02/1994/5 Bikini magazine (Flea interview)

Please note: This magazine is copyrighted 1994 so I originally used that for the date of issue. However, Leni has been looking at the magazine for some research and queried the date. Both 1994 and 1995 are given on websites as the release date. The cover only lists February with no year, but there are some albums reviewed which came out at the end of 1994* so it can’t have been February ’94 unless they were using a crystal ball or were reviewing seriously ahead of release! February 1995, with a back dated copyright, seems much more likely.

* For example:

Cinderella Still Climbing which was released in November 1994

Black Sheep Non Fiction which was released in December 1994


Chili Pepper’s bassist Flea discusses fatherhood, macho men and the pure joy of swinging.
By Arty Nelson
Photographs by Gus Van Sant
Art from Clara

I pull up the hillside and park alongside a Mercedes Benz with each panel painted a different color. Somewhere between a Mondrian canvas and a strange dream I had last night, something about Savannah and Pee Wee Herman and a pink mud bath. Flea comes to the door with a Kronk Boxing t-shirt on and a wool cap over his head. That was quick, he tells me. Well, when you live in one room, prep time is minimal, I’m thinking.

Flea grabs me a glass of water and I hang listening to some Neil Young while Flea and his buddy, John Denny, play this game, I think it’s called “Cams” or something. It’s like pool but with these little checker-like pieces. I take a seat on the couch and listen to Neil suffer on the phonograph while Flea takes another game. There’s much celebration. A bet with many stipulations. For starters, a one-size fits all golden fleece, a pair of torn fishnets and Eddie Van Halen’s last favorite capo. High Stakes. Then Flea and I head out onto the back porch for the interviews. John Denny, by the way, co-wrote a good song with Zander Schloss for the Sweet and Low Orchestra.

On the edge of the porch, there’s a beat-up looking black and white cat. We start about cats. Flea has many of them.

Flea: I was sitting down at that couch down there in that window and I heard this scratching at the window – that’s where you sit and watch TV in my house, right…So he [the cat] would sit there and scratch for two hours non-stop. He was sick… He was really fucking sick.

Arty: He just shows up?

Flea: Yeah, he just showed up and then my sister took him. She got him out of my hair. I named him, AI Herbert because I was just in Australia not long ago and I met this guy…he’s kinda like a town idiot kind of guy…Actually, I don’t like to call him that, but he’s missing a few cards in his deck…I have a house out there…it’s in this tiny little town, and this guy, you know… he’s like 35 years old and he plays with 10-year old kids all day long, like that kinda guy— And I had a party down there, and he came to it and I was playing this weird jazz music, and everyone else were like country people and they were ignoring it…And he was getting into it. He’s going, ‘You know mate, you know my favorite trumpet player is Al Herbert.’…So I named my cat Al Herbert.

The sun’s too bright so we head across the porch and sprawl out on the bricks. A chair might be nice.

Flea: I have a daughter and I can’t let her walk to school or ride her bike to school. No way, you know. And down where I got my place in Australia, which actually I’m going to in January for the first time which is like my dream come true, down at that place there…it’s so stunning and beautiful with ocean and sky and forest and so much room to be creative, where you can just be happy, like…really be happy, you know… Not what like someone else thinks you should be to be happy. Here everything squashes your creativity and your happiness and your true being. Everything gets formulated and everyone ends up being sheep…like that Louis Bunuel movie where all the sheep go into the church…you know which one I’m talking about? It’s umm…whatever…And there [Australia], kids walk like two miles to school through the woods, you know and then they go like sailing or some shit… you know…this place is eating shit.

Flea is Australian. I ask him when he came to LA

Flea: ’72… I left Australia when I was 4, in ’66. I went to New York because my father was going to work for the Australian consulate and then my mom divorced him and married this jazz musician guy. We lived in New York for awhile and then came out to here for him to make his fortune [laughs].

Arty: Trumpet was your first instrument? Did you learn from him?

