Red Hot - Discography + Info
Red Hot Chili Peppers were conceived in 1983 in a living room in Hollywood where four close buddies from Fairfax High School (Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, flea and Jack Irons) performed an acappella rehearsal for a performance to take place at the legendary Rhythm Lounge. The performance consisted of one song, "Out In L.A." which, traditionally, remained their opening song in every live show to date. [Up to November '89 definitely not for BSSM tour in '91, maybe not for '90 tour - lsh] The band soon developed a strong following in Los Angeles, something unheard of considering the fact that the band had only been in existence for a couple of months and had not yet pressed a single album.
It was at this point that Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons decided to continue their prior commitment in their former band, WHAT IS THIS?, while Flea (also formerly a member of WHAT IS THIS?) and Anthony Kiedis recruited Jack Sherman (guitar) and Cliff Martinez (drums). After being signed to EMI Records this line-up recorded the band's first and self-titled debut album. In 1985 Hillel Slovak rejoined the group while Sherman pursued a career as a studio musician.
The band recorded their second album, FREAKY STYLEY, in Detroit with the FUNK GOD, George Clinton, acting as producer.
In 1986 Cliff Martinez was replaced by Jack Irons, reuniting the original line-up. The band's third LP entitled THE UPLIFT MOFO PARTY PLAN was released in 1987 and, as always, the "Hardest working band in show business" followed it's release with a ridiculously extensive tour. They maintained as unusually huge (sold out) live audience, considering their record company had chosen to ignore them purely because of their confusion about the band's type of music. Nevertheless, the tour was great success.
In June 1988 Hillel Slovak died, leaving Anthony, Flea and Jack devastated at the loss of a beautiful friend. It was as that time that Jack Irons left the band, unable to continue with a constant reminder of such an intense loss. [He ended up playing with Pearl Jam -email@example.com (Andres Guevara)]
Anthony and Flea made the choice to continue on. Anthony says "Flea and I realized that we couldn't stop because of the death of our best friend. It was going to be a permanent source of sadness in our lives, but we wanted to keep the Red Hots going because, after five years, it had become our lives."
Anthony and Flea then set out to find two partners who would not only be top of the line musicians, but lifelong friends as well.
Enter John Frusciante, a then 18-year old guitarist who Flea knew from impromptu jams in those recent months. Anthony happened to be present while John was trying out with another Hollywood band, Thelonius Monster. It was via this try-out the John joined the Peppers. John recalls, "Anthony heard me that day and went home to tell Flea that I should be a Pepper, not a Monster. Anthony then called me and told me the same thing and that I was now an equal member of the Red Hots."
"They were my favorite band in the world. I knew every lyric, every guitar part, every solo, and bass part, and had always felt their music to be a source of peace and beauty in my life. I always felt very spiritually and philosophically connected with the band's ideals and way of life. The moment I joined the band was probably the most intense rush of pure happiness I will ever experience in my life."
Finding a drummer was more difficult. After auditioning, and playing with about 40 drummers, none of whom had the mind, body, spirit, and cock that was necessary to be a Pepper, the threesome found Chad Smith. "Chad is a human power plant behind the drums" says Anthony. "He gives it all he has and looks hysterical doing it." As Flea so eloquently puts it, "He has the soul of ten thousand soul monkeys from outer space."
Anthony, John, Flea and Chad jumped right into recording their most recent album, MOTHER'S MILK and, following it's release, began a nine month tour of the world and elsewhere.
MOTHER'S MILK was a success, both artistically and financially, bringing the band their first Gold Album.
On June 16, 1990, the band was introduced at the Greak Theater, (in L.A.) by none other than David St. Hubbins of the legendary group Spinal Tap, which the band apparently feels is the greatest honor a group could receive, in this day and age.
Now that this current line-up is, as Flea puts it, "Tighter than a mosquito's asshole," they are putting their bodies, brains and sexual organs to work to write and record the best music that GOD and the cosmic forces that be will allow them to make. About their direction John claims, "The funky stuff will be funkier, the heavy stuff will be heavier, and the melodic stuff will be more beautiful. Some of it will just be out. Our lives are based on our music and vice-versa and we just want to keep expanding while retaining the energy and flame of cosmicity that
this band has had from day one."
THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Red Hot Chili Peppers struck a deal with EMI America Records. However, guitarist Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons were also in What Is This?, who had signed with MCA Records two weeks prior, thus, the two were unable to play with the band. The Chili Peppers found replacements with guitarist Jack Sherman and former Weirdos & Captain Beefheart drummer Cliff Martinez. The recording of the album was not a smooth process. Andy Gill and the band fought over creative issues, with Gill directing them towards a more "radio-friendly" sound. Since all the trouble the band had with recording this album, one of the members left a pizza box filled with crap, and one of the mixers ran away screaming from the studio. In Kiedis' autobiography Scar Tissue, he says that he was demolished when he saw that Gill had written the word "shit" next to the title of the song "Police Helicopter" on a notepad as it was one of the first songs they had written and in Kiedis' words "It embodied the spirit of the band which was the kinetic, stabbing, angular, shocking assault force of sound and energy". The band were said to not be pleased with the production on the album, preferring the demo versions they had recorded earlier with Slovak and Irons. They went on tour to support the record but the rest of the band did not get along with Sherman. They only earned about $500 each from the tour. Both albums, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Squeezed by What Is This? did not do well, so Jack Sherman was fired from the Peppers and Hillel Slovak returned to perform on Freaky Styley, the Chili Peppers' second album.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers was formed by Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Flea and Jack Irons while they attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Originally under the moniker of Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, their first performance was at the Rhythm Lounge to a crowd of approximately thirty people, opening for Gary and Neighbor's Voices. They "wrote" for the occasion, which involved the band improvising music while Kiedis rapped a poem he had written called "Out in L.A.". Since Slovak and Irons were already committed to another group, What Is This?, it was intended to be a one–time performance. However, the performance was so lively that the band was asked to return the following week. Due to this unexpected success, the band changed its name to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing several more shows at various LA clubs and musical venues. Six songs from these initial shows were on the band's first demo tape. Several months after their first performance, the band announced that they were The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and were noticed by EMI and signed with the record label. Two weeks earlier, What Is This? had also obtained a record deal but with MCA. Slovak and Irons still considered the Red Hot Chili Peppers as only a side project and so they quit to focus on What Is This? Instead of dissolving the band, Kiedis and Flea recruited new members. Cliff Martinez, a friend of Flea's and from the punk band, The Weirdos, joined shortly thereafter. The band held auditions for a new guitarist which included Weirdos guitarist, Dix Denney but it was decided that Jack Sherman was the best fit. Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill produced the first album. Gill, who "didn't embrace [the band's] musical aesthetic or ideology," argued constantly with the band over the record's sound. Kiedis recalled that "Andy's thing was having a hit at all costs, but it was such a mistake to have an agenda." Despite the misgivings of Kiedis and Flea, Gill pushed the band to play with a cleaner, crisper, more radio-friendly sound. Their eponymous debut album, The Red Hot Chili Peppers was released on August 10, 1984. Though the album did not set sales records, airplay on college radio and MTV helped to build a fan base, and the album ultimately sold 300,000 copies. However, the band was disappointed in the record's overall sound, feeling it was overly polished and as if it had "gone through a sterilizing Goody Two-shoes machine". During the ensuing tour, continuing musical and lifestyle tension between Kiedis and Sherman complicated the transition between concert and daily band life. Sherman was fired soon after, with Slovak returning to the Chili Peppers after growing tired of What is This?.
