Flea’s amplifiers, effects, strings and techniques its Know Your Bass Player part 2
Alright! Welcome back, It’s part 2 of Flea’s episode of Know Your Bass Player. Continuing where last episode left off, we’re starting with Flea’s amplifiers rig. Going through to strings, miscellaneous gear and finishing with technique.
If you’ve missed part 1 of Flea Know Your Bass Player you can catch up by clicking on the link. We cover every bass guitar that he has used in this career that spans 30+ years and it is a fascinating musical journey.
Did you watch the video?! Would you like to know when the next one is out?
Flea’s amplifiers rig
Firstly, Flea was seen touring with an Ampeg rig and on some occasions a Trace Elliot rig. The first live TV performance of the Chili Pepper was on 1984’s Thicke Of The Night and it looks like this rig was a Trace Elliot and predating the Ampeg.
Between 1983 and 1989
- Trace Elliot AH500X amplifier (500 watt over two channels)
- Trace Elliot 4×10
- Ampeg VB4 amplifier (100 watts)
- Ampeg 8x10E cabinets*
On live videos Flea has had two Ampeg VB4’s on stage which power two Ampeg 8×10’s.
Also seen on some live videos at the time but not confirmed. There was one live video of what looks like to be a Peavey 8×10. This particular 8×10 cabinet had “Peavey” written down the right hand side of the cabinet vertically. I’ve not been able to find such a cabinet in their back catalogue but I’m putting this out there to cover all bases for those interested.
Secondly for the albums The Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Mother’s Milk. On tour, Flea was seen using a Mesa Boogie rig consisting of;
- 200 Watt Mesa Boogie Buster Bass 200 amplifier
- D210 Mesa Boogie Diesel Road Ready cabinet (2×10)
- D215 Mesa Boogie Diesel Road Ready cabinet (for subs)
- Gallien Kreuger 800RB head (400 watts)
He would typically have 3 lots of this set up (3 heads and 6 cabs in total).
At any rate towards the end if this period Flea was switching out his gear and some instances have him set up with 800RB Gallien Krueger head and his Mesa Boogie cabinets.
From 1995 to 2011
From here on and with the release of BSSM Flea was endorsed by Gallien Krueger and his signature rig consisted of;
- 2001RB Gallien-Krueger 2001RB Amplifier*
- 410RBH Gallien-Krueger 4X10 cabinet (800W)*
- 115RBH Gallien-Krueger 1X15 cabinet (400W)*
He usually has three sets of this rig on stage at any one time, (3 heads, 6 cabs in total).
The 2001RB amp is set to “dual mono” mode and the cabs set to bi-amp mode with the horns barely turned on.
On tour Flea uses three Gallien-Krueger 2001RB amplifiers, where one head controls the other two as slaves. The amps run into three Gallien-Krueger 4X10 cabinets and three 1X15 cabs. There are two additional 2001RB amplifiers in his rack, one is used when Josh Klinghoffer plays bass, and the other is a backup.
In 2011 the “I’m With You” tour
During the I’m With You tour, Flea picked up the Acoustic USA 360/61. At the time back in the 1970’s this amplifier was one of the loudest for its time. A short run of these amplifiers were created recently and once again they are hard to find.
The amplifier and the cabinet are built are one single piece with the head named the 360 and the cabinet 361.
- The 360 amplifier is 400 watts
- The cabinet had a single custom Eminence 18” Cast Frame speaker and titanium Horn driver with 2” coil
One of Flea’s idols, Jaco Pastorious used this amplifier back in the 1970’s and most likely the inspiration for this choice. After the “I’m With You tour”, Flea’s amplifiers then returned back to the Gallien Kreuger rig in the same capacity as above.
Flea’s bass strings
In Flea’s early career he was sponsored by Ernie Ball using Round Wound Slinkys (50-105).
- Each string gauge is as follows G50 D70 A85 E105.
Towards the middle of his career he received an endorsement of GHS boomers (45-105)*. Which have a special combination of Stainless Steel and Nickel Plate as well as repackaging the original boomers and putting Flea’s name on them.
- Each string gauge is as follows G45 D65 A85 E105.