Flea: A little bit and also in school…I was definitely inspired by all the music I heard around my house as a kid… Him jamming in the house with all his friends and stuff…Being able to start from playing trumpet helped me out so much, like going into the next phase of music, even though I decided to like, start taking acid and playing bass, I didn’t totally abandon everything I’d learned, ’cause jazz really is the only … I don’t know, now it’s getting kinda fucked up. There seems to be less vision in it. It’s the truest and most amazing American art form. It really is the only true American art form.

Arty: You guys are no longer the young guys…you are established now…There’s a whole generation younger than you…

Flea: We’re not the young guys anymore [laughs]…the old rock star fart guys.

Arty: Well not totally because some of the old 60’s guys are still crawling around…

Flea: For me, I feel like the Red Hot Chili Peppers were majorly influential on a Iot of bands. Like definitely without the RHCP there is no Rage Against The Machine…nothing against them, I think they’re a good band. But then again, for us, there are major influences…Gang of Four—Defunked …James White and the Contortions. We used to have a lot of fun. Us and Fishbone and The Monster. We used to play together all the time—toured together and it was a really great time but it’s all separated and weirded out now.

Arty: Life just gets more and more that way as the years go by.

Flea: I feel like LA is so lonely. I don’t know what it is. I feel like I can still get with people that I love and you know relate on a really cool level and it can be a beautiful thing, but in general…I don’t know if it’s just me ’cause I’ve been going through tumultuous personal times in the past couple years or what… but it just seems hard like there’s a lot of lonely, sad people…and it seems like so many people are on heroin and shit… really fucking themselves up. And sometimes, you know, it seems like a viable option….like I could deal with this shit if I could just go get really fucked up. I mean it’s not an option for me, but I can almost…I mean as much as I like I abhor that situation…I can almost understand that option.

Arty: How do you feel about your life right now. Like, are you who you wanted to be when you grew up, if you had to grow up?

Flea: Yeah…I feel really thankful, and this has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, ’cause that whole concept sort of disgusts me. But no… I feel like in general, I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a wonderful daughter who is just the greatest person in the world and I love so much. I’ve been able to play music and support myself and support myself well. And you know, I’ve got a place in Australia. I can travel around and be creative and I know some really cool people, I’ve been lucky to be a part of some great creative things, and I feel like my best creative moments are yet to come and I feel I can live gracefully and be creative and that’s an amazing thing that very few people are able to do that I’m a lucky person. The cool thing about playing is that you can play when you’re 97 years old…keep rocking out. Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot about sort of taking care of myself spiritually. I mean I could get hit by a car tomorrow but I mean I don’t feel like I’ll ever go crazy. As long as I stay on the path that I’m on, I’ll be able to learn more and be creative, find different levels.

Arty: If you were going to go crazy you probably would have because you’ve definitely walked alongside some insanity.

Flea: I’ve entered realms of neurotic psychosis which have nearly driven me over the edge, you know. I’m just kind of coming out of a phase where I was really bummed out, you know, like really hurtin’ bad… and it’s like, uh…. I feel like I need to sink that low to learn a lot of good stuff about acceptance and patience and shit to do for myself. You know, I like meditate all of the time now. I feel like it’s the greatest thing in the world. The greatest thing I could ever do is nothing.

Arty: I’d like a little more of that myself. I’ve always confused peace with stagnancy.

Flea: Me too. But then, like for me, you tap into something that’s real and it’s the most hard-core fucking thing in the world.

Arty: Have to stumble through our own wilderness to find it.

Flea: Right. And form, just learning to be comfortable in my own skin is a major thing, just being able to like deal with people has always been a challenge for me because I’ve always been like a crazed, insecure fucking freak.

I tell Flea I think we all have a little lie detector in our guts and that he seems pretty genuine in what he’s doing…comfortable. People sense that.

Flea: Yeah for me, as far as a public persona is concerned, yeah…I’ve been honest. But on another level, maybe I’ve had a sense of humor that some people didn’t think was funny or something. That’s really probably the only the only time people talked shit about me…when they didn’t go it… my joke [laughs] …. especially in the early days when I first started doing interviews or being in the public eye. I always wanted to shock people so much. And I’d say anything to stir things up and I said some ugly things…but ah…that’s cool.

