1995 February RAW (169)

THE RAW PULL OUT! (169)

12 PAGES OF CHILED-OUT PEPPER-MANIA

RED HOT POSTER ACTION

COMPETITION BONANZA

“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A CRAZED INSECURE F*KING FREAK!” FLEA GETS FRANK!

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

FUNKED OUT FREAKED OUT

 

“OLD ROCK STAR FART GUYS

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ livewire bassist FLEA may be getting on, but his band return with a much-anticipated new album in March. ARTIE NELSON visits the man at home for the full story, plus a whole load of stuff about 120-year-old Zen monks, living a spiritual life, and the death of actor River Phoenix …

I PULL up the hillside and park alongside a Mercedez Benz with each panel painted a afferent colour. Flea comes to the door wearing a Kronk Boxing T-shirt and a wool cap. He grabs me a glass of water and I hang out, listening to some Neil Young while Flea and his buddy John Denny play this game called ‘Cams’ or something. It’s like pool, but with these little checker-like pieces. I take a seat and listen to Neil suffer on the record player while Flea starts another game. There’s much celebration. A bet with many prizes. For starters, a one-size fits-all golden fleece, a pair of torn fishnet stockings, and Eddie Van Halen’s least favourite cap. High stakes. Then Flea and I head out onto the back porch for the interview. The sun’s too bright, so we head across the yard and sprawl out on the bricks. A chair might be nice.

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

FLEA: In 1972. I left Australia when I was four, in 1966. I went to New York because my Dad was going to work for the Australian consulate, then my Mom divorced him and married this Jazz musician guy. We lived in New York for a while, then came out here for him to make his fortune (laughs).

The trumpet was your first instrument? Did your dad teach you?

FLEA: A little bit. I also learnt in school … I was definitely inspired by all the music I heard around the house as a kid … Dad jamming with all his friends. Being able to start from playing the trumpet really helped me, like going into the next phase of music, even though I started taking acid and playing bass, I didn’t abandon everything I’d learned, ‘cos Jazz isn’t the be all and end all. There seems to be less vision in it. It’s the most amazing American art form.

THE RED Hot Chili Peppers are no longer the young guys. They’re established now, there’s a whole generation younger than them.

FLEA: We’re not the young guys anymore. We’re the old Rock Star fart guys. Well, not totally, because some of the old 60s guys are still crawling around … I feel that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were majorly influential on a lot of bands. Without the RHCP there is no Rage Against The Machine. Nothing against them, 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, toured together, but it’s all separated and weirded-out now.

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

FLEA:  LA is such a lonely place. I don’t know what it is. I can still get on with people who I love and relate to on a really cool level, but in general – I don’t know if it’s just me ‘cos I’ve been going through tumultuous personal times in the past couple of years – it just seems hard. So many people are on heroin and shit, really f**king themselves up. And sometimes it seems like a viable option … like I could deal with this shit if I could just go get really f**ked up. It’s not an option for me, but as much as I abhor that situation, I can almost understand that option.

How do you feel about your life right now?

FLEA: I feel really thankful. In general I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a wonderful daughter who is the greatest person in the world and I love her so much. I’ve been able to play music 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. I feel like I can live gracefully and be creative and that’s a very amazing thing that few people can do. I’m a lucky person. The cool thing about playing is that you can play when you’re 97 years old … keep Rockin’ out.

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot about taking care of myself spiritually. I could get hit by a car tomorrow, but I don’t feel like I’ll ever go crazy. As long as I stay on the path I’m on, I’ll be able to learn more and be creative, find different levels.

If you were going to go crazy it would probably have happened by now, ‘cos you’ve definitely walked alongside insanity.

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

I’ve always confused peace with stagnating.

FLEA Me, too. But then I’ve tapped into something that’s real and it’s the most hardcore f**king thing in the world.

We have to stumble through our own wilderness to find it.

FLEA Right. Being comfortable in my own skin is a major thing for me, just being able to deal with people has always been a challenge, because I’ve always been like a crazed, insecure f**king freak.

I TELL Flea we all have a little lie detector in our guts and that he seems pretty genuine and comfortable in what he’s doing, which is a really cool situation to be in.

