19 de abril de 2020


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Robbie Allen hugged by Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante sometime in 1989.

John Frusciante effects had the privilegie to interview Robbie “Rule”Allen, who among many services with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was John Frusciante's guitar technician in his first time with the band. Robbie started working with them on The Uplift Mofo Party Plan tour selling T-shirts for the band, then went on to be a roadie, opened shows on the Mother's Milk tour with a comedy number and finally was a vocalist and supporting guitarist on One Hot Minute tour - a guy who has experienced many moments of the Chili Peppers. This interview took place on a Sunday afternoon in late February. "Rule" spoke to our collaborator Felipe Freitas directly from his home in Long Beach, resulting in almost an hour of chatting.

First of all we the John Frusciante Effects website want to thank you. We are very glad to have the opportunity. Your journey with the Chili Peppers began in the Upflit Mofto Party Plan era. How was your first contact with the band and how it happened?

"I was probably 18 or 19 and my roommate, my mother would take roommates and he was also a friend of mine, was a roadie for my band at the time and also a tour manager for a lot of small bands in the area like The Untouchables and a couple of others that he would go on the road with them, guys that would be going in vans, they would be going in motorhomes… Whatever. And one of those local bands were the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they weren’t huge, they were touring in a motorhome with a trailer and I had just finished college and I was going to be a psychiatric nurse [laughs], which kind of trained me up to dealing with the Peppers.

He came to me one day and said: “Hey man, you wanna go up and sell shirts for these guys?” because they used to make their own merchandise, there were a guy named Greg “Old” Link that would make their shirts, they would come with their own designs with him, they would print all of their shirts and take them on the trailer and sell them themselves and make a enormous amount of money doing that. And he asked me if I wanted go up and do that and I said “what does it pay?”, he told me and I was “oh, that’s more than I’m gonna make doing anything else”. So, I went with them on that tour and that was with Hillel, Jack Irons, Flea and Anthony.

I was a kid. I had seen the Peppers when I was like 17 and they played here in Long Beach, and I went down to Fenders [Ballroom] which was the local punk rock club and saw them play probably thousand people and they blew my mind. My friend said “come see this band with me” and I went, saw them and I was blown away. I went out and bought their first EP and I bought the second album and I listened to them constantly on vinyl. So, I was a huge fan of theirs already and when Mark offered me the opportunity to do this thing I just jumped on it. And that tour was brilliant, I mean Hillel was sinking into his drug abuse… They all fought with that all the time. But at the time Flea and Anthony had made a pact, they all made a pact, that they weren’t gonna do any heroin [during the tour]. And he was obviously breaking that pact and sneaking off to do it, they found needles and there was a lot of tension because of that. He wasn’t very communicative and then we came back from that tour and he died shortly thereafter."

As Anthony said many beautiful things are born out of disasters and what born of Hillel’s death was the entry of John Frusciante. What was your first contact with John and how was his adaptation to the atmosphere of the Chili Peppers?

"So, Hillel dies and they went through a couple of replacements, I think [DeWayne] BlackByrd Mcknight [Parliament-Funkadelic] came in for a little tour if I’m not mistaken at that point… there was a couple of guys that came in… So, the first tour I was selling t-shirts, the next tour I was John’s or BlackByrd’s guitar tech. When John came in, the first time I met him, he had like a long red mohawk, he was 17 years old, the Chili Peppers had been his favorite band in the world too - when he was going to GIT, but his favorite guitar player was Steve Vai. He would sit around and study Steve Vai and watch Frank Zappa and do all that kind of stuff and that was what he was really into. I didn’t like that work that much, when I first met him he was cocky, he was arrogant and had really bad social skills… he was not very good with people a lot of the time and he wasn’t very good with his crew, he didn’t know how to deal with the crew. He was like “I’m the best thing in the world”, a cocky and arrogant kid."

Yeah, he was a young boy, probably the Chili Peppers was his first “serious” band that he played in…

"Well, the way that they found him is that he used to play in a band called Thelonious Monster with Bob Forrest. Bob had just found the kid, who was in his band, and was like “Watch, he’s so great”. The best of the west tour was Thelonious Monster, The Fishbones and the Chili Peppers. And Anthony stole him in about three months [laughs], he was like “that kid needs to come with me”.

