Red Hot Chili Peppers members Anthony Kiedis and Flea sat down for an honest chat on the This Little Light podcast, revealing that the lead singer has a history of difficulty considering himself a musician.
Though admitting that interviewing his Chili Peppers bandmate felt “weird,” Flea dove right into discussing Kiedis' start in music, and specifically, how he learned without being taught. “When I say I had no education,” Kiedis began, “I never studied music formally. I never had music classes or a music teacher or anything like that.” Noting that remaining untrained as a vocalist allowed him to access his, “truest voice in a way,” Kiedis managed to learn about music through immersion. “There were a few years where you and I… all we did was listen to music,” he said, referencing the band’s high school days. “And for some reason, you guys had the most elevated taste and good music.”
“We were studying it!” Flea added excitedly. “We were listening, saying like, ‘It’s study time’ but we were just listening.” And Kiedis agreed, saying “I didn’t realize we were in class, but we were in class.” The two have known each other since they were kids and even formed a high school band when Kiedis was only thinking about being a singer. “I liked singing along with the radio. I didn’t know there was work involved or what the process was, or even what [being a singer] meant,” the sixty-year-old recalled. “I guess it was like, a little quiet dream inside of me to be a singer.” He had difficulty accepting his role as a singer, especially as he expressed that his bandmates were “way more musically involved” and “studious” than himself. His ‘imposter’ feeling appeared to continue even as the band began to perform, make money, and begin their careers together.
As they started to discuss writing their first songs, Flea recalled, “you used to make this joke, about ‘The Idiot and the Three Geniuses,'” with Kiedis grunting in agreement. “I feel like you say you don’t study and it just comes, but you’re always studying. I see you always studying, always working, and always doing stuff to create.” He added later in the podcast, “I see you, you always get better. Every record, you’re better.”
“Wow. Thank you,” Kiedis replied, though he sounded reluctant to believe his friend. He went on, “When I say ‘Idiot and the Three Geniuses’, I think it’s like there is a lot of value in the idiot. I don’t say that to self-deprecate, I take it as a compliment.” Kiedis explained, “There’s something really nice that happens when you combine the educated with the raw, it creates a very unique sound.”
“As far as growing and evolving,” Kiedis continued, “that’s just me keeping pace. I’m still reacting, I’m still listening. I’m still basing the majority of what I sing and write on the music.” Still reluctant to give himself any credit, he told Flea, “typically it’s just me listening to you guys and go, ‘oh my god I know what to do on this part!'”
Whether Anthony Kiedis will call himself a musician or not, Flea summed it up best: “I think if you had had a music theory education, like if you were a guy that was studying scales and voice and all that, we wouldn’t have had a chance. There’s no way.” As Kiedis chuckled in the background, Flea continued, “We wouldn’t have had the chance to connect to people in the way that we did.”