Kiedis performing in 2016
November 1, 1962
Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
The Rainy Lithuanian
Antoine the Swan
Anthony Kiedis ( KEE-dis; born November 1, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter and rapper. He is best known as a founding member and the lead vocalist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and has appeared on every album released by the band. Kiedis and his fellow band members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.
Kiedis spent his youth in Grand Rapids, Michigan with his mother, then moved shortly before his twelfth birthday to live with his father in Hollywood. While attending Fairfax High School, Kiedis developed close friendships with fellow students Michael Balzary (later known as Flea) and Hillel Slovak, who at the time were members of a band called Anthym. After high school, Kiedis began taking classes at UCLA, but dropped out early in his sophomore year.
He later received an offer to be the opening act for a local band, and enlisted Flea, Slovak, and drummer Jack Irons to assist. After a show under the name "Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem", the band progressed and the line-up eventually became the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
He has recorded eleven studio albums with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Kiedis' lyrical style has evolved throughout his career; early recordings discussed topics such as sex and life in Los Angeles, while more recent songs focus on more reflective themes including love, addiction, and loss. Additionally, his vocal style has shifted from rapping to more conventional singing. He struggled with addiction for the majority of his life up until the year 2000 and has since remained drug free.
Kiedis was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Margaret "Peggy" (Noble) and actor John Michael Kiedis, known professionally as Blackie Dammett. His paternal grandfather's family emigrated from Lithuania in the early 1900s; the remainder of his ancestry includes Irish, English, French and Dutch. In 1966, when he was three years old, his parents divorced and he was then raised by his mother in Grand Rapids. His mother later remarried and had two more children, Anthony's half sisters. Each summer, he would visit his father in Hollywood for two weeks, a time during which the two would bond. He idolized his father and recalled, "Those trips to California were the happiest, most carefree, the-world-is-a-beautiful-oyster times I'd ever experienced."  In 1974, when Kiedis was twelve years old, he moved to Hollywood to live with his father full-time.
His father was a struggling actor who sold drugs, which had a significant impact on Kiedis, as the two would often use marijuana and cocaine together. Kiedis accidentally tried heroin for the first time at age 14, mistaking the substance for cocaine. Through his father Blackie, Kiedis, who worked under the stage name of Cole Dammett, landed his first acting role appearing as Sylvester Stallone's character's son in the 1978 film, F.I.S.T. That same year he would land two more acting jobs, one being on an ABC Afterschool Special and the other an appearance in the film, Jokes My Folks Never Told Me.
Kiedis attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, where he struggled to find friends as he had recently transferred to a new school district. However, he soon met Flea, and after a brief confrontation, the two became best friends and bonded while sitting next to each other in driver's ed class. Kiedis recalled, "We were drawn to each other by the forces of mischief, love, and The Grateful Dead. We became virtually inseparable. We were both social outcasts. We found each other and it turned out to be the longest-lasting friendship of my life." Kiedis became a significant influence on Flea, exposing him to rock music, particularly punk rock. Kiedis and Flea began jumping into swimming pools from buildings as a hobby. At age 15, Kiedis broke his back attempting to jump into a swimming pool from a five-story building, missing the pool by a few inches. His back has since improved, although he still has occasional problems.
At age 15, Kiedis met future bandmate Slovak after seeing him perform with his band Anthym. After the show, Slovak invited Kiedis to his house for a snack. Kiedis later described the experience in his autobiography Scar Tissue: "Within a few minutes of hanging out with Hillel, I sensed that he was absolutely different from most of the people I'd spent time with...He understood a lot about music, he was a great visual artist, and he had a sense of self and a calm about him that were just riveting." Slovak, Kiedis, and Flea became best friends and often used LSD, heroin, cocaine, and speed recreationally. Despite his frequent drug use, he excelled in school, often receiving straight A grades. In June 1980, Kiedis graduated with honors from high school. That August, he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles to study writing.
After Kiedis began working with Flea and Jack Irons, he was described as a "manic master of ceremonies" before he even began singing for the group. Irons and Hillel Slovak had begun playing together in high school while performing in a band called Chain Reaction. The group included then bassist Tom Strasman and Chilean-born vocalist and guitarist Alain Johannes. With Strasman set on becoming a lawyer, he quit the band to keep his grades up and focus on college. At this point, Flea was brought into the mix. Shortly after hanging out with the band, and attending a few shows, Kiedis was offered a position in the band by Flea. He began as a "hype man", going out in front of the band blurting out jokes to the audience and getting them pumped up. "
Kiedis, Slovak, and Flea began to create their own music after finding inspiration in a punk-funk fusion band called Defunkt. Kiedis rejected the violence and misogyny associated with the Los Angeles punk rock scene at the time, and wished to create a more peaceful environment that would encourage women to come to concerts. The three formed a band with former Anthym-drummer Jack Irons, called Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. The band had only one song, titled "Out in L.A.", and was formed for the purpose of playing the song once. The song was based on a guitar riff that Slovak wrote while "jamming" with Irons, and was not meant to become a real song until Kiedis decided to rap over the music. Mike Chester, a friend of Kiedis', invited the band to open for his act Mike and Neighbor's Voices at The Rhythm Lounge, as he felt that Kiedis had potential as a frontman. Slovak and Flea were initially skeptical, and felt that Kiedis did not have enough vocal experience, but the two eventually agreed to perform. Kiedis later described the performance: "All the anticipation of the moment hit me, and I instinctively knew that the miracle of manipulating energy and tapping into an infinite source of power and harnessing it in a small space with your friends was what I had been put on this earth to do."
