Kamis, 18 Februari 2010
Michael Balzary (flea)-RHCP
Michael Peter Balzary (born October 16, 1962), more commonly known by the stage name Flea, is an Australian-American bassist, trumpet player, and occasional actor. He is best known as the bassist and co-founding member of the alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. His work with the band incorporates several musical styles, ranging from aggressive slap bass to more subdued and melodic techniques. Aside from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he has collaborated with many artists, including Jane's Addiction, Thom Yorke, The Mars Volta, and Alanis Morissette. Drawing influences from funk music and punk rock, Flea centers his bass playing on simplicity and minimalism while viewing complexity as a device that should be used in moderation.
Originally a trumpet prodigy, Flea learned to play bass in high school from close friend and future Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak, who required a bassist for his band Anthym. Flea joined the group, but quit several months later in order to play for the punk rock outfit Fear. He soon rejoined Slovak to form an intended one-off band along with fellow high school alumni Anthony Kiedis and Jack Irons; the impromptu collaboration would ultimately give birth to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Flea has made numerous forays into acting, appearing in films that span many genres such as Back to the Future Part II (1989), My Own Private Idaho (1991), and The Big Lebowski (1998).Contents
1.1 Early life
1.2 1980–1984: Formation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
1.3 1984–1990: First four albums
1.4 1990–1998: Mainstream success and side projects
1.5 1998–present: Californication, By the Way and Stadium Arcadium
2 Musical style
3 Film and television appearances
7 External links
Flea was born in Melbourne, Australia, on October 16, 1962. His father, Mick Balzary, was an avid fisherman who would often take him fishing. When Flea was five, his family relocated to Rye, New York for his father's career. In 1971, his parents divorced and his father returned to Australia. Flea and his siblings stayed with their mother Patricia, who soon remarried to a jazz musician. Flea's stepfather frequently invited musicians to his house and jam sessions would often take place. The family relocated again to Los Angeles, California, and Flea became fascinated with the trumpet. His teachers considered him to be a prodigy, paralleled only by musician Herb Alpert, who also attended Fairfax High. Furthermore, he had no interest in rock music at the time and idolized jazz musicians like Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie.
His stepfather was an "aggressive alcoholic" who eventually became involved in shoot-outs with police. "I was raised in a very violent, alcoholic household," Flea later said, "I grew up being terrified of my parents, particularly my father figures. It caused [me] a lot of trouble later in life." In order to cope with this situation, Flea started to experiment heavily with cannabis at the age of thirteen, which he started smoking on a daily basis.
Flea attended Fairfax High School, and was somewhat of an outcast due to his taste in music. However, he soon met Anthony Kiedis, and after a brief confrontation, the two became best friends. Kiedis recalled: "We were drawn to each other by the forces of mischief and love and we became virtually inseparable. We were both social outcasts. We found each other and it turned out to be the longest-lasting friendship of my life." Kiedis became a significant influence on Flea, turning him on to rock music, particularly punk rock. Flea soon adopted his nickname, given to him on a skiing trip in reference to his jumpy and capricious nature.
1980–1984: Formation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Flea was also close friends with Hillel Slovak, the guitarist of a local band called Anthym. The band's original bassist was deemed unsatisfactory, so Slovak began teaching Flea to play bass. Following several months of commitment to the instrument, Flea developed proficiency and joined the group as a full fledged member. Shortly thereafter, Anthym entered a local Battle of the Bands contest and won second place. During his tenure with the group, Flea began to develop a style of slap bass that would become prominent in future Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. Anthym started to play at local nightclubs, despite the fact that the members were all underage. Flea, Slovak, and Kiedis became best friends and often partook in the recreational use of LSD, heroin, cocaine, and speed.
