In Acid for the Children (Grand Central, Nov.; reviewed on p. 48), the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist reflects on his childhood.
Your book is more coming-of-age story than music memoir. Why did you decide to focus on your youth?
I didn’t want to write a rock star book. It was about setting a challenge for myself to write something that wasn’t about the Chili Peppers and that would have to stand on its own as a piece of literature. It seemed more interesting to me, and something I could be objective about. Because my childhood is over, but the band is still going. I’ve been asked to write a memoir many times but have never wanted to do it, because I didn’t like the idea of writing a celebrity book, and I didn’t like the idea of having a ghost writer, and I didn’t want to write a book unless I was really going to sit down and write one, and give myself to it.
Was it difficult to write about your volatile childhood?
It wasn’t difficult to write about it. It was difficult to share it. I fell in love with the writing process. Every time I put my head down for an hour and wrote, when I came back up it felt so satisfying, like I was engaging a part of my creativity that I had never engaged before.
Have you always been a big reader?
Absolutely. Through a lot of ups and downs, books have been my sanctuary. When I read a good book, I overflow with emotion. I had a pretty tumultuous childhood and the steadiness of books is something that made me feel like I was going to be okay. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was big for me. He wasn’t a religious guy. He considered himself a humanist. And as a moral code, his books helped me. I was up to no good and headed for trouble and, when I found humanity in a book, it helped me to find humanity in myself because I wasn’t getting it at home. I found purpose, meaning, and love in books. I barely scraped by in high school. I didn’t go to college. But I always enjoyed letting a story unfold and become part of who I am.
Did reading have as much of an influence on you as music?
They go hand in hand. Reading is a more meditative, solitary experience, and, for me, music is a physical, communal experience, so they’re different in that way, but both are places where I feel safe. Both help me see my own shortcomings, help me come to terms with things about myself that I don’t like, help me to learn and forgive others, and to learn about myself and forgive myself. Athletics does that for me, as well. These things put me in the moment, and when I’m living in the moment, that’s when I’m able to grow.