After the success of Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, you might think that everything was rosy for the burgeoning superstars. But there were a few hurdles in the way before the group would release their next album. The biggest of these hurdles came when guitarist John Frusciante, who had become a major creative force in the band, decided to step away in 1992.
Uncomfortable with the trappings that came with the band’s fame, Frusciante actually exited before the touring was complete for Blood Sugar Sex Magik, leaving the band to call upon Arik Marshall to help them finish their touring. There was also a brief period where Jesse Tobias came on board to fill the spot, as well, but before starting on their next album, they called on a longtime friend — the newly free former Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro — to fill the void.
“We should have seen it coming,” said Chad Smith to NY Rock about Frusciante’s exit. “John was 18 or 19 at the time. He had no experience what it’s like to play in a band, let alone a band like RHCP. I’m a huge Zeppelin fan, and I think I would have freaked as well if I would have been asked to join Led Zeppelin as a drummer. It was pretty obvious that it couldn’t work out. We just didn’t see it at the time.” Frusciante, who would later return to the band, stated, “It was too high, too far, too soon. Everything happened or better everything seemed to be happening at once and I couldn’t cope with it.”
As for Navarro, his introduction came via a recommendation from Smith. Initially the guitarist was busy with a variety of post-Jane’s projects, but by the time the Chili Peppers decided to approach recording, he was free. After a few jam sessions, Navarro accepted the position, but admitted to Guitar World that there were a few differences. “It doesn’t really speak to me,” said Navarro of the band’s funk-based style. “But then again, when I’m playing with three other guys who I love and feel camaraderie with, it’s enjoyable to play funk.”
The band entered The Sound Factory in Los Angeles in July 1994 to begin working on the new album, but unbeknownst to some of the band members, Anthony Kiedis had relapsed into drug addiction and was once again battling his demons while trying to hide it from the band. The relapse was brought about when Kiedis had a dental procedure done and was given a valium to deal with the pain. That opened the door to a slip with cocaine and heroin.
There was also an adjustment period during the recording session. With Frusciante gone, Kiedis was relied upon more than ever and the relationship with Navarro was different. “John Frusciante had been a true anomaly when it came to songwriting. He made it even easier than Hillel Slovak to create music,” said the singer. “I just figured that was how all guitar players were, that you showed them your lyrics and sang a little bit and the next thing you knew you had a song. That didn’t happen right off the bat with Dave.” In addition to Kiedis writing, Flea stepped up to contribute as well. “Transcending” was the bassist’s tribute to fallen Hollywood star River Phoenix. He also contributed the intro and outro to “Deep Kick” and sang lead vocals on the song “Pea.”
With producer Rick Rubin at the helm, the band also changed up their sound a little bit, with more metal style guitar riffs and psychedelic sounds occupying the space once reserved for funk, though there were still some songs that fell into their normal vibes. By early 1995, the band completed recording and awaited the release of the disc, which would eventually come on Sept. 12, 1995.
The band got a jump on the release by issuing the trippy lead single “Warped” in early August. The track found Kiedis revealing a little of what was going on with himself in the lyrics, calling out, “My tendency for dependency is offending me / It’s upending me / I’m pretending to be strong and free from my dependency / It’s warping me.” The band called upon Flea’s brother-in-law, Gavin Bowden, to direct the song’s video, but ran into a little controversy when Kiedis and Navarro shared a kiss onscreen. The band’s label thought the kiss would alienate fans, but the band came to a consensus to keep the shot in the video. The controversy didn’t seem to affect the song’s popularity either way, as it reached No. 13 at Mainstream Rock radio and No. 7 at Modern Rock.
Shortly after “Warped,” the band issued “My Friends,” which found them back at the top of the charts. The more reserved and contemplative track connected with listeners and the song topped both the Mainstream and Modern Rock charts, with the track spending four weeks at No. 1 on Modern Rock radio.
The third major single from the album was “Aeroplane,” a song that arrived in March of 1996. The track was a little more upbeat despite having a darker lyrical theme and the band made it a family affair of sorts with Flea inviting his daughter Clara and her classmates to provide a child’s choral vocal on the track.
As for touring of the album, the band ran into some major issues. The first U.S. leg was postponed nearly four months when Anthony Kiedis injured his leg dancing. He got tangled in a microphone cable and fell off the stage, which led to him wearing a cast for two months. While Kiedis initially remained sober while on the road, during a break from touring he slipped again. During this period, he entered rehab. And finally, after a seven-month layoff, the band was about to hit the stage again when Kiedis was involved in a motorcycle accident that led to the cancellation of more dates and an arm cast for the singer. The band eventually wrapped touring in 1997, two years after the release of the album.
While there was plenty of anticipation for new music after Blood Sugar Sex Magik and the addition of Navarro to the lineup, the One Hot Minute album and tour cycle turned out to be one of the more underwhelming periods in the band’s history. The album was certified gold in November 1995 and eventually reached double platinum status, but sold less than half as many copies as its predecessor. Plus, by 1998, Navarro’s tenure was over. The guitarist would later tell NME that his own drug issues and musical differences played a role in his exit. “Anthony says it was because I tripped and fell over an amp while on drugs,” recalled Navarro. “I say that he was on more drugs than me at that point. We both had a loose relationship with reality. Who do you want to believe?”
As time has progressed, Red Hot Chili Peppers have virtually ignored the One Hot Minute period of their career. For the longest time, the Flea-led “Pea” was the only song from the album to be included in live sets. Since Josh Klinghoffer joined on guitar, the band has teased “My Friends,” “Let’s Make Evil” and “Walkabout,” but for the most part there’s rarely a reference to the disc.
During a Reddit AMA session, a fan asked Chad Smith about why the album has mostly been forgotten when it comes to live sets. “We don’t really feel connected to that record anymore,” stated Smith. “No special reason, not to say we would never play those songs but we don’t feel that emotionally connected to that music right now.”