The threesome became fans of the growing punk rock movement that was occurring in Los Angeles at the time. Flea went from despising the genre to listening to it exclusively: "The beautiful thing about punk rock was the intensity, the energy. And punk deflated the whole bloated rock-star thing. I think that musicians who don't pay attention to punk have a gap in their knowledge that makes it difficult to communicate in this day and age." Anthym changed their name to What Is This?, and rapidly became a local club favorite—frequently attracting more than thirty people per show. The band was faltering internally however, and Flea left the group to play bass for a well-established L.A. punk rock group called Fear. Although Fear was a thriving act, Flea was discontented in the band and left shortly after joining. He then successfully auditioned for the role of bassist in the British post-punk group Public Image Ltd., but rejected the offer; he later admitted that the only reason he auditioned was to jam with the band's front man John Lydon.
Slovak, Kiedis, and Flea began to create their own music after finding inspiration in a punk-funk fusion band called Defunkt. Flea, Slovak, Kiedis and former Anthym-drummer Jack Irons formed a band called Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. The band had only one song, entitled "Out in L.A.", and was formed for the purpose of playing the song once. Following the group's first show at The Rhythm Lounge, the owner of the bar asked them to return, but with two songs instead of one. After several more shows, and the addition of several songs to their repertoire, the band's name was changed to Red Hot Chili Peppers.
1984–1990: First four albums
The band's concert repertoire grew to nine songs as a result of months of playing local nightclubs and bars. The Red Hot Chili Peppers entered Bijou Studios to record a demo tape and subsequently secured a record deal with EMI. Irons and Slovak however, decided to leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers in order to pursue a "more serious" future with What Is This?. Flea ultimately respected the decision, but felt the band would be lost without them. He and Kiedis hired drummer Cliff Martinez and guitarist Jack Sherman to fill Iron's and Slovak's places, respectively. Andy Gill, formerly of Gang of Four, agreed to produce their first album. Gill and Sherman clashed with Flea and Kiedis; they continuously argued over music style, sound, and the album's production. Flea himself felt that the album was stiff and "a big mistake", but also admitted "we [he and Kiedis] were just disrespectful and obnoxious". The band's eponymous debut album, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, was released on August 10, 1984 to largely poor critical and commercial review. After a relatively unfruitful tour, Sherman was fired in early 1985. Slovak, who had been contemplating a return to the Chili Peppers, rejoined the group after being encouraged by Flea.
Funk musician George Clinton was hired to produce the band's second album, Freaky Styley. The strong chemistry between Clinton and the Chili Peppers was felt instantly. Flea later referred to Clinton as "the warmest, kindest man in the world". When Freaky Styley was released in August 1985, however, it received only a bit more attention than The Red Hot Chili Peppers with roughly 75,000 copies sold by year's end. Flea was somewhat indifferent to the poor album sales as he had recently proposed to girlfriend Loesha Zeviar, who was pregnant with their child. The band hired Michael Beinhorn, their last resort among potential producers, to work on their next album. What Is This? had finally disbanded, and Irons returned to the Chili Peppers in mid 1986 after Martinez was fired. Flea, Slovak and Kiedis especially were involved in heavy drug use and their relationships became strained. Flea recalled that "it began to seem ugly to me and not fun; our communication was not healthy". Kiedis became dependent on heroin, leaving Flea and Slovak to work on much of the album's material by themselves. Flea and Zeviar married, and she gave birth to their daughter, Clara. Kiedis was briefly kicked out of the band, and given a month to rehabilitate. Kiedis completed the rehab and rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles to record their third album The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. Flea has referred to the album as "the 'rockingest' record" the band has ever made. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan proved to be far more successful, commercially and critically, than the Chili Peppers' preceding albums; registering at number 148 on the Billboard 200. Following the Uplift tour, Slovak's drug use dramatically increased. Flea's relationship with Slovak faded, and Slovak became isolated and depressed. On June 28, 1988, Slovak was found dead of a heroin overdose. Flea reflected: "I didn't really know how to deal with that sadness, and I don't think [Kiedis] knew how to deal with it either." Irons, who was taking Slovak's death particularly hard, left the group.
