Most college students aren’t interrupted in the middle of class by autograph-seeking frat boys. And most college students can’t claim to have appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone clad in nothing but a single tube sock. So no, Flea is not your typical freshman. But with the on an open-ended hiatus, the band’s bassist decided to enroll at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he’s studying music theory, music composition and jazz trumpet.
“Being in a band has been an education, and being on tour has been an education, so this is just me furthering my education in a different way,” Flea told MTV News. “When I was a kid and it was time to go to college, I thought, ‘College is for people who don’t have the street smarts to make it on their own — get in a band, get in a van and get rockin’.’ That was a good philosophy for me at the time, [but] there were a lot of things I wanted to learn, and I want to learn them now.”
Flea admitted that being the OMC (oldest man on campus) was strange initially, but he said there’s nothing he’d rather be doing right now.
“At first there were a few looks, but everyone’s so busy trying to learn,” he explained. “There’s the occasional autograph or whatever, but it’s just so not about that. It’s about learning and studying music. I’m just another student trying to learn.”
A student trying to learn who also happens to be a rock star — a realization Flea said hit him last week. “I was running across campus with my backpack, and I didn’t want to be tardy,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘What the f— am I doing? I’m a 45-year-old rock star and I’m worried about being tardy?’ ”
When he’s not in class, Flea said he’s at home working on solo material he doubts he’ll ever release commercially. He’s not sure when the Chili Peppers will reconvene to start work on the follow-up to 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, but that’s not something he’s been thinking about.
“We’ve just kind of stepped away from it for a while,” Flea said. “We’ve been working so hard for such a long period of time that we needed to get away to get a fresh perspective, and that’s what we’re doing.” According to Flea, the band originally decided to take two years off. RHCP finished their world tour a year ago, “so I think [we’re looking at] another year or so,” he said.
“Being a rock star isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, let me tell you,” Flea continued. “You go on tour for a year and a half, and it’s great. I love entertaining people, I love playing music, and I love rocking like an animal. But at a certain point, you’re playing gig after gig after gig, in town after town after town, and you’re lying down, staring at another hotel-room ceiling, and it’s like, ‘I want to be home. I’m a dad, I’ve got kids.’ It’s nice to be home and do that stuff and work on music, but the time will come when that will shift again.”
While Flea’s got plenty of homework to keep him busy, he’s also been teaching at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a nonprofit educational organization he helped found to foster music education.
“We have about 600 students, and we teach academics, we teach fundamentals, and we teach the technique of the instrument of their choice,” he said. “We teach music — it’s pretty simple. We’re not about being a celebrity. We’re about teaching music to kids and trying to fill the gap [left] where arts programs have been cut out by the public schools. No music education for children is an outrage, and it’s tantamount to child abuse. Kids deserve arts, and it’s just as important as science, math, history, English or athletics.”