Perhaps I’m growing sentimental but after hearing the Red Hot Chili Peppers live simulcast on community radio station JJJ last night, I felt inspired to sit down and write about my very deep connection to the history of this band. Without pouring too much negativity into this moment, I just want to initially express how much joy exploded out of my speakers when they played compared to the other bands that were simulcast before them. Either I have old ears or I just prefer soul over science, but anyone with taste and a healthy investment in the history of music would have heard the massive difference between what a band like Vampire Weekend did compared to Red Hot Chili Peppers. You could argue a lot of reasons why and although the tennis match like conditions that occurs when you debate musical relevance will always birth, I think I’ll call game set and match and sum it up be saying that it is totally a resonance thing. One connects with my soul and has character and the other (lets call them Vampire Weekend) has great sounds and complicated time shifts and is rooted in vanilla. It’s the difference between experiencing a weak handshake and a firm meaningful handshake.
Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the most important bands in the world. They were important to the advance of underground punk rock culture and along with a lot of the 80’s underground elite (R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr, Jane’s Addiction etc) they were a big influence in helping shape the rise of the alternative nation of the 90’s. They are survivors and have continued to release new communications and re-invent themselves over the course of three plus decades. People can argue about their relevance now in 2013 and a lot of people will express disdain and fatigue with hearing current Red Hot Chili Peppers music, but once you dull down the noise of these fevered egos and connect to the truth of the matter, Red Hot Chili Peppers remain relevant no matter what decade or period of creative revolution they find themselves in. They are the epitome of creative evolution and re-invention and as they enter their fourth decade as a band, there is a new level excitement at what they will create next. Red Hot Chili Peppers are not a band who deal in sentimentality (unlike certain fans of the band who just crave the same sentimental version of the band over and over again) and to see a band this deep into their career be so invested in evolution is beautiful.
My connection to the band didn’t really begin until October 1996. Prior to this my only awareness of the band was via early morning Rage and Video Hits programs which played a lot of their music in the early 90’s. I was always attracted to that sound even at a young age, as a band they looked incredibly interesting and different. I was attracted to that and always had a desire to explore that. That chance came in October 1996 when I brought a copy of “One Hot Minute” on cassette tape. This was another one of those life changing moments in terms of my musical evolution. I was 12 going on 13 and at that point in time I was heavily invested in the sounds of Seattle, Metallica, Pantera and some local Heroes like Tumbleweed, Silverchair and Regurgitator. The music of Red Hot Chili Peppers shared a similar spirit with these bands but it was coming from another planet. I feel privileged that “One Hot Minute” was my entry point because it is one of their best albums. It is a psyche rock masterpiece full of dark despair and a lot of post rehab confusion. This dark energy and the absence of John Frusciante and the inclusion of Dave Navarro helped give the album a heavier sound. Front to back the weirdness, the heaviness, the groove and emotional impact of “One Hot Minute” was important in helping to shape my appreciation of music and what got me off.
“Blood Sugar Sex Magick” was the next album to enter my life via my brother. He had brought it on CD and through some intense negotiations I managed to swap it off him in the December of 1996. I had just been given my first CD player for Christmas so I was eager to have “Blood Sugar Sex Magick” as it had all of those great hits. It was a very different animal when compared to “One Hot Minute.” It was a lot more funk based and wasn’t as distortion heavy as “One Hot Minute” but it was still heavy on an emotional level. It was also quite a mammoth album and there was so much to consume. After repeated exposure, it started to sink in and the beauty of the album started to present itself. So many twists and turns and I will admit that on a sentimental level it is the perfect Red Hot Chili Peppers album. A life changing piece of art that only served to inspire my fascination for the band. I was particularly attracted to the words of Anthony Kiedis and the way John Frusciante’s guitar sounded. It was all so unique to my ears and extremely emotional. I felt as a young teenage boy, the perfect band to help cope with the bizarre emotional changes and sexual evolution was Red Hot Chili Peppers. This unfortunately wasn’t something I would realise until my twenties because not long after my love affair with Red Hot Chili Peppers began me and my family moved from Mackay to Bundaberg and a new world of alienation and pain entered my world (the terror of changing towns and schools at the age of 13 going on 14 is truly painful) and I diverted my musical evolution into the world of heavy metal. I’m not ashamed of this, but it is only with hindsight that I’ve worked out that Red Hot Chili Peppers still had the capacity to help me cope with the angst of alienation. Either way, I still maintained a connection to the band.
