Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist tells all in memoir

PASADENA (California) • On a Thursday in the middle of this month, Flea, 57, sat in a patio chair he had dragged down to the lawn, looking out at the green lake in his backyard.

He has just written his first book, a memoir called Acid For The Children that will be out next Tuesday. In it, he recounts how he took up bass guitar, learnt to thumb and finger-pop its strings and formed a band with three high-school buddies: Hillel Slovak, Jack Irons and Anthony Kiedis.

That band became the Red Hot Chili Peppers and persevered for three wild, shirtless decades, weathering the loss of members to addiction and attrition, not to mention the waning of alternative rock as a commercial force.

In March, they performed at the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, like Frank Sinatra and the Grateful Dead before them. Last month and this month, they played in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, at a Formula One racing event in Singapore and a festival on a man-made island in Abu Dhabi.

They have reached the point where traditional rock autobiographies tend to close the curtain - on the far side of the hurricane years, after all the Grammys and drugs, with their subjects sober, solid and selling out shows on the wonders-of-the-world circuit.

Flea's book is not that kind of book. It is written with the same lyrical, holy-goofball energy its author brings to all his public activities and its earnest, eccentric prose reflects Flea's evolution from Hollywood-scene knucklehead to reflective, spiritually clued-in adult.

The early ups and downs of his friendship with Kiedis - the Red Hot Chili Peppers' lead singer, in the longest non-familial relationship of Flea's life and seemingly the most emotionally fraught - are tenderly but unflinchingly addressed.

But not until page 375 of this 383-page volume does the band that will become the Red Hot Chili Peppers play its first show - in 1983, for 27 people at the Grandia Room in Hollywood, as Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, whose live set at the time consisted of one original song and a choreographed dance routine set to the Jonzun Crew's Pack Jam (Look Out For The OVC).

The curtain closes there, with the rise and fall and rise of the Red Hot Chili Peppers - not to mention Flea's adventures in marriage and child-rearing, much of his film-acting career, the details of his philanthropic work as founder of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music and career as a sideman to everyone from Thom Yorke to Tom Waits - seemingly assured but still to come.

Acid For The Children is about everything that happened to Flea before that night, a chain of events as improbable as the band's eventual path to global ubiquity.

Publishers had approached him about writing a book for years, he said, but he had always thought of it as an arrogant, rock-starrish thing for a rock star to do.

But in 2015, he took a spill on a snowboarding trip with Kiedis during a break from recording The Getaway and broke his arm in five places.

The original broken-arm draft of the book followed the arc of the band's career up through their career-rejuvenating 1999 album, Californication.

After the last page of the finished version, there is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek teaser for a second volume. Flea said he changes his mind day to day about whether he is going to write one.

"I've become kind of obsessed with the idea of writing a novel," he admitted.

But that day, the future held only a photo shoot. Earlier, he had joked about wearing a tweed blazer, in the pipe-smoking literary manner. But when the cameras were ready, he happily posed without his shirt.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist tells all in memoir'. Print Edition | Subscribe