Following the group's first show at The Rhythm Lounge, the owner of the bar asked them to return, but with two songs instead of one. After several more shows, and the addition of several songs to their repertoire, the band's name was changed to Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band's concert repertoire grew to ten songs as a result of months of playing at local nightclubs and bars. At a performance at a strip club in Hollywood called Kit Kat Club, the band members performed wearing only socks on their penises, an idea formed by Kiedis. This gained the band notoriety, and club owners even began booking the group on the condition that they would perform in this manner. The Red Hot Chili Peppers entered Bijou Studios to record a demo tape and subsequently secured a record deal with EMI. Irons and Slovak, however, decided to leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers in order to pursue a "more serious" future with their band Anthym, which by this time had been renamed What Is This? Kiedis ultimately respected the decision, but felt the band would be lost without them. Kiedis and Flea hired drummer Cliff Martinez from The Weirdos and guitarist Jack Sherman to fill Iron's and Slovak's places, respectively.Andy Gill, formerly of Gang of Four, agreed to produce their first album, 1984's The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Gill and Sherman clashed with Kiedis and Flea; they continuously argued over music style, sound, and the album's production. Sherman was fired from the band following the tour and replaced by a returning Slovak.
Funk musician George Clinton was hired to produce the band's second album, Freaky Styley, as Slovak returned on guitar. The strong chemistry between Clinton and the Chili Peppers was felt instantly. Freaky Styley was released in August 1985. It received only a bit more attention than The Red Hot Chili Peppers with roughly 75,000 copies sold by year's end. The band hired Michael Beinhorn, their last resort among potential producers, to work on their next album. What Is This? had finally disbanded, and Irons returned to the Chili Peppers in mid-1986 after Martinez was fired. Flea, Slovak and Kiedis especially were involved in heavy drug use and their relationships became strained. Flea recalled that "it began to seem ugly to me and not fun; our communication was not healthy". Kiedis became dependent on heroin, leaving Flea and Slovak to work on much of the album's material by themselves. Both Kiedis and Slovak struggled with debilitating heroin addictions, which grew worse as the band was preparing to record The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. Due to his addiction, Kiedis lacked the motivation to contribute to the band musically, and appeared at rehearsal "literally asleep". He was asked to leave the band in order to undergo drug rehabilitation. During that time, the band won the LA Weekly Band of the Year award, which prompted Kiedis to quit using heroin cold turkey. He visited his mother in Michigan for guidance, who drove him to drug rehabilitation immediately after picking him up from the airport upon seeing his unhealthy appearance. Kiedis checked into a Salvation Army rehabilitation clinic in Grand Rapids, an experience which he initially detested until he noted that the other people in the clinic were understanding of his struggles and were trying to help him. He moved in with his mother after twenty days at the clinic, a time which marked the first time he was completely abstinent from drugs since he was eleven years old. After Kiedis completed his stint in rehabilitation, he felt a "whole new wave of enthusiasm" due to his sobriety and wrote the lyrics to a new song titled "Fight Like a Brave" on the flight home.
He rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles to record the album. Upon returning home, he began dating actress Ione Skye, whom Flea had met while appearing with her in the 1987 science fiction film Stranded. Although Kiedis had recently become clean, his withdrawal symptoms increased and affected his musical contributions to the group. After fifty days of sobriety, Kiedis decided to take drugs again as a one-time attempt to celebrate his new music, which led to his resumed addiction. The recording process for the album became difficult as Kiedis would often disappear to seek drugs. Producer Michael Beinhorn recalled that "There were points in pre-production where I really thought the record wasn't gonna get made." Kiedis felt "excruciating pain and guilt and shame" when he would miss a recording session so he would try to write lyrics while searching for drugs; although the band members were upset by his drug use and frequent disappearances, they were impressed with his musical output at the time.
