Laughing All The Way

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are blazing a trail through the rock world with their crazy stage antics and their and their manic musical forays into styles as diverse as rap, funk, punk, and heavy metal. It’s all tossed together into the spicy stew of their fifth album, Mother’s Milk, the band’s first release since the tragic death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak. While the success of the Lp launched the popular L.A. band onto the national stage in a big way, it also posed the challenged of integrating young guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith into the mix. But all indications are that the newcomers are now confirmed Chilis, sworn to the brotherhood of musical craziness, and expressing their individual styles in the service of the distinctive Red Hot sound, born from the punk rock roots of bands such as the Germs and Black Flag.

As hard-hitting as the album is, it only hints at the power and dynamics brimming from the Chili’s impressive live shows (while bassist Flea has been arrested for leaping offstage and propositioning women in the audience, he insists he’s being railroaded by right-wingers). Beneath the antic showmanship there’s a deep spiritual underpinning that defines the life and the music of the band, and it’s obvious Frusciante became a Chili as much because his guitar expresses that spiritual message as for his inspired playing.

John, how did you get into the band?
JOHN: I’ve been with the band for two years now. I was playing with D.H. Peligro, who was a friend of Flea’s. My dedication to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s music was immense, due to the fact that they’ve always played some of the most ground-breaking revolutionary music of all time. I used to pay for my friends’ tickets to go see them, even though I didn’t have any money myself. My idea of heaven at that time would have been going on tour with them and watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers every night. Anyway, D.H. got a jam together with me and him and Flea. Then tragedy set in. Hillel (Slovak) died. Even though Flea liked the way I played, they hired Blackbird (McKnight) of the Funkadelic’s, because they had been friends for a long time and the friendship thing is very important to this band. But it wasn’t clicking. This band has to work with four people putting their heads together and thinking as one. The people have to meld together, and it just wasn’t happening with Blackbird. Anthony (Kiedis) heard me play when I was auditioning for Thelonius Monster. They fired Blackbird and hired me that night.

How’d you deal with Thelonius Monster?
JOHN: They hired me on the spot but I quit the same night I joined. I still played with them for two weeks. They were bummed, but I played with them for whatever gigs they already had scheduled.

Did you play in other bands before?
JOHN: When I joined the band I was only 18. I dropped out of high school when I was 16. I hadn’t had much experience playing with other people at all. When I came to Hollywood, I jammed with everyone I could, but the first show I ever played was with Thelonius Monster. It was quite nerve-wracking. Here I was in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, yet the singer had only heard me once. I just had no idea how to act onstage. For the first couple of months as a Chili Pepper, I always felt I had to be entertaining onstage, that I couldn’t just stand there. I would jump around like crazy even though it might not be coming naturally. I just felt obligated. As time went by, I realized there was a certain power in just standing there and looking cool. It works the same way for musicality. There are all these people out there who are capable of doing all these technical tricks. And they feel obligated to so them because they know how. But it wears very thin because there’s very little of their personality coming through. They’d be better of if they learned how to express themselves. Music isn’t the Olympics. Music is something you do because it’s the face of God.

How long did it take you to?
JOHN: To really feel like I fit in? It took a while. I feel like it happens more and more all the time. Flea and Anthony, who were the two founding members of the band, accepted me right away. They said, “You’re our guitar player now. Your ideas are equally as important as ours. We’re going to make the same amount of money. We’re not close-minded. We want to hear any songs you write.” So they made me feel comfortable. But still, it took a while for me to really express myself, as opposed to showing them what I could do. One’s musical, one’s not. That’s why I can’t listen to the playing on our album. I hate our album. We definitely hadn’t locked into a groove when we recorded the album. There was a certain excitement to it, but our next album will be much different. It’ll be better and more together. At that point, it was four different personalities, four people playing together. Now it’s a band—a four-headed monster.

How do you record as a band?
FLEA: We like to record as much live as possible. On the Mother’s Milk album we hadn’t been playing together long. John had joined a few months before and Chad Smith had only been with the band for two weeks, so I don’t think we had the experience to power through it live. So it was mostly with bass and drum tracks first, then everything else overdubbed. But after we’d been touring for a while, we recorded the “Show Me Your Soul” song that came out on a 12” and is part of the soundtrack from “Pretty Woman.” We had no problem sitting there and grooving through that whole song live. We’d all be in the same room. Our amps would be somewhere else. That’s the only way to get the interplay. If we all record separately and every part is perfect, it can never be as good as each one playing together, and each person hearing little nuances that can happen at the moment.

