Why Flea’s bass track had to be fixed in the mix on Alanis Morissette's hit record

Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performs at Accor Stadium & Alanis Morissette performs at Palais Theatre on January 22, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia
(Image credit: Photos by Don Arnold/WireImage & Sam Tabone/WireImage)

When Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, and then-guitarist, Dave Navarro, found themselves working with Alanis Morissette on the lead single from her 1996 Grammy-winning album, Jagged Little Pill, it’s said that they had only the vocals to work from. According to Navarro: “We basically jammed until we found something we were both happy with.”

During an interview with Produce Like A Pro’s Warren Huart, mix engineer Chris Fogel looked back at the making of the track. In doing so, he recalled that Flea’s bassline wasn't as precise as he would've liked.

Fogel was asked whether Flea and Dave Navarro worked together on the song. “They did. They were recorded at the same time,” he says. “It was recorded by another engineer, but the tracks were brought back to me to mix and we had to really time a lot of it. Particularly Flea. Flea was way out of time on this.”

"Did you have to push him back, was he a little bit more on top?” Asks Huart at 33:30 in the video below. “He was way on top, that’s exactly what it was. At some points he was a good quarter-note on top. And if he’s watching then I apologise! But, that is not your performance, that’s your performance timed quite a bit through the genius of the ADAT and the BRC [Big Remote Control].”

In November 2021, Flea posted a tweet in which he revealed how he ended up working on the song. Journalist and sports analyst Bill Simmons had announced on Twitter that his series Music Box was returning with a documentary about Jagged Little Pill. Upon seeing the tweet, one of Simmons’ followers questioned how Flea and Dave Navarro came to feature on You Oughta Know and tagged Flea in the tweet. Flea responded: ‘Cause of Jimmy Boyle.’

Jimmy Boyle remixed the song for the single release. In an interview for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, talent manager Guy Oseary recalled Boyle’s vision. "Jimmy just kept saying, ‘imagine what this would sound like with a stronger bass and guitar.’ So he had the immediate vision for it. He brought in Flea and Dave, they tried it and the rest is history.”

“Flea told Bass Player magazine in 1996. “When I first heard the track, it had a different bassist and guitarist on it; I listened to the bassline and thought, 'That's some weak shit!' It was no flash and no smash! But the vocal was strong, so I just tried to play something good. I showed up, rocked out, and split.”

While Fogel’s mix is the most widely known version of the song, the album also features an alternate take mixed by Boyle, who wanted a much angrier sound than Morissette had originally envisioned. "I had Dave Navarro and Flea come down and redo everything,” says Jimmy in an interview with Universal Audio. “We used the LA-2A compressor on Flea's bass. It was the thing that really made the vocals different as well. It made that really aggressive sound on her voice. That is the only product that could have given it that sound."

Jagged Little Pill is available to download from Amazon.

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Nick Wells
Writer

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.