Flea and Kiedis took some time to collect themselves, but decided to keep the band together. Guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight and drummer D.H. Peligro were added, and the band entered the studio to record a new album. McKnight soon began to create tension within the group, as his style did not mesh with the rest of the band. Peligro, the former drummer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, was a friend of John Frusciante, an eighteen year old guitarist and avid Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Peligro introduced Frusciante to Flea, and the three jammed together on several occasions. Flea was impressed with Frusciante's skill, and astonished by his knowledge of the Chili Peppers' repertoire. Flea realized that Frusciante could provide the spark McKnight was lacking. McKnight was fired, and Frusciante accepted an invitation to join the band. Peligro was fired shortly thereafter; the Chili Peppers brought in drummer Chad Smith as his replacement. Flea and Zeviar started to grow apart, and he began trying to recreate the memories of his adolescence by smoking marijuana on a daily basis. The Chili Peppers entered the studio, and completed recording of their fourth album, Mother's Milk, in early 1989. Upon release, the album was met with mixed reactions from critics, but received far more commercial attention, peaking at number fifty-eight on the Billboard 200. After this, Flea made appearances playing the trumpet on Jane's Addiction's 1988 album Nothing's Shocking, and bass on the critically acclaimed 1989 Young MC album Stone Cold Rhymin'. He would also appear in the video for "Bust a Move", the hit single from the same album.
1990–1998: Mainstream success and side projects
The ensuing Mother's Milk tour put a strain on Flea's marriage. In order to make money, he needed to tour, and therefore spend time away from his family. Furthermore, he and Smith were arrested on charges of battery and sexual harassment after a performance on MTV's coverage of spring break; charges were eventually dropped. The band was, however, attracting over three thousand people per show; Mother's Milk had been certified as a gold record in early 1990. By the time Red Hot Chili Peppers returned to Los Angeles, Flea and Zeviar agreed to a separation. He tried to put the separation out of his mind by smoking marijuana and having sex with willing fans.
When the tour was over, the Red Hot Chili Peppers severed ties with EMI and signed with Warner Bros. Records. Rick Rubin, who had rejected an opportunity to produce The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, agreed to produce their next album. Flea had largely used the principal slap bass technique on the band's preceding four albums, and decided to downplay this style in favor of more conventional, melodic bass lines. To record the album, Rubin suggested a mansion that once belonged to magician Harry Houdini. Flea felt it was "a creatively fertile situation", and decided to bring his daughter Clara with him. He and the rest of the band, excluding Smith, remained inside the house for the entire recording process. When not writing or recording the album, Flea spent a large portion of his time with Frusciante smoking large quantities of marijuana. The emotions Flea felt during the album's recording were like nothing he had ever experienced:“ When we [the band] made Blood Sugar Sex Magik we spent a lot of time jamming—every day, for hours and hours. I remember during that time Anthony went off and made a movie, and for a long time it was just me, John and Chad, and we'd just go in there and play. Me and John were hitting the bong and we just rocked and grooved forever. It was the first time we went in to make a record where there wasn't this feeling of being sort of intimidated by what was going to happen. ”
When Blood Sugar Sex Magik was released on September 24, 1991, it received an overwhelmingly positive critical response. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 200, and went on to sell over seven million copies in the U.S. alone. The album's ensuing tour was critically acclaimed—the Chili Peppers commonly performed shows with over twenty thousand in attendance. Seattle-based grunge band Nirvana also toured with them during the West Coast leg of their United States tour. The massive attention the Chili Peppers started receiving, however, caused Frusciante to feel extremely uncomfortable, and he abruptly quit the band during the Japanese leg of the album's tour. The band hired guitarist Arik Marshall to complete the remaining tour dates.