JOHN: Just looking at the expression on Chad’s face and seeing the way he plays a drum fill can make me play a certain way. Recording at separate times is more clinical and playing with other people is divine inspiration.

What about vocals?
FLEA: The only place we did live vocals was on “Fire,” which we did with the old band. We didn’t do it on the last album because on a lot of the stuff, the vocals weren’t done yet. But on the first and second album, and a lot of the third album, we did everything live. We didn’t necessarily keep everything, but Anthony sang a scratch vocal while we played. The more live you can get it, the better. The more prepared you are, the more opportunity you have to play it live. The more cool you are, the better you’ll pull it off.

I know you have a real group emphasis. How does that translate into the writing process?
JOHN: I think it mostly comes from jams. One guy will have an idea he came up with, and show up at the studio; say it’s a really cool bass line, and I’ll make up a guitar part. I might have a guitar part that would make a good bridge or a good chorus. Sometimes we’ll work together on something. Other times we’ll just be jamming and come across a groove that sounds real good, and we’ll try to make that into a song. Then we’ll throw it away and write a new song.

FLEA: There’s no format. All those options could happen.

JOHN: Everybody is their own boss. I write the guitar parts, Chad does the drums and Flea writes the bass and Anthony write the vocals. Everybody makes suggestions about everyone else’s part. If you really want to do that part, you can do it, but everybody takes suggestions from everybody else.

Can you walk me through the process of writing a song like “Sexy Mexican Maid?”
JOHN & FLEA: That’s a great one!

JOHN: I’ll tell you why. I had this groove that was going to be for “Sexy Mexican Maid,” but we didn’t really know what it was going to be. It was E to A, just like the song, but a different groove. It turned out our producer didn’t like it, and we knew we had to have a slow funky song. So we-

FLEA: No, you’re thinking of “Nobody Weird.” That happened on the chorus of “Nobody Weird,” but we did it on the verse of “Sexy Mexican Maid” too. We did this thing where I went into one room and John went into a room, and we each had five minutes. Whoever comes out with the coolest part in five minutes, that’s what we’ll use. And I came out with the coolest part; I won. Just like in the chorus of “Nobody Weird Like Me.” We did the same thing and I won again. I’m 2-and-0 in contests of coming up with the best part. Back on “Sexy Mexican Maid,” we built it from the bass part. And then D.H. Peligro, our old drummer, had this great melody line, and then in the studio John came up with the chorus part, and I came up with the bass line that was the coolest part that could have been.

JOHN: The only thing I would add is that we thought the song wouldn’t make the album because Chad and Flea were already in the studio recording the basic tracks for the other songs. Since we couldn’t find any other parts for the groove that Flea made up, we were about to give up. Then I was over at Anthony’s and we came up with an arrangement and chorus for it. The next day when I showed it to Flea and Chad, Flea made up the coolest bass line that could ever be. Then they were just rehearsing it to see how it played, and that’s the recording that we used.

FLEA: That’s right, and we’d just come off of “Higher Ground,” which we’d tried to record like 97 times. It was awful. It’s the only time that happened.

JOHN: To get inspired, Flea pulled his pants down and played it nude.

FLEA: We tried all these things, and finally we went home, and came in and knocked it out first thing the next morning. With “Sexy Mexican Maid,” the first time we played it, it was the one.

How long have you wanted to do “Higher Ground?”
FLEA: A few years ago I was playing along with the Stevie Wonder record and knew that I wanted to put it out. It’s just a great song, lyrically, emotionally, and musically. I’m real happy with the way it came out. We did a good version of it. We didn’t do any really weird interpretation of a great Stevie Wonder song. We just interpreted the way we see the music.

It’s funny that it took so long for “Higher Ground,” even though you’d played it for years.
FLEA: Sure, but I always played it wrong. I was all by myself thinking I’m so great. With the band, it was hard to record because Chad had to play a steady rhythm all the way through. And we did it wrong like three times and started freaking out. It just started to get too intense. We didn’t really do it 97 times. It was enough takes to make us upset. The producer finally told us to go home.

What did you do to it?
FLEA: We just played it. The arrangement was pretty much there, outside of the vocals and the choruses. We also put a fast punk rock part at the end. We also repeated a few riffs over and over. But the songs speaks for itself. Stevie Wonder is one of the great geniuses of our time. It’s an honor to play a song by him.

