Flea definitely lives up to his name.
The legendary bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers is rarely still on stage. It’s not just his fingers that fly. His whole body is engaged, twisting and writhing and jumping around as he lays down a lush, funky foundation of sound. Unlike some bass players, Flea has the stage presence of a frontman and the musical chops that rival any lead guitar player.
It’s been more than a quarter of a century since Blood Sugar Sex Magik rocketed the band out of the college rock circuit and into popular consciousness, and Flea is still making that bass sing with his signature moxie. Here’s how:
Moxie is multifaceted.
Not only is Flea widely recognized for his skills as a musician, he’s also an accomplished actor with more than 20 film credits to his name. He even voiced one of the characters in the hit children’s show The Wild Thornberries.
Now he can add a new title: author. Flea’s memoir Acid for the Children was released this month to critical praise. It’s not the standard rock and roll biography, a drug-soaking tale of ribaldry “as told to” a ghostwriter. It’s written by Flea, who recounts in a short story form his chaotic childhood growing up in Los Angeles. The story and style reveal what’s long been known about Flea, that he is “wildly cultured and culturedly wild man.”
It takes moxie to tell your own story and tell it well. I’d love to hear the story from the man himself one day.
Moxie hones excellence.
Flea’s sound is all his own and has evolved over the years. It reveals influences from multiple genres, most notably funk, hard rock, and punk. His early sound was aggressively crowded, but he intentionally pulled back and took a different approach on Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
“I was trying to play simply on Blood Sugar Sex Magik because I had been playing too much prior to that, so I thought, ‘I’ve really got to chill out and play half as many notes’. When you play less, it’s more exciting—there’s more room for everything. If I do play something busy, it stands out, instead of the bass being a constant onslaught of notes. Space is good,” he told an interviewer for Bass Player.
It takes moxie to continue to grow as an artist, and thanks to Flea’s moxie we’ve been treated to some outstanding music.
As he reveals in his memoir, Flea’s childhood was often chaotic and difficult. He was born in Australia, and when he was four his family moved to the U.S. for his father’s work. His parents split shortly after arriving in the U.S., and his father returned to Australia and his mother married a jazz musician and moved Flea and his sister to Los Angeles.
While his stepfather helped Flea discover and hone his love and appreciation for music, he was also an alcoholic prone to outbursts of destructive rage. Flea began smoking marijuana to cope. The home had little structure, and even as a pre-teen Flea kept his own hours and wandered the streets of LA at will. He was desperate for community and connection, and he found it in some of the most unsavory places.
Later in life, Flea sat down with his stepfather and extended him forgiveness for all the pain and embarrassment he suffered at his hands. He also appreciated the love his stepfather – whom he discovered had suffered through horrific abuse as a child – was able to extend to him.
It takes moxie to let go of childhood trauma and give grace to those who inflicted it.