FLEA As far as a public persona is concerned, I’ve been honest. But on another level, maybe I’ve had a sense of humour that some people didn’t think was funny. That’s probably the only time people talked shit about me, when they didn’t get it … my joke (laughs). Especially in the early days when I first started doing interviews and being in the public eye. I always wanted to shock people so much. I’d say anything to stir things up and I said some ugly things. But that’s cool.

A good shocking’s alright by me.

FLEA Yeah, but now I’m much more conscious about hurting people’s feelings than I used to be because I’ve had my feelings hurt. It’s not nice to hurt people’s feelings unless they’re f**king assholes and they deserve it.

We talk about the new album (it’s almost done) and how the band’s support slot with the Rolling Stones sucked. We talk about working with producer to the stars, Rick Rubin. Flea’s happy with the music.

FLEA When Dave (Navarro) joined the band at first it was this initial awkward phase. It was really difficult ‘cos I was having a really hard time with just er emotional and physical problems. And Dave was having a hard time joining a new band. It was all awkward. We nearly imploded, and it nearly 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 going to grow into an amazing new thing’. Now it’s just kind of petered to a halt, ‘cos we’re waiting to finish this record. So I’m just writing and playing, then we’ll do the band thing – tour, make videos and all that shit.

COULD YOU ever see yourself making a solo album?

FLEA Totally. I don’t think I’d do one in a normal context. I’ve been f**king around a lot on my four-track and I’m gonna keep doing that and come up with enough stuff to release an album or get more sophisticated recording equipment and really expand: do pretty songs, Funk songs and Punk Rock. I think I can do something dynamic, and I feel like I’ve got something to say. My biggest thing is I’ve learned how to play guitar a little. I’ve never played guitar before, and on the new album there’s a few things I wrote on guitar so it’s a totally different thing instead of me just writing on bass. I just kind of strum along and hum and come up with some songs.

Your bass playing has really changed over the years.

FLEA: Right now, I’m totally uninterested in being fancy on the bass. I don’t give a shit I don’t care if Bass Player magazine says I suck or if I get voted best bassist. Nothing ever mattered except playing something that’s emotionally potent. I’m proud that I did something musically. And it was a tottally 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 not really macho and never have been. I was at the Hollywood Palladium a little while ago and this security guard came up to me – I can’t remember exactly, but there was some group of guys, like some posse, who f”ked as may girls as they could, then went on a bunch of talk shows – and he said ‘Hey, I was one of those guys!’. I was disgusted and even more so that he thought that would excite me.

WE TALK some more about bass playing, and whether Flea ever yearns to go back to his patented style of ‘popping’ his four strings.

FLEA: Oh no. I feel like I’m growing but I haven’t lost any of that. When we play live we’ll play some of the old songs; I still have all of that. In the past, there’s been some shit that I did that was truly ferocious, really angry. I still have all of that in me, but I’ve learnt how to harness and control it so it doesn’t ambush me. But it’s still in there; 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 is not to get your heart and soul f**ked up too much, so you can listen to your inside, hear what your inner self is saying – then you can do anything. You never have to listen to anything. You can always communicate with people in a meaningful way and that’s great. That’s my thing right now. I’m just trying only to do shit that keeps me in touch with my heart.

WE TALK about books. Flea is a fanatical reader.

FLEA: I just read this autobiography about Zoo Yen. He’s this Zen Buddhist monk who lived to be 120 and he did the craziest shit, the most Punk shit you could ever believe. When he was around 19 he went up to this mountain in China for four years and ate nothing but pine needles and only drank water. After three years he had beams of light that shot out of his eyeballs and if anyone saw him they ran away ‘cos they thought he was a monster or ghost. Then he walked to India and prostrated himself every third step of the whole way. All this shit. You’re just know he couldn’t be making this up, it’s too intense. When he was 111 he got the shit kicked out of him; his arms and ribs were broken by Communists or whatever. They wanted to kick out all the monks. He had this temple monastery and they beat the f**k out of him and he got up and meditated for nine days and he didn’t move, drink or eat for nine days. Then he was like, healed, shit like that. Serious shit going on, serious energy.

What about success and its pressure on creativity? Have you ever quit the Peppers?

FLEA: I quit once, well twice, actually. I quit recently. I walked out of rehearsal and sat down on the kerb for about half an hour, then I walked back in and said, ‘No, I don’t quit’. I got into this argument and said, “That’s it. I can’t do this anymore, I am quitting.”