After the international tour in support of Uplift, Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988. Following Slovak's death, Kiedis fled to a small fishing village in Mexico and did not attend his funeral, considering the situation to be surreal and dreamlike. Although he found the death to be a shock, he initially was not "scared straight" and continued to use heroin. A few weeks later, his friend convinced him to check into rehab and visit Slovak's grave, which inspired him to get clean. Irons was unable to cope with Slovak's death and subsequently quit the band, saying that he did not want to be part of something that resulted in the death of his friend. Kiedis and Flea decided to continue making music, hoping to continue what Slovak "helped build".
Following Slovak's death, Kiedis and Flea took some time to collect themselves, but decided to keep the band together. Guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight and drummer D.H. Peligro were added to replace Slovak and Irons. McKnight soon began to create tension within the group, as his style did not mesh with the rest of the band. Peligro, the former drummer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, was a friend of John Frusciante, an eighteen-year-old guitarist and avid Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Peligro introduced Frusciante to Flea, and the three jammed together on several occasions. Kiedis was impressed with Frusciante's skill, and astonished by his knowledge of the Chili Peppers' repertoire. McKnight was fired, and Frusciante accepted an invitation to join the band. The band started writing music for the next album and finished out 1988 with a brief tour. Peligro was fired in November and through auditions, the Chili Peppers brought in drummer Chad Smith as his replacement shortly after.
The Chili Peppers entered the studio, and completed recording of their fourth album, Mother's Milk, in early 1989. Upon release, the album was met with mixed reactions from critics, but received far more commercial attention, peaking at number fifty-two on the Billboard 200. Although his band was experiencing greater success, Kiedis' withdrawal symptoms took a toll on his personal life. This led to the end of his two-year relationship with Ione Skye in December 1989: "I had managed to stay sober by not ingesting drugs, so my body had healed from all that torturous activity, but my mind still wasn't healthy enough to work out all the problems that come up in a relationship." In 1990 Kiedis received a conviction for indecent exposure and sexual battery in Virginia related to an incident at George Mason University in Fairfax County in April 1989. He was ordered to pay a fine on both counts.
The band sought to record their next album Blood Sugar Sex Magik in an unconventional setting, believing it would enhance their creative output. The band's producer Rick Rubin suggested the mansion magician Harry Houdini once lived in, to which they agreed. A crew was hired to set up a recording studio and other equipment required for production in the house. The band decided that they would remain inside the mansion for the duration of recording, though Smith, convinced the location was haunted, refused to stay. During this stage, Kiedis began to write about anguish, and the self-mutilating thoughts he would experience as a result of his heroin and cocaine addiction. Chili Peppers producer Rick Rubin stumbled upon one of Kiedis's poems that would become the lyrics to "Under the Bridge", and suggested Kiedis show it to the rest of the band. Kiedis was apprehensive because he believed the lyrics to be "too soft" and unlike the band's style. After singing the verse to Frusciante, they began structuring the song the next day. The two worked for several hours arranging chords and melodies until they both agreed it was complete. The song later became a major hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard 100. When Blood Sugar Sex Magik was released on September 24, 1991, it received an overwhelmingly positive critical response. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 200, and went on to sell over seven million copies in the U.S. alone. The album's ensuing tour was critically acclaimed--the Chili Peppers commonly performed shows with over twenty thousand in attendance. Up-and-coming bands Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Smashing Pumpkins also toured with them during their United States tour. The massive attention the Chili Peppers started receiving caused Frusciante to feel extremely uncomfortable, and he abruptly quit the band during the Japanese leg of the album's tour. The band hired guitarist Arik Marshall to complete the remaining tour dates. The band appeared live on the Grammy's ceremony with George Clinton's P-Funk collective and many others, performing a medley that included "Give It Away".
Months went by, and only small amounts of material were written leading Chad Smith to publicly announce that Kiedis was suffering from writer's block (something Kiedis denied). The rest of the recording was completed within the next month and their sixth album One Hot Minute was released in September 1995, featuring the band's new guitarist Dave Navarro. The album was met with mixed reviews and was a major departure from the band's funk-punk sound. The tour to support the album was also met with mixed results. Chad Smith broke his arm prior to the launch of the U.S. tour in 1995 so it was delayed until early 1996. Near the tour's end, Kiedis was involved in a motorcycle accident which left him with a broken arm. The tour ended with the band's final set being cut short due to a massive typhoon. 1997 was dubbed by the band the year of nothing.
