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The surreal feud between Mike Patton and Anthony Kiedis

I think anyone with a brain can say that Fox News has to be one of the worst news outlets on the planet, given the amount of piffle they peddle on a quite shockingly consistent basis. Whilst usually their content tends to focus on controversial opinions amid politics or race, back in 2016, host Greg Gutfield dropped an absolute clanger that got a few minds pondering. 

At the time, on the network’s show The Five, Fox ran a story about Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea who was playing the bass with a gorilla named Koko. Whilst the idea of the affable Flea playing bass with a member of the animal kingdom might have been enough to quash anyone’s midweek blues, Gutfield was not convinced. 

Seemingly slighted by the band in a past life, he proclaimed: “As most musicians know, this is a vast improvement over Red Hot Chili Peppers, who are the worst band on the planet”. The incensed anchor then went one step further. He said in no uncertain terms: “Red Hot Chili Peppers: poor man’s Faith No More, don’t ever forget it”.

He didn’t stop there either, as Gutfield continued his rant: “I want to explain that we live in a binary universe. You’re either a Faith No More fan, or a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. You cannot love Mike Patton and Anthony Kiedis, because they are two different people. You have to love Mike Patton, you cannot love Anthony Kiedis. So that is why the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the worst band in the universe, because Faith No More is the greatest band in the universe”.

Gutfield is a self-proclaimed metal lover, so his love for Faith No More is not that surprising, even if it was totally surreal to hear a conservative Fox News host backing rock’s favourite anti-heroes Faith No More. What Gutfield did do, however, was to dredge up the age-old feud between Anthony Kiedis and Mike Patton. While the animosity has now cooled, it was once one of the strangest feuds in all of music.

There are more similarities between Kiedis and Patton than there are differences. However, Kiedis didn’t always see it this way. From the dawn of the 1990s to the turn of the 2010s, Kiedis and Patton traded blows in the media whilst the other members were simply innocent and slightly confused bystanders. Back in the day, in the pre-Patton era, Faith No More had supported Red Hot Chili Peppers on many occasions. 

In the late ’80s, Patton had perfected his insane stage persona with power-funk legends Mr. Bungle and, at the same time, Kiedis had done something similar with the original iteration of Red Hot Chili Peppers, an outfit which featured the late guitarist Hillel Slovak and original drummer Jack Irons. Hyperactive, unrelenting and gymnastic, there were many similarities between the two Californian frontmen.  

Patton joined Faith No More in 1989 after they fired frontman Chuck Mosley, and afterwards, they would embark on their classic run. In 1989, they released their masterpiece, The Real Thing, and the second single, ‘Epic’ was a major commercial and critical hit. The video soon became iconic and featured Patton doing his thing: scat-like vocals, acrobatic dance moves and contorted facial expressions. 

After seeing the video, Kiedis was angered and claimed that Patton was copying his moves. In a 1990 interview with Kerrang, Kiedis remarked: “My drummer says he’s gonna kidnap (Patton), shave his hair off and cut off one of his feet, just so he’ll be forced to find a style of his own.” Famously, at the time, Faith No More were bigger than the Chili Peppers in Europe, and after the release of ‘Epic’, when the Chilis were set to tour the continent after Faith No More, Kiedis was scared that audiences would think he was actually copying Patton’s character. 

Faith No More keyboard wizz Roddy Bottum once gave his thoughts on the feud, and said of Kiedis’ comments in the media: “We’re really good friends with that band, and I’d like to think they’re doing it … like as a favour”. 

Notoriously, in 1999, the feud ramped up once more. Faith No More went on hiatus as Patton and Mr. Bungle reconvened. Both Mr. Bungle and Red Hot Chili Peppers were singed to Warner Brothers and that year, Patton and Kiedis again showed their strange symbiosis. Red Hot Chili Peppers released their masterpiece Californication in June, which prompted the label to push back the release of Bungle’s third album, California, by a month to July.

(Credit: Stefan Brending)

At this point, Mr. Bungle were kicked off a string of summer festivals that Red Hot Chili Peppers were scheduled to headline due to Anthony Kiedis personally threatening to quit the festivals unless Mr. Bungle were dropped. No one knows why he did it, but allegations have been made that he personally demanded the band’s removal due to his conflict with Patton. This was strange, of course, as Kiedis didn’t know anyone in the band apart from Patton, to which he said: “The rest of the band doesn’t care. It’s something to do with Anthony”.

As a result of the removals, Mr. Bungle hit back. They played a Halloween show in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1999, where they dressed up as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and performed a mangled medley of Peppers covers, and then referenced the band’s dark history with heroin addiction by pretending to shoot up onstage. 

Patton impersonated Kiedis by donning a blonde wig and speaking to the crowd with a lisp. Whilst acting as his rival, he announced to the crowd: “Don’t you call me Mike, my name is Anthony. How dare you make that mistake. Mike has been ripping me off for many years”. It is also claimed that Bungle went too far with their parody. It is alleged that they acted as the ghost of ex-guitarist Slovak, who was long dead by this point. Rumours of an alleged comment about River Phoenix were mentioned too, a friend of Red Hot Chili Peppers who passed away outside of Johnny Depp’s Viper Room in 1993, with guitarist John Frusciante present. 

Kiedis, meanwhile, responded by having the band dropped from 2000’s Big Day Out Festivals in Australia and New Zealand. He said: “I would not have given two fucks if they played there with us. But after I heard about (the) Halloween show where they mocked us, fuck him and fuck the whole band”.

The impact of Kiedis’ actions played a key part in Mr. Bungle folding later that same year. On his blog, bassist Trevor Dunn wrote: “Everything you’ve ever heard about the Red Hot Chili Poppers [sic] screwing us is true. I’m not sure why they did it other than a non-singer’s jealousy. They kept us off of festivals in Europe, Big Day Out in Australia and they had the release date of our record postponed while they released Califorharbouron. Ultimately they screwed ME out of a lot of money for which I will forever harbour anger. The best part is they had full support from their record label”.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers song Anthony Kiedis wrote about Sinead O’Connor

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This would lead to a decade of hostility. However, by 2010, things seemed to have reached a period of detente. Patton admitted: “I’ve no idea what it was about then, and I don’t know now. But I bet we’d have a warm embrace if we saw each other now”.

It does seem that Kiedis was always the primary belligerent in the whole dispute. Famously, Patton has always criticised rockstars with ego’s and always gone against the trope, so there’s no surprise that he responded to the behaviour of Kiedis. “For all the styles that have come and gone throughout our career, we never really aligned ourselves with any of them; we were never part of any movement,” Flea told Guitar World in 2006. “At one time, people put us together in a category with Fishbone and Faith No More, but we were always different from those bands, and they were always different from us”.

Flea was right. Of the feud, he said: “There was never any fight between us, that was a bunch of bullshit created by the media. I mean I think they’re a good band. Maybe there was some things said between Anthony and the singer (Patton), but it all means nothing to me”.

There might not have been a fight between the other band members of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle and Red Hot Chili Peppers per Flea and Roddy Bottum’s comments, but the bystanders were caught in the storm caused by Kiedis and Patton, as Dunn’s statements explain. We’ve heard of this town isn’t big enough for the both of us, but clearly, the world wasn’t big enough for both Kiedis and Patton. It’s a shame, of course, because they’d have made stellar musical brothers in arms. 

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