Flea: ‘There is joy in obsession. But I’m not sure it’s healthy’

The musician and actor, 58, on falling in and out of love with his band, growing from pain, and writing lessons from Patti Smith

I’ve always viewed life as an opportunity. That might be to explore or to learn. I’m never more excited than when I find a new thing to be excited about. That might be something as simple as table tennis – but if I get excited about table tennis, I want to become really good at table tennis! There’s no midpoint with me. I’m always searching for new ways to develop myself, whether they’re physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual or whatever. I like my drive.

My generation had an unhealthy relationship with drugs. This is going to sound like real old-man shit, but regarding the young generation, I don’t worry about them doing that. I worry about how much time they spend in front of computers and phones. I worry that living in the moment has been lost.

Relationships fascinate me. You learn so much from them. You could go live in a cave in the Himalayas and spend 50 years standing on one leg in a tree pose, meditating, trying to find yourself. Or you could get married.

I’m far enough away from childhood to have an objective view on it. It’s the reason I write about it in my book. My childhood is over. The band [Red Hot Chili Peppers] isn’t, which is why I didn’t write about it. The band is happening now. I don’t have any distance from the good parts and the bad parts of it yet.

I’ve been up and down about the band so many times. I’ve thought: “Can we continue without repeating ourselves?” or: “I don’t want to do it any more, I want to grow, I don’t want to be held prisoner by money, fame or power.” Then we’ll play a great show or write a song that has me tingling with excitement and I’m completely in love with it again.

There is great joy in obsession. But I’m not sure it’s healthy for me. Why do I get obsessed with certain things? Is it angst or fear, or a yearning to be understood? To connect with the divine and find the beautiful things in life? I think my story lies in trying to understand that about myself.

You can grow from pain if you don’t run from it. My book is absolutely part of the process of coming to terms with me. Things that people did in my childhood that were very painful. Things I didn’t like about myself. There are times in my life where I think I might have been disrespectful. It’s easy to rationalise behaviour like that. It’s a survival mechanism. We try to justify it to ourselves with reasons why we behaved in a certain way. But with humility and honesty you can grow. You can become better.

My favourite writers have a style. I think that takes a while to find. I thought my style was feverish ranting, but while I think there’s a time and a place for that, the best writing is enjoyable to read, too. Patti Smith helped me a lot. She told me, “Flea, it’s like making music. Sometimes you go off and you vamp. Sometimes you have to play an ensemble part. Sometimes you play a solo. All those skills can be applied to writing.” When I understood the parallels between the two artforms, I started to find my voice.

Acid for the Children, Flea’s autobiography, is published by Headline at £10.99. Buy it for £9.61 at guardianbookshop.com

Contributor

James McMahon

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Viv Albertine: ‘It’s a weakness to want to be adored’
The musician and writer, 63, tells Juliana Piskorz about being in the Slits, the wisdom of older mothers and the genius of Vivienne Westwood

Juliana Piskorz

08, Sep, 2018 @1:00 PM

Article image
Jean-Michel Jarre: ‘The audience and the stage, it’s like a love story’
The musician, 73, tells Nick McGrath about playing in front of 2 million people, being friends with Princess Diana and Mick Jagger, and his French Resistance hero mother

Nick McGrath

19, Mar, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
George Clinton: ‘If people don’t like funk, it’s just the wrong time’
The musician, 76, tells Johnny Davis about life on mars, marijuana pens and looking good in a cape

Johnny Davis

16, Jun, 2018 @11:00 AM

Article image
Tori Amos: ‘I prefer ladies’ soccer. The guys are all right, but ladies come out with bloody noses.’ It’s gladiatorial’
The singer-songwriter, 58, on feminine energy, alien life forms, her mum the DJ, and living in the Cornish part of Devon

Rich Pelley

23, Jul, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
Anna Paquin: ‘I am absolutely a control freak. It’s in my DNA’
The actor, 37, on breaking Oscar protocol, loving film-set pranks, and being a backseat producer even as a child

James McMahon

24, Aug, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
Chuck D: ‘I don’t think old folks should be leaders’
The rapper, 60, tells James McMahon about forgetting lyrics, visiting Africa and confronting institutions with Public Enemy

James McMahon

31, Oct, 2020 @1:59 PM

Article image
Jason Derulo: ‘Lockdown’s been the most fun I’ve ever had in my life’
The singer, 30, tells Rachel Corcoran about being a cool uncle, speaking Creole at home and having 30m followers on TikTok

Rachel Corcoran

12, Sep, 2020 @1:00 PM

Article image
Martha Wainwright: ‘Divorce has given me wisdom’
The musician, 45, talks about putting down roots, losing her mother, playing music and and how middle age has been a transformative time

James McMahon

07, Aug, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Martha Reeves: ‘We had to fight to bring Motown to diverse crowds’
The singer, 80, tells Michael Segalov about finding salvation, getting married twice, dancing in the street and being attacked by a rooster as a child

Michael Segalov

16, Oct, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Sheryl Crow: ‘Surviving breast cancer redefined who and how I am’
The singer, 59, talks about music, family, relationships – and reveals she’s shorter than we think

Michael Segalov

10, Jul, 2021 @1:00 PM