Put 47 candles on the cake for Michael Balzary today, as it’s another birthday for the man known as Flea. Back in the early 1980s, Flea and friends Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons formed the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band that infused Los Angeles hardcore punk with Sly Stone-esque psycho funk, surf-friendly reggae and twists of metal and hip-hop. Flea’s bass grooves stood at the center of the band’s sound, so it’s no surprise that on the band’s biggest hits — including their 1991 smash “Give It Away” — the elastic low end acts as the hook. Throughout the band’s long and sometimes troubled career, the diminutive bassist has always provided energy, creativity and plenty of pants-free performances.
He’s also made a career as a coveted collaborator. He filled in on bass during the first Jane’s Addiction reunion in 1997, formed a band with Johnny Depp called P, provided grooves for Alanis Morissette’s smash debut Jagged Little Pill and was recently recruited for a still-unnamed project by Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. He’s also a passionate advocate for music education, and was so put off by the lack of music programs in Los Angeles public schools that he founded his own conservatory.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have always had a stunning visual sense and have collaborated with some of the best video directors of all time. Flea’s finest performance came in the 1995 video for the lead single from One Hot Minute, the only album the band made with Dave Navarro as their guitarist (and a total “Bargan Spin” if there ever was one). “Warped” is a supremely odd clip that nevertheless expresses the sort of energy that Flea has brought to the proceedings for more than 25 years.