At 61 years old, Flea has this physical status:
The band changed its name to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, playing several shows at L.A. venues. Their repertoire grew to nine songs as a result of months of playing at local nightclubs and bars. The Red Hot Chili Peppers entered Bijou Studios to record a demo tape produced by the then-drummer of Fear and subsequently secured a record deal with EMI. Irons and Slovak, however, decided to leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers in order to pursue a "more serious" future with the rock band What Is This?. Flea ultimately respected the decision, but felt the band would be lost without them. He and Kiedis hired drummer Cliff Martinez and guitarist Jack Sherman to fill Irons' and Slovak's place, respectively. Andy Gill, formerly of Gang of Four, agreed to produce their first album. Gill and Sherman clashed with Flea and Kiedis; they continuously argued over music style, sound, and the album's production. Flea himself felt that the album was stiff and "a big mistake", but also admitted, "we [he and Kiedis] were just disrespectful and obnoxious". The band's eponymous debut album, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, was released on August 10, 1984, to largely poor critical and commercial review. After a relatively unfruitful tour, Sherman was fired in early 1985. Slovak, who had been contemplating a return to the Chili Peppers, rejoined the group after being encouraged by Flea.
Funk musician George Clinton was hired to produce the band's second album, Freaky Styley (1985). The strong chemistry between Clinton and the Chili Peppers was felt instantly. Flea later referred to Clinton as "the warmest, kindest man in the world". Freaky Styley was released in August 1985. It received only a bit more attention than The Red Hot Chili Peppers with roughly 75,000 copies sold by year's end. Flea was somewhat indifferent to the poor album sales as he had recently proposed to girlfriend Loesha Zeviar, who was pregnant with their child. The band hired Michael Beinhorn, their last resort among potential producers, to work on their next album. What Is This? had finally disbanded, and drummer Irons returned to the Chili Peppers in mid-1986 after Martinez was fired. Flea, Slovak and Kiedis especially were involved in heavy drug use and their relationships became strained. Flea recalled that "it began to seem ugly to me and not fun; our communication was not healthy". Kiedis became dependent on heroin, leaving Flea and Slovak to work on much of the album's material by themselves.
Kiedis was briefly kicked out of the band and given a month to rehabilitate. Kiedis completed the rehab and returned with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles to record their third album The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987). Flea has referred to the album as "the 'rockingest' record" the band has ever made. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan proved to be far more successful, commercially and critically, than the Chili Peppers' preceding albums, registering at number 148 on the Billboard 200. Following the Uplift tour, Slovak's drug use dramatically increased. Flea's relationship with Slovak faded, and Slovak became isolated and depressed. On June 28, 1988, Slovak was found dead of a heroin overdose. Flea reflected: "I didn't really know how to deal with that sadness, and I don't think [Kiedis] knew how to deal with it either." Irons, who was taking Slovak's death particularly hard, left the group.
Flea and Kiedis took some time to collect themselves, but they kept the band together. Guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight and drummer D.H. Peligro were added, and the band entered the studio to record a new album. McKnight soon began to create tension within the group, as his style did not mesh with the rest of the band. Peligro, the former drummer of the punk rock band Dead Kennedys, was a friend of John Frusciante, an 18-year-old guitarist and avid Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Peligro introduced Frusciante to Flea, and the trio jammed together on several occasions. Flea was impressed with Frusciante's skill, and astonished by his knowledge of the Chili Peppers' repertoire. Flea realized that Frusciante could provide the spark McKnight was lacking. McKnight was fired, and Frusciante accepted an invitation to join the band. Peligro was fired shortly thereafter; the Chili Peppers brought in drummer Chad Smith as his replacement.
Flea and his wife Loesha started to grow apart, and he began trying to recreate the memories of his adolescence by smoking marijuana on a daily basis. The Chili Peppers entered the studio, and completed recording of their fourth album, Mother's Milk, in early 1989. Upon release, the album was met with mixed reactions from critics, but received far more commercial attention, peaking at number 52 on the Billboard 200. After this, Flea made appearances playing 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.
The ensuing Mother's Milk Tour put even further strain on Flea's marriage. In order to make money, he needed to tour, and therefore spent time away from his family. Furthermore, he and Smith were arrested on charges of battery and sexual harassment after a performance on MTV's coverage of spring break; charges were eventually dropped. The band was, however, attracting over three thousand people per show; Mother's Milk had been certified as a gold record in early 1990. By the time Red Hot Chili Peppers returned to Los Angeles, Flea and Loesha agreed to a separation. He tried to put the separation out of his mind by smoking marijuana and having sex with random groupies, when the band was on tour for Mother's Milk.