Arty: A good shocking’s alright…

Flea: Yeah, I think a good shocking’s good… but now I’m much more conscious about hurting people’s feelings than I used to be ’cause I’ve had my feelings hurt and it’s not nice to hurt people’s feelings unless they’re fucking assholes they deserve it.
We talk about the new album and how (it’s almost done) and how the shows with the Stones sucked. We talk about working with Rick Rubin. Flea’s happy with the music.

Flea: When Dave joined the band at first it was this initial awkward Phase. If was really difficult. I mean, it was a difficult time because I was having a really difficult time with just ah … emotional and physical problems, basically. And he was having a bad time joining a new band and it was all awkward. We nearly imploded like and it didn’t work. But then it got really good and we wrote this music and did this little tour. We played in Europe and it was like, ‘ Wow, this band is gonna grow into an amazing new thing’ And now, it’s just kind of petered to a halt, you know, ‘cause we’re just kinda waiting to finish this record and we’re all just kind of sitting around. So I’m just writing and playing and we’ll finish the record, then we’ll do the band thing – tour, make videos and all that shit.

Arty: Could you ever see making a solo album?

Flea: Totally can. I don’t think I’d do one in a normal context. I’ve been fucking around a lot on my four track. And I’ve decided I’m gonna keep doing that and come up with enough stuff and out it out. Or maybe get more sophisticated recording equipment and do that, do all kinds of stuff…like pretty songs, funk songs and punk rock stuff. I think that I can do something that’s dynamic and I feel like I, you know, have something to say…My biggest thing lately is that I’ve learned how to play guitar a little bit. I’ve never played guitar and on the new album [Peppers] there’s a few things I wrote on guitar so it’s a totally different thing instead of me writing them on bass. I just kind of strum along and hum and come up with some songs…

Arty: Your bass playing has really changed over the years.

Flea: Right now, I’m totally uninterested in being fancy on the bass. It’s like, I don’t give a shit. I don’t care if like Bass Player magazine says I suck or how I always used get voted bass player guy [laughs] Nothing matters except playing something that’s emotionally potent. Nothing ever mattered except that.

Arty: You fathered a generation of whiteboys popping and slapping on the bass.

Flea: I’m proud that I did something musically. And it was a totally natural non-thought out thing that was new but then it became this macho thing. These guys started doing it like it was just so macho, and I’m really not macho…never have been. And I really don’t like macho-ness. It rubs me the wrong way, unless it’s like a real natural thing, like some guy who lives out in the woods and can still be a sensitive man but can he macho, chops wood all day and you can tell like, yeah, that dude’s stud-ly. But in Iike the city, it’s almost never like that. It’s this really contrived like, ‘I go to the gym everyday and I can kick your fucking ass’… you know. It’s fucking gross. I was at the Palladium a little while ago and this security guard came up to me and goes …I can’t remember it was some group of guys like some posse and they fucked as many girls as they could and they went on a bunch of talk shows…and the guy was like, ‘Hey…I was one of those guys!’ And I was so disgusted and I was even more disgusted that he thought that would be something that would excite me.

Arty: I’d be forgetting that shit as quick as possible.

Flea: I know [laughs]… And that’s one of those things that’s disillusioned me about rap music. I’ve been like really into rap music, but this macho thing, like this whole we’re gonna beat you up, like we’re gonna kick your ass…it’s so ugly to me. I don’t wanna name any names but this whole thing where these rappers carrying around brass knuckles and knives…it’s like so fucking what. You can beat the shit outta me all day long, can you do one thing that’s beautiful… fuck that shit.

We talk some more about bass playing and if he ever yearns to go back to popping.

Flea: Oh no…I feel like I’m growing but I feel like I haven’t lost any of that. When we play live we’ll play some of the old songs, I feel like I still have all of that. In the past, I think there’s some shit that I did that’s truly ferocious…really angry stuff. And I still have all that in me, but I feel like I’ve learned how to harness and control that so it doesn’t ambush me. But it’s still in there, for sure. I don’t think you ever have to lose things. I can see what’s positive about it and keep it. The whole thing about going through life I think is to not get your heart and soul fucked up too much… so you can listen to your inside…be able to hear what your inner self is saying…your true self…then you can do anything…you never have to lose anything…you never have to become senile or crazy, or out of touch, or anything. You can always communicate with people in a meaningful way and that’s great. That’s like my thing right now. I’m just trying to only do shit that keeps me in touch with my heart.