Marshall was fired at the end of the tour, and the band added former Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro to record a new album. Kiedis was in the middle of a heroin relapse, which forced Flea to assume the role of lyricist, something he had not yet done. He wrote most of the song "Transcending", and the intro to "Deep Kick". Flea also wrote the lyrics to an entire song; "Pea", in which he both played bass and sang. These three songs appeared on the Chili Peppers' sixth record One Hot Minute, which was released on September 12, 1995. The album received mixed reviews and was significantly less commercially successful than Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The One Hot Minute tour was ultimately cut short due to various injuries Kiedis and Smith received, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers decided to go on hiatus. Flea began to practice yoga, and slowly decreased his marijuana consumption. Due to the Chili Peppers' inactivity, Flea joined Navarro in a Jane's Addiction reunion tour in 1997, filling in for ex-Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery. Rumors spread that the band was breaking up, until Navarro stated otherwise: "I want to clarify that the Chili Peppers are not breaking up ... Flea and I are more than happy to do both projects, time permitting."
Flea also had plans to record a solo album. He asked Chili Peppers manager Lindy Goetz to help him promote the record and his future solo career. Flea eventually abandoned the idea in favor of offering his bass services to other artists. He performed on over forty records from 1995 to 1998, ranging from Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill to former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt's debut solo album Ball-Hog or Tugboat?. He also worked with Tori Amos and Michael Stipe on a track for the soundtrack to the 1995 Johnny Depp film Don Juan DeMarco. Navarro was fired from the Chili Peppers in 1998, and Flea questioned whether or not the Red Hot Chili Peppers would stay together: "... the only way I could imagine carrying on is if we got John [Frusciante] back in the band." Frusciante had completed drug rehabilitation in 1997 after a severe addiction to heroin and crack cocaine left him on the brink of death. Flea visited Frusciante in early 1998, inviting him back to the Chili Peppers; an emotional Frusciante readily accepted.
1998–present: Californication, By the Way and Stadium Arcadium
The band, with Frusciante back on guitar, began writing new songs during the summer of 1998 in Flea's garage. He and Kiedis were less confident in writing the album, after the disappointing results of One Hot Minute. Flea had also recently broken up with his girlfriend of two years, Marissa Pouw, causing him to enter a state of depression, which was only lifted when his daughter, Clara, comforted him after several weeks of crying.
Flea was heavily influenced by electronica during the writing and recording of Californication and he attempted to emulate this when writing bass lines for the album. Californication took less than two weeks to record; by contrast, One Hot Minute took over a year. When Californication was released on June 8, 1999 it received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews and sold fifteen million copies worldwide—more than Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The Chili Peppers played Woodstock 1999, with Flea playing completely naked—something he would do again at the Reading and Leeds Festivals the same year as well as several other Californication tour concerts.
Flea felt like the public school system was seriously lacking in exposing children to music by drastically reducing, and sometimes eliminating, art related programs. He founded the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a school dedicated to help youth progress in music, because of this. "I just wanted to fill the void that public education has cut from their curriculum. They've dropped the ball by cutting out music programs," Flea laments, "I grew up in LA public schools and was in the music department. It was really an important thing for my life, it gave me something to hold onto, and it was an important access for me. Without music I would've gotten into a lot of trouble and there are a lot of kids like me out there. I just wanted to try to provide something like what I got."
Flea performing with Red Hot Chili Peppers at the 2006 Oxegen Festival.
Red Hot Chili Peppers spent most of 2001 writing their eighth studio album, By the Way. The entire band began listening to more melodic, textured music that would reflect heavily on the album. Frusciante became the driving force behind By the Way, causing initial strife between him and Flea. If the bassist introduced a funk rhythm into his bass lines, the guitarist would consequently disapprove. By the Way was released on July 9, 2002 to positive critical reviews. Although not as successful as Californication or Blood Sugar Sex Magik, By the Way would go on to sell over nine million copies worldwide. The ensuing tour, however, was extremely profitable; the Chili Peppers performed three concerts in London's Hyde Park to over 250,000 attendees and a total gross accumulation of $17.1 million. It became the highest grossing concert at a single venue in history.
