Anthony Kiedis sits at a table in a swank hotel, his breakfast consistently interrupted by adoring women coming over to caress his arms and kiss his cheek.
It's impossible to know if he just met them, because he treats each one as if he has known them forever, putting down his forkful of scrambled eggs with veggies to look directly into their eyes.
At 42, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' lead singer is toned and hip, forearms blanketed with tattoos, wearing a yellow T-shirt with a naked woman on it. He's also incredibly calm and articulate. It's hard to believe he's the crazed frontman who has performed countless concerts wearing only a sock, had bones broken during a show and had a drug addiction for most of his life.
Kiedis spent three months putting his wild ways down on paper and recently released a 500-page autobiography, Scar Tissue (Hyperion, $24.95). The book is an honest look at how heroin and cocaine nearly ruined his career and his life, and ended the lives of some of his best friends and bandmates. It also details the rise of the Chili Peppers, whose 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik made the band a household name. Its 1999 album Californication sold more than 13-million copies worldwide, and 2002's By The Way peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts.
Kiedis has been clean for more than five years and is convinced he'll stay that way, though he says he's still obsessed with drugs. One relapse was caused after a trip to the dentist and some painkillers for taking out a tooth. But this time, he says, he has changed the way he goes about life. He has become more focused on music and expects great things from the band, which is recording an album.
How do you draw the line between recreational drug and alcohol use and addiction?
I can't. That's my problem. I have a different reaction to drug use, for some reason. I never had a choice, really, and I suffered enormous heartbreak and repercussions for it.
What made you stop?
I was so physically and mentally sick of feeling horrible all the time.
So what are you doing different now that you think you can stay clean for good?
The main thing I'm doing now is trying not to be such a self-centered pig. Instead of the drive, the crazy need to get high, I try to think, "What can I do to be of service to the world?"
What do you focus on now that you're not focusing on drugs?
When you're using, your days are very spelled out for you. It's a kind of Groundhog Day way of life. You know what you're going after. Now I have freedom to create my days as I want to.
What do you do?
I have some kitchen rituals, like I make this big green concoction with all this good stuff, and I drink a strong pot of black tea and hang out with my dog by the pool.
Ever want to get married or have kids?
I think kids would be phenomenal, the biggest experience of a lifetime. But I've never been attracted to the type of woman who wanted to have that experience. I guess they're not such maternal types.
How has the band's sound changed?
I think it's been a natural progression as we've changed and learned more about being musicians. You'll see a lot more harmony and intricate arrangements to our songs now.
In the book, you say your father smoked pot with you when you were young. Do you blame him for any of your drug troubles?
I don't think my dad knew any better. During that time, everyone wanted to turn everyone on to it. No one knew how bad it was. I don't blame people for my shortcomings and disasters. They're all mine.
Do you have any advice for young rockers?
My own advice is to not take any of my advice. Ever. And no matter the audience, play music that speaks to you.