He came in, he was cocky, arrogant and his playing was very kind of “metal” because of Steve Vai influence, this weird jazz-metal-fusion bullshit. You hear that in Mother’s Milk. I don’t like Mother’s Milk that much because it’s a little too metal, trying too fucking hard. When Navarro made his first record [One Hot Minute], continues the same thing, it’s too metal, I don’t like that much either."

On this tour, you promoted a comedy show as an opening. It was a musical number that you pretended to cut your own dick through the alter-ego “Rob Rule”. I imagine you guys had been through a lot of fun with it.

"They came up with the nickname for me, they called me “Rob Rule”, because of the time Lenny Kravitz’s single came out, you know… “Let Love Rule”, and everyone loved that song when it came out. And then, the band changed my name to Rob and they would walk around singing “You Got To Let Rob Rule”. So that tour was in Europe, and I believe that was probably the Mother’s Milk tour and they were touring without an opener. They never had an opener. They went on tour in Europe and they were playing in bigger places, they had “Knock Me Down” and “Higher Ground” [Stevie Wonder], so they had some bigger songs. I started when they were playing in smaller clubs, selling them out, making money, going across the country and doing really well for a small band. Then Mother’s Milk came out, they appeared in tv shows, but they never had an opener. Somehow we decided when there wasn’t a opener in the local, I would go there and open the show, and it would be me and Chad basically playing together, and we would do like 4 songs and I had a thing I used to do called the “Knife Trick”, where I would take out a knife and I would pretend to cut my… [he gestures like if he was using a knife] using the dull edge. So, I cut a banana and sliced the bananas out to the audience. We would do James Brown, The Clash and whatever song we felt like doing at the time and with Chad behind you playing… it didn’t matter you don’t have a bass player, It didn’t matter what was going on.

I played a show in London with them. Opened one of those shows in London and I came out with Chad and started “I Feel Good” by James Brown and the whole crowd was like “Wow, that’s amazing!”. The funniest thing was they had this whole thing where they would pay me 100 dollars to open the show, but Flea was my manager, so he would get 10 dollars, while John was my agent, so he would get 10 dollars and Anthony was something else. They all had positions in my career and they all would get 10 dollars, so at the end of the night I would get fucking 70 dollars [laughs]. So I did that show in London, I probably did that show 10 times on that tour, and at the end of the thing I would do the knife trick and Rat Scabies [The Damned drummer] is in the audience one night, and he sees me doing this thing. When I get back home in America, he called me and said “Hey, I’m starting up a band, come to London and be the singer of my new band, it will be me and Brian James…”. You know, two of the guys from The Damned and a couple of other guys would start a new band, so I went back to London and lived there for like 3 or 4 months. And then Rat [Scabies] moved to California and worked on tunes with me for about 6 months after that. We’re still great friends because of that whole thing.

Robbie on Frusciante's left side in a 1989 presentation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The show thing that I would do was just a way for the band to have fun, because it was: get ready, sound check, do the show… So, it was a project for everybody to have fun with while they were doing the same fucking thing every night. And I got to say by this point John is no longer a cocky, arrogant asshole. He had some talks with the crew and the band. We became brothers. He called me that later, that I was like his older brother and took care of him. And I did. And as he went through his changes, he leaned on me a lot just to get through the day and I took care of him, we were brothers. He became a human being after that… after he went through his own shit."

Could you tell us something about the near used my John on Mother’s Milk tour? We know Ibanez tried to get him to use the brand’s equipment, but Anthony and Flea were against it.