After another two year world tour, the Chili Peppers wrote their ninth studio album Stadium Arcadium. In 2005, Flea became engaged to his girlfriend Frankie Rayder, and she bore his second daughter Sunny Bebop later the same year. Unlike By the Way, both Flea and Frusciante were more musically conjoined when writing the record. They found inspiration in Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eddie Van Halen among others. The double album was ultimately released on May 9, 2006 to generally positive reviews, selling over seven million copies in less than two years. In November 2007, Flea's $4.8 million Corral Canyon home in Malibu was burnt down by a wildfire. The location was not, however, his primary residence and had been vacated pending sales.
After the band announced a long hiatus due to exhaustion, Flea enrolled into music classes at the University of Southern California. Beginning in the fall of 2008, the bassist is studying music theory, composition and jazz trumpet. Flea attributes his interest in attending such courses to a newfound desire to widen his appreciation and understanding of music: "it’s so much fun to learn this stuff because I never knew anything. I played trumpet in the school bands. I learned things I liked to play on my trumpet but I didn’t learn why this note goes with this note and why it produces that sound. Or how to create tension in the composition [...] Knowing the structure is really fun." Flea also revealed plans to release a mainly instrumental solo record that was being recorded in his home; guest musicians include Patti Smith and a choir from the Silverlake Conservatory.
Flea was also a part of Radiohead lead singer, Thom Yorke's, live band with Joey Waronker, Mauro Refosco and Nigel Godrich. The band performed two shows in Los Angeles in early October 2009, including the entirety of Yorke's 2006 solo album, The Eraser.
Musical style"Any instrument is just a vehicle to express who you are and your relationship to the world. No matter what level you’re doing it on, playing music is an opportunity to give something to the world."
——Flea, Bass Player, June 2006
Flea has displayed a wide variety of techniques throughout the years, ranging from his initial use of slapping and popping to the more traditional methods he has employed since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Greg Prato of Allmusic has noted that "by combining funk-style bass with psychedelic, punk, and hard rock, Flea created an original playing style that has been copied numerous times". Flea has been considered as one of the greatest bassists of all time, with Greg Tate of Rolling Stone saying "if there were a Most Valuable Bass Player award given out in rock, Flea could have laid claim to that bitch ten years running". The Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan recalls that when he first saw the Chili Peppers in 1984, "Flea was playing so aggressively that he had worn a hole in his thumb and he was literally screaming in pain in-between songs because it hurt so bad. Someone kept coming out and pouring crazy glue into the hole." Flea's sound is also determined by what type of instrument he plays. Before Californication, he did not believe the actual bass held much significance: "what mattered was how you hit them [basses] and your emotional intent, and I still think that's the bottom line." Flea owns a 1961 Fender Jazz Bass, treasuring it for its "old wood sound". He has contributed to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' sound not only with the bass but by playing trumpet, as well; it can be heard on several songs, such as "Subway to Venus" and "Taste The Pain" from their fourth album Mother's Milk or "Torture Me" from their ninth album Stadium Arcadium.
Flea's bass playing has changed considerably throughout the years. When he joined Fear his technique centered largely around traditional punk rock bass lines, however he was to change this style when the Red Hot Chili Peppers formed. He began to incorporate a "slap" bass style that drew influence largely from Bootsy Collins. However, this technique caused Flea to receive attention from the music world and was often copied, and he therefore felt it necessary to completely remove slap-bass styles from his repertoire following Mother's Milk. Consequently, Blood Sugar Sex Magik saw a notable shift in style as it featured none of his signature technique but rather styles that focused more on traditional and melodic roots. His intellectual beliefs on how to play the instrument were also altered: "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." During the writing and recording of One Hot Minute, Flea integrated some use of slap-bass progressions, but continued to center his technique around the philosophy of "less is more" rather than complexity: "I can't even think of anything I played that was complex [on the record]; even the slapping stuff is simple. It's original-sounding, and I'm proud of that—but what I played was more a matter of aesthetic choice." This led Flea to alter the way he wrote music by playing alone, instead of the jam sessions that would dictate how the band conceived songs: "[One Hot Minute] is the least jam-oriented record we've made. I mean, we definitely jammed on the ideas, but there's only one groove on the whole album that came from a jam, 'Deep Kick'. The rest of it came from my sitting down with a guitar or bass."
