Flea and The Red Hot Chili Peppers
The second episode of Know Your Bass Player brings you Flea From the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Flea – real name Michael Peter Balzary created the RHCP in 1983 with class mate Anthony Kiedis. The two have been inseparable since and crafted a carer spanning 11 studio albums and 33 years of music.
For this reason, Flea has been named the “2nd best bassist of all time” in a 2009 Rolling Stone poll and brings with him a truly unique style of bass playing and song writing. The contributions of Flea (and the RHCP) has inspired musicians young and old alike.
As a result of this, his defining characteristics are his aggressive slap bass style, graphite neck basses, nakedness … and socks.
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Red Hot Chili Peppers (1983) and Freaky Styley (1984)
- Musicman Cutlass 1 (no longer in production)
Graphite neck and MusicMan pickup. Green and pink tape with specs of paint. Later plastered with shiny flag stickers.
- Fender Precision (stage back up, seen in live videos at this time)
Stock, in black
Seen in “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”, “Jungle Man” and “Catholic School Girls Rule”
Mentioned in the video but incidentally not used by Flea, we discussed the modern Cutlass rework based on the original Cutlass 1. Designs recently found in 2015 provided MusicMan with plans for a new guitar named the MusicMan Cutlass*. As this guitar was a success, two basses soon followed. Consequently giving us the Precision style MusicMan Cutlass* and the Jazz style MusicMan Caprice.*
Uplift Mofo Part Plan (1987)
- Kramer Spector NS2-JA (no longer in production)
EMG split coil pickups, bolt on, brass nut with 1.64 width, Pau Ferro fingerboard dot inlays and chrome hardware and 24 frets. Kramer guitars were especially relevant as they are the predecessor to the now Stuart Spector company.
Seen in “Fight like a brave”
Mother’s Milk (1989)
- Spector NS-2
Active EMG P/J pickups; Spector “HAZ” 9v active tone circuit. 3 piece maple neck through construction,
Pau Ferro fingerboard with Spector’s signature Crown inlays, 24 fret gold hardware with block inlays.
Seen in “Knock Me Down”
- Tiesco NB-4 (no longer in production)
Del Rey series chrome pickup, 23.5″ scale. Japanese made and sold under the name Silvertone in the US.
Seen in “Taste the Pain” and “Higher Ground”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
- Wal Mk 2
Dual humbucker with DI and Jack output.
Seen in “Suck My Kiss” and the documentary Funky Monks (1991)
- Musicman StingRay (used on Righteous and the Wicked and Funky Monks)
3 band active EQ with Agulair OBP-1 preamp, coloured black w/ grey pick guard, vintage sunburst w/ black pick guard.
Seen in Aeroplane”, “Coffee Shop”, “If You Have To Ask”, 5 String Stingray on “Under The Bridge”, “Warped”. Also used on most of the touring at this time.
One Hot Minute (1995)
- Alembic Epic (stock)
34 inch neck, MXY4 humbucker pickups with ceramic magnets and a low impedance. Ebony fretboard.
Seen in “My Friends”
- Modulus Flea bass (Now called the Modulus Funk Unlimited)
Lane Poor active pickups, Graphite necks and Aguliar OBP-1 preamps.
Seen in “Scar Tissue”, “Around the World”, “Otherside” and used on the tour at this time.
Other models Flea has used include.
- Blue Sparkle
- Silver Sparkle and 5 string Silver Sparkle
- Aboriginal decal
- Sunburst (main touring bass of this time) pickguard removed and gaffer tape on the knobs to hold in place.
Seen in live music video “Snow” from Stadium Arcadium
- Black with Lakers font FLEA in the fretboard pickguard removed
Also seen is a 1961 Fender Jazz bass, see Stadium Acardium below.
By The Way (2003)
- Circle Jerk Punk Rock Modulus Flea bass
Lane Poor active pickups, Graphite neck and Aguliar OBP-1 preamp.
It has a white pearl pickguard and headstock that matches the body.