"When I first started working for them [as a guitar tech], when they did Mother’s Milk, they all got sold on Mesa Boogie, which came to them and said “Hey, we will give you all this gear”. And John had… they all had those rack mounted systems. I think they were called “600” or “800” [probably referring to Mesa Boogie's power amp Strategy 400 Stereo] with big power-amps that had like 16 power-tubes and they were probably 800 watts. And both John and Flea had them, these big racks, with big power-amps with pre-amps. John had a Mesa Boogie pre-amp to get his tone and I think Flea had some other kind of pre-amp. At that point I was doing both of them [John and Flea’s tech], during those early days I would do all of them with Mark Johnson, we would do the whole band together: Chad, John, Flea… I was everybody’s tech. So, John would use Mega Boogie cabinets and Mesa Boogie amps and all of that weird shit and frankly it sounded like fucking garbage. I love Mesa Boogies, but they are for something special, they are for “Slipknot”. They are heavy and beautiful, they got headroom for days with you wanna play clean... but it’s never going to break up normally [because it uses 800 watts of power], there’s never gonna be a natural break up, you will need to use the pre-amp to get all the “dirt”. It’s always a little “tame”, if you know what I mean. They did a whole tour with that stuff. John was playing Stratocasters by then, but still wasn’t getting the beauty that happens when you play that Strat to a Marshall cabinet… he was still very “Satriani”, very “Vai”. He had a Les Paul too, when he first got his money, he bought two ’69 Stratocasters and a brand-new black Gibson Les Paul Custom [Black Beauty]. I remember one night we played in Austin, Texas and I would put the guitars all together and I wanted to do some other stuff, when I came back one of his Strats was gone, someone had just walked in and stole one of his ’69 Stratocaster from him. So, I had to go back and tell him “Dude, someone stole your guitar” and he cried, until the band went in and said “John, you’re a millionaire” [laughs]. “We’re gonna go to the guitar store and we’re gonna buy you the same guitar tomorrow” and he was like “Oh, Ok.” And the next day we did it, we walked out in one of the nicest guitar stores [boutique guitar store], we found the same guitar, bought it for two grand and nothing was ever said about it again. Although people have called me and told me they know where it was, I was not going to Austin to fucking find this guitar again."

It was a Sunburst Strat?

"Yeah, it was a Sunburst Strat. Eventually he had 15 of them, because after he realized that he could buy all the guitars he wanted, he went and bought all the guitars he wanted. And they were all ’60s Stratocasters, he must have bought 10 or 15 of them. And then I started buying the “fake” ones, the Fender reproductions of the ‘60s Strats [reissues]. He had a ’59 and a ’55. And I would get two of those at a time, and I would just take them with us and we would use those a lot of the time. Because you don’t want to be taking those things often, they get stolen, they get broken… He liked to break his guitars every once in a while. He smashed his ’54 on stage [the first year they’ve ever made a Stratocaster], he smashed it up and I went out, picked up the pieces and I said “What do you want me to do with this?” and he goes “Just throw it at the crowd” and I said “No fucking way, bro”. I packed it all up and putted in my suitcase and I took it home and rebuilt it. That first one [’54 Strat] was his first one and he was messed up about it for a second… but as soon as he realized he could have whatever he wanted, that went away. "

You told us about those Mesas and then he moved into Marshalls, but we don’t know which Marshalls were.

"During that whole period, he would use that chorus [Boss] CE-1… and he would use the [Ibanez] WH10, which is the best wah-wah pedal in the world. I have two of them… they are amazing. It gives you, when you kick it in, a little boost too. You don’t really need to hit the distortion. It kicks in and gives you a little bit more on there. Not as like the Cry Baby, you have all this room…this range [to go up and down]. We would go to pawn shops, in every town, looking for WH10 and we would buy them whenever we could, because the problem is… they are made out of plastic and they will break."

We also know that, at some point, he replaced the Boss CE-1 Chorus for one DOD Stereo Chorus… Is there a reason for that?

"I don’t really remember that. When I worked for him, he basically used those 3 same pedals: CE-1, WH10 and the orange Turbo Distortion. For a while he used a black fuzz box… I don’t remember what it was called, but it wasn’t the DOD. So, I would go on and tape them on the ground, he didn’t even have a pedalboard. And later on, when he was doing the stuff later, he had a huge… like two of them [pedalboards] with all those pedals and shit, but whatever…that was Dave Lee’s problem by that point [laughs].

By the time he was doing Blood Sugar, he was using the Marshall 2550 Silver Jubilee. Which is the greatest record they’ve ever made… it’s one of the best records ever made. It’s brilliant, when I heard that thing, when it came out, I was like “Oh, sweet God… you guys have made basically a double record that is so good” [LP version was composed by two records]."