The band regrouped in 1998 to begin writing for their seventh studio album; however, Navarro was now battling his own drug problems. This caused major tension between Kiedis and Navarro, who was fired from the band in early 1998. Flea informed Kiedis that he felt the only way the band could possibly continue is if Frusciante re-joined the band. In the years following Frusciante's departure from the Chili Peppers, he had developed a vicious addiction to both heroin and cocaine that left him in poverty and near death. He was talked into admitting himself to drug rehabilitation in January 1998. In April 1998, following Frusciante's three-month completion, Flea visited his former bandmate and openly invited him to re-join the band, an invitation Frusciante readily accepted. Within the week, and for the first time in six years, the foursome gathered to play and jump-started the newly reunited Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band released Californication on June 8, 1999. Immediately following the release of Californication, the band embarked on a world tour to support the record, beginning in the United States. To culminate the US leg of their tour, the Chili Peppers were asked to close Woodstock '99, which became infamous for the violence it resulted in. The band was informed minutes before arriving that the crowds and bonfires in the fields had gone out of control. When the Chili Peppers performed a tribute to Jimi Hendrix's song "Fire" to finish their set as a favor to Hendrix's sister, the disruption escalated into violence when several women who had been crowd surfing and moshing were raped and nearby property was looted and destroyed.
Kiedis felt that "It was clear that this situation had nothing to do with Woodstock anymore. It wasn't symbolic of peace and love, but of greed and cashing in... We woke up to papers and radio stations vilifying us for playing 'Fire'." The writing and formation of By the Way began immediately following the culmination of Californication's world tour, in the Spring of 2001. As with Californication, much of the creation took place in the band members' homes, and other locations of practice, such as a recording studio stage. Kiedis recalled of the situation: "We started finding some magic and some music and some riffs and some rhythms and some jams and some grooves, and we added to it and subtracted from it and pushed it around and put melodies to it." Frusciante and Kiedis would collaborate for days straight, discussing guitar progressions and sharing lyrics. For Kiedis, "writing By the Way...was a whole different experience from Californication. John was back to himself and brimming with confidence." The album marked a change in the band's sound, and Kiedis began writing songs reflective of his romantic relationships and drug addictions.
The formation and recording of Stadium Arcadium took place at "The Mansion", the former home of Harry Houdini where the Chili Peppers had recorded their 1991 breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Kiedis noted that during the recording process of the album "everybody was in a good mood. There was very little tension, very little anxiety, very little weirdness going on and every day we showed up to this funky room in the Valley, and everyone felt more comfortable than ever bringing in their ideas." The album was released on May 9, 2006.
Following a hugely successful world tour to support Stadium Arcadium, the band decided to take an extended year long break from music in 2008. According to Kiedis, there was a collective decision "not [to] do anything Red Hot Chili Peppers-related for a minimum of one year. [...] We started in 1999, with the writing and the recording of Californication, and we didn't really stop until the tour ended last year. We were all emotionally and mentally zapped at the end of that run." During the break, Frusciante departed amicably with the band in July 2009 (although it wasn't publicly announced until December 2009). Josh Klinghoffer, a touring guitarist for the Chili Peppers and often collaborator with Frusciante was hired as his replacement.
On August 26, 2011, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their tenth album, I'm with You. On December 7, 2011, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were named 2012 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Kiedis said it was very emotional and the first person he told was his father, who cried when hearing the news. On January 11, 2012, the Chili Peppers announced that they were forced to postpone the U.S. leg of their I'm with You tour due to multiple foot injuries suffered by Kiedis. Kiedis has been battling through foot injuries since 2006 when he injured his foot onstage and finally was able to have surgery during a break in the band's tour in January 2012. During the surgery, Kiedis had a crushed sesamoid bone removed and a detached flexor tendon repaired. The band was able to resume their tour and kicked off the U.S. leg on March 29, 2012. The tour in support of I'm with You ended in April 2013 and the band continued touring into mid-2014 which included a halftime performance with Bruno Mars at the Super Bowl in February 2014.
In November 2014, Kiedis set out on a mini-book tour to promote the Chili Peppers book, Fandemonium. This included book signings, a Q&A and an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon where Kiedis sat in the entire show with The Roots performing Chili Peppers songs.
Kiedis received the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, presented at the UCLA Spring Sing on May 16, 2015. Kiedis' mother, Peggy Noble Idema, commented on her son receiving the award by saying "This really makes me proud. Both my parents and Grandpa Idema were huge Gershwin fans. I grew up with their music." Following his acceptance speech, Kiedis was joined on stage by his Chili Peppers bandmate Josh Klinghoffer for an acoustic performance of "Otherside", a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "If You Want Me to Stay" and "By the Way".
On May 14, 2016, the band were forced to cancel their headlining slot at the annual KROQ Weenie Roast, as Kiedis was rushed to the hospital prior to the band appearing on stage. It was confirmed that Kiedis was suffering from intestinal flu and was expected to make a full recovery soon however the band was forced to postpone their iHeartRadio album preview show on May 17, 2016 (rescheduling it for May 26). Kiedis and the Chili Peppers returned to the stage on May 22, 2016 in Columbus, OH. According to the band's drummer Chad Smith, Kiedis was suffering from a stomach flu a few weeks earlier and it had returned on the night they were set to perform. In a May 20, 2016 interview with Entertainment Tonight Canada, his first since being released from the hospital, Kiedis said that his illness was brought on by an "inflammation in my guts" which he said was complicated by a recent stomach virus and existing scar tissue from previous hernia operations which required his stomach being pumped at the hospital due to his food not being able to properly digest. "That becomes an incredibly painful situation where you get a fever and pass out... Lo an behold, I'm on the mend" He went on to say "so it turned out to be a good thing, albeit painful and very sad to have to cancel a show. We don't really do that. I'd rather play deathly ill than not play at all, but in this particular instance, I was starting to go down, as in to the ground, so I got rushed to the hospital, got some help, and now I get to figure things out."