THE UPLIFT MOFO PARTY PLAN
After Red Hot Chili Peppers signed a record deal with EMI in 1983, founding members Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons left the group to focus on their group What Is This?, which had also signed a record deal. Vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea hired Jack Sherman as guitarist and Cliff Martinez as drummer, and established themselves as a prominent funk rock band with their 1984 debut album The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Disappointed with the results of the production, Kiedis and Flea replaced Sherman with Slovak, who had quit his band, What Is This?, several weeks earlier. The group's George Clinton-produced second album, Freaky Styley (1985), was Slovak's first studio album with the band. In early 1986, the band began work on their upcoming album, and EMI gave the Chili Peppers a budget of $5,000 to record a demo tape. The band chose to work with producer Keith Levene, because he shared the members' interest in drugs. Levene and Slovak put aside $2,000 of the budget to spend on drugs without telling the rest of the group, which created tension between the members. Martinez' "heart was no longer in the band", but he did not quit, so Kiedis and Flea fired him. After the firing of Martinez, original drummer Jack Irons rejoined the band, which marked the first time all four founding members were together since 1983.
Both Kiedis and Slovak struggled with debilitating heroin addictions, which grew worse as the band was preparing to record Uplift. Due to his addiction, Kiedis lacked the motivation to contribute to the band musically, and appeared at rehearsal "literally asleep". He was asked to leave the band in order to undergo drug rehabilitation. During that time, the band won the LA Weekly Band of the Year award which prompted Kiedis to quit using heroin cold turkey. He visited his mother in Michigan for guidance, who drove him to drug rehabilitation immediately after picking him up from the airport upon seeing his unhealthy appearance. He checked into Salvation Army rehabilitation clinic in Grand Rapids, an experience which he initially detested until he noted that the other people in the clinic were understanding of his struggles and were trying to help him. He moved in with his mother after twenty days at the clinic, a time which marked the first time he was completely abstinent from drugs since he was eleven years old. After Kiedis completed his stint in rehabilitation, he felt a "whole new wave of enthusiasm" due to his sobriety and wrote the lyrics to a new song entitled "Fight Like a Brave" on the flight home. He rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles to record the group's next album
The band's style of music developed with the arrival of Frusciante; producer Michael Beinhorn observed, "It was apparent early on that John was the perfect guitarist for the band—he brought the elements of songwriting and composition to the band which they'd never truly had prior to his involvement. I believe that John is a pivotal figure in the Chili Peppers, being that he is such a distinctive songwriter." Frusciante altered the band's sound by introducing melodies, harmonies and more complex song structures. In contrast to the group's previous albums, which featured groove and rhythm-based songs, Mother's Milk contained melodic compositions that reflected the new guitarist's influence. Most of the record, due to Beinhorn's presence, is composed of heavy metal guitar riffs and excessive layering.
Mother's Milk features an array of musical styles in its thirteen tracks. Among the songs that surfaced from the Hully Gully sessions in early 1989, "Knock Me Down" became one of the most radical shifts in style for the band. The introspective lyrics, which analyze the death of Hillel Slovak and the devastating effect drugs can have on life, were a new approach for Kiedis, who primarily wrote of sexual intercourse and a hedonistic lifestyle. The vocalist did not, however, want the track to be associated with "anti-drug" sentiments, claiming, "[the song] is about letting your friends know that you need help and then being willing to accept the help of others when you need it, whether it's from drugs, or from a number of other personal problems." According to music journalist Jeff Apter, the song "Knock Me Down" was "clearly the most important track the band had ever laid down; it proved that these Peppers were more than knuckleheads with socks hanging off their cocks." Musically, the track integrates the Chili Peppers' typical punk influences, but asserts heavier emphasis on melody and harmonics that lead into more alternative territory. "Knock Me Down" was originally recorded to be a duet between Kiedis and Frusciante, but the song was remixed before being released as a single; the new mix accidentally highlighted the guitarist's voice instead of Kiedis'.