So, he was already using the Silver Jubilee by that time?

"We started using that after Mother’s Milk tour. We bought it in between Mother’s Milk tour and when they went in [to record Blood Sugar]. Because they had a talk with him, they were like “Look… we want you to play a Stratocaster, we want you to listen to a lot of Jimmy Hendrix and we want you to achieve that tone” and he did it… he listened to them. So, he went for that and would use the Silver Jubilee and the Marshall Major. He had two full stacks and four cabinets, but they weren’t silver, he would get black ones. He would set them side by side and when you stand in front and do that “waka-waka” [simulating the wah-wah] they would come at you with different frequencies and they would sound like it was a stereo thing. And it was louder than… fucking shit, and that’s why I had always stood to the side, I didn’t want to blow my ears out and he would blow his ears out. We would do sound check, start the show and when they were about 5 songs in, he would come to me and go “Robbie, I think the amps are fucking up” and I’m like “No, bro… your ears are fucking up. You’re closing you ears down because it’s so fucking loud out there, that you can’t hear what it sounds like anymore”. But the combination was pretty magic… it was a pretty fucking good tone.

The greatest thing about it was that I played these rigs all the time, I would jam with these guys all the time. They are really generous that way. Whoever wasn’t there, I would pick up your instrument and jam with them. If John wasn’t there for sound check I would pick the guitar, if Flea wasn’t there… I would play bass or I would go back and play the drums with whoever was there… We would jam for like half an hour during sound check. And one of the most generous things that those people did for me was to teach me how to jam. To teach me what it is to get in that groove with really, really good players. They taught me so much, it was some of the best times I’ve ever had."

Is said that John, for a while, behaved “artificially” to fit the Chili Peppers at the beginning. And then he changed and started to reject that, and so reaching his real artistic “persona”.

"I don’t know if it was “artificial”. He’s told me the story, and I was there, I know what happened personally with him and the band. But I don’t know how to explain it, because even when he explained to me, it was kind of… He was a kid, he was 17, and the Chili Peppers were “his” band, the band that he would love forever and when he joined them…he didn’t know how to act, so he acted like Anthony. And after they did Blood Sugar, John realized that he could be his “own” thing, so he kind of rejected that “way of being”: the “Super Rockstar”. He rejected that and one of the reasons that he quitted the first time was that Anthony, the whole time they were making that record, was like “This is never gonna work”, “This is not a good record”, “This is not what we want”, “This is gonna be the failure of our band”. And for John it was a labor of love, he loved what they were doing. He thought It was the greatest thing they’ve ever made. When the album became a success, Anthony took a lot of the credit and was saying things like “I knew it”he turned. Because it was successful. And John looked at it as if… he saw the falseness in what Anthony was doing, and it was the beginning of the end at that time. And the beginning of John losing his hero, you know what I mean, the beginning of John not being able to trust this person who showed him everything and he taken who he was going to be from him. He realized that it was all false. I don’t know if that will get me in trouble if somebody reads it or whatever but I don’t work for them anymore [laughs]. I do know the actual because I heard the story over and over again."

For the record of the Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the band members moved to Laurel Canyon mansion, with the exception of Chad who used to comeback home every night. Once I heard you say that the album should be titled “The Flourish of John Frusciante” because he came into his own and pulled all together in that record. Were you there? What most marked you during that time?

"I moved them in, I set them up, and I was going once a week to say “hi”. Louie [Mathieu] was there day a day kind of… you know, John didn’t have a guitar tech, he was changing his own strings, and everybody was doing their own thing. And Chad went home. They said that it was haunted. John had no problem with that, but Chad didn’t like it. It was a beautiful place, a big huge gorgeous mansion in the hills. It was a great place to make a record, it worked for them."

Recently I found a key person on John’s life, an old friend called Robert Hayes, who was a bass player that John met at the Musician Institute, right when he moved to Hollywood. John once said that he was the first musician that he really connected, just as he connected to Flea after that, then Josh [Klinghoffer] and then Omar [Rodriguez]. When John was getting into the Peppers, they kind split for a while, and at some point they reconnected, right after the Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour. At that point John wanted to keep being a creative artist, and already had that idea of not wanting to go on tour. He ended up having to agree to going. And Robert died during that tour, putting John into deep sadness. Maybe it was one of the main reasons why he left the band for the first time. Did John ever say anything to you about it?