It would look like Flea’s strings became a little lighter over the years as a result and this matches up with what his bass technician has said in interviews. That he has extremely low action on his basses. Lighter strings will aid him in playing faster.
Flea’s 2017 effect pedals
All thing’s considered Flea’s main tone comes from his pickup’s, low action and amplifiers, it’s only on songs like “Around The World” and “Throw Away Your Television” where he adds a distortion to the mix.
Next, this pedal brings an up to date version of the 1970’s Maestro Bass B:assmaster octave fuzz pedal. This modern version delivers the same octave overdrive/harmonic generation effect in a quiet, fully controllable pedal with a true bypass built in.
View the settings Flea dials in on stage B:assmaster pedal (Source from Flea’s bass technician).
MXR Micro Amp Pedal
Flea uses a MXR Micro Amp Pedal* for a clean boost on stage, typically for solo, leads or slapping parts. A very simply pedal with one knob for volume, there’s little that can go wrong.
Electro-Harmonix Original Q-Tron
Whilst Flea is not know to be a gear head the Electro-Harmonix Original Q-Tron* has a home in Flea’s pedal board. Using the pedal primarily on “Sir Psycho Sexy”. The EH Q-Tron is a phat, funky envelope filter with a switchable boost and filter modes that allow for an unlimited supply of new auto-wah effects. It has a increased frequency response and improved signal-to-noise ratio.
View the settings on Flea’s Electro-Harmonix Original Q-Tron (Source from Flea’s bass technician).
Boss Bass EQ
Still, a nice and simple pedal to finish Flea’s effects pedals. The Boss Bass EQ is only really used on the song “Dreams of a Samurai”. Taking off a lot of the high ends of the bass and giving it a more dubby, reggae like sound.
View the settings on Flea’s Boss Bass EQ (Source from Flea’s bass technician).
Other effects pedals Flea uses
The following pedals, whilst not currently used on Flea’s rig have made appearances in the recent past.
Electro-Harmonix Bassballs Nano
Seen on the 2013 tour for Atoms For Peace the EH BassBalls* is a twin filter envelope filter. It’s two narrow filters provide more control of the envelope, generating very unique vocal-like sounds. Further more it has a distortion switch that enriches the harmonics. The response control varies the sweep range determined by the players attack.
Dunlop Original Cry Baby GCB95 Wah Pedal
Seen in on the Premier Guitar rig video for 2012 and while not mentioned specifically. The one in his rig looks like an original GCB95 Wah* based on it’s all black chassis. On the other hand If it’s a Dunlop pedal, they don’t make bass wah pedals that are black. Other sources online say Flea uses the bass version, the 105Q in white but I have have my doubts.
Moog MF-103 Moogerfooger 12-Stage Phaser
The MF-103 12-stage phaser* is a direct descendant of the original Moog modular synthesizers. Containing two compete modular functions: a 6 or 12-stage phaser with resonance control, and wide range LFO with amount control. The 12-Stage Phaser’s control parameters are Sweep frequency, Resonance, LFO Rate and LFO Amount and has an unlimited amount of ways to customise the sound depending on the needs.
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
Firstly, this is the bread and butter of the bass effects pedals. The ODB-3 Bass Overdrive* adds a smooth warm overdrive that still keeps something of original dynamics. Most likely, Flea used this before his Malekko B:assmaster and performed on Throw Away Your Televisions and “Around The World”.
- Lane Poor Legacy pickups
- BadAss II (2) bridges
- 18 Volt Aguilar OBP-3 preamp in all basses.
- Whirlwind DI that provides audio for the monitors as well as a post-effects line for the house.
- Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2+*
- UR4D SHURE wireless receivers
- JX44 EFX send/return
- Korg digital tuners*.
- SGI-44™ Studio Guitar Interface
- Orange (.60mm) tortex plectrum
The birth of aggressive psycho slap funk
By and large, Flea’s family home was often full of jazz musicians as his father was a trumpet player and socalised in that circle. Over time, Flea took an interest in the trumpet himself and moved on to the bass guitar soon after.
