Return Of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1999, In The Loder Files

Punk-funk pioneers bounce back with one of their biggest albums.

Where do old interviews go to die? Since 1988 they’ve gone into the MTV News vault, but we’ve been exhuming them to bring you these classic natterings. Here’s the latest in the series, which runs every Tuesday.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of those rare bands that keeps getting better as the years pass. The group had already been together for 16 years when we talked to them in 1999, on the eve of what would turn out to be a two-year world tour for their new album, Californication, which soon became a massive international hit.

The Chili Peppers were coming off a slight career bump at the time. John Frusciante, the extraordinary guitarist who had replaced founding member Hillel Slovak after Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988, had suddenly dropped out of the band with a drug problem of his own in 1992, while the group was touring in support of its world-breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. It was three years before they resurfaced with a follow-up record, called One Hot Minute, with Dave Navarro, the shred-king Jane’s Addiction guitarist, awkwardly slotted into the lineup. One Hot Minute was a mediocre Chili Peppers album, and Navarro was soon gone. Fortunately, in early 1998, Frusciante emerged from rehab a new and cleaned-up man, if a bit of a physical mess. The Chili Peppers welcomed him back into the fold, helped spruce him up, and have been humming along very happily ever since.

Frusciante, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith are one of rock’s great rhythm units, and, together with hyper-charged frontman Anthony Kiedis, also a reliable source of spacey interviews. Here we have Flea talking about dressing up in Spice Girl drag, Smith describing his current diet (steak and beer), and Kiedis contributing unimpressed mentions of two bands of the period, Limp Bizkit and Korn (or “the Korn,” as he puts it). Best of all, there’s an extended monologue by Frusciante about his lost heroin years. (“These monsters had started to eat me up on the inside.”) What a very good thing it’s been, for both the band and its fans, that this remarkable musician got found again.

Enjoy digging through The Loder Files? You’ll find more here, and there’s much more to come from the vaults — check back every Tuesday!