"Higher Ground" became another song that helped the band achieve international success. Originally written and recorded in 1973 by R&B singer Stevie Wonder, the track was, according to Flea, a perfect cover for the band: "[...] the lyrics are great. Especially as far as the situation that the band has been in, as far as state of mind, for the past few months. That song is really about raising and uplifting yourself spiritually." The bassist affirmed that the reason the band covered the song was to pay homage to Wonder and the important role he played in popular music. The cover begins with a funk bass-line, followed by multi-layered heavy metal guitar progressions and effects-treated vocals. "Higher Ground"'s chorus features backing vocals from an array of friends and engineers who worked on the record; the individuals' competence in singing was irrelevant to the band because they sought to achieve a sense of unity. Mother's Milk was composed of a variety of songs that expanded the Chili Peppers' repertoire. The instrumental "Pretty Little Ditty" was one of the few songs that featured no guitar layering; Apter notes that the song is "a dreamy, sweetly stoned instrumental featured deft picking and strumming from Frusciante, intertwined with blasts of trumpet from Flea." The eclectic track was originally intended to be over three minutes long, but was cut to just under 2 minutes before the album's release. "Taste the Pain" reflects a more meditative and melodic theme, similar to "Knock Me Down". Frusciante introduces psychedelic guitar progressions in the verse, while the lyrics touch on themes of love and loss. Other tracks such as "Stone Cold Bush" presented topics of prostitution while "Punk Rock Classic" was, in retrospect, an emulation of typical punk rock songs by Black Flag and The Germs—bands that were influential to the Chili Peppers.
BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIC
Blood Sugar Sex Magik was written at a more rapid pace than the band's previous album. Prior to the Chili Peppers relocation into the mansion, Frusciante and Kiedis collaborated at each other's homes, in order to arrange song structures and guitar riffs. They would then present ideas to Flea and Smith, and the band would, as a whole, decide what they would use for the bass, guitar, vocal and percussion ensembles.
Kiedis focused lyrically on sexual references and innuendos as they were frequently on his mind. Songs such as "Suck My Kiss," "If You Have to Ask," "Sir Psycho Sexy," "Give It Away" and "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" all contained various sexual links, with lyrics like "A state of sexual light / Kissing her virginity / My affinity" and "Glorious euphoria / Is my must / Erotic shock / Is a function of lust." The concept behind "The Greeting Song" was a request by Rubin, who asked Kiedis to write a song solely about girls and cars. Although Kiedis disliked the concept, he wrote the song as Rubin requested and ended up hating nearly every aspect of the lyrics. Kiedis also began to write about anguish, and the self mutilating thoughts he would experience as a result of his heroin and cocaine addiction; he believed his life had come to its lowest point under a bridge in downtown Los Angeles. Over a month later, Rubin stumbled upon a poem that would become the lyrics to "Under the Bridge", and suggested Kiedis show it to the rest of the band. Kiedis was, however, apprehensive because he believed the lyrics to be "too soft" and unlike the band's style. After singing the verse to Frusciante, they began structuring the song the next day. The two worked for several hours arranging chords and melodies until they both agreed it was complete. Frusciante ultimately chose the chords he played in the intro to balance out the depressing atmosphere of the song: "my brain interpreted it as being a really sad song so I thought if the lyrics are really sad like that I should write some chords that are happier."
Blood Sugar Sex Magik integrated the band's typical punk and funk style, but moved away from this with more melodically driven songs. Tracks like "The Righteous and the Wicked," "Suck My Kiss," "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," "Give it Away" and "Funky Monks" still incorporated use of heavy metal guitar riffs, but differed from Mother's Milk in that they contained less distortion. Flea, who had centered his bass playing around the slapping technique, downplayed on this in favor of more traditional and melodic bass lines. He also adopted a minimalist, "less is more" philosophy: "I was trying to play simply on Blood Sugar Sex Magik because I had been playing too much prior to that, so I thought, 'I've really got to chill out and play half as many notes'. When you play less, it's more exciting—there's more room for everything. If I do play something busy, it stands out, instead of the bass being a constant onslaught of notes. Space is good." Kiedis felt that the album would expand the Chili Peppers' musical horizons, and that it was a departure from their previous material. One of Blood Sugar Sex Magik's more melodic tracks, "Breaking the Girl," was written about Kiedis' constantly shifting relationships. He feared that he was following in his father's footsteps and simply becoming a womanizer, rather than establishing stable and long-term relationships: "...As exciting and temporarily fulfilling as this constant influx of interesting and beautiful girls can be, at the end of the day, that shit is lonely and you're left with nothing." The track also featured a bridge in the middle, consisting of percussion instruments salvaged from a garbage dump.
