Lens Recap: The Story Behind Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Can't Stop'

Art-inspired video was as fun to make as it looks.

Sometimes, a pen is just a pen.

In the hands, or in this case, the nose and ears, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers'

Flea, though, a pen is a piece of surreal sculptural art. Or at the very least, an excuse to get seriously ridiculous.

Taking their inspiration from the "One Minute Sculptures" of Vienna

conceptual artist Erwin Wurm, the Chili Peppers teamed with acclaimed video

director Mark Romanek (Johnny Cash, Madonna, Audioslave) for the "Can't Stop"

clip, a series of seemingly random vignettes that ranks among their most

bizarre videos to date. Which, for the Chili Peppers, is saying a lot (see "Red Hot Chili Peppers To Cover Themselves In Fruit, Buckets").

"For a band with as playful and self-deprecating a nature as the Chili

Peppers, this is an instant concept," said Romanek, who had been thinking of

using Wurm as inspiration since spotting a book of his sculptures five years

ago. "Few bands are secure enough in their images to do something as goofy as

this."

Over the past five years, Wurm, 49, has produced a series of

photographs and happenings under the "One Minute Sculpture" heading that have

focused on everyday objects presented in absurd situations.

It's safe to assume you won't find Creed's Scott Stapp wearing a silver tent

or flowing silver ball gown or dancing topless with flashlights in a prism

anytime soon. Or Audioslave's Tom Morello playing a guitar solo while being

pelted with a steady rain of packing peanuts. And it's not likely that new

Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo would dance around in a giant purple

dinosaur head or sit still as pens and film canisters are shoved into his

nose, eye and ear holes.

Though neither Romanek nor the Peppers have heard from or met Wurm, Flea had a

typically tongue-in-cheek explanation for why the band chose to interpret the

artist's work.

"Erwin Wurm is my long lost uncle," Flea said. "We hadn't seen

each other since I was an infant and we ran into each other in a Laundromat

in Glendale. After a tearful embrace we decided to work together on this

video."

Singer Anthony Kiedis, however, set the record straight. "The first time I

had seen Wurm's work was on fuzzy, hard-to-decipher fax sent to me from Mark,

but they looked magical and graphically potent. They were all fun to act out

[and] presented an opportunity to be a sneaky sculpture spy art nerd."

The video was shot in an abandoned warehouse in El Segundo, California, over

three days, and Romanek said the band immediately took to the concept. "I

assembled an enormous amount of stuff and the band would peruse it and see

what took their fancy and then play around with it," he said. That included

drummer Chad Smith hiding under a cardboard box and guitarist John Frusciante

smashing through a roomful of plastic chairs with his guitar and playing

amidst a forest of table lamps.

"I love the idea of making a video from buckets and ladders," Romanek said. "Not many guys can pull that off unless they have terrific personalities. And, when it comes down to it, this is meant to not look like anything you've seen before and it doesn't mean a

damn thing. They're just images to amuse you."

Though it looks painful, Flea said he loved having markers shoved up his nose

and film canisters popped into his eyes. Getting the objects — which the

bassist swears were "one of a kind Gucci/Prada markers collaborated on by

the top European designers" — to stick in place was a bit more laborious

than it looks. Romanek said it took more than 20 minutes of cramming to get

it right, with enough slapstick outtakes of Kiedis struggling to get it just

right for a whole separate video.

"I liked having the markers and things stuck in my face," Flea said. "I felt

like I was doing something good, like I was earning a living — good, blue-collar work."

One of the more arresting and poignant moments in the otherwise absurd video

is a series of shots in which Kiedis is suspended in the middle of a brick

wall. While Romanek said the set-up was the singer's favorite because it

"resonated with him about some inner strength he has," the director felt a

different connection.

"As with my movie ['One Hour Photo'], there's an

incredible dynamic and tension in seeing someone [like Robin Williams or

Anthony], who you know has a manic energy that he is repressing. It becomes

riveting to watch."

For his part, Kiedis recalls liking the wall-hang, though he bears a few scars from

the experience. "That brick wall was cold and rough," he said. "I was in and

out of that thing for hours. I even smacked my head on the sucker pretty good

one time."

Flea, of course, remembers it differently. "Anthony was actually left in the

brick wall overnight," he claimed. "He was told to wait there until the next

shot and then everyone forgot and went home. He is such an obedient and

diligent worker that he stayed there all night until he was told by the

janitor crew the next morning that he could come down."