During a break in filming of The Late Late Show with James Corden carpool karaoke segment which aired on June 14, 2016 and featured the band singing karaoke to their music with the host while driving through Los Angeles, Kiedis performed emergency CPR on a baby. "A woman came out of her house, holding a child saying, 'My baby, my baby, my baby can't breathe!'" Kiedis said. "The woman thrust the baby into my arms, the baby was not breathing and I thought, 'I'm gonna try and do a little baby CPR real quick, see if I can get some air in this kid. So I started rubbing the belly, bubbles came out of the mouth, the eyes rolled back into place, the ambulance showed up and I handed the baby over, who was now breathing and fine, and we went back to Carpool Karaoke."
The Red Hot Chili Peppers released their eleventh studio album, The Getaway, on June 17, 2016.
On July 13, 2016, Kiedis appeared on the television show, Jay Leno's Garage.
In December 2019, the Red Hot Chili Peppers announced that guitarist John Frusciante would be returning to replace Josh Klinghoffer. The band will focus on making a new album, which they hope to have released in 2020, along with performing a few festival dates.
Using the stage name Cole Dammett (adapted from his father's stage name, Blackie Dammett), Kiedis landed a number of small roles in television and film as a teenager in the late 1970s. His early credits include F.I.S.T. and the 1978 ABC Afterschool Special It's a Mile from Here to Glory. Resuming his acting work in the 1990s, Kiedis played a hooligan surfer named Tone, in the 1991 Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze movie Point Break. The Chase, a 1994 movie starring Charlie Sheen as an estranged man trying to escape the cops with a young woman he kidnapped, had Flea and Kiedis playing metalheads who chase Sheen's character in a 4 × 4 truck and end up crashing.
He also organized the New American Music Union, a two-day summer music festival set for August 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He assembled a lineup of musicians including Bob Dylan, The Raconteurs, Gnarls Barkley, The Roots, and a second stage featuring college bands. (The lineup did not include Kiedis or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.) In 2011, Kiedis, along with his son Everly, appeared in the documentary, Bob and the Monster. The documentary details the life and career of musician and drug counselor, Bob Forrest. On May 11, 2011, Anthony donated a MTV European Music Award that the band had previously won to help raise funds for ongoing relief in devastated areas of Japan, which was hit with an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
On January 11, 2019, Kiedis co-authored a Rolling Stone opinion piece with Rory Kennedy, a filmmaker and daughter of Robert Kennedy, and the Malibu Foundation's Trevor Neilson in which he listed the human, financial and environmental cost of global climate conditions. Kiedis said "since our federal government is failing us, we must rely on our state and local governments to lead the charge." Three days later, Kiedis and the Chili Peppers performed at a benefit for the victims of the Woolsey Fire in California. The fires destroyed over 1,500 homes, killed four people and also forced Kiedis, his family and band members to evacuate their homes as well. The recording of the band's twelfth album was also put on hold due to the deadly fires. Drummer Chad Smith said "myself and Anthony both live in Point Dume. Seventy houses in our neighborhood burned down. Ours was spared, luckily."
Kiedis' father, Blackie Dammett, is an actor who has appeared in over 50 movies and television shows. Dammett's autobiography, Lords of the Sunset Strip, was released on March 31, 2013. Through Dammett, Kiedis also has a much younger half-brother. During the Chili Peppers show of June 25, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Kiedis dedicated "Soul to Squeeze" to his father who was losing his battle with dementia. "My father is fixin' to die and that's OK. He's had a wild, great journey and a helluva colourful badass life but he's sick and he's going to die now. He's pretty lost; he's just a spirit but I would like for everyone just to take ten seconds to send him some love to send his spirit some love because pretty soon he will be sailing on and I would appreciate it if his hometown could send him love for a whole ten seconds of love. Let's give it up. Ten! Thank you. Let's do this tune. Appreciate it."
Kiedis has a son named Everly Bear born October 2, 2007, from a relationship with model Heather Christie which lasted from 2004 to 2008. Christie, who was 18 when they began dating (Kiedis was 41), served as an inspiration for his lyrics on the band's 2006 album Stadium Arcadium. Songs like "She's Only 18" and "Desecration Smile" were written directly about Christie. In March 2018, Kiedis and Christie were involved in a custody battle over Everly.
