Red Hot Chili Peppers Talk Supernatural Myths of Recording ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’

Rick Rubin and Anthony Kiedis
Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Asked to name a favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers album, drummer Chad Smith tells Variety, “I’m partial, sentimentally, to ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik.’ John [Frusciante] had matured as a player and was coming up with really melodic stuff. Anthony [Kiedis] had started to sing more [instead of rap]. It was the first time we worked with Rick Rubin; we had signed to Warner; we made an incredible record; and everything changed after that.”

It seemed magical, in other words. But was the supernatural actually involved? Ever since the album’s 1991 release, mythology has been built around how the Hollywood Hills house they recorded in with Rubin was haunted… a legend that may have fed into the recent Foo Fighters horror-comedy film “Studio 666.”

“Instead of living in our apartments and driving to the studio every day, [we decided], ‘Let’s just go hunker down, build a studio in this big Spanish relic mansion in Laurel Canyon and live there for however long it takes,’” says Kiedis. “We didn’t leave for weeks on end. Then we get in there and we find out that this place is famous for its spirits and its hauntings and its paranormal activities. That wasn’t a big deal to us, whether it was or it wasn’t. Our only thing was, ‘I have to go finish this song.’”

But Flea says it wasn’t just a legend. “I’m not a medium, but we felt a lot of stuff in that house, and some of it would kind of put your hair on end — things moving, noises, voices,” the bassist recalls. “We might have smoked too much weed and been making stuff up, I don’t know. But I know that there are spirits all around us — the things that give us memories and thoughts and ideas. It’s not just chemicals. … There’s this whole invisible world, and when we got into that house, we really immersed ourselves in it.”

He continues, “You can’t just put good musicians together and tell them to go do something beautiful. You have to have assistance. The spirits have to believe in you, they have to age you, they have to be there for you, they have to guide you, they have to protect you, they have to speak through you. When you surrender to that world and consciously let go and let it speak, beautiful things happen. And when you start thinking that you control it, you constrict it.”

According to Kiedis, “John [Frusciante] was often in a separate arm of the house and had shaved his head and had painted all over the walls and would just play his acoustic guitar until his fingers were bleeding. So he was having kind of a metamorphosis moment, finding himself.”

Smith was the only member not to move into the mansion, but he sets the record straight on whether that was due to mortal terror.

“I know it’s been talked about: ‘Chad was scared of the house.’ No, I literally had just met my first wife, and I didn’t want to hang out with these fucking dudes after hanging with them all day!”