I was just really depressed and disillusioned … kind of embarrassing.

But yeah, we’ve all been out, but the band has never done anything without me or Anthony (Kiedis – singer). We actually jammed with another singer once. It was silly. He ended up being the singer of Little Caesar (Little Caesar’s singer was Ron Young – Ed).

What else do you do, besides music?

FLEA: I go in and out of a phase where I write, and I love it. Something good always happens. I wrote some lyrics for our new record and stuff.

Is that the first time you’ve done that?

FLEA: I’ve written tiny parts before and one complete song about my friend River (Phoenix), who died.

River died a year ago?

FLEA: Yeah, it was really weird. I was really close to him and loved him a lot. He was an amazing f**king person, and drugs did him in. I don’t know what to say about it. I know he had problems and emotional pain and stuff, but he definitely didn’t want to die. He definitely wanted to live and to work through it. He could have lived and worked through it and been a really happy person and brought lots of joy to other people, ‘cos he was so kind and caring. It’s just f—ked up. He was really good for me.

THINGS HAPPEN. Flea farts. We talk about girlfriends, pain, relationships and working with Rick Rubin.

FLEA: I really like Rick a lot as a friend. I’ve learnt a lot from him.

He seems like a ‘hands-off’ kind of producer.

FLEA: He is and he isn’t. He goes in the studio when he needs to, and stays away when he doesn’t. Over-producing can kill a record. It killed our first album. It was our initial explosion and we could have been great and we f**ked up in the studio so bad and made a sterile album. It was a learning process.

Who produced that album?

FLEA: Andy Gill from Gang Of Four. We had a real shitty guitarist back then called -lack Sherman. Make sure you put it in the magazine I say he’s a f**king asshole. He sued us for being mean to him, f**king dick. The drummer, Cliff Martinez, was a great guy. He does movies soundtracks now.

The conversation goes from meaness to suffering.

FLEA: There’s enough pain in the world where you can tap into it without killing yourself.

I turn off the tape. We go inside. Denny is cooking Miso soup. Flea offers me some. I decline. Thanks, I say, and leave.

THE RAW PULL OUT! (169)

12 PAGES OF CHILED-OUT PEPPER-MANIA

RED HOT POSTER ACTION

COMPETITION BONANZA

“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A CRAZED INSECURE F*KING FREAK!” FLEA GETS FRANK!

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

FUNKED OUT FREAKED OUT

 

“OLD ROCK STAR FART GUYS

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS’ livewire bassist FLEA may be getting on, but his band return with a much-anticipated new album in March. ARTIE NELSON visits the man at home for the full story, plus a whole load of stuff about 120-year-old Zen monks, living a spiritual life, and the death of actor River Phoenix …

I PULL up the hillside and park alongside a Mercedez Benz with each panel painted a afferent colour. Flea comes to the door wearing a Kronk Boxing T-shirt and a wool cap. He grabs me a glass of water and I hang out, listening to some Neil Young while Flea and his buddy John Denny play this game called ‘Cams’ or something. It’s like pool, but with these little checker-like pieces. I take a seat and listen to Neil suffer on the record player while Flea starts another game. There’s much celebration. A bet with many prizes. For starters, a one-size fits-all golden fleece, a pair of torn fishnet stockings, and Eddie Van Halen’s least favourite cap. High stakes. Then Flea and I head out onto the back porch for the interview. The sun’s too bright, so we head across the yard and sprawl out on the bricks. A chair might be nice.

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

FLEA: In 1972. I left Australia when I was four, in 1966. I went to New York because my Dad was going to work for the Australian consulate, then my Mom divorced him and married this Jazz musician guy. We lived in New York for a while, then came out here for him to make his fortune (laughs).

The trumpet was your first instrument? Did your dad teach you?

FLEA: A little bit. I also learnt in school … I was definitely inspired by all the music I heard around the house as a kid … Dad jamming with all his friends. Being able to start from playing the trumpet really helped me, like going into the next phase of music, even though I started taking acid and playing bass, I didn’t abandon everything I’d learned, ‘cos Jazz isn’t the be all and end all. There seems to be less vision in it. It’s the most amazing American art form.

THE RED Hot Chili Peppers are no longer the young guys. They’re established now, there’s a whole generation younger than them.

