"Any instrument is just a vehicle to express who you are and your relationship to the world. No matter what level you’re doing it on, playing music is an opportunity to give something to the world." Flea
Originally an aspiring jazz trumpet player, Flea, born Michael Peter Balzary, later turned to punk rock and is now famous as the bassist for the popular alternative rock band “Red Hot Chili Peppers” (RHCP). With the Grammy-winning group that received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008, Flea has released the multi-platinum albums "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (1991), "One Hot Minute" (1995), "Californication" (1999), "By the Way" (2002), and "Stadium Arcadium" (2006), as well as produced such hit singles as "Under the Bridge" (1991), "Aeroplane" (1996), "Scar Tissue" (1999), "Californication" (1999), "Otherside" (2000), "By the Way" (2002), "Dani California" (2006) and "Snow ((Hey Oh))" (2006).
Meanwhile, the 5' 6" musician, who shaves his head and has many tattoos, also tried his hand at acting. He appeared in the films "Suburbia" (1984), "Thrashin'" (1986), "Back to the Future Part II" (1989) and "Back to the Future Part III" (1990), "My Own Private Idaho" (1991), "The Chase" (1994), "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1997), "Psycho" (1998) and "The Big Lebowski" (1998). He also voiced Donnie in the animated series "The Wild Thornberrys" and guest-starred on "Saturday Night Live," "The Simpsons," "The Ben Stiller Show," and "Late Night with David Letterman."
Flea has two daughters, one with his first wife Loesha Zeviar and another one with his model fiancé Frankie Rayder.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, on October 16, 1962, Michael Peter Balzary grew up in Rye, New York, where his family moved when he was 5 years old. He received the nickname “Flea” from high school friends.
In 1971, Flea’s father, Mick Balzary, divorced his mother and returned to Australia. Flea and his siblings stayed with their mother Patricia who married a jazz musician and bassist named Walter Urban Jr.
When the family relocated to Los Angeles, California, Flea attended Fairfax High School and became fascinated with the trumpet. However, his stepfather turned out to be an "aggressive alcoholic" who eventually became involved in shoot-outs with police and the situation would eventually lead Flea to start smoking marijuana on a daily basis by age 15.
"I was raised in a very violent, alcoholic household. I grew up being terrified of my parents, particularly my father figures. It caused [me] a lot of trouble later in life." Flea
From June 1988 to 1990, Flea was married to Loesha Zeviar, with whom he has one daughter named Clara Balzary (born on September 16, 1988). He became engaged to model Frankie Rayder in January 2005 and has one daughter with her, Sunny Bebop Balzary (born on October 26, 2005).
Flea is a co-founder of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a music school located in a rough, artsy neighborhood in Los Angeles. He is also a firm supporter of art conservatory schools.
Fascinated with the trumpet and planning to become a jazz trumpet player like his idols Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, Flea didn't play a bass guitar until the age of 17 when his friend, Hillel Slovak, asked him to join his local band “Anthym.” The band later competed in a local Battle of the Bands contest and won second place. Although the members were all underage, the band began playing at local nightclubs.
At Fairfax High School, Flea met Anthony Kiedis who would turn him on to rock music, particularly punk rock. Flea once commented, "The beautiful thing about punk rock was the intensity, the energy, and punk deflated the whole bloated rock-star thing. I think that musicians who don't pay attention to punk have a gap in their knowledge that makes it difficult to communicate in this day in age."
“Anthym” then changed their name to “What Is This?” and soon became a local club favorite, playing numerous shows along the coast of California. They released three albums in the early to mid-80s: "Squeezed" (EP; 1984), "What Is This?" (1985), and "3 Out of 5 Live" (EP; 1985). However, Flea left the group to play bass for a well-established L.A. punk rock group called “Fear,” replacing Derf Scratch. He left shortly after joining and successfully auditioned for the English post-rock group “Public Image Ltd.” in 1984, but rejected their offer and later admitting that the only reason he auditioned was to jam with the band.
After finding inspiration in a punk-funk fusion band founded by trombonist/singer Joseph Bowie 1978 in New York, "Defunkt," Slovak, Kiedis, and Flea began to create their own music. Joined by former “Anthym” drummer Jack Irons, they formed a band called “Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem,” and later changed the name to "Red Hot Chili Peppers."
After playing in local nightclubs and bars, the band recorded a demo tape at Bijou Studios and scored a record deal with EMI. After Irons and Slovak left the band, Flea and Kiedis recruited drummer Cliff Martinez and guitarist Jack Sherman. They began working on their debut album with the assistance of producer Andy Gill. Their self-titled album, which spawned the singles "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes" and "Get Up and Jump," was released on August 10, 1984, and following a relatively unfruitful tour, Sherman was fired in early 1985. Meanwhile, Slovak rejoined the group.