Has he heard it?
FLEA: I think so. A friend of my mom’s works at a music store where Stevie came in to buy a keyboard. He asked if Stevie had heard our version of the song and he started playing the bass line, and said he’d learned how Flea did it. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes me feel great that he even knows we exist. He’s meant so much to me. His music has always touched me very deeply.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
JOHN: My favorite changes all the time. Today, I would have to say it’s “Stone Cold Bush.”

What’s the difference between live and studio playing?
JOHN: When you’re in the studio and you do a flip, it makes a bad note. But if you do it onstage, it’s a rush of excitement and bliss. In the studio it’s much more concentrated. I don’t like one more than the other. The studio is a beautiful place to make music and to experiment with ideas. Onstage, it’s completely different. It’s getting in touch with the energy in the room, and putting everything that happened to you that day into your head and into your hands.

Your playing has changed a lot. Was there any point when you realized that?
JOHN: As we’ve toured for this album, I practically notice it getting better by the day. When I’m onstage, I’m not thinking about anything. I’m one hundred percent surrounded by music. I’m hearing it in every cell of my body. I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m just thinking about getting into a cosmic groove with the rest of the band.

What about your equipment?
JOHN: As far as amps go I have a Mesa/Boogie, and I don’t know what kind it is. But it’s two amps in one. The knobs are frozen in a good spot. I can control the volume, just not the treble or bass, but I don’t have a problem yet. I’m sure it’s going to grow little legs and walk away from me soon. My effects are as cheap as possible. I’m very frustrated lately because a lot of the great effects that have been made through the history of time, mainly in the ’60s and ’70s, aren’t made anymore. The new high-tech, digital effects lack any personality. It bums me out, because I wonder if anyone has the same taste I do. If you listen to old records by the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix, whatever effects are on there sound so good, and you can’t get those sounds anymore because they don’t make the effects. And it’s getting harder and harder to find the old ones, because they weren’t made well and they break down. I have an Ibanez wah-wah pedal, because it has a wider range than the others. I use a Fuzzface and a Boss distortion pedal, and an MXR phase shifter, and that’s about it. For guitars, I have a bunch of Strats and a Les Paul. I have old Strats, which is another thing. The Japanese are buying them all, so in another ten years they’re going to be very hard to find. So, I’m trying to stock up on them now, while I have the money. I don’t play them all. I bought a Choral Sitar yesterday. That Steely Dan song “Do It Again” has it. It can do amazing things. I use stock Strat and Les Paul pickups. I don’t like how the new equipment is so cold and calculated. One time I went to see John McLaughlin play acoustic guitar with Al Dimeola and Paco de Lucia, and it was great. He blew my mind with an acoustic guitar, the simplest instrument you could have. Then I saw him playing the Synclavier. It was terrible. If he was playing everything on a Les Paul through a Marshall it would have been beautiful, but with these huge setups, you just can’t capture the same soulfulness. It’s really too bad that the guitar world is getting so technical in equipment and playing.

FLEA: I use a Music Man. I really like it, because it’s a good simple bass. I used Spectors for awhile, and other fancy basses, and went back to the Music Man. It’s a great bass. It has a one-of-a-kind tone. I have a main Music Man, a five-string Music Man and a fretless Music Man. I just got them and haven’t really mastered them yet. I got the fretless after the album, but I used it on the Pretty Woman soundtrack cut, “Show Me Your Soul.” I just love those basses. They’re funky and simple. They sound good and they’re reliable. The only thing I don’t like is the bridges. I play really hard and physically, and the strings pop out of the saddle. I put a Badass on. Then, I use Mesa/Boogie cabinets, 4x15s and 4x10s, and two Gallien-Krueger amps powering it. I was using a Mesa/Boogie power amp with an EV S-1 preamp. But the Gallien-Krueger things work good. You turn them up and they crank. One other thing I use is an envelope filter. I didn’t use it on the last record. On the record before, I used it on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and various overdubs, to get that Bootsy Collins sound. He was the master of that, and one of my favorite bass players. He’s one of the greatest bass players of our time. He revolutionized the sound of the bass.

Did you meet him when George Clinton produced your Freaky Styley record?
FLEA: Not then, but I met him later through George. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him, but I got to meet him and talk to him a little bit. He’s a really happy, nice guy. We didn’t really talk about bass playing. We were at some show where he wanted to go dive off the stage, but he didn’t do it.

