Listen to Flea’s isolated bass on By The Way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Listen to Flea’s isolated bass on By The Way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

(Credit: Stefan Branding)


Flea was known for his aggressive approach to slap bass. This is what made the Red Hot Chili Peppers co-founder famous. While the other members of the band were still finding their voices throughout the 1980s, Flea’s bass became the lead instrument in the songs and made everyone else keep up with him. He even had projects outside of the band, such as appearing on Young MC’s 1989 mega-hit Bust a Move.

But by the early 1990s, Flea had grown tired of his signature style. Although it was important to his personality, slap bass could only turn Flea on as a musician. “I tried to play just Sex with blood sugar because before that I played too much, so I thought, “I really need to relax and play half as many notes.” The less you play, the more interesting – there is more space for everything, ”said Flea. Bassist’s Journal in 1995. “If I play something busy, it stands out, instead of the bass being a constant onslaught of notes. Space is good.”

By the time the Chili Peppers got to one hot minute in 1995, Flea wanted to strip even more. “I can’t even remember anything complicated that I played. [on the record]; even flip flops are easy,” Flea said in the same interview. “It’s an original sound and I’m proud of it, but what I played was more of an aesthetic choice.”

Album 2002 By the way represented an identity crisis for Flea. With John Frusciante back in full force, the guitarist took the lead, setting the album’s softer musical direction. This often included writing bass lines instead of collaborating directly with Flea. The bassist praised Frusciante’s musical ability, but was a little frustrated with the process. “John has achieved all this level of artistry,” Flea said. Q magazine in 2006 year. “But he made me feel like I had nothing to offer, like I know shit.”

Flea eventually encountered these shortcomings while studying music theory at the University of Southern California. But for now By the way It may be the album on which Flea’s signature bass style is least visible, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely gone: “Can’t Stop” is as funky as the band has ever been. But, by and large, Flea was much more reserved on By the way.

One notable exception is the album’s title track. During the intro and chorus, Flea again shows a fair amount of restraint, holding the rhythm but not spinning too much. But once the song reaches its heightened verses, Flea is free again to indulge in some intense sculpting. It’s a study of contrasts that proves that Flea is much more than just a standard funk slap bassist.

Check out the isolated bass from “By the Way” below.

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