On August 16, 1985, "Red Hot Chili Peppers" released their second album, "Freaky Styley." Produced by funk musician George Clinton of “Parliament-Funkadelic,” the album spun off four singles: "Jungle Man," "American Ghost Dance," "Catholic School Girls Rule" and "Hollywood (Africa)."
After Martinez was fired and Kiedis completed his rehabilitation program, Irons returned to the Chili Peppers in mid 1986 and the band began working on their next album, "The Uplift Mofo Party Plan," with producer Michael Beinhorn. Released on September 29, 1987, the album became their first album to make it onto the Billboard Hot 200 and was later certified Gold. Unfortunately, following the Uplift tour, Slovak's drug use dramatically increased and he died of a heroin overdose on June 25, 1988. Jack Irons, who was took Slovak's death particularly hard, qui the band.
"I didn't really know how to deal with that sadness and I don't think [Kiedis] knew how to deal with it either." Flea (on the death of Slovak)
Flea and Kiedis subsequently hired drummer D.H. Peligro and guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, both of whom would later be replaced by John Frusciante and Chad Smith respectively. After releasing an EP called "The Abbey Road" in 1988, they released their fourth studio album, "Mother's Milk," on August 16, 1989. The album spawned the singles "Knock Me Down," "Higher Ground," and "Taste the Pain" and rose to #52 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.
Meanwhile, Flea also played the trumpet on Jane's Addiction's 1988 album “Nothing's Shocking” and bass on the critically acclaimed 1989 Young MC album “Stone Cold Rhymin'.” He would also appear in the video for “Bust a Move,” the hit single from the same album.
After separating from EMI, "Red Hot Chili Peppers" signed with Warner Bros. Records and released their fifth studio album, "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," in September 1991. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album sold over seven million copies in the United States. Meanwhile, during the Japanese leg of the album's tour, guitarist John Frusciante abruptly quit the band and was replaced by Arik Marshall. At the end of the tour, Marshall was fired and replaced by former “Jane's Addiction” guitarist Dave Navarro.
"One Hot Minute," the group’s sixth studio album, hit the music stores on September 12, 1995. The album was a commercial disappointment despite producing three hit singles ("Warped," "My Friends" and "Aeroplane"). The “One Hot Minute” tour was also cut short due to various injuries and the “Red Hot Chili Peppers” decided to take a break. During this time, Flea, who began to practice yoga, and slowly decrease his marijuana consumption, joined Navarro in a “Jane's Addiction” reunion tour in 1997.
In early 1998, Flea invited Frusciante back to the Chili Peppers and Frusciante agreed. The band began working on their next album, "Californication," which was released on June 8, 1999, to overwhelmingly positive critical reviews. Produced by Rick Rubin, the album yielded several hits, including "Around the World," "Otherside," "Californication," and the Grammy Award–winning "Scar Tissue." Topping at #3 on the U.S. Billboard 200, the album became the band's most commercially successful album to date.
"By the Way," “Red Hot Chili Peppers’” eighth studio album was released on July 9, 2002, on Warner Bros. Records. The album that spun off the singles "By the Way," "The Zephyr Song," "Can't Stop," "Dosed" and "Universally Speaking," sold over 282,000 copies in the first week and topped at #2 on the Billboard 200.
On November 18, 2003, "Red Hot Chili Peppers" released the compilation album "Greatest Hits” and the following year, on July 26, 2004, they released their first live double album, "Live in Hyde Park," which was recorded over three record-breaking nights at Hyde Park in London.
After another two year world tour, the Chili Peppers wrote their ninth studio album, "Stadium Arcadium," which was released on May 9, 2006, via Warner Bros. Records. The album that spawned five hit singles, "Dani California," "Snow (Hey Oh)," "Desecration Smile," "Hump De Bump," and "Tell Me Baby," sold 442,000 copies in the U.S. in the first week and debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. It also collected seven Grammy Award nominations in 2007.
Flea has also pursued an acting career since the mid 1980s. Debuting as young punk 'Razzle' in the Penelope Spheeris punk film "Suburbia" (1984), he starred with Chili Peppers members in the skate drama "Thrashin'" (1986) and portrayed the character Needles in "Back to the Future Part II" (1989) and "Back to the Future Part III" (1990). He also played small roles in the 1991 independent film "My Own Private Idaho,” "The Chase" (1994), "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1997) and "The Big Lebowski" (1998). Additionally, he voiced Donnie to the animated series "The Wild Thornberrys" and guest-starred in "Saturday Night Live," "The Simpsons," "The Ben Stiller Show" and "Late Night with David Letterman."
Grammy: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, "Dani California," 2007
Grammy: Best Rock Song, "Dani California," 2007
Grammy: Best Rock Album, "Stadium Arcadium," 2007
Grammy: Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, "Stadium Arcadium," 2007
Grammy: Best Rock Song, "Scar Tissue," 2000
Grammy: Best Hard Rock Performance, "Give It Away," 1993