Speaking of diving off the stage, is it part of your act to dive off the stage?
FLEA: That’s not part of the act. Our act is being spontaneous. We’ve gotten some bad press recently because I jumped off the stage in Daytona Beach and picked a girl up over my shoulders, but I didn’t hurt her and I would never hurt anybody. It’s a shame for us to receive this negative publicity because the Red Hot Chili Peppers are about making people happy and creating positive feelings, not causing anybody unhappiness.

Are the guitar solos spontaneous, too?
JOHN: Sure, all the solos are. I definitely won’t write out a solo, because you’re not getting divine inspiration when you write your solo. It’s best to capture where your head and heart are at that particular moment and record it. There’s such a great beauty in that. The fact that that music exists in that time is what I love about live music. That’s why I don’t like our shows being recorded.

How does it change when they’re recorded?
JOHN: When they’re being recorded you know it doesn’t exist just in that moment. It effects the way I play. I don’t like anything except the other musicians onstage to affect my playing. Our live show reveals the intensity. We’re really a live show more than a studio band. People who like rap or funk can enjoy us. I think that anybody with an open mind can enjoy what we do.

Do you use different guitars for different musical purposes?
JOHN: The Les Paul is used for really heavy songs, like “Good Time Boys.” Plus, the Les Paul doesn’t have a twang bar, and I like to use one a lot. If it’s a really slinky song, like “Sexy Mexican Maid,” it’s a Strat. The solo on that song is the same sound that’s on a couple of other songs. To me, the song is a slow sex groove, and I tried to make the solo the same thing. But really, I try not to think about anything. I just try to let the coolness flow through my vertebrae.

The album has such a wide range of musical style. Did that give you any trouble?
JOHN: That’s the way I listen to music anyway. When I’m going through my CDs, I listen to Funkadelic, then Tom Jones, then Igor Stravinsky, then George Michael and Guns N’ Roses. That’s the way my taste has always been. I’ve always tried to listen to as many different styles of music as possible. For the Chilis, there’s no planned out thing when we write. The beautiful thing about this band is that we’re not limited to any style. People who like heavy metal can listen to our music because it’s the heaviest music in the world.

Given the funk basis on the album, was the bass the starting point for the songs?
FLEA: The rhythm and the feel is what makes the funk. The bass is an integral part of that. A lot of our funk songs start with the bass line. Some haven’t. I love to play the funk bass. I live for it. It’s what I do. On this album, there were some songs where the bass was the inspiration: “Good Time Boys,” “Nobody Weird Like Me.” “Sexy Mexican Maid” started with the bass but became a lot more. Most of the time, the songs are really a group effort. It’s hard for me to categorize the songs. To me it’s all Red Hot Chili Peppers. But everything we play is just my natural feel. It’s not about sitting down and trying to go for this or that feel. It’s just about picking it up and playing until something feels good to be a song. It’s not conscious or intellectual. It’s very primal. Sometimes it’s hard and fast, sometimes it’s weird and psychedelic, and sometimes it’s slinky and funky. I just love to play. Playing the bass is such a beautiful thing. I feel lucky and fortunate that I’m able to support myself by doing what I love.

What about the “Fire” adaptation?
FLEA: It’s faster. It’s a great song, but whereas at the time the Jimi Hendrix Experience played that song and were into that whole acid hippy trip, we grew up on punk rock. That’s the difference. It’s not necessarily the aesthetics of punk rock. To me, punk rock was an overall energy, and a feeling of not separating the band from the audience.

How did Hillel Slovak end up on that song?
FLEA: It was something we recorded when he was in the band. We tried to record “Fire” for each record that we did, since we always played it live. When we recorded it for our third album it came out great, but it didn’t get on the record. I’m glad we finally got it out.

