Anthony Kiedis makes no bones about the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are "a new band," despite all evidence to the contrary. After all, not many "new" bands have sold more than 65 million albums worldwide, won a grip of Grammy awards, survived a series of rather-seismic lineup shifts or made some of the most-iconic music videos of all time. And even fewer have actually been a band since 1983.
And yet, here is Kiedis, talking about the Chili Peppers' 10th studio album, I'm With You, in stores Monday (August 29), and how its recording signifies not only a new era — it's the first with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced longtime member John Frusciante in 2009 — but a new band, too.
As Kiedis explained to MTV News, it has "a lot to do with" Klinghoffer. "He's definitely a big part of why it's different: different person, different chemistry, different experience, different era ... we're a new band, and thank goodness.
"It seemed to be, whether we liked it or not, time for change to take place. So, an opportunity was created, one that instantly seemed to be a wonderful occasion. It's so exciting when you get thrown a curveball by the universe, and you turn that curveball into a home run. And I feel like that's what happened ... Curveballs used to break my heart and freak me out, but now, I know from experience that they usually lead to something cool."
And on I'm With You, not only do the Peppers begin a new chapter, but they push their signature sound further than they've ever pushed before. Sure, Flea's propulsive bass lines still form the backbone, but the new songs are amplified and expounded upon by his time spent studying music theory at USC.
In a new twist, most of the tunes began as piano compositions and slowly blossomed in the recording studio, with Klinghoffer adding slow-diving guitar flourishes (and the occasional keyboard, too). There are percussive tones added by Brazilian musicians and organ peals from former Beastie Boys associates.
As Kiedis put it, "It's more ethereally complex and layered and kind of spooky and moody and dreamy, yet still profound. ... The spirit of the Red Hot Chili Peppers remains and changes and moves on. It's us, with a whole new thing."
Of course, that "new thing" couldn't have been created without putting the old thing to bed — which means that, for the first time in their careers, the Chili Peppers decided to take a break from the business of being a band: A break that, to hear Kiedis tell it, was a long time coming.
"We had a little coffee break there ... it was a hell of a big cup," he said, laughing. "It was kind of an unspoken, obvious time for [it]. By the end of the Stadium Arcadium tour, which was a year and a half, everybody was like a pile of broken dolls, and no one could really conceive of not taking a break.
"So when somebody uttered 'Two-year break,' everyone just hip-hip hoorayed, and without really knowing what that would mean, it was a good idea," he continued. "It was just an innate, gut-instinct good idea. And everybody went and did things that made a lot of sense."
And though the self-imposed hiatus lasted two years (and included Frusciante's departure,) there was never a moment where Kiedis ever thought about doing anything but the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And even if fans began to worry about the band's future — Arcadium was released in 2006, making this the longest period between albums in RHCP history — he never did — partially because he never lost the passion, but mostly because he knew rebirths take a long time.
"I have never felt anywhere close to being done. I was pretty sure after the last record that the best was yet to come, but I always kind of feel like that, like if you want it, it's there," he said. "I like really old people that still make out intensely with their wives or girlfriends ... why would you ever stop?"