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Exclusive: Inside the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Comeback Album

Alternative Take with David Fricke

David Fricke Jun 13, 2011
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“There is no question ”“ this is a beginning,” Anthony Kiedis, singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, says in his first interview about the band’s new album, I’m With You, which is released by Warner Bros. on August 30th. “Yeah, the sun is just coming up here.”

Produced by Rick Rubin, I’m With You is the Los Angeles quartet’s first studio album since the 2006 double-disk set, Stadium Arcadium. The 14-song record also marks the debut of the Chili Peppers’ new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who joined in the fall of 2009 following the departure of John Frusciante. The latter guitarist had been a crucial writer as well as player on the Chili Peppers’ biggest albums, including 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik and 1999’s Californication. But after he quit, Kiedis and bassist Flea “had this intuitive feeling,” the singer says. “We’re not really done. We wanted to maintain the Red Hot Chili Peppers if we could do it in a way that upheld historically what we had accomplished.

“There were some interesting conversations,” Kiedis goes on, “about do we try to find someone we don’t know, or maybe there is somebody right in our own backyard who is the perfect solution.” Klinghoffer, 31, was a veteran sideman who had recorded and toured with Beck, PJ Harvey and Tricky, among many others. He was also a friend of Frusciante’s, working on several of that guitarist’s solo records, and had performed with the Chili Peppers on their last world tour, playing extra guitar and keyboards.

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“I felt like I had the experience,” Klinghoffer says in his first-ever press interview, sitting next to Kiedis on a couch in the singer’s Malibu home. “There was no real adjustment. This is playing music with people I admire and who have been friends for years.”

“Josh has not lacked the necessary assertions,” Kiedis notes. “His voice is as dominant as any other voice on the record.” That is literally true. In addition to playing guitar, Klinghoffer contributed keyboards and backing vocals. He also co-wrote the music with Kiedis, Flea and drummer Chad Smith.

The album’s first single, “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” is a hard-pop spin on classic Chili Peppers funk, with a creeping bass line and a marching-disco rhythm in the chorus reminiscent of the late-Seventies Rolling Stones. In fact, Flea likens the rich propulsive interplay on I’m With You ”“ the mix of jamming exploration, textural guitar details and savvy hooks in songs such as “The Monarchy of Roses,” “Factory of Faith” and “Goodbye Hooray” ”“ to the classic Stones albums like Exile on Main Street and Tattoo You that he listened to religiously as the Chili Peppers wrote and improvised on new material in 2009 and 2010. “It’s about a feeling and a song.” Flea says of the connection, “about everyone embracing the moment of the song, not always about the riff.”

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The Chili Peppers are currently in rehearsals and plan to tour extensively in support of I’m With You. “Forever” is how Flea puts it. “I know when we write mediocre stuff, and when we write good stuff,” Kiedis says. “I can’t wait to go out and play this.”

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