"I didn’t know about his friend dying. I might have heard about it at some point. He was getting depressed during that tour. Drinking a lot of wine, smoking a lot of high class weed… he wasn’t doing heroine, he was just really depressed with the situation with Anthony. He was getting a little psychotic, seeing things that were not there. When we were in Japan, we still had Australia to go. He came out of an elevator and said to me: “I need to get an airplane home right now. You need to get me out of here, I need to go home and I can’t do this anymore”. I went to the tour manager and said that John wanted to leave. They had a meeting and convinced him to do that show and that would finish the Japan tour and the Japan’s contract. And that last show was just sad, I saw him go on stage and cry for a while. It was just a sad thing. He was just depressed, he didn’t want to be there anymore, he didn’t want to do this anymore. So he went home. And we went to Australia. They tried to fly out Zander Schloss [Thelonious Monster guitarist] to cover for him. So I told them: “guys, I can do this, I can finish these shows, I have been watching the shows, I know how the stuff goes, give me three days and we go to a rehearsal studio, I can do this”. And they: “no, we are going to get Zander”. They brought Zander for a week, we were enjoying Australia, we went to Flea’s dad house, we were on tours, we had climbed mountains… we had a fun time. We set them up in a rehearsal studio and the crew went off for a week. But then they couldn’t put things together, didn’t think it would be good. So they just cancelled the whole thing."

A while after John left the band, he released his solo record, which have a bunch of tracks that he wrote while he was still in the band. Did he play any of these songs for you?

"Oh, yes! Because I was going over to his house after he left, to take some equipment back, to do this or to do that and to see him. He was also painting at the time. He stayed there painting and there were paintings everywhere, and he said like: “Don’t walk so hard! You are going to mess the paintings”. And I said: “John, I won’t mess the paintings”.

And he was in there with his four track cassette recording all the Niandra. He used to play that for me and I was just like “man, this is fucking weird, dude, it’s like Yoko Ono”. [laughs]. I didn’t say that to him, but I thought something like that. That’s not my favorite thing.

He needs them [the band] and them needs him [Frusciante]. He needs them to temper his artistic output, so this is not all just fucking twelve-minute solo bullshit screaming. And they need him because they can’t write a fucking song [laughs]. It is fucking obvious. Without him they were nothing, and without they he was nothing. They need each other. And when he left the last time, I was like “why don’t you do just like Brian Wilson [Beach Boys], why don’t you just stay home, write the records, and send the kid out. [referring to Josh Klinghoffer]. Because he [Frusciante] grew that kid to be him, he grew him for a year and took him on tour as a second guitar player. He grew him to be John. So just stay home and write the records, and don’t go on tour [laughs]. Just do your art with them, because, like I said, without them, he is nothing either. He needs a producer, he needs Rick Rubin for him to say “cut that shit out, this is where the song is”. He told me once when was writing Californication, that it was all Brian Wilson. He was listening to the Beach Boys, he was listening to what they do, studied Brian Wilson for a long time, and those things are all from Beach Boys records. I talked to him a lot afterwards. I saw him on many occasions afterwards and I just asked him: “What the fuck? What are you doing right after you quit?” He showed up with his new wife [Nicole Turley] at a Soundgarden show at The Forum [22 July, 2011] and I was like: “What are you doing, dude?” [laughs]. He said: “I had a plan. I ran out of money, I needed to get the money back. I wanted to get back with the band, make the money, make a couple of good records, and have enough money to live for the rest of my live”. It was a plan. He planned the whole thing up."

Was that after the second departure from the band?

"After the first departure, when [Dave] Navarro came in. He split and got heavily involved in heroin, and people were ripping him off. Then the accountant told him: “You are out of money, bro. You can’t live like this anymore.” So he thought that it would be a five-year plan: “I’m going to back with the band, make three or four hit records, and make enough money that I never have to worry about this again. And then I will quit again”. And he did it. And maybe he is out of money again [laughs]. I don’t know. He’s back! I can’t wait to hear what they do. I can’t wait to hear what this going to be like. It’s going to be brilliant.