The funk style was ingrained in him, by way of players like Booty’s Collins and Larry Graham. One of Flea’s first bands was a punk band named Fear who are still around today. Fear, back in the 80’s was all about playing as loud and as fast as possible. To play as if every note is your last.
Incidentally, this led to Flea pretty much attacking the bass by way of slapping, popping, thumping or picking. The same style continued over into the first two Red Hot Chili Pepper albums where again. Flea attacked the bass with aggressive funky chops.
Further reading on Slap Bass
In 2000 Flea released a DVD named Flea: Adventures in spontaneous jamming and techniques*.
The DVD is filmed in a intimate setting with introspective and live performance improvisation. Flea is joined with drummer Chad Smith and interviewed by actor River Phoenix. Above all this DVD goes into Flea’s mind frame of how he plays and how he uses the bass as his vehicle of communication, and discusses the theories, philosophies, styles, sounds and techniques he uses when performing and jamming in his own unique manner.
For those seriously looking into Slap Bass you can find more practical exercises and progressions. In Tony Oppenheim’s classic Slap it! Funk studies for the electric bass*.
Bass technique on Mother’s Milk
In any case, during the production of Mother’s Milk, Flea realised that his playing was a little bit too busy and like most Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. His style of play was constantly in your face and left no time for the listener to breathe. With that in mind he decided to simplify his progressions and fill in the music rather than attack it. Taking on a philosophy that less is more.
Flea writing and recording for Blood Sugar Sex Magik
In addition to this, Rick Rubin joined the helm to produce Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Flea further calmed down his style. As a result of using an acoustic guitar which Rubin had given to Flea. He was interviewed in August of 1995 for Bass Player Magazine and spoke on the subject of his then style (emphasis the is our own).
Bass Player Magazine: Compared to … early Chili Peppers records, your parts on Blood Sugar Sex Magik showcased a more stripped-down, rudimentary approach. On One Hot Minute, did you try to combine elements of both?
Flea: Not on a conscious level. I was trying to play simply on Blood Sugar 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.
Writing and recording bass for One Hot Minute
Flea: I think my playing on One Hot Minute is even more simple; I just wanted to play shit that sounded good. I thrashed through the recording and didn’t care about the parts being perfect.
… Before we recorded this album (OHM), I spent more time strumming an acoustic guitar than I did playing bass. To me, my bass parts are more incidental to the song now, because I’m thinking less as a bass player and more as a songwriter.
The full archived article can be read in full on an unofficial RHCP Fan site Flea Interview – by Scott Malandrone for Bass Player Magazine.
Dynamic transitions in Flea’s style
Because of this deliberate focus on the song as a whole and the bigger picture. Flea refined these techniques and used the space and pacing in songs to his advantage.
It is for this reason that in the current RHCP era (1997-2017) that many songs have dynamic transitions.
For example “Around the World” and “Give It Away” have bass lines that jump all around the neck and is a great example of a driving verse where it is is quick and nimble. Playing across the top of the neck to the very bottom. Come the chorus, he plays a more mellow conventional passage that is spacious and hangs onto the chords.
Traditional bass lines used by Flea
Furthermore, he tends to fall back on traditional bass lines whereby songs like “Hump De Bump” and “By The Way” have have a steady paced verse using quarter and eighth notes which are relatively straightforward and direct. When the chorus begins it then changes to a more intricate passage, ramping up to eighth and sixteenth notes.
Through the use of Flea’s amplifier rig, Gallien Krueger, Lane Poor pickups and Modulus basses (which we’ve covered in Flea’s Part 1). Flea continues to be an inspiring bass player for many, touching on aggressive and intricate funk all the way down to calm melodic passages. His style has something in it for everybody and it is great for young and old alike to dig into to learn something new. The RHCP’s new albums continue to push the limits and experiment with new styles and genres.
Who should we do next?
Thank you very much for watching and reading the show notes and I truly hope this information has benefit you and your needs. I have plans to make a more Know Your Bass player episodes and if you are a fan I want to hear from you.
Who should I do next? Tell me! Leave a comment on any of my videos on my YouTube channel and you never know, I just might give it a go.
Part 1 of Flea’s Know Your Bass Player can be found by clicking the link. If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to do that.
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