As with Christie, many of Kiedis' former relationships have inspired his music. Kiedis had a brief relationship in 1990 with singer Sinéad O'Connor who inspired him to write "I Could Have Lied" on 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik. A brief fling with Spice Girls singer Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm inspired "Emit Remmus" from 1999's Californication, his band also covered their song "Wannabe" at a 1997 concert in Japan. His relationship with Yohanna Logan, whom Kiedis dated on and off from 1998-2003, served as a positive inspiration on songs from the Californication era such as the outtake "Fat Dance" while their breakup inspired 2002's By the Way album and many of its song lyrics.
A failed two-year relationship with Australian model Helena Vestergaard, who was 19 when they began dating in 2012 (he was 50), served as a major influence on his songwriting for the band's 2016 album, The Getaway which often had Kiedis questioning their relationship and the age difference between the two. "Lyrically, I'm embarrassed to say, but a two-year relationship that completely fell apart like a nuclear bomb just left me feeling pretty raw and available to the emotional universe for writing. So even though the relationship was a bit of a disaster, I feel that in some way I did get something out of it, which was about half the songs on this record," Kiedis said.
In a June 2016 interview, Kiedis opened up about his past relationships saying that there were years when he had over 100 sexual partners and stated "If I saw a pretty girl, I wanted to have her." When asked about marriage and growing old and alone Kiedis responded by saying "Maybe it is because I never learned to live in a relationship and as silly as it sounds, I do not understand women yet. They remain a mystery. I talked about this yesterday with a friend: do we focus on finding a person who fits with us, or will we remain single? I am open to both. If the right one comes - wonderful. If not, I accept what the universe has intended for me."
Kiedis has acknowledged having twice committed statutory rape (of a 14-year-old when he was 23), which inspired him to write the song "Catholic School Girls Rule".
Kiedis has battled drug addiction, including heroin and cocaine, throughout his life. Since his father was an addict, Kiedis was constantly exposed to drug-using and drug-dealing behavior while growing up. Some of Kiedis's early drug use came from substances he got from his father, including marijuana, which he first smoked when he was 12 years old.
He used drugs for years, including during the formation of the band, where other members were also using. A few years into the band's career, he was briefly fired due to his heavy drug use, and at times it got so bad that he failed to show up to some of the band's performances. One night, Kiedis decided to go out and score drugs, which made him miss a performance so the band replaced him with singer Keith Morris.
He tried to get clean after Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose while speedballing on June 25, 1988, saying he would never shoot up again. He entered rehab and ended up staying clean for five years, but he relapsed in 1994, causing a major delay in the release of the band's 1995 album, One Hot Minute, and he kept using on and off over the next six years.
The last major relapse was instigated by a doctor prescribing him Tramadol despite Kiedis specifically asking for drugs that are not in the opiate family. To a recovering heroin addict, the synthetic opiate gives rise to strong cravings. He has reportedly avoided another relapse since December 24, 2000. "It's easy to be a junkie, but it's not easy to be one of the best guitarists or songwriters of all time", Kiedis said, referring to John Frusciante, in the March 2007 issue of Blender. In May 2012 after over twenty years of speculation Vulture stated that the location where Kiedis would purchase and use drugs which inspired "Under the Bridge" is located in MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, California, based on clues taken from Kiedis' memoir. In 2014, LA Weekly strongly asserted that the conclusion of the Vulture magazine piece is not correct.
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For over 30 years, Kiedis and Faith No More/Mr. Bungle singer Mike Patton have been involved in an ongoing feud. Faith No More (then fronted by Chuck Mosley) and The Red Hot Chili Peppers prior to the feud had toured together in support of their 1987 funk metal albums The Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Introduce Yourself. However, things turned ugly between the two in 1989 when Kiedis accused Mosley's replacement Patton of imitating his style on stage and in their music video for their biggest hit "Epic" (from 1989's follow up to Introduce Yourself, The Real Thing). Kiedis remembered, "I watched [their] "Epic" video, and I see him jumping up and down, rapping, and it looked like I was looking in a mirror. I love The Real Thing, and I liked his vocals on that record. I mean, when I heard the record I noticed subtle similarities, but when I saw that video it was like, 'Wait a second here, what the fuck?'". At the time, Kiedis stated to the media: "My drummer says he's gonna kidnap [Patton], shave his hair off and cut off one of his feet, just so he'll be forced to find a style of his own." Patton responded in 1990 by saying: "If he's gonna talk about me in interviews, that's fine - it's free press! Either he's feeling inadequate or old or I don't know, but I have no reason to talk shit about him."