But he told me all of that, which was a plan to make 20 million dollars, so he could build the studio, and work with the guy from the At the Drive-in [Omar Rodriguez] and make their own records. And that is not a good idea either! Because this guy is another crazy one, would not pull him in. He need someone to bring him to make pop music."

Yes, because he is the best at writing pop songs, as you say.

"He is also writes good adding elements of lunacy and psychosis to the music, and then having it in a framework of pop music. I bet he will do it again. I bet this next record will be beautiful.

I read all the interviews with Klinghoffer, and it is so fucking sad, so terrible the way that they worked with it. He is such a nice kid. But they are doing the best thing for the art."

Arik Marshall replaced John and they played two remarkable shows in Brazil, at the Hollywood Rock Festival in 1993. At the Rio show, the band invited the samba school Mocidade Independente to go up with them on stage and they made a great jam. Do you have memories of those shows and that trip?

"I remember that well, man. They had the band coming in, and the samba band, and that thing was fucking amazing. That trip took us to Buzios for about three days. I got sick as a dog of drinking Caipirinha and all that stuff. That was sick. [laughs]. We went and did those shows in Brazil at Hollywood Rock with Nirvana and Alice in Chains. We were all on the same plane. And when we arrived at the airport in Brazil the plane made this and that [gestures with his hand the plane dangling in all directions], suddenly hit the brakes, and everyone on the plane was like: “We are going to die” [laughs]. And it would be in the news tomorrow: “The entire movement is dead, go home, it’s over”. [laughs]. Because that was a really special time, man, those were special bands, and we were doing stuff. Those bands were all working in clubs three years before, and then they became the biggest bands in the world. Everybody was a little weird, and they hadn’t professionalized anything about it yet. You know, now all the techs all wear their black military garb and everybody is so good at their job. There they were all living the madness of the time, and we just got through the shows. It was special for everybody. I remember Courtney Love [Hole] was there, and her boyfriend [Kurt Cobain] were having a really hard time, he was in a serious trouble with drugs."

Moving on to the One Hot Minute tour, you took over the backing vocals and rhythm guitar. You were certainly the first supporting guitarist in the band. How did you assume this role and what equipment did you use at the time?

"Well, the funny thing is that I have been doing backing vocal for them for probably 4 years before that, and I would be over in my stand, right in my guitar tech station, and I did the backups [hum the "American Ghost Dance" chorus], put the mic down at the stand, and go back tuning guitars and stuff, and then I would come back into the next chorus. In the next tour they got me a little monitor over there, so I could hear it. I did that for probably four or five years before Dave came in. When he came in, he said there were about three songs where he would need someone to play another guitar and sing the backing vocals because he wouldn’t do that [laughs]. But I guess I got a Strat and another Marshall, and we would do “My Friends” and two other songs that I would do the guitar. But nothing special. I just plugged that Strat and played it.

And Dave Navarro… I have nothing but nice things to say about him. He is the fucking sweetheart. He is a really nice guy. His whole public persona of being a rockstar guy it’s totally ironic. He is smart as a whip, he is funny, and very generous. We would hang out together every morning, we just have coffee in his room on bathrobes [laughs]. Because he found out that everyone there was kind of insane. Flea and Anthony are a little… a little off. Dave is a very normal kind of dude. And so it is Chad! I have nothing but good things to say about him. All of them, really! They are all wonderful in their own way and their own time. I had really special moments with all of them. But Chad is just a Midwest cool rock dude who I love to death. And Dave too.

But yeah, I did the singing. With Rain Phoenix! [Sister of actors River and Joaquin Phoenix] They brought Rain Phoenix out to do the singing too. And we became friends as well."

We had the opportunity to interview Dave Lee, who became the band's guitar technician during the tour with Navarro and continued with Frusciante until his second departure. He's a wonderful guy, who told great stories and still collaborates with our website. Can you comment on your relationship with Lee?

