What do Red Hot Chili Peppers, Maroon 5, Marilyn Manson, Lorde and Linkin Park have in common?
The first time I heard Red Hot Chili Peppers’ — Stadium Arcadium, I threw it out the window. Literally. I had gone to Best Buy to purchase the album the day it came out. It was a beautiful, sunny New Jersey day in May of 2006. I had grown emotionally attached to the band, namely their previous two records. By The Way and Californication produced some very memorable times for me and “Dani California” (the first new single of Stadium Arcadium) seemed like a progressive extension of that music.
After impatiently skimming through the first 90 seconds of each song on the first disc, I became irrationally frustrated by what I was hearing. It was different and not fulfilling my narrow-minded expectations. So I rolled down the window while driving down a woods-lined street, hit eject and frisbee tossed the CD while driving 40 mph. I never even entertained listening to disc two, but I did keep it.
Fast-forward a few years later, I’m casually watching a Chili Peppers performance rerun on Palladia. Half paying attention, I abruptly stopped what I was doing and stared at the TV screen during a particular song I had was unfamiliar with. I was mesmerized by the melody and how Anthony Kiedis was singing the song. Not his typical funky delivery. Really singing. Emotionally singing. The song was “Wet Sand,” track 13 on disc one of … Stadium Arcadium. Needless to say, I (re)purchased the album and listened to it repeatedly for the next few weeks. What I noticed with “Wet Sand” seemed to be a theme throughout — very melodic songs. New territory for the hyper, funk infused band — mostly Kiedis who was singing his heart out. I’ve loved the hell out of that record ever since.
Did you know that record (along with the legendary— Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik) was made in a Mansion? The Mansion…Rick Rubin’s Mansion in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles (Rubin does not live there).
So what is “The Mansion?” Originally built in 1918 (& rebuilt on its original grounds in the late 50’s due to it burning down)- it’s a 10 bedroom ancient palace that Rubin owns and has turned into a mysterious haven — known for crafting classic records. In fact, most of the artists who have recorded there created their best and most successful work within the confines of The Mansion. Many legendary acts stayed there in the late 60’s and 70’s as well. It’s long been rumored to be a haunted place. Numerous artists have reported strange happenings such as sightings of ghosts, doors opening when they had been firmly closed, and other odd occurrences.
It was Rubin and the Chili Peppers who first struck gold at The Mansion when they recorded their breakthrough record — Blood Sugar Sex Magik there in 1991. It was the first true record of its kind to be made at this makeshift studio and will forever be a part of its legacy. Upon tapping Rubin to produce the record, Rubin suggested The Mansion as it would it would serve a refuge and allow them to stay laser-focused on the music while enhancing their creativity. All of the band members, minus Chad Smith who refused, would also stay at The Mansion during the entire recording period. Blood Sugar Sex Magik would go to sell 13 million records thanks in part to the mainstream successes of “Under the Bridge,” “Give it Away,” and “Breaking the Girl.”
The Chili Peppers have returned to The Mansion numerous times since. The tracks “Fortune Faded” and “Save the Population” on the 2003 Greatest Hits compilation were recorded there before they went back to make Stadium Arcadium a few years later. Kiedis and John Fruciante credited The Mansion as being an integral part of creating that record, explaining how the place would immediately put everyone in a good mood and spark their creativity. The initial plan was to create 12 well-balanced songs and package the material as collection of flowing art. The band ended up writing 38 songs with Rubin running the production, eventually settling on 25 that would make the final cut. Rubin was so fascinated by the material, specifically Kiedis’ new found style of singing, that they idea of a double record formed after dismissing the concept of releasing three separate albums over a year and half time. Kiedis explained the process to MTV back in 2006 saying,
“Those early records were so short and sweet, and had this kind of lasting profound impact on the world because they’re very memorable and digestible and, I don’t know, maybe it just takes less energy or effort to connect with smaller collections. But as has been the case with every single time we’ve tried to do that, we end up with 30 some-odd songs. The difference this time was we ended up liking all of those songs and finishing all of those songs and it actually became a very difficult process to even just whittle it down to 25. I think it’s sort of the best thing that we’ve ever done.”
Stand out tracks such “Wet Sand,” “Desecration Smile,” “Hard to Concentrate,” and “Death of a Martian,” exemplify that laid back, content, melody-driven vibe both Kiedis and Rubin explain.
In addition to the Chili Peppers, such artists as Marilyn Manson, The Mars Volta, Jay-Z, Slipknot, System of a Down, Ours, Maroon 5, LCD Soundsystem and Linkin Park have since recorded at The Mansion.
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