Flea | Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Mention the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and it’s all but impossible not to stop and consider Flea. As the group’s bass guitarist, he has been the man behind some of the best basslines to have ever existed. His basses of choice have been the Modulus Flea, the Fender Jazz as well as the Taylor acoustic. These instruments, combined with the unique talent of Flea, have allowed the world to be treated to some of the greatest music of all time.

Let’s take a look at the man behind the name. Where did his early influences come from and why did he return t school? We’ll also take a look at some of his very best performances. If you’re a fan of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and, like us, you’re in awe of Flea, read on to find out more.

Early influences

It’s fair to say that Flea’s life didn’t get off to the best of starts. With divorced parents, he lived with his mother and step-father, Walter Urban Jr. With Walter’s drinking habits, life was said to be tough but he would still prove to be one of the biggest influences on Flea and may even be the man that’s responsible for bringing him into music.

You see, Urban was a real lover of music. He would have friends over and play jazz until all hours and Flea loved to see him perform. This love saw Flea becoming near obsessed with bass himself and, at the age of 9, he began to play the trumpet.

Why Flea?

Of course, Flea isn’t a true name. Just like many other performers choose to do, the was a nickname that was adopted and stuck. Born with the name Michael Peter Balzary, this didn’t really have a sound of rock ’n’ roll about it. It was a skiing trip with friends when they all decided to use nicknames, that the name Flea was first used, but it wasn’t until a little later that it took hold.

While auditioning for a punk band called FEAR, he was simply asked what his name was. Now Michael Peter Balzary was never going to do for a punk bassist so he simply answered with Flea and the name has stuck ever since. Names aside, this was an audition that he completed smashed and he was soon a member of the band.

A return to school

As the world-famous bass guitarist for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Flea surprised some when he decided to return to studying. He had a true love of music and decided that he wanted to understand as much as he possibly could. This led to him enrolling at USC in 2008.

Flea describes his musical life as an educational process. For him, formal study just made sense. It offered him a way to appreciate how music actually works and, perhaps more importantly, why certain things work too.

The best performances by Flea

Since 1983, Flea has been providing bass riffs for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. During that time, he has been part of some truly amazing performances. Here’s our look at the 5 that we think are his very best:

Can’t Stop
This is, perhaps, one of the most iconic songs to have come from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Produced by the legend that is Rick Rubin, this is a song where Flea really excels. There is a perfect following of John Frusciante’s guitar riff. This leads to a perfect combination between the melody and Chad Smith’s rhythm. Flea makes the most of his instrument here with contrasting, near, dirty tones combined with cleaner sounds coming in throughout the chorus.

Sometimes it’s not immediately obvious just how the bass can make a song. With Californication, taking the time to listen to the isolated bassline allows you to really appreciate just how central this is to the whole song and how it really brings it together. The classic Flea riff is as mesmerising as it is impressive.

By the Way
The song demonstrates just how Flea can mix things up when the need arises. with an opening consisting of a simple melody, the song progresses until the point where Flea is unleashed and lets loose. If you want the perfect example of how Flea can bring a whole song together, this is it.

Suck my Kiss
What makes Flea such a great bass player is the fact that he can adapt to all song times and still provide perfection. This is a sing that demonstrates just how controlled Flea can be as he offers notes that complement the sing in the most suitable of ways. The first part of Flea’s riff is nothing other than simplicity. This later goes onto a stunning run before heading back to where it started.

Give it Away
This can be seen as Flea’s fumiest efforts ever. However, the key to this top performance is the fact that he shows restraint and manages, yet again, not to overdo things. You can’t help but admire the bassline as it shifts from low to high and back again. There is a constant groove as the song continues and this makes it something truly special.

Outside of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers

While Flea has an extensive back catalogue with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, he has also had numerous side projects away from the band. His brilliance meant that there has never been a shortage of artists that have wanted to work with him. Flea has enjoyed the time that he took to collaborate with the likes of Mick Jagger, Pigface and Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Beyond music, Flea has shown himself to be equally talented when it comes to the screen. Having landed roles in both TV shows and movies, he has proven himself to be an all-rounder when it comes to creativity. Most people would have been satisfied with being one of the best bass players in the world, but Flea has always strived to achieve more.