"I love him! Well, what happened was that when they got Navarro in the band, I went home during that period, for about a year, working in another places and doing other shit, I thought it was over. Because I went to the whole thing. I went to the auditions when they announced on the Rolling Stone [magazine]: “Come down and be the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player”. The auditions were open to the whole world, basically. So they rent out a rehearsal studio for six weeks. I would sit in one studio and play slap bass, and every person who would be in line, generally about 75 guys a day, would come through and I would give them five minutes to see if they actually were a player, or if they were just there to meet the band. So I filtered them, and sent to the guys who could actually play. The band would be in another room, working with these people. So I basically played with every guitar player in Los Angeles and in the world who wanted to do this thing. So we went to this whole six-week process, of these guys coming in playing with them and… and eventually they chose Dave! I was like: “So what the fuck I was doing in there?” [laughs].

During that process, they had Adrian Belew coming in [guitarist who played with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads, King Crimson, among others]. I am a huge fan of him, of what he does and what he is and what this is all about. They sent me down to pick him up at the airport in my ’81 Pickup, and take him to the rehearsal studio. He was two hours early, and brought down all his effects and stuff. I jammed with him for two hours. He would play drums and I played the bass, then he played the bass and I played the guitar. He is the most amazing person in the world. Then the band came in, and they did like a two hours of jamming. So you can imagine Chad and Flea playing with Adrian Belew. And Mark [one of the band’s team members] actually made a recording of it, he got a cassette recording of that thing, that he has in some place. I even asked him: “What happened to that fucking tape, Mark? Release that thing!” [laughs]. But I don’t know where the hell it is.

I came out of there, so I didn’t have that job anymore. Obviously Dave Navarro would bring his own tech out. So they call me up and said: “Hey, are you ready for this?” and I was like: “Ready for what?” Then they said: “Well, you are going to come and play guitar and sing”. So I went to the rehearsals and Dave Lee was there for Navarro. So on that last tour I met Dave Lee, who was one of the funniest people. I’m sorry I don’t have a good story to tell, but the timing for Dave’s comedy is impeccable. He is the funniest guy that I ever dealt with. He’s brilliant, funny as fuck. Because you know, I was bored going to the sound check and stuff. But that was it. I went to sing and play some guitar. Dave taught me the songs during rehearsals. And I was on the David Letterman a couple of times doing that.

And the funniest thing about it, is that I became friend of a band called Pepper, from Hawaii. I was on tour with them, and I would hang out with them. They were huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fans, and they kept asking me all those questions. They said: “We heard about a guy that used to have, like, off the side, singing for them, because Anthony can’t sing”. And I was like: “That is not true. That never happened.” Then I went: “Oh, you are talking about me” [laughs]. They got twisted around thinking I would do Anthony parts, but the fact is that they were talking about me, because that is what I did. I had my mic and my monitor doing the backups. So on this last tour I would sing backups and play guitar. It was fun, but it was a little weird."

At the end of this tour, your almost 10-year journey with the band came to an end. Did you choose to focus on your career with the band Rob Rule or did other decisions lead to this separation?

"The thing is that I had been doing this along the way the whole time. Their tour schedule was never crazy, and they would get done and I would come back. I met so many people working with them, like Mary’s Danish, the Pearl Jam guys, the Soundgarden guys, and all those people who we kind of become a family for Lollapalooza. We all toured together all the time. The [Smashing] Pumpkins, Pearl Jam... all those people. Even Moby! We were on tour with them for a while. I met a lot of people and made those connections that allowed me to make some albums as I working with them [Red Hot Chili Peppers]. Then I would go out and they would say: “We are on tour again”. And then I would go back work with them again. About three times I quit and then I would go back work with them. When did it happened, I would still be working with music. I went on tour with Rob Rule for a couple albums cycles, then the Thermadore thing: I went on tour with Paul Westerberg [The Replacements vocals and guitar] opening for him. So you know, it all allowed me to go on tour with my own bands."

You seem to have managed a great deal with your own project, Thermadore. You released the Monkey in Rio, with the participation of two great drummers: Chad Smith and Josh Freese [Devo, Guns N ‘Roses, Nine Inch Nails], and also Pearl Jam’s founding guitarist, Stone Gossard.