Who were you emulating when you first started playing?
JOHN: When I first started, I was emulating punk bands like the Germs and Black Flag, Fear, and the Sex Pistols. That was all I listened to between ages eight and 10. Then I bought a Jimi Hendrix record and my taste kept expanding to other guitar players out of the ’60s, and I’d hear who they were influenced by, and I’d listen to guys like Elmore James, Willie Dixon, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Lightnin’ Hopkins. There’s tons of them. I think that stuff is pure expression. I love when music takes over my soul, whether it makes me really want to laugh or to beat on somebody. That music really connects with me. Then I started listening to Frank Zappa. There’s a world of things in modern classical music that he inspired me to listen to—people like Eric Dolphy, who could be my favorite musician of all time, next to Jimi Hendrix. Anybody should go out and buy an Eric Dolphy record if they want to understand what pure expression is all about. There’s an Andrew Hill record called Point of Departure that’s probably my favorite. Eric Dolphy plays on many great things. But before I heard that album I just couldn’t imagine that four guys could get into each other’s heads so much. It’s so ‘out’ sounding, but they’re all playing together.

Which young players do you like?
JOHN: I think Slash is a good player, because he doesn’t care about showing people how fast he can play. He plays melodies. You can sing along with half his solos. That’s why I enjoy him. He’s not caught up in the modern technical trap. And I don’t mean to put that down, because it’s great to learn technical things. But you also have to learn to forget them or they just get in your way. I spent plenty of time sitting there with a metronome for hours on end. I used to practice 10 or 15 hours a day, for lack of anything better to do. I used to practice all sorts of scales, exercises and as many weird, complicated Frank Zappa pieces as I could. Now I feel that it’s taken me a long time of ignoring that stuff to feel that I’m expressing myself. That will come through on the next album.

Flea, you talked about Bootsy Collins and Stevie Wonder as influences. Who were the guys you were listening to when you were learning?
FLEA: I started playing trumpet first. I still play it, but only for specific things where I get into a groove. But I was brought up on jazz. When I was a kid, Louis Armstrong was real big for me, and Billie Holiday, and Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, because that’s what my dad and step-dad played. My dad used to have these jam sessions at the house, both in New York and in L.A. when I was 11. Those jam sessions were the best. Some old sax player said to me in his breathless voice, “Some guys play higher, they played faster, but nobody played music like Louis Armstrong.” I’ll always remember that as the reason Louis Armstrong is so important to me. I think, especially with the guitar players in rock these days, I’m all for virtuosity, but it means more than callisthenics. It’s about playing music that sounds good. You don’t necessarily need to be fancy. That’s part of the reason I’ve tried to keep my bass playing almost naïve in some ways, to keep the soul in. Playing with soul is the most important thing, and it’s felt the best by a simple statement. Obviously, technical ability is implied. If someone has skill you can tell, even if they’re playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

When did you switch from playing trumpet to playing bass?
FLEA: I was playing jazz trumpet in the City College Jazz Band when I was in high school. I jammed with my dad and his friends. I played in the L.A. Junior Philharmonic. Then I met Hillel, who had a band that played some weird rock. They didn’t like their bass player and Hillel asked me to learn bass. Three weeks later I played my first gig. It just happened from there. A few years later, I heard punk rock music, and it suited me, because I’ve always been kind of spastic and full of energy. I can’t sit still for too long. I was on the late freight, too; it wasn’t when punk was really happening, in ’77 or ’78. I got into it in 1981 or ’82. So there was all this music I could go back to, plus all the great bands that were playing, like the Bad Brains, Minor Threat, the Germs and Black Flag; bands that, to me, did truly innovative music, and to this day don’t get the credit they deserve for changing the face of rock music. The big popular bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones did, but there were a lot of bands that never had the marketing or the money, that played some innovative music. Sometimes that was by design, ’cause the musicians were into the music. They weren’t there to have a safety pin up their butt. For them it wasn’t about a haircut or a tear in their jeans. I think some of that punk rock was some of the best music of the decade. And it was virtually ignored by the ‘serious’ musicians. I’m not taking away from other bands like Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix, but to me, a band like the Germs is just as important.

How did your dad like it when you went from jazz trumpet to bass?
FLEA: He wasn’t too pleased about that. I was doing pretty well on trumpet. I won Best Trumpet Player in the City. I still have a great tone, for about 30 seconds, but after that forget it. Now my parents have split up, so I don’t see him that much, but they’re really proud of me. My mother in particular—who always really wanted me to play the trumpet—she’s proud that her son is playing music that he loves, and he’s ‘getting over’ doing it. I have a wife and a daughter, a place to live and a car. I can take care of business. And she digs our music. She comes to our shows and dances and stuff.