When the successful Mother's Milk tour was over, the Red Hot Chili Peppers severed ties with EMI and signed instead with Warner Bros. Records. Rick Rubin, who had rejected an opportunity to produce The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, agreed to produce their next album. Flea had largely used the principal slap bass technique on the band's preceding four albums, and decided to downplay this style in favor of more conventional, melodic bass lines. To record the album, Rubin suggested they use a mansion that once belonged to magician Harry Houdini. Flea felt it was "a creatively fertile situation", and decided to bring his daughter Clara with him. He and the rest of the band, excluding Smith, remained inside the house for the entire recording process. When not writing or recording the album, Flea spent a large portion of his time with Frusciante smoking large quantities of marijuana. The emotions Flea felt during the album's recording were like nothing he had ever experienced:
When Blood Sugar Sex Magik was released on September 24, 1991, it received an extremely positive critical response. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 200, and went on to sell over 7,000,000 copies in the U.S. alone. The album's ensuing tour was critically acclaimed—the Chili Peppers commonly performed shows with over 20,000 in attendance. Seattle-based grunge band Nirvana also toured with them during the West Coast leg of their United States tour. The massive attention the Chili Peppers started receiving, however, caused Frusciante to feel extremely uncomfortable, and he abruptly quit the band during the Japanese leg of the album's tour, replaced temporarily by Arik Marshall.
Following the tour in 1993, Flea was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and was ordered to rest for a year. Flea and Kiedis felt it best to fire Marshall due to lack of chemistry and briefly replaced him with Jesse Tobias, although his tenure was very short and he was quickly replaced by Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, who was once recruited in 1992 to replace Frusciante. The band was ready now to record their next album although Kiedis was in the middle of a heroin relapse, which forced Flea to assume the role of lyricist, something he had not yet done. He wrote most of the song "Transcending", and the intro to "Deep Kick". Flea also wrote the entire lyric to a song, "Pea", in which he both played bass and sang. These three songs appeared on the Chili Peppers' sixth record One Hot Minute, which was released on September 12, 1995. The album received mixed reviews and was significantly less commercially successful than Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The One Hot Minute Tour was ultimately cut short due to various injuries Kiedis and Smith received, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers decided to go on hiatus. Flea was so miserable that at one point during the tour he discussed quitting the band. Flea began to practice Transcendental Meditation and yoga, and slowly decreased his marijuana consumption. Due to the Chili Peppers' inactivity, Flea joined Navarro in a Jane's Addiction reunion tour in 1997, filling in for ex-Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery. Rumors spread, that the band was breaking up until Navarro stated otherwise: "I want to clarify that the Chili Peppers are not breaking up ... Flea and I are more than happy to do both projects, time permitting."
Flea also had plans to record a solo album. He asked Chili Peppers manager Lindy Goetz to help him promote the record and his future solo career. Flea eventually abandoned the idea in favor of offering his bass services to other artists. He performed on over forty records from 1995 to 1998, ranging from Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill (with Navarro) to former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt's debut solo album Ball-Hog or Tugboat?. He also worked with Tori Amos and Michael Stipe on a track for the soundtrack to the 1995 Johnny Depp film Don Juan DeMarco. Navarro was fired from the Chili Peppers in 1998, and Flea questioned whether or not the Red Hot Chili Peppers would stay together: "... the only way I could imagine carrying on is if we got John [Frusciante] back in the band." Frusciante had completed drug rehabilitation in 1997 after a severe addiction to heroin and crack cocaine left him on the brink of death. Flea visited Frusciante in early 1998, inviting him back to the Chili Peppers; an emotional Frusciante readily accepted.
With Frusciante back on guitar, the band began writing new songs during the summer of 1998 in Flea's garage. He and Kiedis were less confident in writing the album after the disappointing results of One Hot Minute. Flea had also recently broken up with his girlfriend of two years, Marissa Pouw, causing him to enter a state of depression which was only lifted when his daughter, Clara, comforted him after several weeks of crying.
Flea was heavily influenced by electronica during the writing and recording of Californication (1999) and he attempted to emulate this when writing bass lines for the album. Californication took less than two weeks to record; by contrast, One Hot Minute took over a year. When Californication was released on June 8, 1999, it received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews and sold fifteen million copies worldwide—more than Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The Chili Peppers played Woodstock 1999, with Flea playing completely naked—something he would do again at the Reading and Leeds Festivals the same year as well as several other Californication tour concerts.
