Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

Chili Peppers coming in hot with new album

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have stepped out of their comfort zone on their new album. Dominic Corry reports from Los Angeles.
Photo of the Red Hot Chili Peppers which includes Chad Smith, Anthony Kiedis, Josh Klinghoffer and Flea.
Photo of the Red Hot Chili Peppers which includes Chad Smith, Anthony Kiedis, Josh Klinghoffer and Flea.

Yesterday, at casa del Red Hot Chili Peppers in beachfront Malibu, the band had gathered in this most Californian of settings to talk up their eleventh studio album, The Getaway.

While frontman Anthony Kiedis had reportedly been hospitalised the previous week due to complications from intestinal flu, today he's looking healthy as he jokes around with his band mates.

"Yeah he's much better, thank you," says drummer Chad Smith later when we sit down for for a chat. "We're playing this weekend, so we're back at it. He's a strong lad so I'm glad it wasn't anything more serious."

Genial and mellow at the same time, Smith with RHCP bassist Flea has been one half of one of the great rock rhythm sections since he joined the band in the late 80s - just before they became a very big deal with the release of 1991's era-defining Blood Sugar Sex Magik album.

But in recent times he's become a sort of star in his own right - for his resemblance to comedian Will Ferrell.

The pair have exploited their physical similarties - and Ferrell's comparatively rudimentary rhythm skills - in a series of charity event and talk show "drum-offs" which the screen star usually clinches by employing a cowbell.

But it's back to the serious stuff for Smith with the release of The Getaway, which arrives five years after I'm With You.

"It is an evolution and it always should be, because we're always trying to grow and change and move forward," he says.

"But [guitarist] Josh [Klinghoffer] has been in our group now for five or six years now, he's still the new guy, but I think that he feels more comfortable and integrated with the band, we've been together longer, we've had more experience together, musically, personally, everything. So I think that's a big part of the difference in this record."

Although unquestionably a Red Hot Chili Peppers album, the creation of The Getaway represents a major departure for the band.

It's the first RCHP album not to be produced by the legendary Rick Rubin since Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

"We worked with Rick Rubin for all those years and there is a certain level, I guess, of comfort in what you have experienced before, and the unknown is always a little bit scary, if anything. But we just really felt it was time to jump off the cliff and see what happens. We thought it was time for something new and something different and a challenge for us to create music in a different way and Brian sure helped us do that."

"Brian" is Brian Burton, the acclaimed American songwriter/producer better known as "Danger Mouse", who first gained the world's attention when he masterfully mashed-up The Beatles and Jay-Z with 2004's The Grey Album.

He went on to form Gnarls Barkley and produced albums for Gorillaz and The Black Keys.

Despite all that success, Smith says the band couldn't help but feel a little nervous about what the new collaboration would mean for the band.

"I gotta tell you, we were a little concerned. One thing about Brian is that he will unabashedly say, 'I want people to hear records that I do and it sounds like a record that I did.' Which is kind of the opposite of Rick Rubin.

"But Brian has a specific thing that he likes and so we were a little wary of that. We wanna still sound like us, we don't wanna sound like a Danger Mouse album."

Again, The Getaway is definitely the Chili Peppers all the way, but you can detect a hint of a plucky spirit that can perhaps be attributed to Danger Mouse.

Chad Smith with doppelganger Will Ferrell.
Chad Smith with doppelganger Will Ferrell.

"He comes from more of a hip-hop world and so working with him - obviously we all love hip-hop very much - was the big difference in the creative process this time around. We normally write our songs together, and have for quite some time, and we had a bunch of songs and Brian was like, 'That's cool and I like those songs and I can help make 'em better, but if you really want to use what I do, my talent is being in the studio and starting songs from scratch and writing in the studio'.

"And at first we were kind of 'Hmmm..' but once we got in there and kind of did it, we were open to it and embraced it and he was right."

"We ended up probably doing half of the record that way, and the other songs are the way that we traditionally wrote 'em. Working like that and being open and embracing that way of writing which we've never done before, I think is a big part of why the record sounds the way it does. I'm really pleased with it."

Low down

Who: Chad Smith, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer and Will Ferrell lookalike
What: New album The Getaway
When: Out now

- TimeOut

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