You had a real musical background with the trumpet. Did you study the bass at all?
FLEA: No, totally self-taught. I learned from playing with people and listening to records. All that really matters, for any musician, is loving it. I first got into music when my mom married my step-dad. All of a sudden there was a musician in my house. Every weekend they would make a big barbecue and all these musicians would come over and play hard bop all day long. It would just amaze me. I thought it was the most hilarious thing to see these guys all blowing and pressing and blowing and sucking and hitting things. I was rolling on the floor in laughter. I feel so lucky that I experienced that and built my love for music at such an early age.

John, did you study with anybody?
JOHN: No, I’m formally self-taught. I taught myself, but I know how to read music, write for orchestra, write for horns. I learned from the Frank Zappa Guitar Book, which is a bunch of transcriptions that Steve Vai did. I would compare that to the albums. They’re the most complicated rhythmic structures possible. Through the process of elimination I figured out how to do it. I was very compelled. I don’t think it’s necessary to take lessons. Nobody is going to teach you anything that’s going to make you a good guitar player. It has to come from playing a lot. As long as you play all the time, night and day, and music is all you think about, you’re going to be a great musician. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have about theory. It just matters that you’re truly dedicated and that you truly love music.

Do you still practice?
JOHN: I try to. It’s hard when you’re making money playing, and you’re on the tour bus with people making noise everywhere. But lately we’ve been off the road and I’ve been practicing a lot. Even then it’s tough; when you’ve been playing every night for six months, you want to forget about it for awhile. When I practice, it’s not as clinical as it was before. It’s mostly trying to write music. I used to do amazingly disciplined things, like playing the same five notes for an hour and only stopping to take hits off my cigarette. The main thing that takes discipline right now is figuring out how to play saxophone and clarinet solos, which I do by listening to the albums of John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy or Miles Davis. It can get irritating after a while, but I just get through it. It’s hard to understand the feel, because the accents are completely different. The way they play each note is different, aside from the awkwardness of playing the notes on guitar. Figuring out other guitar players’ solos isn’t that worthwhile, because somebody’s already done it. But an Eric Dolphy or John Coltrane solo makes you think of your instrument in another way.

Flea, there are places where you do some pretty heavy picking, playing a lead almost. Where on the album do you like that best?
FLEA: There’s really two things I do. One is walking with the two fingers, and the other is with the thumb and the middle finger. As far as the plucking, I’d have to say the part on “Magic Johnson” is one of my favorites.

Do you do any mute playing?
FLEA: Not much, but I’ll do it when I’m thumping. I need to lay back more in that way so there’s more dynamics in the bass. My natural tendency is to beat on it, to pound it ’til it hurts. That’s my speciality. If there’s one thing I do that no one else does, it’s thump the bass. It’s what’s given a lot of notoriety, taking a funk groove and turning it into a Red Hot Chili Peppers sound.

Now that you have a new guitarist and a new drummer, how has the sound changed?
FLEA: It’s hard to put my finger on. Golly, it’s changed. I didn’t think it had changed, but now I think about it and know that it has.

JOHN: I was watching some old videotapes and it’s amazing how much it’s changed.

FLEA: It’s a hell of a lot different. Jack was a hell of a lot different from Chad. Jack was very dense with a lot of fancy hi-hat stuff. Chad might even play more, but it’s not as dense.

JOHN: I think the difference is that Jack is great at playing certain beats and laying it down, and Chad has a wild-man approach. It’s not like he loses time, except once in a while. He’s just got a looser approach.

FLEA: Guitarwise, I think Hillel had his own unique and amazing style. It was Hillel, his own mixture of Hendrix and Andy Gill. He was just a Hollywood freak from Israel. He had his mystique and his sound, but he wasn’t very technical. He knew nothing about harmony or theory. John has that same thing, his own style, but at the same time he’s able to translate lots of different sounds, with more access to the musical world. He has more options to choose from.

JOHN: I try to keep my playing a lot more minimal. Like Flea said, I have lots to draw from, but I try to draw from my influences more in an emotional sense than from a technical sense.

What image are you trying to project as a band, since your music is so varied?
FLEA: It’s weird; how a band wants to be viewed and how they are viewed are two different things. But, ideally, how I’d like to be viewed is as a band that’s really into music; a bunch of freaks who are playing music that they really love. That’s what we are.

JOHN: We hope people will recognize the beauty of us being an honest band; that you can hear our lifestyles through our music, and at the same time that we’re doing ground-breaking things and don’t take ourselves too seriously. We can still laugh at ourselves and what we do.

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