Outtakes: July 2013 - Flea

July 1, 2013
Over the past 20-plus years with BASS PLAYER, Art Director and photographer Paul Haggard has accumulated a shelf full of broken cameras and some dusty memories. He will recount some over the next few columns until either he can't remember any more, or they fail to be interesting— whichever comes first.


Do you know why one should never assume anything? Hmmm? Well, I’ll tell you why. Its because it makes an ass out of u and me!

Despite the fact that tomorrow I’m going to really regret having written that line, the following describes a situation in which I made (as I often do) several assumptions in the course of a shoot, all of which proved to be quite wrong.

Karl Coryat and I arrived in Los Angeles one fine day in 1992 with one sole purpose: to interview and photograph Flea, the bassist for the then-ascending funk-rock powerhouse Red Hot Chili Peppers, and whose reputation famously preceded him as a wild, punk-rock nihilist. Several times I had seen him perform onstage with terrifying abandon and was thoroughly expecting to be greeted at the door by a crazed maniac.

First misconception. Flea was not a crazed maniac. Flea lived in a modest yet artfully decorated Hollywood home and proved to be insightful, artistic, and thoughtful. Perfect time to pitch the idea I had come down there with: to shoot him dressed in an elegant suit instead of shirtless, as he is usually seen—a study in contrasts (I did go to art school, y’know.) Flea was agreeable to this and went to change, and my assumption was that all would go to plan, but Flea emerged in a beautiful dark evergreen blazer ... and white cotton briefs.

“Where are the pants?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t have the pants. I lost them somewhere...”

Uh, well okay. So we shot a few with just the blazer, and a few other setups, then I noticed an old tuba lying in a corner which seemed to have been used primarily as an ashtray for some time, and suggested to Flea that he pose with it, seeing as tubas are bass instruments after all.

Flea was game and put his lips to the mouthpiece. “Okay, now make a grimace.” I instructed.

“What do you mean?”

“You know, like a squinty-face where you’re blowing really hard.”

Flea gave me an annoyed look . “You mean like I don’t know how to play?”

And I had assumed he didn’t know how to play, but evidently he did, and notwithstanding my callous, and insulting disregard of this potential, he graciously indulged me and made his squinty-face, and I made the photograph and as it turned out we all lived happily ever after, except that he is now a rock god, and I am unfortunately still just an ass. But I do have a pretty boss photo of Flea playing a tuba!

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