a docile and humble man. He is more than a rock star. He is more than a singer, a writer, a drug addict, a survivor. He is not any label at all. He hates labels. He just is. And what that is can be directly experienced through the lyrics he writes and the world Kiedis creates around himself.
"I don't even know what you'd call it. I'm not a huge fan of labels anyway; they mean and describe so little."
And with over 30 songs written for an album, there is plenty more where that comes from. It just keeps flowing as Anthony keeps growing.
"I feel like we are beaming beautiful things into the world, that genuinely have a good effect on people's lives and their head space."