"In my music career, I’ve been really blessed with great drummers. I know what a good drummer is, I love them, I play drums and I love it. And I played in a band with Jack Irons after a while, too! I played with many, many amazing fucking drummers. I was making that Thermadore record, and they kind of recorded with everyone at that time. Stone [Gossard] came in and did a song, too. I met Stone on their [Pearl Jam] first tour with the [Red Hot Chili] Peppers. He was just a kid, just like me, and we became best friends, basically. We would play guitar and hang out and travel together and stuff. When I got big he took me to Hawaii just to hang out. It was a really cool time. And that record was a lot fun to make. Chad [Smith] met Josh [Freese] when he was 17. He grew up in Long Beach, Orange Country. I ended up working for Josh for about five years ago. I worked with him on Sublime [With Rome], The Replacements and Devo."

After that you joined the Candlebox, which at the time also had Dave Krusen. He was Pearl Jam’s first drummer and he also played in another band that I like, Unified Theory, with the guys from Blind Melon.

"Yes! Dave Krusen is brilliant. And he worked with Shannon [Hoon, Blind Melon’s vocal]. Like I said, I’ve been blessed working with so amazing drummers. "

I know that Lindy Goetz (Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first manager) was also Candlebox manager.

"There was the connection. Because I knew Lindy well. He was my boss, basically. He was working with Candlebox in their first record, and that is how I met them. And then, when Rob Rule was a band, they liked the record and invited us to go out and open up for them. That's when we started talking, and on the next tour they did, they needed a guitar player. So I went to rehearse, and I toured with them for about three years.

So it all kind of came from Chili Peppers really."

Last year, another former Pearl Jam drummer, Dave Abbruzzese, put on the web a recording of a jam he performed with John and Flea. I think Dave Rat recorded that. And you did some vocals on it.

"That was during Lollapalooza, there were all those great bands and we used to jam every day. We set up the drums, some amps, everybody just came and played all day long. There were numerous jams that did not get on tape, but everybody just played together constantly, it was really cool. With Josh [Freese] and Matt [Cameron] from Soundgarden .... We set up two kits and Chad and Matt would jam, just came and rock all day long."

You were in the middle of all these great 90's bands, how significant to you was to be there?

"It was everything, that was everything. That Lollapalooza tour was probably the greatest time I ever had in my life. It was so much fun, so much energy, so much of this breakthrough of these people, there was never anything like that and it probably never will be, it was madness and fun. Lollapalooza. And there were other tours around. Like the one with Pearl Jam and the Pumpkins, there were a bunch of tours like that, big tours, all those bands blowing up. I watched Pearl Jam go from nothing and it was just the band opening, and then the single from "Alive" came out and I saw everyone showing up early to see Pearl Jam. I watched them become this mega thing in the course of that. It was crazy time, wonderful time and amazing thing to see. "

I know that you have contact with many of those guys, like Josh Freese who you said worked on Sublime. I know you recorded some stuff with Mike McCready not so long time ago...

"Yes, we did something for a movie a TV show. We did stuff for " We Bought a Zoo"[Cameron Crowe's 2011 film] was a movie, we came in a studio, me and my partner worked. And we did somestuff for Hawaii Five-0 [TV series]. He gets these little ones crazy projects and I say “Okay, let's do that!”. [Laughs] "

But do you still have contact with any of the Chili Peppers guys?

"Not as much. Not as much as I do with Pearl Jam, for example. I can still call and say "hey how are you doing?". I saw Chad at the NAMM [Annual music equipment industry event]. But I really don't hang out there. It's a Hollywood thing, if you know what I mean. I live in Long Beach. "

Last one, do you have any current musical projects? Is Thermadore inactive forever?

"Ah, we did a Thermadore show about six months ago and I play in a band now called Cowboy and Indian. It's me and a drummer and we do songs about trains in the style of Johnny Cash. You can see those on Facebook, Cowboys and Indian , songs about trains. It's kind of fun."

Thank you so much, Robin.

"You're welcome. I'll take my dogs for a walk."

Writing: Raphael Romanelli
Writing, interview and review: Felipe Freitas
Translation to Portuguese: Eloá Otrenti - Frusciante Brasil
Transcription: Pedro Saczk and João Pedro Barbosa
Contact and invitation: Ygor Almeida


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