FLEA: We’re not the young guys anymore. We’re the old Rock Star fart guys. Well, not totally, because some of the old 60s guys are still crawling around … I feel that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were majorly influential on a lot of bands. Without the RHCP there is no Rage Against The Machine. Nothing against them, 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, toured together, but it’s all separated and weirded-out now.

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

FLEA:  LA is such a lonely place. I don’t know what it is. I can still get on with people who I love and relate to on a really cool level, but in general – I don’t know if it’s just me ‘cos I’ve been going through tumultuous personal times in the past couple of years – it just seems hard. So many people are on heroin and shit, really f**king themselves up. And sometimes it seems like a viable option … like I could deal with this shit if I could just go get really f**ked up. It’s not an option for me, but as much as I abhor that situation, I can almost understand that option.

How do you feel about your life right now?

FLEA: I feel really thankful. In general I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a wonderful daughter who is the greatest person in the world and I love her so much. I’ve been able to play music 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. I feel like I can live gracefully and be creative and that’s a very amazing thing that few people can do. I’m a lucky person. The cool thing about playing is that you can play when you’re 97 years old … keep Rockin’ out.

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot about taking care of myself spiritually. I could get hit by a car tomorrow, but I don’t feel like I’ll ever go crazy. As long as I stay on the path I’m on, I’ll be able to learn more and be creative, find different levels.

If you were going to go crazy it would probably have happened by now, ‘cos you’ve definitely walked alongside insanity.

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

I’ve always confused peace with stagnating.

FLEA Me, too. But then I’ve tapped into something that’s real and it’s the most hardcore f**king thing in the world.

We have to stumble through our own wilderness to find it.

FLEA Right. Being comfortable in my own skin is a major thing for me, just being able to deal with people has always been a challenge, because I’ve always been like a crazed, insecure f**king freak.

I TELL Flea we all have a little lie detector in our guts and that he seems pretty genuine and comfortable in what he’s doing, which is a really cool situation to be in.

FLEA As far as a public persona is concerned, I’ve been honest. But on another level, maybe I’ve had a sense of humour that some people didn’t think was funny. That’s probably the only time people talked shit about me, when they didn’t get it … my joke (laughs). Especially in the early days when I first started doing interviews and being in the public eye. I always wanted to shock people so much. I’d say anything to stir things up and I said some ugly things. But that’s cool.

A good shocking’s alright by me.

FLEA Yeah, but now I’m much more conscious about hurting people’s feelings than I used to be because I’ve had my feelings hurt. It’s not nice to hurt people’s feelings unless they’re f**king assholes and they deserve it.

We talk about the new album (it’s almost done) and how the band’s support slot with the Rolling Stones sucked. We talk about working with producer to the stars, Rick Rubin. Flea’s happy with the music.

FLEA When Dave (Navarro) joined the band at first it was this initial awkward phase. It was really difficult ‘cos I was having a really hard time with just er emotional and physical problems. And Dave was having a hard time joining a new band. It was all awkward. We nearly imploded, and it nearly 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 going to grow into an amazing new thing’. Now it’s just kind of petered to a halt, ‘cos we’re waiting to finish this record. So I’m just writing and playing, then we’ll do the band thing – tour, make videos and all that shit.

COULD YOU ever see yourself making a solo album?

FLEA Totally. I don’t think I’d do one in a normal context. I’ve been f**king around a lot on my four-track and I’m gonna keep doing that and come up with enough stuff to release an album or get more sophisticated recording equipment and really expand: do pretty songs, Funk songs and Punk Rock. I think I can do something dynamic, and I feel like I’ve got something to say. My biggest thing is I’ve learned how to play guitar a little. I’ve never played guitar before, and on the new album there’s a few things I wrote on guitar so it’s a totally different thing instead of me just writing on bass. I just kind of strum along and hum and come up with some songs.

Your bass playing has really changed over the years.

FLEA: Right now, I’m totally uninterested in being fancy on the bass. I don’t give a shit I don’t care if Bass Player magazine says I suck or if I get voted best bassist. Nothing ever mattered except playing something that’s emotionally potent. I’m proud that I did something musically. And it was a tottally 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 not really macho and never have been. I was at the Hollywood Palladium a little while ago and this security guard came up to me – I can’t remember exactly, but there was some group of guys, like some posse, who f”ked as may girls as they could, then went on a bunch of talk shows – and he said ‘Hey, I was one of those guys!’. I was disgusted and even more so that he thought that would excite me.