Red Hot Chili Peppers spent most of 2001 writing their eighth studio album, By the Way (2002). The band began listening to more melodic, textured music, that would reflect heavily on the album. Frusciante became the driving force behind By the Way, causing initial strife between him and Flea. If he introduced a funk rhythm into his bass lines Frusciante would consequently disapprove to the point where Flea almost quit the band because he felt his role was no longer important. By the Way was released on July 9, 2002, to positive reviews, and went on to sell over nine million copies worldwide. The ensuing tour was extremely profitable; the Chili Peppers performed three concerts in London's Hyde Park to over 250,000 attendees and a total gross accumulation of US$17.1 million. It became the highest-grossing concert at a single venue in history.
After another two-year world tour, the Chili Peppers wrote their ninth studio album, Stadium Arcadium (2006). Unlike By the Way, both Flea and Frusciante were more musically conjoined, when writing the record. They found inspiration in Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eddie Van Halen among others. The double album was ultimately released on May 9, 2006, to generally positive reviews, selling over seven million copies in less than two years. In November 2007, Flea's $4.8 million Corral Canyon home in Malibu was burnt down by a wildfire. The location was not, however, his primary residence and at the time of its destruction was being rented to musician and producer Butch Walker.
After the Chili Peppers announced a long hiatus due to exhaustion, Flea enrolled in music classes at the University of Southern California, where he studied music theory, composition and jazz trumpet. Flea attributed his interest to a newfound desire to widen his appreciation and understanding of music: "It's so much fun to learn this stuff because I never knew anything. I played trumpet in the school bands. I learned things I liked to play on my trumpet but I didn't learn why this note goes with this note and why it produces that sound. Or how to create tension in the composition [...] Knowing the structure is really fun." Flea said he planned to release a mainly instrumental solo record, recorded in his home; guest musicians would include Patti Smith and a choir from the Silverlake Conservatory.
In 2009, Flea joined Atoms for Peace, a supergroup formed by the Radiohead singer Thom Yorke to perform songs from Yorke's debut solo album, The Eraser (2006). Flea and the band recreated Yorke's electronic music with live instrumentation. They toured the United States in 2010, and released an album, Amok, in 2013. Amok was followed that year by a tour of Europe, the US and Japan.
The Chili Peppers ended their hiatus in October 2009 without Frusciante, who quit the band to pursue other musical interests. He was replaced by Josh Klinghoffer. The Red Hot Chili Peppers released their tenth studio album, I'm with You, on August 29, 2011. Also that year, Flea played bass on two songs on Tom Waits' album Bad as Me, released on October 21. On October 27, 2011, it was announced that Flea's project with Damon Albarn and afrobeat drummer Tony Allen would be called Rocket Juice & the Moon. The band made their live debut on October 29, 2011, in London, and released an album on March 12, 2012.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2012. Flea commented on the induction by saying, "It's always been easy for me to pooh-pooh these awards—the [Rock] Hall of Fame too. But I inducted Metallica a couple of years ago, and it was really a beautiful thing to see as all these people were being inducted. It made me love it. I love halls of fame anyway—the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Hall of Fame. So I feel grateful for the recognition of what we have done and for the hope and potential of what we'll continue to do."
On July 19, 2012, Flea released a solo EP, Helen Burns, composed mainly of instrumental tracks, except the title track (which Patti Smith sang on) and "Lovelovelove", which features the Silverlake Conservatory of Music's kids and adults choir. It is Flea's first solo release, who has only released solo songs previously on soundtracks and other projects. Flea said of the EP "I am putting it out to raise money for the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a community based non-profit music school that I am an integral part of." The download of the EP is available at "a name your own price" on the Silverlake Conservatory website and was made available through all major digital outlets on August 9, 2012.
On October 16, 2012, his 50th birthday, Flea gave an interview with CNN discussing the Chili Peppers and was asked if he plans to continue with them. Flea responded by saying "I love the Chili Peppers, and I would love to. If there's anything I know, it's every time you start making plans, you don't know what's going to come up next. Anything can happen. So I love being in the Chili Peppers and it's my home, and I've been doing it for more than half my life. Of course, during the course of doing it, there's been all kinds of ups and downs, and moments of extreme (positivity), floating on clouds of greatness, and times of just groveling, and misery, and uncertainty, and anger, and love and all those things. Like being in a family. I really can't predict. But I love being in it for now, and right now, about as far as I'm thinking is getting through this tour that we're doing, performing at the highest level possible, then hunkering down and writing another record."
On April 9, 2014, it was revealed that Flea was working on a new musical project, the band Antemasque, with former Mars Volta members Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Omar Rodríguez-López, and Dave Elitch. Two songs were released in early April though Flea has confirmed that he is not a member of the band and just recorded a few songs with them. Antemasque released their self-titled debut album on July 15, 2014.
On April 13, 2016, Flea performed a bass rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner before a game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles between the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz; this was NBA superstar Kobe Bryant's final game.
