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
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
"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
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
"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
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."