After three-plus decades as the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which launched a career resulting in Grammys, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors and oodles of albums sold, Flea is a man who requires no introduction to anybody remotely familiar with music since the early 80′s. (To wit, when I told Mom about this show, she responded, “Oh… I know who that is.”) Similarly, after countless appearances in the stands cheering on his beloved Los Angeles Lakers — plus, the song “Magic Johnson,” which appeared on 1989′s “Mother’s Milk” — no introduction is needed for Flea as a man who bleeds purple and gold. With the possible exception of Jack Nicholson or Dyan Cannon, it’s hard to argue any celebrity has earned more stripes as a Lakers fan. We’ve been hoping to get Flea on the show for a few years, and at long last the holiday weekend presented an opening. We spoke for almost 45 minutes, covering everything from basketball to music to his role in “The Big Lebowski.” Here are a couple of excerpts, the first in which Flea describes the commonality between sports and music:
“I love to play sports. I’ve played sports my whole life. I play sports constantly. And it’s all very similar to music. It’s the same thing to me. Especially basketball. The communal effort. The solo effort. The supportive part of it. When it’s time to play a role, when it’s time to take over and go up front. All of that stuff. The telepathic improvisational aspect of it is something I really relate to as an artist in a creative way. When someone like Kobe’s in the zone and absolutely unconscious and going off, it’s that thing. The same thing as a musician. When you’re able to get your mind out of the way and let go and just try to channel something beautiful and be a vehicle for this uplifting energy, you’re in the zone. You’re letting go. You’re not thinking.
“And I think that’s what all human beings in one way or another, whether you’re a garbage man or a poet, when you’re in the act of doing something and you’re completely in the moment and free of what people think or even you think, that’s when you’re living to your highest potential. So I really relate to that in sports because it’s so evident when it’s really happening.”
Later, Flea mentioned how Kobe’s reminds him in certain ways of longtime RHCP guitarist John Frusciante. When I noted how Frusciante always seemed to me less comfortable with fame than Kobe, Flea didn’t completely agree.
“That’s true, but I’ve never seen Kobe being entirely comfortable with fame, either. It’s funny. Kobe has this reputation for being arrogant or cold, and I never feel that from Kobe. I feel him being, and it’s changed, too, as time has gone by, but until the last few years, I’ve felt he was just kind of a geeky guy, you know? Just sort of, not a savant, but kind of just someone who works so hard on basketball that he’s not a socially skilled guy. But he never made me feel like he was arrogant or cold. It just sort of felt like he didn’t feel comfortable or know how to really relate to people or make them feel warm in the context of an interview. Whereas other players can really have that political skill of saying the right thing on the microphone and making you feel good, but I think they’re completely full of shit, like they’re being politicians. Well, I never felt that with Kobe. I think he just says what he thinks. But I think as time has gone by he has been able to make people feel better when he does interviews because he’s grown more comfortable over time with just being natural.”
Not that Flea takes issue with any lack of social skills, by the way.
“Ultimately, I don’t care about the social skills. To me, actually, being uncomfortable socially is kind of charming to me. So it never really bothered. But I really respect craftsmanship and people who take their craft seriously and do their best. I think that Kobe has been unfairly and really misunderstood as being a selfish person. I don’t see it as being selfish to be as great as you can be. I think ultimately it’s giving the greatest gift.”
The show can be heard by clicking on the module above. Below is a list of talking points.
- Flea describes the difficulty and heartache of last season, a campaign he considers among the worst in franchise history.
- Stars, they’re just like us! The overwhelming majority of Lakers fans are neither famous nor fans of Mike D’Antoni. Flea may be a rock star, but along these particular lines, consider him Joe Q. Public.
- For that matter, the bassist ain’t exactly choked up over Dwight Howard’s departure, either. He doesn’t deny D12′s talent or even the void that will be felt in his absence, but as a die-hard Laker fan, Howard’s lack of commitment and respect towards the franchise is a deal-breaker.
- Flea is, however, a huge admirer of Kobe, and for several different reasons.
- Flea shares the process of recording “Magic Johnson” and explains why the legendary point guard means so much to him on a professional and, especially, personal level.
- The first time I ever saw the Chili Peppers perform was in 1989 on “Night Music With David Sanborn.” We recall the wild performance, highlighted by Flea’s pants made out of stuffed animals (!), and learn the sad fate of said pants made out of stuffed animals.
- What would Flea in his 20′s think of Flea at age 50?
- Is there a commonality between what the Buss children are dealing with while trying to move the Lakers forward after the death of Dr. Jerry Buss and what the Chili Peppers faced after the death of Hillel Slovak in 1988?
- Flea describes working with a marmot in “The Big Lebowski,” the vibe on a Coen Brothers set, and why he exposed so much ass crack in the bowling alley scene.
- We asked Flea to pick a fantasy all-Lakers squad to join him in a 5-on-5 pickup game. His answer will surprise you, because it ended up surprising him.