Their relationship was thought to have improved in the ensuing years, with Kiedis and Patton having face to face meetings in the 1990s that were described as friendly. The feud between the two was unexpectedly reignited in 1999 when Mr. Bungle was scheduled to release their album California on June 8, 1999 but Warner Bros. Records pushed it back a week so as not to coincide with the Red Hot Chili Peppers similarly titled album, Californication, which was to be released on the same day. Following the album release date clash, Mr. Bungle claimed that Kiedis had them removed from a series of summer festivals in Europe claiming that as the headlining act at the festivals, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had final word on the bands that would appear.
According to Mr. Bungle themselves, Kiedis didn't know anyone involved with the band, aside from Mike Patton. The only time the bands had crossed paths was a chance encounter at the Warner Bros. Records headquarters in the early 1990s, after both had just gotten signed to the label. Patton stated to The A.V. Club, "Our agent was in the process of booking these festivals, and it was becoming apparent that we'd landed some pretty good ones--one in France, another one in Holland, some big-name festivals. Turns out someone's holding a grudge! We were booted off several bills, specifically because Anthony Kiedis did not want us on the bill. He threatened to pull the Chili Peppers if Mr. Bungle was on the bill." In a separate interview, he also clarified that "the rest of the band doesn't care. It's something to do with Anthony." Mr. Bungle's guitarist Trey Spruance added, "We were booked, months in advance, to do eleven festival dates in Europe. Come summer, we get a call from the three biggest of those festivals, all of them the same day, saying that we can't play because the headlining band retains the right to hire and fire whomever they wish. We found out it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so our manager called their manager to find out what the hell was going on, and their manager was very apologetic, and said, 'We're really sorry, we want you to know this doesn't reflect the management's position, or the band's for that matter. It's Anthony Kiedis who wants this.'"
In retaliation to being thrown off the festival shows, Mr. Bungle parodied the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Pontiac, Michigan on Halloween of 1999. Patton introduced each Mr. Bungle band member with the name of one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, before covering the songs "Give It Away", "Around the World", "Scar Tissue" and "Under the Bridge". He deliberately used incorrect lyrics for the covers, including "Sometimes I feel like a fucking junkie" on "Under the Bridge". Patton impersonated Kiedis by wearing a blonde wig and speaking with a lisp. While pretending to be Kiedis, he mockingly said to the crowd: "Don't you call me Mike, my name is Anthony. How dare you make that mistake. Mike has been ripping me off for many years." The other members of Mr. Bungle also satirized many of the mannerisms of the band, mocking heroin injections, deceased guitarist Hillel Slovak, deceased friend River Phoenix and on-stage antics. Kiedis responded by having them removed from the 2000 Big Day Out festival in Australia and New Zealand. Kiedis said of the festival shows, "I would not have given two fucks if they played there with us. But after I heard about [the] Halloween show where they mocked us, fuck him and fuck the whole band." Patton went on to claim that the actions of the Red Hot Chili Peppers had "ruined" Mr. Bungle's career, while bassist Trevor Dunn remarked, "It screwed up my life in a personal way" and "we should probably have sued them." Mr. Bungle ceased being active a year after the controversy with Kiedis.
The animosity continued into the 2000s. In a 2001 German television interview, Patton called Kiedis a "noodle dick" and a "junkie", even though he had been clean for nearly a year at that point. Dunn criticized the Chili Peppers on his personal webpage, specifically their bass player Flea, stating, "Flea, in all seriousness, really isn't that good. I mean c'mon, Red Hot Chili Peppers were vaguely interesting in the late 80s, but Christ, they fucking suck. They suck". Trey Spruance reflected on the Mr. Bungle feud by saying it was a "weird and unprofessional jealous vendetta from a huge successful band towards an industry pip-squeak." Patton was asked in 2010 about the festivals and his relationship with Kiedis. Patton said, "It's not worth talking about. I've no idea what it was about then and I don't know now. But I bet we'd have a warm embrace if we saw each other now." The Red Hot Chili Peppers went on to do a 2014 live cover of Faith No More's "We Care a Lot", a song from the Chuck Mosley era, rather than the Mike Patton era.
Several publications, such as Complex and Phoenix New Times, have since listed the Kiedis Patton feud as being one of the greatest beefs in the history of rock. Others have labelled it as a "funk metal feud" and "absurd."
In August 2016, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld injected himself into the feud, taking shots at the Chili Peppers and Kiedis after Flea posted video of him and Koko the gorilla. Gutfeld said, "As most musicians know, this is a vast improvement over the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the worst band on the planet. The ape is better than Anthony Kiedis. By the way, the ape is 45, which is half the age of Anthony Kiedis. Red Hot Chili Peppers, poor man's Faith No More. Don't ever forget it." After receiving major backlash from fans, Gutfeld decided to take further shots by saying, "Two days ago, I said that Red Hot Chili Peppers were the worst band on the planet. I received a lot of flack from fans all over the world. What I meant to say was the Red Hot Chili Peppers [are] the worst band in the universe. I'd like to apologize for that confusion. I want to explain that we live in a binary universe," he continued. "You're either a Faith No More fan, or a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. You cannot love Mike Patton and Anthony Kiedis, because they are two different people. You have to love Mike Patton, you cannot love Anthony Kiedis. So that is why the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the worst band in the universe, because Faith No More is the greatest band in the universe." Flea responded to Gutfeld's comments a few days later saying, "I remember seeing a poll recently that said people who watch Fox News knew less about world affairs than people who watch no news at all. It's clearly a funny program. It doesn't faze me, not really. I heard that. It's funny. I don't care. They're all welcome to hate us. God bless 'em."
