Red Hot Chili Peppers: “The energy of Hillel Slovak has never truly faded”

"Hillel’s still there in our hearts, whether it’s 30, 40, 50, 60 or even 100"

Red Hot Chili Peppers have discussed their founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died in 1988 at the age of just 26, saying his energy has “never truly faded”.

Speaking to NME in an exclusive cover interview, featuring photographs by Oscar-winning director Gus Van Sant, the band spoke about their new album ‘Unlimited Love’, reuniting with former guitarist John Frusciante and more.

Discussing Slovak’s impact on the band ahead of what would have been his 60th birthday, frontman Anthony Kiedis said: “The energy of Hillel Slovak has never truly faded.

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“I wish Hillel hadn’t missed out on that first recording [self-titled debut ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’] in the first year,” he added. “We did some TV shows in 1984 and I look at them now and think: ‘Damn, I wish Hillel would have been there for that. He was a creator of the band. That was his baby.’

“Anyway, it was meant to be the way it was meant to be and it all fleshed out the way life goes… But Hillel’s still there in our hearts, whether it’s 30, 40, 50, 60 or even 100 [years].”

Red Hot Chili Peppers cover interview
Red Hot Chili Peppers on the cover of NME, shot by Gus Van Sant

Elsewhere in the interview, Kiedis and bassist Flea opened up about guitarist Frusciante‘s return to Red Hot Chili Peppers.

“The biggest event, honestly, was John returning to the band. That was the most monumental change in our lives. And God was I down for anything and everything,” Kiedis told NME.

The guitarist has been in and out of the band since the late ’80s and last appeared on 2006’s seven million-selling album ‘Stadium Arcadium’. Former tour understudy Josh Klinghoffer replaced Frusciante in 2009, appearing on 2011’s ‘I’m With You’ and 2016’s ‘The Getaway’.

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While working towards new album ‘Unlimited Love’, Kiedis and Flea had the realisation that something was missing.

“It was going slowly and without a real definitive drive to it. It was just sort of meandering,” Kiedis said. “And then both Flea and I had a zeitgeist of a feeling inside of ourselves independently which was: ‘It would be really nice to involve John somehow in this process.’ It had been a long time and he was making himself known in our circles again after having been in his very own circle.”

On rejoining the band, Frusciante told NME: “Flea had put the idea [of rejoining] in my head and I was sitting there with the guitar thinking that I hadn’t written any rock music in so long. Could I still do that?”

The band released a video for ‘Black Summer’, their first single in five years, last week, writing in the press release: “Thank you for listening, we hope you enjoy it. ROCK OUT MOTHERFUCKERS!”

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Unlimited Love’ is out on April 1 via Warner Bros.

The band will head out on a world stadium tour later this year – find tickets here.

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