We talk about books. Flea is, in his own words, a fanatical reader.

Flea: I just read this book about Zoo Yen. It’s an autobiography. He lived to be 120 he’s this Zen Buddhist monk and he just did the craziest shit [laughs]…the most punk shit you can’t believe. When he was like 19 or something, he went up to this mountain in China for like four years and ate nothing but pine needles and drank water and he said that after like three years he had beams of light that shot out of his eyeballs and if anyone saw him they ran away because they thought he was some kind of monster or ghost. Then he like walked to India and prostrated himself every third step the whole way. All this shit…. you’re just like, he can’t be making this up…. it’s too intense. And he was like 111 and he got the shit kicked out of him, all his ribs broken and his arms too by the communists or whatever. They wanted to kick out all of the monks and he had this temple monastery and they beat the fuck out of him and he got up and meditated for like 9 days and he didn’t move, didn’t drink or eat for 9 days and meditated and then he was like, healed…shit like that. Serious shit going on, serious energy.

Arty: Beyond anything even David Geffen could do.

I ask if he’s seen any movies? Hoop Dreams, he says and then we talk about the movie, Basketball Diaries. Movies OK, he says. He likes Leo De Caprio. Wishes him luck, Marky Mark is OK even, but the movie isn’t as feminine as the book, and that’s a shame. Then I ask about success and it’s pressure on creativity?

Arty: Have you ever quit the Peppers?

Flea: I quit once. I quit twice actually [laughs]. I quit recently. I walked out of rehearsal and sat down on the curb for like a half hour, then I walked back in and said, ‘No I don’t quit.” I got into this argument and I said, ‘That’s it. I can’t do this anymore, I quit.’ I was just really depressed and disillusioned…kind of embarrassing [laughs]. But yeah, we’ve all been out, but the band has never done anything without me or Anthony. We actually jammed with another singer once. It was silly. He ended [starts to laugh] up actually being the singer of this band, Little Caesar.

Arty: Do you do anything, any other stuff, besides music?

Flea: I go in and out of a phase where I write, and I love it…and always something good happens. Then I just don’t do it. I should do it. I was doing it for a while. And I wrote some lyrics for our new record and stuff.

Arty: Is that the first time you’ve done

Flea: I’ve written tiny parts before… but I wrote one complete song. It’s about my friend, River, who died. And there’s another song I play and sing. And there’s another song I’m writing.

Arty: River died like a year ago?

Flea: Yeah, It was really weird. You know, I was really close to him, I really love him a lot and he’s just an amazing fucking person…and drugs did him in. And I really don’t know what to say about it. I know he had problems and had emotional pain and stuff, but he definitely didn’t want to die, you know. He definitely wanted to live and to work through it and he could have lived and worked though it and been like a really happy person and brought lots of joy to other people ’cause he was such a kind and caring person… it’s just fucked up…he was really good for me…

Thing’s happen. Flea farts. We talk about: Girlfriends. Pain. Growth. Relationships.

Flea: I haven’t been able to pull it [a relationship] off…[laughs]…I always run away.

Arty: How about being a father?

Flea: I love being a father. Being a father’s the greatest thing. It’s changed my perspective about life. I think about the future more. Clara just…put it this way, I’ve been so bummed out where I’ve considered like killing myself, you know. And I’d never ever do anything like that ’cause of her. And that’s like a silly … like, oh great, you’re not gonna kill yourself ’cause of your daughter.

Arty: It is pretty big.

Flea: But I mean everything I do is in her interest. I mean, I work for myself too… You got a bug right there on your forehead…I love her so much. Everything I do I think about in terms of her. I really always wanted be close to her. I try hard to be a good dad and be honest to her.