While creating lyrics and melodies for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiedis has drawn from various sources for inspiration. His first musical memory was hearing Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" at age eleven: "It moved me so much that I insisted my mother buy me the 45." In high school, he was highly influenced by the rap-style vocals of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message" and the "in-your-face sexual lyrics" of Prince's "Dirty Mind". Kiedis writes most of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' lyrics. Starting with 1989's Mother's Milk album, John Frusciante and Flea have written nearly all of the music (excluding melodies) for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, while Kiedis adds lyrics and melodies he hears during instrumental jams by his bandmates. Kiedis said in 2006, "Somehow I find songs... in the bigness of what they're doing." His lyrical style has varied over the years. During the band's early years, Kiedis wrote many lyrics detailing his enjoyment of sex, drugs, and life in Los Angeles. As his musical tastes expanded and his outlook on life changed, he began writing songs about a wider spectrum of subjects. His lyrics include many of the same themes as the writings of Charles Bukowski, Kiedis' main literary influence.
His early vocal style with the band primarily consisted of rapping. On Mother's Milk (1989), Kiedis wrote more melody-driven songs, rather than the basic rhythm and beat style of funk. The first song where Kiedis employed his new melodic style was "Knock Me Down". The melody was actually shaped and performed by guitarist John Frusciante. Upon joining the band, Frusciante sang lead vocals on the song along with Kiedis. Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991 still saw Kiedis rapping, but he also started singing in songs such as "Under the Bridge", "Breaking the Girl", and "I Could Have Lied". Over the years, Kiedis grew to favor singing over rapping. Kiedis has had many vocal coaches, but none of them had helped him sing "well." In fact, it was not until 1999's Californication that he felt he could take full control of his voice while singing.
On October 6, 2004, Kiedis published a memoir titled Scar Tissue, which he co-wrote with author Larry Sloman. The book was originally intended to be a collection of stories of his childhood drug use, but evolved into a complete autobiography. He further explained: "One would just kind of assume that with all the [drug] consumption that my memory would be a bit shoddy. But it's actually pretty lucid, and better than both of my parents', or any of my friends'. My friends tried to recount these same stories, and they were like, 'Wow, I don't ... were we there?'" The book was an international bestseller.
In a June 2016 interview, Kiedis stated that he at first regretted writing Scar Tissue saying "I did regret the book for a while as there was some pain caused--then, I started seeing the long term positive reverberating. People were reading it in hospitals, in prisons and schools, and it was having a positive effect. I realised that the whole point of writing that book wasn't for me, but to show that somebody can go all the way down and come all the way back and have a productive, successful happy interesting life. And so whatever shame, pain or difficulty or discomfort I went through, then it was worth it because I get so many people coming up to me saying their kids had read it and got their act together because of it." Kiedis has stated that due to the subject matter in his book, especially his reflections on his sexual relationships, that he hopes that his family hasn't read his book. "I have asked everyone in my family not to read the book." Kiedis said.
Kiedis was developing a series for HBO based on his unconventional upbringing in Los Angeles. The show was expected to be loosely based on much of Kiedis' autobiography. He had partnered with Catapult 360 partners Marc Abrams and Michael Benson to create the series, titled Spider and Son. The series would center on Kiedis's relationship with his father, Blackie Dammett, who sold many drugs and mingled with rock stars on the Sunset Strip, all while aspiring to get into show business. The show was scheduled to premiere in late 2010 at the very earliest.
According to a post by Blackie on his Facebook page, the John Sayles script for the pilot episode was turned over to HBO on May 10, 2010. On October 14, 2011 it was announced that HBO was no longer interested in the series and that FX has picked up the rights to air the series. John Sayles, who wrote a script for the HBO pilot is no longer involved in the project. Entourage producers, Esther Dawson and Mike Chester will still produce the series and Kiedis will also co-produce the series along with Bram Sheldon. It is unknown if the series will still follow the relationship between Kiedis and his father Blackie or if the entire autobiography will be the focus of the series. In 2013, Dammett briefly mentioned the status of the series, which will be based on both Kiedis and Dammett's biographies, but stated that it was "mothballed" with hopes of resuming it once the Chili Peppers concluded their tour that year.