Red Hot Chili Peppers, A Timeline of Members & Their Influences


Ten studio albums, three drummers and seven guitar players later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have returned once again. The release of ‘Dark Necessities’ generated unparalleled excitement, providing a tasty glimpse of what’s to be expected on their upcoming LP, The Getaway. Even so, the eclectic, innovate lads never fail to surprise. They’ve continually shattered musical barriers with their spontaneity and hardcore groove, evolving tremendously as a band.  Once hectic, party crazed L.A punks, now mellow, multi-tonal laid back rockers, the icons’ musical maturation has organically sprouted throughout the years. Transitioning from Hillel-motivated thrashy punk-funk to psychedelic spiked rock and ruminative California tunes, each incarnation of the group brought about something new, and consequently, a crucial fruition of sound.


Present Members


Name: Anthony Kiedis
: Lead Vocalist
Years Active: 1983-present

A world of influence is attributed to the co-founder and front man of the Chili Peppers. Delving into much detail regarding Kiedis’s predominant impact on the band proves slightly unnecessary considering the man is an open canvas. Fans are all too familiar with his chaotic drug infused life, reckless attitude and the driving forces behind his personal lyricism as they are eloquently reflected on each record. Nonetheless, appreciation for the dynamic singer never falls short. Despite the several bumps along the way, his daring creativity and passion turned the RCHP into a household name. Read our feature on Kiedis here.



Name: Michael “Flea” Balzary
: bassist
Years Active: 1983-present

Equally responsible for the band’s formation, Flea has remained a constant force within the RCHP. In 1983 he traded his jazz influenced, trumpeting dreams for the L.A punk scene and has been at the core of the Chili Peppers ever since. Flea’s intricate, slap heavy bass playing combines the tonalities of funk, punk and rock, providing the iconic groovy musicality, definitive of RHCP music. However, as the band progressed, his eye-catching techniques sparked interest among many, resulting in noteworthy style shifts. From the rampant frenzied complexities prevalent in early records such as Freaky Styley and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan to a slightly tamer, traditional melodic method featured on Blood Sugar Sex Magik and later albums, Flea’s aesthetic choices regarded him as one of the greatest bassists of all time. He significantly created a sense of familiarity that goes hand in hand with the band’s famed sound.



Name: Chad Smith
Instrument: Drums/percussion
Years Active: 1988-present

The departure of Jack Irons, and later D.H. Peligro, left the band without a permanent drummer for several months. Smith joined in the wake of the Mother’s Milk recording process, and although first impressions sought him out to be an unlikely add-on, his lively, hard- hitting drumming fit the bill perfectly. Smith added a particular stability to the band, given the numerous cycling of musicians. Heavily involved in the transformation from a recovering band to mainstream attainment, he instantaneously became a vital addition. With chest pummelling drum work that remarkably complimented Flea’s superior strumming abilities and an undeniable charisma, Smith’s role on future RHCP works proved essential to their evolving success.



Name: Josh Klinghoffer
: guitar
Years Active: 2009- present (former touring member in 2007)

A two-year hiatus and the final departure of guitarist John Frusciante led to the inclusion of longtime friend and frequent collaborator Josh Klinghoffer. Having toured with the band before, Klinghoffer was a more than qualified replacement. Joining the RHCP for the creation of their tenth studio album, the experienced guitarist assisted with back up vocals, some writing and additional instrumentals. He was a breathe of fresh air, helping to push their sound further, and in a slightly different direction—the release of I’m With You serving as a chief emblem of this.



Past Members


Name: Jack Sherman
Instrument: guitar/backing vocals
Years Active: 1983-1984
Reason(s) for departure: Slovak’s return.

Sherman was simply temporary recruitment when Slovak left to form What Is This?. Appearing on the group’s self-titled 1984 debut, which in turn tanked, Sherman’s days with the RHCP were short lived. Here he is playing guitar for the Chili Pepper’s first ever TV appearance.



Name: Hillel Slovak
Instrument: guitar/backing vocals
Years Active: 1983, 1985-1988
Reason(s) for departure: death; heroine overdose.