Although jams had always been an integral aspect of song creation for the Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik saw songs being created with more structure. One specific jam would lead to the breakout song on the album: Frusciante, Flea and Smith were all playing together—with Kiedis at another part of the room watching—when "...Flea started playing this insane bass line, and Chad cracked up and played along...I always had fragments of song ideas or even specific isolated phrases in my mind. I (Kiedis) took the mic and belted out 'Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now." The philosophy behind the lyrics originated from a conversation Kiedis had with Nina Hagen, regarding selflessness and how insignificant material possessions were in his life. It, thus, gave birth to the song "Give It Away." He'd also been reminiscing about late Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak, composing "My Lovely Man" in his tribute. Kiedis wrote "Sir Psycho Sexy" to be an over-zealous and overly exaggerated version of himself; a figure that could get any woman, and do anything he pleased to them. "The Power of Equality" confronted topics concerning racial equality, prejudice and sexism. Kiedis wrote "I Could Have Lied" to document the brief relationship he had with Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor
ONE HOT MINUTE
Kiedis knew that the band's sound would inevitably change when Navarro joined. In July 1994, the band entered The Sound Factory, a recording studio in Los Angeles, to record the album. The band completed a few basic tracks, when Kiedis began having difficulty singing. He had been through a dental procedure in which an addictive sedative, Valium, was used; this caused him to relapse, and he once again became dependent on drugs. Kiedis had slipped from five years of sobriety and began reusing narcotics he'd sworn never to use again. The band took a short hiatus from recording to perform at Woodstock '94, which was the first show Navarro played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
After resuming production, Navarro questioned the methods of the Chili Peppers' recording procedures. He wondered why such a considerable amount of jamming was involved with the album's conception. Various qualms followed, and the process soon became uncomfortable for the band. Months went by, and only small amounts of material were written. Kiedis made a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan in December, where his family realized he'd resumed an active addiction once again. He returned to Hollywood in late January 1995, when he finally finished recording his vocals. The rest of the recording was completed within the next month
Guitarist John Frusciante left the band in the middle of a tour in 1992, which promoted their critically acclaimed album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. It took over a year for the band to find a new guitarist with whom to record officially. Dave Navarro, formerly of Jane's Addiction, was invited to join the Chili Peppers after Arik Marshall, who had finished the remaining tour dates for Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was fired. Navarro influenced the band's ensuing album, One Hot Minute, by incorporating various elements of heavy metal and psychedelic rock, which was something that the Chili Peppers had not previously been notable for. One Hot Minute was a commercial success, selling roughly five million copies (although a let down compared to Blood Sugar Sex Magik). Critics, however, dismissed the album, claiming it was weak and unfocused. Shortly after the release of One Hot Minute, Navarro was fired due to internal differences.
In the years following Frusciante's departure from the Chili Peppers, he had developed a vicious addiction to both heroin and cocaine that left him in poverty and near death. Friends convinced him to enter drug rehabilitation in January 1998. In April 1998, following Frusciante's three month completion, Flea visited his former band-mate and openly invited him to re-join the band, an invitation Frusciante readily accepted. Within the week, and for the first time in six years, the foursome gathered to play and jump-started the newly reunited Red Hot Chili Peppers
BY THE WAY
According to the 2010 book, The Red Hot Chili Peppers: An Oral/Visual History, John had originally intended for the album to be much different than it ended up being. John wanted an album of two different types of songs: Things that were more English-sounding, which is what the album ended up being almost completely, and things that were more punk rock sounding. John's punk inspiration came from listening to music by The Damned and Discharge. Rick Rubin was not familiar with the band's new punk sound and thought that the melodic songs were much more original and exciting so the band ended up throwing away the punk songs and focusing on the melodic songs. Many of the more melodic inspired songs came from John being heavily into music by The Beach Boys and The Beatles along with doo-wop groups and their harmonies. John's new influences and newfound confidence within the band ended up making Flea feel like an outsider. Flea was urging John and the band to create more funk songs for the new album but John felt that the band had already done the funk thing and was interested in making a Chili Peppers album that didn't sound like the Chili Peppers. This eventually created a power struggle between John and Flea. According to Anthony, Flea felt like his voice didn't count as much and that Flea felt his power in the band was being diminished.