Flea became interested in electronica during the Californication era and he attempted to emulate the same atmosphere given off by synthesizers into his bass playing: "I feel the most exciting music happening is electronica, without a doubt." He ultimately decided against this, acknowledging that, aside from Frusciante, the band was not moving in the same direction. Californication also saw him incorporate more funk-driven bass lines than he had on One Hot Minute. In By the Way, much of the bass-lines were entirely stripped of funk. Flea felt the chords Frusciante had written were not supportive of his typical technique; furthermore, he does not feel the musical direction of the record was specifically melodic, but instead "... a result of each one of us being who we are. The way we [the band] compose music is a very communal thing."
Flea's stepfather was in a bebop band that frequently jammed in his presence; he, therefore, became fascinated with the trumpet soon after. Flea credits his continued interest in music to jazz performers like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. After Kiedis introduced him to punk and rock, Flea became infatuated with artists such as The Germs, Styx, David Bowie and Defunkt. Flea's early influences before Blood Sugar Sex Magik were mainly funk artists like Bootsy Collins, Parliament Funkadelic, Sly & the Family Stone, and The Meters. They would become a notable aspect of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' sound up to Mother's Milk. Originally, Flea was given the impression by punk bands that one should play as hard and fast as they possibly could, but ultimately rejected this philosophy during Blood Sugar Sex Magik: "I was so into being raw [...] it was all bullshit." On Californication and By the Way, Flea drew influence from electronica, gothic rock bands like The Cure, Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees and New Wave music rather than funk. During Stadium Arcadium he experienced another shift in interest. Instead of the melodic music he had listened to during the two previous albums, he enjoyed the work of "flashy" guitar players like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Jimmy Page, exclusively.
Film and television appearances
Flea has pursued a minor acting career since the mid 1980s. His first role was as young punk Razzle in the Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia (1984). Shortly thereafter he starred alongside the Chili Peppers, who played themselves, in the skate drama Thrashin' (1986). He portrayed the character Needles in Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990), though in an interview he referred to Part II as "a multi-million dollar piece of trash". He played a minor role in the 1991 independent film My Own Private Idaho as the character Budd. He played a number of minor roles in films throughout the 1990s, including Son in Law (1993) as a tattoo artist, The Chase (1994) as a monster truck driver, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1997) as a hippie, and The Big Lebowski (1998) as a German nihilist. He has also lent his voice to the animated series The Wild Thornberrys as the character Donnie.
In 1991 the Red Hot Chili Peppers released a black and white film documenting the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik titled Funky Monks. They have released three video concerts, 'psychedelic sexfunk live from heaven' released in 1990, Off the Map in 2001 and Live at Slane Castle in 2003—the latter of which had over eighty thousand attendees. Flea has also appeared in television broadcasts with Red Hot Chili Peppers on several occasions. Several months before Frusciante's departure in 1992, the band performed two songs on Saturday Night Live—Kiedis felt the show was an embarrassment due to the guitarist; he believed that Frusciante purposely played the song out of tune and incorrectly. Later that year, the band appeared in the popular animated comedy The Simpsons on the episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled". At Woodstock 1994, Kiedis proposed the band perform the first few songs in metallic suits with giant light bulbs placed on their heads. Flea was initially reluctant but eventually agreed: "... when we got to play, the energy of the whole thing took over." In 1992, he guest starred on an episode of The Ben Stiller Show. On the episode, Flea beats Stiller in a game of basketball. For the 1999 Woodstock Festival, he played the concert naked. The band has also performed on Late Night with David Letterman three times.