For someone who's ravaged his body with all sorts of drugs over not just years, but decades, Anthony Kiedis has an amazing memory.
His just-released book, "Scar Tissue," recounts his life — the good, the bad and the downright ugly — with such detail, clarity and hindsight that the reader comes away knowing far more than just the history of the Red Hot Chili Peppers — it's a glimpse into his soul.
"One would just kind of assume that with all the [drug] consumption that my memory would be a bit shoddy," Kiedis said. "But it's actually pretty lucid, and better than both of my parents', or any of my friends'. My friends tried to recount these same stories, and they were like, 'Wow, I don't ... were we there?' "
With the help of co-writer Larry Sloman, Kiedis traces his descent into drug addiction and his repeated attempts to kick the habit. Along the way, he finds his way into the Hollywood elite, thanks to his father, a drug-dealer-turned-actor.
Kiedis said the book came about because he'd been telling these stories for so long to his friends, and they were always "mystified" that before he was even a teenager, he was doing drugs and hobnobbing with rock royalty like Keith Moon, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin at the Rainbow Room on the Sunset Strip. In one memorable baby-sitting episode, a naked Cher crawled into bed with him when he was in the eighth grade.
"No one had really figured out that drugs might have a negative repercussion down the line," Kiedis said. "It was very naive, but it was like an adult Disneyland, and my father kind of brought me into this world. It's a bit twisted, and I wouldn't do it with my kid, but I don't think he realized how profoundly deadly drug use could be. ... He was just going, 'Look what I found, this is fun, this is wonderful, let's do it together.' I wanted to write about that, and then I just kept going and it became a complete biography."
Kiedis said that despite all the "harrowing and death-defying weirdness" he lived through, he appreciated all of it, because at least he lived through interesting times. That's a pretty bold statement to make, considering he once broke his back by diving from a five-story building into a pool, and split his skull open by driving under the influence. And not all the pain was his alone — he also recounts watching his bandmate Hillel Slovak and friends River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain deteriorate and die. Not that any of this scared him straight.
"All those deaths affected me hugely," Kiedis said. "They were heartbreaking. All three of those completely got to me, but never for a minute did I equate that with 'I'm going to die' or 'I'm going to stop using.' It doesn't work like that. You can see tragedy for years, right before your very eyes, and you're like, 'That really sucks, I'm going to miss this person forever. Let's go get high.' "
Scare tactics don't work, he said, because once someone is committed to doing drugs, no one can dissuade them. Kiedis got to the point where he didn't care what it took to use, just as long as he could keep using. "If I had to, I'd use a syringe that I found in the street," he wrote. "Instead of sterilized cotton, I'd use a section of my sock, or more commonly, the filter tip of a cigarette. ... I'd pull the back off a toilet or look for a lawn sprinkler or even a puddle" to find water to dissolve the drugs in.
Except when he was on the road. Outside of his stints in rehab, that was the only time he'd manage to stay clean, because he realized that he couldn't function that way. "Whenever I would leave to go on the road, I would never use," he said. "The minute I'd come home, and I would have a few months off, 'Oh, I can disappear for a while, no one's going to miss me,' then I would get rowing. The road is not a problem. It's not any more tempting. People don't come up with giant bags of drugs or gallons of alcohol and say, 'You've got to do this.' It happens to me more at home."
Thanks to a 12-step rehab program, life at home these days is more about "sitting outside in the sun, cup of tea, dog, girlfriend, pool, hillside." "My days are whatever I want them to be," he said. "I don't have to go worry about chasing some chemical to make me feel OK for a minute, and then make me feel worse."
Now, it's all about the music, and he's spending nearly every day with the Chili Peppers working on their next album, which he described as "kind of hard, more aggressive-sounding music than we've had in a while."
"We feel like we're just getting started," he said. "We had all these beautiful and chaotic experiences that made perfect sense during the time they were happening, but now as songwriters and friends and people who play music together, we feel like we've opened up something that's new. It's all fresh to us and there's so much more to discover."