Anthony Kiedis steps out of a taxi at the Four Seasons Hong Kong Hotel - and nothing happens. No paparazzi harassing his wife and child for a sneaky shot, no boob-tube fan armed with a magic marker, no college-age musician flogging his home-recorded EP. I'm sitting in the hotel's lobby, waiting and watching. Waiting to be shepherded upstairs to interview the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the night before their Hong Kong show, and watching for something to happen. But nothing does. For a band that have been selling out international shows for more than a quarter of a century, you'd expect some recognition for its lead singer. But unlike, say, Kylie Minogue or Bob Dylan, Kiedis and his cohorts don't scream superstar personalities. He's wearing his trademark shorts, boots and T-shirt - and while tomorrow night he'll play in front of thousands at the AsiaWorld-Arena, right now he could be just another hip tourist. The truth is - and fellow fans will agree - the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren't a group of personalities. They're not ego-filled celebrities with solo careers who come together for their own benefit. They're a band in the very definition of the word: a group of musicians organised for ensemble playing (Merriam-Webster). And it's the band collectively that sell out shows. Thirty minutes later and I'm sitting opposite the Peppers to talk about their new album, I'm With You. It's their first release in more than five years which initially sent rumour mills swirling as to a break-up. After all, here are a band who have survived for almost three decades - how many times can they fall apart and rise again? But, of course, rumours are almost always just that. 'We'd been working hard for almost 27 years, and in that time, we've only taken one six-month break,' says bassist Flea (aka Michael Balzary). 'Things had gotten a little dysfunctional and we really needed to step away for a while, so we took two years off. It was a wise choice, and after it was up, we went back to work. There's an impression in the public that we took more time off than we did, but we always spend about one year writing and one year recording.' Near the end of those two years, another thing happened that had critics circling vulture-like: fan-favourite guitarist John Frusciante left for the second time to focus on his solo career. It again sent the last-leg rumours flying, most because Frusciante's contributions to the band were immense: a virtuoso musician and songwriter, he defined the Peppers' sound, slowly shifting it from their early funk-rap roots to the more mature, Beatles-like melodies on Californication and By the Way. 'Like so many times when something appears to be the end, it's just the beginning of something new,' says Kiedis. 'It was apparent that John wanted to do something else. You have four creative individuals working together for years on end, there's bound to be some dysfunction - but without which we might not have had the creative productivity we did. It's just the nature of the beast. 'That's when we had a long think among ourselves. As a band we like moving forward and trying something new, and that's when Josh came in,' Kiedis says. 'Josh' is Josh Klinghoffer, the hotshot guitarist who played second fiddle to Frusciante on the band's last tour. At the ripe old age of 31, Klinghoffer had racked up considerable experience as a session musician, recording and touring with such diverse names as Beck, P.J. Harvey, Gnarls Barkley and Perry Farrell. 'We thought 'Where do we go? Who do we get?'' says Kiedis. 'There may have been a few other people, but none of them made sense. When we sat with ourselves, it was just obvious. There wasn't an audition - we just took the time to understand how to work together and we all got along with Josh. That's a big part of the experience - being in a band is very insular and a lot is spent under duress, so it's nice to be with somebody you can coexist with and even eat some dim sum with.' Flea adds: 'And someone who can give their heart to the music fearlessly. And not think about whether they fit in, outside of sticking together to make the art that we make. That's something that a million incredible musicians can't understand. Josh immediately understands that.' Their excitement and praise for Klinghoffer was such that the collection of ideas and concepts he brought to their first jam session was immediately embraced. Some evolved into songs on the new album, though they won't say which. Could it be that Klinghoffer will reinvigorate the Peppers the way Frusciante did? 'We certainly weren't going to compare ourselves to anything that happened before,' says Kiedis. 'Because we had such a huge change with a new member, we were more than ever thinking about being in the present and trying to reinvent ourselves without focusing on the outside world. We just wanted to create something that we all believed in as a band, and it was a very productive time.' Indeed, about 70 songs came out of the 10-month-long I'm With You sessions, pared down to the 14 cuts that appear on the final album. That's partially due to the above-mentioned reinvention - Flea spent his years off studying music theory at the University of Southern California, which allowed greater experimentation within the band. But mostly - and the Peppers happily admit this - the selection came down to the editing abilities of long-time Peppers producer Rick Rubin. 'Our opinion is really emotional and subjective; every little piece of music we write is like a child for us,' says Flea. 'Rick comes with a more objective viewpoint - he's very good at taking the essence of things and putting it into a shorter amount of space.' Klinghoffer has been noticeably silent throughout the interview, with both Flea and Kiedis talking about the band like he's not even there. Granted, with nearly three decades under their belt, they're used to being in the musical limelight. The young guitarist has been thrown in at the deep-end here, especially given the names he has to live up to. When prodded, Klinghoffer offers: 'It's always been my dream to play music and write songs with people that have as much of a thirst as these guys do. I've sworn not to read anything, and I have a hard time thinking that there'll be any grievances.' Still, it begs the question: can a multi-platinum, award-winning band really have a second life, let alone a third, fourth or fifth? Klinghoffer and the new album makes it yet another go for the Peppers, and compared to the adoring acclaim their past three releases received, initial reviews of I'm With You are mixed. But it's too early to tell whether the shake-up will breathe more life into the slowly ageing band (Kiedis and Flea will turn 50 next year). And really, it doesn't matter - the Red Hot Chili Peppers are music lifers. Some things might have changed over the past 27 years, but one thing hasn't: the pure rock'n'roll fun of it all. 'It used to be that a band would get into a room, and it was about the interaction, about the vibe,' says Flea. 'But it's becoming a lost art with technology. We're like a family; we kick it in a room and we all just play together. We're a simple rock band.'