The Chili Peppers released their eleventh studio album, The Getaway, on June 17, 2016. The band embarked on a 151 date world-tour which concluded in October 2017.
In December 2019, the Red Hot Chili Peppers announced that guitarist John Frusciante would be returning to replace Josh Klinghoffer. The band will focus on making a new album, which they hope to have released in 2020, along with performing a few festival dates.
Since the summer of 2020, the Chili Peppers have been working on their twelfth studio album however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been delays in the writing and recording along with their 2020 tour dates being postponed until 2021.
In January 2021 it was announced that Flea and John Frusciante contributed a cover of "Not Great Men" to the upcoming tribute album to Gang of Four titled The Problem of Leisure: A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four. The double album was released on June 4, 2021.
In October 2021, the Chili Peppers announced the dates for their 2022 world tour which will begin in June and conclude in September. The tour includes the band's first ever headlining stadium shows in the United States in support of their twelfth studio album, Unlimited Love, which was released on April 1, 2022.
Flea has pursued a minor acting career since the mid-1980s. His first role was as young punk Razzle in the Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia (1984). Shortly thereafter he starred alongside the Chili Peppers, who played themselves, in the skate drama Thrashin' (1986). He played the ill-fated punker Milo in another Penelope Spheeris film, Dudes (1987). He also made an appearance in the Bruce Weber documentary film about the life and career of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker entitled Let's Get Lost (1988). He portrayed the character Douglas J. Needles in Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990), though in an interview he referred to Part II as "a multi-million-dollar piece of trash", saying that he was happy neither with the film nor his performance in it.
Flea played a minor role in the 1991 independent film My Own Private Idaho as the character Budd. He played a number of minor roles in films throughout the 1990s, including Son in Law (1993) as a tattoo artist, The Chase (1994) as a monster truck driver alongside Kiedis, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) as a "Hippie", in The Big Lebowski (1998) as a German nihilist, and the 1998 remake of Psycho. He has also lent his voice to the Nickelodeon animated series The Wild Thornberrys as the character Donnie. In 1992, Flea and the other Red Hot Chili Peppers appeared as themselves in the animated comedy The Simpsons on the episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled".
In 2011, Flea appeared in the documentary, Bob and the Monster. The film details the life of musician and drug counselor Bob Forrest.
Flea appears in the documentary The Other F Word, which aired on Showtime and was released through Oscilloscope Laboratories (a company founded by Adam Yauch). The documentary, which was directed by Andrea Blaugrund Nevins, focused on a generation of punk rockers, how they have handled fatherhood, and how they went from public rebel to domestic authority figure. Mark Hoppus, Jim Lindberg, Art Alexakis, and Mark Mothersbaugh were also featured.
Flea made his return to acting and co-starred in the 2014 film Low Down, which is based on the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany. Flea along with Anthony Kiedis executive-produced the film, which stars John Hawkes, Elle Fanning, Glenn Close, and Peter Dinklage. The film had a successful debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014 and opened in limited release in October 2014. It was released in March 2015 on DVD. This marked his first acting role in 14 years. The film was directed by Jeff Preiss, who previously worked with Flea on the 1988 documentary Let's Get Lost. In 2015, he provided the voice of the "mind cop" Jake in the Pixar film Inside Out.
In 2015, Flea appeared as himself in the Amazon Prime series Highston. It was announced in 2017 that Amazon Prime had cancelled plans for a full series of the show.
Flea plays Eddie No-Nose in Edgar Wright's action feature film Baby Driver (2017). That same year he had a cameo appearance during the fifteenth season of the FOX animated television series Family Guy in an episode titled "Peter's Def Jam". In a scene where Stewie Griffin said to his dog Brian Griffin that thanks to him, there's a recurring flea problem in Stewie's room, Flea enters and drops a bass line on his guitar. He asks Brian if he wants to hang out, but Stewie kicks Flea out of the room.
Flea co-stars with Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in the 2018 film Boy Erased.
On February 16, 2018, Flea took part in the 2018 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on a team led by Canadian musician Justin Bieber.
In August 2020, Flea was featured playing bass on multiple tracks on the new Bright Eyes studio album Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was.
On June 2, 2021, it was announced that Flea will star alongside Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Samara Weaving in the upcoming film, Babylon, which will be directed by Damien Chazelle. This film will be set in the late 1920s during the movie industry’s transition from silent films to talkies and explores the rise and fall of multiple characters. The movie has been described as “The Great Gatsby on steroids.” The movie will be in limited release on December 25, 2022, before a wide release on January 6, 2023.
Flea appears in the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series, aired on May 27, 2022. The series is directed by Deborah Chow who directed the 2022 music video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers single, "Black Summer".