Arty: A new take on love?

Flea: Probably I think so, I’m really into women that have babies.

Arty: Yeah, pregnant women are sexy.

Flea: They glow definitely. Like, whenever I see a woman with a baby I always think, ‘Wow, I wonder If she’s divorced’ [laughs]. I’m into that because I know that they could understand that thing with the kid. And I’ve always had the paternal instincts. Even with my first girlfriends when I was like 16, 17, I wanted to be a dad. I’m into being a dad very much. I1 was with this girl I met in Canada and, you know, I fell in love with her and she was beautiful. She was to me like this simple girl from Canada. And then we made love and she got pregnant and then I liked watched like this violent bloody thing come spewing out of her pussy, you know. And she’s like all spread legged and I’m holding her legs open and she’s like, ‘OH.. Gimme some fucking drugs!’…’cause we did it naturally and she’s like, ‘this Hurts’…and it was so gnarly, and then Clara came out, you know, and she was this little blob. And then she was like really cute for awhile and then cuter. And now she reads books and has conversations and is really into what she wears…all kinds of parts of the human psyche she understands. She’s amazing. She’s a full-on person. Anything that I can do, she can do…most things better. She’s really sensitive to people, totally inspiring. I know right now the full joy of swinging on swings again.

Arty: Right up to that point where the chain jumps?

Flea: Exactly.

Arty: So how do you like working with Rick Rubin?

Flea: I really like Rick a lot as a friend. I learn a lot from Rick.

Arty: He seems like a hands off kind of producer?

Flea: He is and he isn’t. He goes in where he needs to go and stays off whatever’s good. Over producing can kill a record. It killed our first album. It was our initial explosion and we coulda been great and we fucked up – in the studio so bad and made a sterile album. It was a learning thing, you know.

Arty: Who produced that album?

FLEA: Andy Gill from Gang of Four. Plus we had a real shirty guitar player then too, this guy named lack Sherman…be sure to put it in the magazine that I say he’s a fucking asshole. He sued us for being mean to him. He said we were mean to him…fucking dick. We had a great drummer named Cliff Martinez…a really creative cool guy… does movie sound-tracks now.
The conversation goes from meanness to suffering.

Flea: There’s enough pain in the world where you can tap, into it without killing yourself.
I turn off the tape and we go inside. Denny is cooking Miso soup. Flea offers, I decline. Thanks, I say, and leave.


Clara on the phone or, Arty struggles
It’s 9:27 in the morning. My phone rings. It’s Clara. She’s eating Honeycombs. She sounds so fresh and mature. Meanwhile, as usual, my eyes are like licked envelopes. My teeth are burrowed into my gums. I reach for a pencil. I ask her the questions that you ask a six year old.*(*Notive how Clara actually makes Arty look immature -Ed.)

ARTY: What’s your favorite color ?

CLARA: Blue.

ARTY: What are you up to today ?

CLARA: Me and poppy are going to The Swan Princess.

ARTY: What did you have for Thanksgiving

CLARA: Turkey and mash potatoes and clams (?!D). I just turned six on September 16. I got a red tricycle too.

ARTY: What’s your favorite Pepper’s tune?

CLARA: (SINGING) “…Take me to the place I love….”

ARTY: Do you wanna play music when you grow up?

CLARA: I used to, but now I wanna be a cartoonist. (She tells me she wants to maybe work for the Disney Channel and do a whole “Beauty and the Beast” thing.

ARTY: What’s your favorite art thing

CLARA: Tracing paper.

ARTY: Er….How about those kittens I saw over at your pad?

CLARA: Minty and Scooby, named after Scooby Doo.

ARTY: Scooby runs all over the place, why do you think that is Clara?

CLARA: Well, he’s younger…he’s anxious.

Clara goes on to tell me all about a movie called Frankenmeany where’s there’s this dog that dies and comes back. She says her dad rented it and she cried. Nice little piece of cinema.
“Anyways,” she says, “I have to get back to my cereal because I think it might be getting soggy.”
(This interview did not leave Arty feeling very on top of things. Good show, Clara.)

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