Given the mercurial nature of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López’s musical predilections, nouveau prog darlings Mars Volta have covered a lot of sonic ground since their inception in 2001, sometimes to the chagrin of their fans. But few would argue that his 2003 Rick Rubin-produced debut, Deloused in the comatoriumit is his best work and one of the best rock albums of the 2000s.
Rodríguez-López’s guitar playing and Jon Theodore’s furious kit workouts remain touchpoints that made the record a masterpiece, but the bass playing, and indeed the bass player, often is overlooked. Which is particularly surprising when you consider that the bass player is Flea.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ funk devotee is one of the preeminent musicians of the past half-century, and as such, his contributions tend to come out of a mix. However, a number of factors conspired to make his presence a much more discreet affair.
This device must be dug up.
Following the departure of original bassist Eva Gardner shortly after the release of the debut EP tremblethe Mars Volta needed low-end assistance to track its next feature film.
Producer Rick Rubin flipped through his lengthy black book of star musicians and came across Flea, who agreed to join the sessions at the Los Angeles mansion where the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded their seminal 1991 album. blood sugar sex magic, and where the Mars Volta would record its own work. (Flea’s RHCP bandmate John Frusciante would eventually contribute additional guitar and synth treatments for deloused‘s esp scaralso.)
Rodríguez-López and Gardner had written many of the bass lines prior to the album’s recording, leaving Flea to embellish these parts and add additional flavor to the many extended jams on the record.
However, RHCP’s great bassist did not anticipate the level of control the band sought over his contributions, which extended to his team.
“When Flea played bass in the deloused album, they made him play a Fender bass,” said later Mars Volta bassist Juan Alderete. Bass guitarist in 2005. “He came down with his whole crew and they just said, ‘Man, can you play this please?’”
That bass was a ’64 Fender Precision, with an Ampeg SVT head and an 8×10 cabinet. Tones were recorded using a Neumann FET 47 microphone in the cabinet and a Demeter DI, before both signals were compressed by a Teletronix LA-2A.
This was a far cry from Flea’s setup at the time, which was generally based on humbucker-loaded Modulus basses and Gallien-Krueger heads: the deloused rig produced a more classic tone less prone to piercing a mix. (Nearly 20 years later, Flea would switch to Ampeg SVT for his work with the Chili Peppers.)
“It was a slightly different sound for Flea, but he’s such a talented musician it fits right in,” engineer Dave Schiffman told Mix Online. (opens in a new tab). “The bass needed to be complete and present, because essentially the bass was the foundation of every track.”
Flea’s bass would go on to appear on eight of the album’s 11 songs, except Forklifts Y ambulance. Session great Justin Meldal-Johnsen handled double bass on the first, while Rodríguez-López tackled the electric tones on the second himself.
Attacks on Mars
After its launch in June 2003, Deloused in the comatorium it brought Bixler-Zavala’s piercing vocals and Rodríguez-López’s frenetic guitar overdubs to the fore, with the bass relatively muted in the mix compared to other alternative rock albums of the time.
However, while her playing lacks the trademark tonal growl, Flea’s musical voice is apparent if you listen to her. Roulette Dares (The Lair Of) shows off those trademark arpeggios and fast finger style. 12 minute epic esp scar It wouldn’t be the same without the low-end odysseys that underpin guitar tricks. Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt features a bass solo that wouldn’t sound out of place in a live RHCP jam.
A decade after their first recorded exploits, Flea, Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala would join forces once again for the only release of 2014 from their punk-edged supergroup Antemasque.
But despite reports of a sophomore effort, no further material has surfaced yet. Instead, Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala collaborated on a new production under their most influential monikers, first with At the Drive-In and then with Mars Volta.
However, it is difficult to imagine that any new material arrives with the same impact as delouseda landmark release that continues to captivate and mystify in equal measure, and its star-studded roster is part of that eternal magnetism.