When Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea steps inside longtime producer Rick Rubin’s mansion in Laurel Canyon, California, he experiences what can only be characterized as flashbacks.
It was within those walls that the Chili Peppers recorded 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the album that catapulted them into rock and roll’s limelight, where, as he described it, “housewives in Nebraska” would come to find out about them.
“It’s so beautiful to think about our spirit back then, doing that [album], and I get these mini little retrospectives of our life, in a real beautiful way,” he said. “It’s great … that feeling, because it was really the end of an era when we recorded that album for us. That was the transition when we went from being a pretty underground band, playing little theaters and stuff and sleeping on people’s floors, doing whatever we did to get by, to becoming a mainstream band.”
Fifteen years after the Magik, Flea and his bandmates found themselves returning to Rubin’s magical mansion to track Stadium Arcadium, their forthcoming double LP and ninth studio effort due May 9 (see “Chili Peppers Stoked About New Album, Possible Kanye Tour” ).
Frontman Anthony Kiedis said it wasn’t so much to recapture that Blood Sugar vibe, but because he considers the mansion “the address of my job.”
“We had some new spirit to work on,” Kiedis told MTV News’ Gideon Yago during a recent visit to the mansion. “We had new feelings, new emotions, new songs — it was a different time for the band. We were in a different psychological state the second time around than we were the first time around. We were looking to go to a warm and inviting place.
“There had been so much water under the bridge between then and now,” he continued. “We were in a state of growth and change and desire and enthusiasm in 1990 when we were here, and then we went through all of these different times and episodes and hardships and joys, and then we kind of came back together and found ourselves as a band, as songwriters, as friends and figured out how to be better co-workers.
“So we were a little better at it when we came back. It wasn’t quite as confusing, and we didn’t have the same types of demons going through us as the first time we came here. … It was kind of a more loving experience this time around.”
Stadium Arcadium contains 28 tracks, spread out over two discs — one nicknamed “Jupiter,” the other “Mars.” The Peppers recorded 38 songs with Rubin and had to whittle them down. Kiedis said that for him, writing lyrics for those cuts was a nearly effortless undertaking.
|MTV News: Red Hot Chili Peppers RAW
Gideon Yago revisits the scene of 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik with Anthony Kiedis and Flea. Find out what’s the same and what’s very different in these RAW video clips, only on Overdrive
“It’s all the weird little fun stuff that you think about when you take a walk,” he explained. “This incredible girl I met, or this really bad feeling I had about myself that everyone else seems to have about themselves — an endless amount of things that may flow through your mind when you’re open to it, and you just start turning it into songs. When I listen to my band play, and just be spontaneous people with music, it really just triggers ideas and thoughts and melodies and lyrics, and all I have to do is listen to them.”
The video for Stadium Arcadium’s first single, “Dani California,” debuted on MTV last week and depicts the Peppers as various bands who’ve left their stamp on rock and roll throughout the ages — from Elvis Presley and the Beatles to the Misfits and Nirvana.
“We chose the moments in history we wanted to honor,” Kiedis said. The shoot was conducted over two 13-hour days and involved “lots of spirit gum and wigs and funny fabrics and skull rings and turquoise belts.”
“The video was [director] Tony Kaye’s idea, but we were a little bit more informed to the history of rock than anyone else that was working on it. So it was our duty to figure out which points we wanted to illuminate, which was difficult, because there were at least 10 other incredibly meaningful, exciting, beautiful and important points that we couldn’t hit because time and cash become a factor when you’re shooting a video.”
“We had to leave out hip-hop and disco, the big mega rock bands like the Who, [Led] Zeppelin,” added Flea; the mod and ska movements and early ’60s Brit rock were other periods the band had hoped to include but couldn’t find time for. “We did the best we could. We love rock music so much, and it’s so sacred to us, we just wanted to honor it and bow before it and take our hats off to it. We would never f— with the sacredness of rock music.”
— Chris Harris, with additional reporting by Gideon Yago