The Circle Jerk Punk Rock was painted red white and blue but adorned in stickers from the following punk band the Circle Jerks, Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Black Flag, Joy Division and Fugazi.
This particular bass was used to record much of “By The Way” and on used on the tour.
Seen in “By The Way”, “The Zephyr Song” Can’t Stop” Universally Speaking” “Fortune Faded” and Live at Slane Castle DVD.
- Fender Jazz (orange)
Seen in “Can’t Stop”
Stadium Arcadium (2006)
- 1961 Fender Jazz Bass
Pre-CBS Fender Jazz Bass, one of the original “Shell Pink” jazz basses produced by Fender evaluated to be worth $35,000.
Leo Fender sold his guitar company to CBS (yep, Columbia Broadcasting System) in 1964. These basses are sought after due to a higher quality material. Afterwards, Fender modified their parts and sounded slightly different.
The Flea Fender signature Jazz bass was created for consumers to get a piece of the action.
As a result of this demand, it attempts to do this by matching the unique features. Equipped with vintage 1964 Jazz pickups, a period correct neck and Nitrocellulose lacquer.
Nitrocellulose was the final finish added to the bass and made it glossy. It has been said to have a positive effect on tone over modern techniques of polyurethane coating. The coating naturally and organically fades with time giving a truly vintage look.
Also seen in “Californication”, “Dani California”, “Desecration Smile”, “Hump De Bump”,”Dark Necessities”,
- Fender Jazz Bass Fretless Jaco Pastorius tribute (sunburst)
Custom ’60s single-coil jazz bass, Alder body, Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish,
Seen in “Tell Me Baby”
I’m With You (2011) and The Getaway (2016)
- FleaBass (no longer in production)
Not to be confused with the Modulus Flea Bass (Which incidentally was renamed the Modulus Funk Unlimited) which were in production from 2009 to 2011. Flea’s own FleaBass was customised with Lane Poor active pickups, Graphite neck and 18 volt Aguliar OBP-1 preamp.
The models sold to the public however were more affordable (made in China) and had chrome hardware with a passive dual-coil Alnico humbucker. A maple 20-fret neck with rosewood fretboard. The scale length were 34 inch neck or a Junior 30 inch neck.
Seen in “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”, “Monarchy of Roses”, “Look Around”, and “Brendan’s Death Song”.
Flea’s bass has a spin art finish which was created in partnership with UK artist Damien Hirst. As a result a handful of these basses were made and put on auction for Flea’s school of music, The Silverlake Conservatory of Music. The typical auction price … $50,000.
Current tour rig to present (2017)
Presently, The Red Hot Chili Peppers started their Getaway world tour on 22 May 2016 and are set to play 151 dates. Flea’s bass technician Tracy Robar was interviewed for Premier Guitar magazine bringing us up to speed with Fleas current bass gear for the tour.
- Silver Jazz – Fender Custom Shop created by Jason Smith
- Road worn Pink Jazz – Fender Custom Shop created by Jason Smith
- Lakers Jazz – Fender Custom Shop made created by Jason Smith
These basses have a Jazz style body, Lane Poor Legacy pickup, 18 volt Aguliar OBP-1 preamp and with a graphite reinforced neck.
At this point Flea is now back with Fender, the Silver Custom Shop Jazz is Flea’s current #1 main tour bass. Flea will be replacing his all his Modulus basses with the new Fender Custom Jazz when he gets them. At the time of the interview he currently has 3 Road Worn Pink Jazz customs.
Seen in “Goodbye Angels”
Fleas Amplifiers, strings, technique and the rest in part 2
At this point, this post is long enough without the addition of amplifiers, strings, effects and technique segments.
As a consequence we continue and conclude our two part Flea series by asking questions like; “when did Flea change to GK amplifiers?”, “On what songs he use a Qtron effects pedal?” and “Are his signature strings all that?!” All this and plenty more to be discussed in part 2 of Flea – Know Your Bass Player.
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