The album's guitar and bass ensemble was primarily dictated by Frusciante, rather than a collaborative effort between him and bassist Flea. Therefore the record took different direction than any previous Chili Peppers' album. Frusciante sought to create an emotional and poignant soundscape throughout the recording. Drawing influences from musicians such as Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column and John McGeoch, Frusciante made use of textured and multilayered guitar progressions on By the Way, using tools such as the mellotron and various effects pedals throughout. In 2006, while promoting the band's subsequent studio album, Stadium Arcadium, Flea reflected on the composition of By the Way, stating: "John went to this whole level of artistry. But he made me feel like I had nothing to offer, like I knew shit."
Kiedis was lyrically influenced by love, his girlfriend, and the emotions expressed when one fell in love. Songs written for the album such as "By the Way", "I Could Die for You", "Dosed", "Warm Tape", and the non-album tracks "Someone" and "Body of Water" all digressed into the many sides of love. Drugs also played an integral part in Kiedis' writings, as he had only been sober since December 2000. Tracks like "This Is the Place" and "Don't Forget Me" expressed his intense dislike for narcotics and the harmful physical and emotional effects they caused him. He referenced early Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak in "This Is the Place", and describes how drug use forced him to miss the funeral: "On the day my best friend died/I could not get my copper clean". "Venice Queen" was composed lyrically as an ode to Kiedis' drug rehabilitation therapist, Gloria Scott, who died shortly after he purchased her a home on California's Venice Beach. It mourned her death as a painful loss: "We all want to tell her/Tell her that we love her/Venice gets a queen/Best I've ever seen."
By the Way diverged from the band's previous styles, thus containing few funk-driven songs. "Can't Stop" and the title track were the only songs which revisited the Chili Peppers' once trademark style of short, rapped verses. "Throw Away Your Television", while not having any rapidly sung lyrics, also contained a funk-oriented bass line, though hinted at experimental rock due to the heavy use of distortion throughout the verse and chorus. Other "experimental" tracks include the melodica-based "On Mercury". "Cabron", the only track to be played entirely on acoustic guitar, has distinctive Latin influences. "Tear" and "Warm Tape" were keyboard based more so than guitar or bass, the latter being completely written on the instrument.
Technically, By the Way saw the Chili Peppers employing several devices to distort and alter guitar and vocal sequences. "Don't Forget Me" utilizes a mellotron, wah pedal, and echoing techniques to convey an emotive atmosphere, while Frusciante uses a Big Muff for the solos on "Minor Thing". Frusciante's backing vocals, although present in Californication, became dominant in By the Way, as almost every track contained his background presence.
After the release of their previous album, By the Way, the Red Hot Chili Peppers embarked on a world tour, which lasted from July 2002 to a mid-June 2004 date at London's Hyde Park. The band later appeared at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and at Rock am Ring to tie up their tour in support of By the Way. The band then settled down to begin recording their next album in September 2004 with producer Rick Rubin, with whom they had recorded four albums previously.
The formation and recording of Stadium Arcadium took place at "The Mansion", the former home of Harry Houdini where the Chili Peppers had recorded their 1991 breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Given the house's reputation for being "haunted," guitarist John Frusciante recalled that he felt "there were beings of higher intelligence controlling what I was doing, and I didn’t know how to talk about it or explain it...it was very clear to me that the music was coming from somewhere other than me." However, Kiedis noted that during the recording process of the album "everybody was in a good mood. There was very little tension, very little anxiety, very little weirdness going on and every day we showed up to this funky room in the Valley, and everyone felt more comfortable than ever bringing in their ideas." The band originally wanted to create an "old-fashioned Meet the Beatles-like record," and to keep the number of songs down to about 12, to make "a small, digestible piece of art." They ended up writing 38 new songs, with Rubin producing all tracks.