WE TALK some more about bass playing, and whether Flea ever yearns to go back to his patented style of ‘popping’ his four strings.

FLEA: Oh no. I feel like I’m growing but I haven’t lost any of that. When we play live we’ll play some of the old songs; I still have all of that. In the past, there’s been some shit that I did that was truly ferocious, really angry. I still have all of that in me, but I’ve learnt how to harness and control it so it doesn’t ambush me. But it’s still in there; 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 is not to get your heart and soul f**ked up too much, so you can listen to your inside, hear what your inner self is saying – then you can do anything. You never have to listen to anything. You can always communicate with people in a meaningful way and that’s great. That’s my thing right now. I’m just trying only to do shit that keeps me in touch with my heart.

WE TALK about books. Flea is a fanatical reader.

FLEA: I just read this autobiography about Zoo Yen. He’s this Zen Buddhist monk who lived to be 120 and he did the craziest shit, the most Punk shit you could ever believe. When he was around 19 he went up to this mountain in China for four years and ate nothing but pine needles and only drank water. After three years he had beams of light that shot out of his eyeballs and if anyone saw him they ran away ‘cos they thought he was a monster or ghost. Then he walked to India and prostrated himself every third step of the whole way. All this shit. You’re just know he couldn’t be making this up, it’s too intense. When he was 111 he got the shit kicked out of him; his arms and ribs were broken by Communists or whatever. They wanted to kick out all the monks. He had this temple monastery and they beat the f**k out of him and he got up and meditated for nine days and he didn’t move, drink or eat for nine days. Then he was like, healed, shit like that. Serious shit going on, serious energy.

What about success and its pressure on creativity? Have you ever quit the Peppers?

FLEA: I quit once, well twice, actually. I quit recently. I walked out of rehearsal and sat down on the kerb for about half an hour, then I walked back in and said, ‘No, I don’t quit’. I got into this argument and said, “That’s it. I can’t do this anymore, I am quitting.”

I was just really depressed and disillusioned … kind of embarrassing.

But yeah, we’ve all been out, but the band has never done anything without me or Anthony (Kiedis – singer). We actually jammed with another singer once. It was silly. He ended up being the singer of Little Caesar (Little Caesar’s singer was Ron Young – Ed).

What else do you do, besides music?

FLEA: I go in and out of a phase where I write, and I love it. Something good always happens. I wrote some lyrics for our new record and stuff.

Is that the first time you’ve done that?

FLEA: I’ve written tiny parts before and one complete song about my friend River (Phoenix), who died.

River died a year ago?

FLEA: Yeah, it was really weird. I was really close to him and loved him a lot. He was an amazing f**king person, and drugs did him in. I don’t know what to say about it. I know he had problems and emotional pain and stuff, but he definitely didn’t want to die. He definitely wanted to live and to work through it. He could have lived and worked through it and been a really happy person and brought lots of joy to other people, ‘cos he was so kind and caring. It’s just f—ked up. He was really good for me.

THINGS HAPPEN. Flea farts. We talk about girlfriends, pain, relationships and working with Rick Rubin.

FLEA: I really like Rick a lot as a friend. I’ve learnt a lot from him.

He seems like a ‘hands-off’ kind of producer.

FLEA: He is and he isn’t. He goes in the studio when he needs to, and stays away when he doesn’t. Over-producing can kill a record. It killed our first album. It was our initial explosion and we could have been great and we f**ked up in the studio so bad and made a sterile album. It was a learning process.

Who produced that album?

FLEA: Andy Gill from Gang Of Four. We had a real shitty guitarist back then called -lack Sherman. Make sure you put it in the magazine I say he’s a f**king asshole. He sued us for being mean to him, f**king dick. The drummer, Cliff Martinez, was a great guy. He does movies soundtracks now.

The conversation goes from meaness to suffering.

FLEA: There’s enough pain in the world where you can tap into it without killing yourself.

I turn off the tape. We go inside. Denny is cooking Miso soup. Flea offers me some. I decline. Thanks, I say, and leave.

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