The band released “Californication” in 1999 and at this point I was a fully immersed in the history of heavy metal. Luckily though, through my brother Ben and my very good friend T.French I was able to vicariously enjoy the release of “Californication.” This album saw the return of John Frusciante and helped kick-start a new era of popularity and creative evolution for the band. I remember at that point in time, a lot of people didn’t seem to care too much about the band. The trend at that point in time was pop punk and nu-metal. That was fine, a lot of cool bands existed inside of those trends, but all of my fellow grade 11 colleagues seemed to ignore the band. T.French however was obsessed and I still remember his struggle to try to get the local record store to secure his copy. My brother Ben was also quite addicted to the band at this point in time (and still is) and he also had the same need to own “Californication.” Through both of them I was able to hear the next creative step for the band and although I was musing on heavier stuff, I fell in love with “Californication.” I used to sneak the album out of my Brothers room (who was fresh 18 at this point) and I’d listen to it non-stop. This was also a period of time when both T.French and my brother had both brought the VHS version of the bands “Funky Monks” documentary. So I watched this quite a bit and was thrown into a state of awe at how deep Red Hot Chili Peppers were in terms of their creative process. The real joy of musing on this period in time is the fact that 12 years later Me, Ben and T.French would finally be in a band together making music. Whenever I look at the way Galapogos makes music, I look back at that year and the way all three of us were investing in the art of Red Hot Chili Peppers and all secretly wanting to do that in a band situation. The process of patience will always ensure that you get to experience great rewards.
As high school came to an end and I entered the world I started to re-connect with a lot of the bands I loved in my early teens and 2001 was the year that I re-established my public love affair with Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had just got my first ever job and boycotted university culture in order to do a bit of living before jumping into more education. With all the money I earnt I just brought CD’s and music related “stuff and things.” I brought the entire Red Hot Chili Peppers discography and started to get into the early sounds of the band. It took me a while but after giving it the time it deserved I fell pretty hardcore for the bands pre-Frusciante material. The music contained on their self-titled release through to Uplift Mofo Party Plan is incredibly weird and incredibly punk. It has this Black Flag intensity with the nonsense of Butthole Surfers and a big dose of funkadelic grooves. It is my definition of Heavy and Weird (he just said the name of the blog GASP!!!!) and served as a real education in terms of understanding the journey of the band.
My favourite album from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers catalogue was released in 2002 and it is called “By The Way.” This album came out at a point in my life when I was going through some darkness. It is a darkness I’d prefer not to discuss but the shining light and movement of sound that helped bring love and light back into my world was communicated on “By The Way.” This is one of the most beautiful albums ever made and would certainly be in my top eleven albums of all time. The music is soaked in darkness but also painted with a lot of joy. It is the most emotional sounding Red Hot Chili Peppers album. It feels like the kind of album that The Beatles would have made if they were a funk band. It has that kind of revolution attached to it. I’ve had to buy a total of four copies of this CD over the years due to me wearing it out. This album saved me and helped bring me out of the dirty dark funk I was in and inspired me once again to choose love over fear.
This rescuing from darkness scenario happened once again when the band released the double album masterpiece “Stadium Arcadium” and their most recent album “I’m With You.” At both points in time I was navigating the darkness and these albums helped bring light and love to my existence. Their music was like a warm hug and an understanding ear. It helped make me realise that there was good air to breathe. A perfect example of that was when I got see them live in 2007. The audience wanted the hits, I just wanted the band to Jam and improvise. We got the latter with some songs mixed in. All the fevered egos booed them and left the concert but me and D.Zorzan stayed and had our minds blown by the love being communicated by the band.
So I guess that brings me to the conclusion and the question of “What have the Red Hot Chili Peppers taught me?”
Red Hot Chili Peppers have taught me a lot both as a human being and as a musician. As a musician they have taught me that to play in a great band you have to be in love with the people you play with and through this love you have to be able to read each other using the power of sexual energy. Through this sexual energy you are able to create and improvise without words and you can invest in the moment and make sound that is coming from the joint emotional experiences in that jam room. Sexual Energy is important when it comes to making music, because a good band will be able to read each other when they are playing without using verbal communications. It will be a total process of feel and moving as one collective conciousness and to have each beating heart at the centre of it. It’s the same energy that exists at the centre of a great sexual experience and that great release you get from playing is the point of orgasm. That is why Galapogos can improvise everything we do because we are five individuals that love each other deeply and respect each other. We don’t compete with each other and for us the ego is the song and the music we make and we as five individuals must all move as one to make sure that our purest and most deepest emotions are communicated through our playing. It is an incredibly spiritual process for us and this is something we learnt from Red Hot Chili Peppers. It has to be spiritual and about a love of each other. Through that love you are able to reach a sound that is unique and the accurate reflection of our souls. We’ll leave all the chest beating and musical gymnastics to the fevered egos, our message like Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of love but it is coming from the darkness of life and the journey you have to take in order to reach the light. I could go deeper about why they are so important to me and give you paragraphs about how they made take pride in loving a man, but I think my above point is the most vital reason as to why Red Hot Chili Peppers are such an important band for me and I suspect a great many people.
May they make music for another million years
Big Love to you all you true believers
By Dan Newton xo