This year marks the 23rd anniversary of one of rock music's most popular bands. It's hard to imagine that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been making music since 1983. From their self-titled debut CD to the new "Stadium Arcadium", the Red Hot Chili Peppers have sold more than 60 million albums in the USA. VOA's Larry London discussed the band's lasting success with drummer Chad Smith.
When they started, they were known as Tony Flow and The Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. Later that year, when they signed their first recording contract with EMI Records, they changed their name to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both the band and the name were the idea of lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary. After releasing 15 albums and earning numerous accolades, including their recent American Music Awards nomination, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been touring both in the U.S. and overseas.
Chad Smith tells VOA how amazed he is over the worldwide response to their music.
"You know, we have been very fortunate that even more so I think than in the United States we are more popular. We are more popular in Europe and Japan, South America. They are very loyal, very loyal fans,” says Smith. “You know, we just go and do our thing; they [fans] just love to rock out. They are different in different places. Ireland is different than Brazil, which is different than Germany. They are still … I mean, our music and rock music in general is the international language. It touches people."
"It is always exciting for us to go to new places where people have not seen us. We have just been up in Canada where we played Saskatoon and Winnipeg, which we have not been to before. We love going to new places -- Budapest and Prague. We played in Russia, in Red Square -- unbelievable. That was an incredible experience. In 2000 I think we played there. It was wild. Coming from America, being American in the '80s, the Russians were the bad guys and all that, and for us to come and play a free concert right in Red Square and 100,000 people come out and they all knew the words. Our records were not even out. They were like bootlegged, like black-market. It was raining and the Russian police were trying to get people to be very orderly. The kids, they just loved it and it was very inspiring … you know."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have definitely made a mark on music history.
Smith tells us, "There are not too many rock bands that are still relevant, that people care about their music when it comes out, that have been together. You can probably count them on one hand that have been together for over 20 years. Again, for four knuckleheads [men who do not take themselves seriously] from Hollywood you know, just to be doing our thing and people still digging it, we are just really pleased about that. I hope we can continue to grow and become an even better band, better musicians, and better people."
How much longer will it last?
“I am not sure. We just keep doing what we are doing, and that is all we can do because that is what we love to do, and we will keep doing it as long as we are still passionate and enjoy playing with each other and still challenging each other, and hopefully writing better songs and playing our instruments well, and happy and healthy. For right now, things are going great. Tomorrow is another day though. You never know."
Speaking of songwriting, one of this year's biggest hits has been "Dani California" which is a continuing story that lead singer Anthony Kiedis wrote about a girl. Might she resurface on your next album?
"The thing is with music that is great is that it is open for interpretation, and we do not tell anyone this is what it means or this is what it's supposed to mean. And sometimes when you do music videos, you are kind of dictating to the public what the band's idea of the song is. We try to make nice pieces of art that are not just commercials for our songs. So, Dani is -- I think this is the end of Dani. You know, rest in peace. I think that means the end of Dani unless she comes back as a ghost or something, but that is what is going on with that."
How much longer can the Red Hot Chili Peppers remain red hot?
"For whatever reason, the four of us were put on this planet. We found each other and we do not take it for granted. We really cherish this thing that we have and so we keep going, you know."
Video courtesy Warner Music