At the epicenter of the initial line-up, founding guitarist Hillel Slovak held such a governing influence. Not only responsible for bringing a bass into the hands of Flea, but also for creating a sonic fusion of psychedelic funk and punk, the original axe-man was an imaginative genius destined for greatness. Although a whirlwind of drug use heavily complicated his involvement, Slovak’s musical freedom and harmonious energy attributed an unprecedented unique quality to the RHCP.  The early groundbreaking style and rough-rhythmic driven sound of the band is greatly owed to him. Even after his crushing departure, the beloved legend remained a pinnacle influence on the Peppers, serving as prime lyrical inspiration and the principal reasoning behind Jack Irons exit. Here he is talking about how he come to join the band, his influences and more. Read our feature on Slovak here.



Name: Jack Irons
Instrument: drums/percussion
Years Active: 1983, 1986-1988
Reason(s) for departure: Hillel Slovak’s death, and Kiedis’ drug abuse.

An accredited founding member and initial drummer, Irons can be heard on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first demo tape, as well as their third rock oriented album, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan —which would reveal itself to be the only Red Hot Chili Peppers album to feature the founding foursome. Despite his short time-out alongside Slovak to form What Is This?, Irons contributed his fair share to the band’s raucous spirit and eccentric performances, remaining committed until Slovak’s unexpected overdose. Irons later drummed with Pearl Jam on two albums. Here he is with the band being interviewed backstage at Pinkpop in ’88.



Name: Cliff Martinez
Instrument: drums/percussion
Years Active: 1983-1986
Reason(s) for departure: Let go.

Assigned to replace Irons, Cliff Martinez was drafted in to join the Chili Peppers in late 1983 for the recording of their eponymous first album. Succeeding this, Martinez again played on the band’s second album. During its development, the young drummer at the time was first introduced to drum machines. This subsequently proved influential during the recording process of Freaky Styley, however, even more so on his inclusion with the group. Sparking a brand-new passion, Martinez became fascinated with orchestral experimentation, music technology and production, involuntarily diverging him away from rock and roll and towards a new career path. These differing artistic interests led to his being fired by Kiedis; but despite the creative disparities amongst Martinez and other members, his involvement landed him in the Rock and Roll hall of fame alongside the rest of the band.



Name: Dewayne McKnight & D.H. Peligro
Instrument: guitar/backing vocals & drums/percussion
Years Active: 1988
Reason(s) for departure: Let go.

Solvak’s death sent a shockwave of heartbreaking emotions that rocked the entirety of the band. Irons quit, disturbed by the tragedy and Kiedis’s dove deep into heroin. Out a guitarist and drummer, both Flea and Kiedis recruited P-Funk guitarist McKnight and Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro. The two however, did not take hold and exited the group within a year, yet they did last long enough to feature on this track, ‘Blues For Meister’.



Name: Arik Marshall & Jessie Tobias
Instrument: guitar/backing vocals
Years Active: 1992-1993 & 1993
Reason(s) for Departure: Temporary inclusions, replaced by Dave Navarro.

Evidently, a plethora of provisional guitarists orbited in and out during the late 1980’s and 1990’s. Both Marshall and Tobias briefly filled in as interim musicians in place of Frusciante as he dealt with a grappling drug addiction. Tobias was briefly a member, while Marshall solely served as a temporary replacement for the group’s 92’ Lollapalooza Headlining tour. Here’s Arik performing funkadelic track, ‘If You Have To Ask’ with the band.



Name: Dave Navarro
Instrument: guitar/backing vocals
Years Active: 1993-1998
Reason(s) for Departure: Quit to pursue solo endeavours.

Former Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro held some tenure, remaining an active member for five years. Although he didn’t seem to successfully mesh well with the group, his finely-balanced riffs and heavy fretwork made him a solid Frusciante substitute and stylistic contributor to the sonically darker 1995 release. Navarro’s association with the Red Hot Chili Peppers is profoundly characterised with One Hot Minute, which ultimately went platinum.



Name: John Frusciante
Instrument: guitar/backing vocals
Years Active: 1988-1992, 1998-2009
Reason(s) for departure: drug abuse; artistic differences.

Short of two originating members, ardent fan and guitar prodigy John Frusciante entered the mix during a detrimental period. His serious guitar licks and ingenious musical chemistry with bassist Flea helped cement the band’s broken pieces, and streamlined them to the top. What appeared to be a bright future, turned dark when Frusciante succumbed to heavy drug use, but after a six-year battle, a 1998 reconnection brought back some old, much needed magic. His return gave rise to a newfound (temporary) cohesion that led to the triumphant releases of fan favourites Californication and Stadium Arcadium. In this interview from 1994, Frusciante expresses how he’s extremely content with his heroin and cocaine use.


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