I'M WITH YOU
According to drummer Chad Smith, the band "wrote a lot of songs" during ten months, from October 12, 2009 to August 2010. Smith noted, "every record is a real snapshot of where we're at during that time in our lives as a band and as a people. It's always been that way." Flea stated that the band wrote around 60-70 songs for the new album and writing took around nine months before they entered the studio with Rick Rubin.
Regarding the departure of guitarist John Frusciante, and the arrival of Josh Klinghoffer, vocalist Anthony Kiedis stated, prior to the album's release, "it is always going to change the chemistry and feeling of the music when such a creative force as John Frusciante leaves. He was something unique that shaped our sound then, but now I think it's also something fresh and exciting to have a new, incredible musical mind working with us now. We are still the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but we also have to adapt and welcome new opportunities. After all, that is how we've survived all these years." Producer Rick Rubin commented on Klinghoffer's addition to the band, stating, "Josh is fantastic. He played with John Frusciante for many, many years and he actually toured with the Chili Peppers before, so he's sort of part of the extended family. He's stylistically very close to John but has a completely different trip. It sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers that you've never heard before." Flea remarked, "Josh is a very subtle musician and it's not so much about the big riff - it's more subtle, sublime, poetic texture type of playing. We’re just reacting to him, and it makes us play different, so we’re just going a different way, and it’s great. We still sound like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it’s really a lot different."
Kiedis commented on the overall writing process, noting, "this album has been one of evolution. Before, some of our jams were a bit hit-and-miss. On this record, a decent number of songs were actually thought out and planned in a way we had never done before. That is, with Flea's new knowledge of music theory, we explored the writing process with a bit more precision." During the band's hiatus, Flea studied musical theory classes at the University of Southern California, learning piano during his tenure. According to Kiedis, Flea's piano contributions to I'm with You added "a whole new dynamic" to the band's sound. According to Flea, Klinghoffer also wrote songs on piano for the album: "I started writing songs on piano for this record and Josh also wrote songs on piano, so a lot of the songs were written on the piano and then translated to [the] rock band. It has a different kind of feeling, kind of more of a liquid, poetic feeling is the best way I can describe it."
Flea said the three main things he was listening to during the creation of the album were underground kind of avant-garde electronic music, The Rolling Stones, and Johann Sebastian Bach while Chad said he was listening his wife’s heartbeat through her beautiful large breast. Smith added, “It was very inspiring to me.”
According to the band, "Brendan's Death Song" was the first song written for the album, with parts of "Annie
Wants a Baby", written on that same day. Album opener, "Monarchy of Roses", which is a darker song and a mixture of funk and pop was written and recorded under the working title, "Disco Sabbath". Other songs like "Did I Let You Know" focus on social commentary about the planet while "Police Station" is a slow, emotional piece of music that tells a story of Kiedis running into various old friends throughout L.A, all of whom have turned into down on their luck tragic figures. Kiedis reminisces about past times with these characters over a moody, complex chord progression from Klinghoffer. According to Anthony, the final song written for the album was Even You Brutus. It was written after the band stopped writing songs and were already in the recording studio. Flea came in and played a piece on the piano that the band felt they needed to turn into a song."Dance, Dance, Dance" has been described as the most atmospheric song on the album.
According to Flea, "life and death is a major theme of the album".
During the writing process, Flea reportedly listened to Rolling Stones' albums, Exile on Main Street and Tattoo You, frequently.
According to Flea, the album is, at times, influenced by African music. Flea stated, "We've always all loved African music. Throughout our career we've played some African bits, but we never really captured it right. Josh and I tripped around Ethiopia with a group called Africa Express, which Damon Albarn organized. We saw music every night and jammed with musicians. Ethiopia is such a great country, beautiful place. So there are a couple African parts on the new songs. One is called "Did I Let You Know," which has a real African feeling, and there's another called "Ethiopia." I'm really grateful to Damon for bringing me along. It really widened my scope of humanity." Chad Smith also commented on the album's African influences, stating his love of a compilation album, entitled The Afrosound of Colombia, and noting that the song, "Ethiopia", "puts a smile on my face.
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