It’s not easy finding an Anthony Kiedis impersonator — he’s nasally and lisps.
“People think finding an Anthony Kiedis impersonator is easy.” It’s harder than it seems, says Red Not Chili Peppers founder/bassist Jonathan Savage. “Over-doing the impersonation is common among fake Kiedeses. The real Anthony Kiedis has a nasally sound, and he also has a lisp, all of which combine to create this unique, unmistakable voice.”
Without a convincing Kiedis impersonator, Savage shelved the Red Nots, a Chili Peppers tribute started in Ocean Beach five years ago. He moved to Japan and took a job as a civilian contractor for the Navy in December. But what he saw there helped change his mind about the Red Nots.
“There were Japanese tributes to AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Metallica, Britney Spears, the Blues Brothers, and more, but the tribute scene in Japan is still incredibly young.”
He saw potential for his band in the Asian tribute market and contacted the San Diego–based agency that handles some of their bookings, Music Zirconia. He asked them to send Red Nots business cards (“Japan is one of the few places in the world where business cards are an absolute necessity.”) to the an agency that produces tribute shows in Japan, Legends of Rock, owned by Takashi Okabe. Savage arranged a meeting. “He brought along his top Michael Jackson impersonator to translate.”
Savage and Music Zirconia made arrangements to bring the businessman to the U.S. to witness the tribute festival at Gexa Pavilion in Dallas this June. Savage likewise thinks this could open the door for American tribute acts being invited to Japan. “Okabe would like the Red Nots to be the very first U.S. tribute band to tour Japan, and he’s already begun making arrangements for us to tour in September.”
Savage returned to the U.S. in April. In the meantime, based on the strength of a new singer/impersonator from Los Angeles named Justin Pierce, he’d begun to put the Red Not Chili Peppers back together while still in Japan, and he booked a string of U.S. dates. So far, the Red Nots have played Texas, Chicago, Virginia, and Los Angeles.
“After that first audition [Savage says it was ‘a nonstarter’], Pierce would keep sending me new recordings of his vocals every week.” He says the singer kept improving. “And by the time February came and I heard his latest auditions, I realized this guy without question had transformed into one of the best Kiedis impersonators in the world.”