Flea: “I think about playing bass as like a river. I can unleash it however it needs to go – like violent rapids, or a calm, still pool”

Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs on stage at Yaamava’ Theater at Yaamava’ Resort & Casino on April 14, 2022 in Highland, California. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the first to perform at Yaamava' Theater, the all-new state-of-the-art theater at Yaamava' Resort & Casino at San Manuel.
(Image credit: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Yaamava' Resort & Casino)

“We work hard,” wrote Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary in the liner notes of 2004’s Greatest Hits album, a world away from the club-level act that his band had been two decades before. That hard work has led him to the position of Best Bassist in multiple polls in this magazine – even though, as he tells us, he’s nowhere near being the bassist that he really wants to be. It’s our job to find out why.

An Australian who moved to California as a kid and endured a tough childhood which you can read all about in his 2019 autobiography Acid For The Children, Flea – so nicknamed for his habit of leaping about on stage, like you didn’t know that already – is probably his demographic’s most visible bass guitar player. He won his category in BP’s 100 Greatest Bassists Poll by a significant margin, indicating that many of you reading this would agree with that assessment. 

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.