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Credit: Amelia Troubridge / Stefan Brending


Why Nick Cave hurt Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea's feelings


“I’m forever near a stereo saying, ‘What the fuck is this garbage? ‘ And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” — Nick Cave

The above quote is the exact reason many of Nick Cave’s fans absolutely adore him. Never one to mince his words or hold back his caustic tongue for the sake of industry pals, Cave has made his name on being an unabashed and authentic rock star. That’s meant that, as well as delivering searing songs of powerful poignancy, the singer has also been known to dish out an insult or two, something that really upset one of his fans, the Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea.

If you’ve ever looked up to someone throughout your life, cared for every piece of work they’ve put out and championed their artistic integrity with every passing year, only to have them smash your own work to smithereens, then you can perhaps sympathise with Flea.

The bassist has been a noted lover of all types of music for most of his career, often sharing his admiration for the bands and artist who influenced him most. It may seem unusual for a musician to be cited as a music lover, but, more often than not, performers tend to keep their influences and inspirations closer to their chest than you may imagine. However, when the news of Nick Cave’s sonic displeasure, following the release of the then-new Red Hot Chili Pepper’s album, arrived with Flea, he was noticeably upset.

“[A review of Stadium Arcadium] mentioned that Nick Cave really thought we were a shitty band,” said Flea of the vicious quote above, “and printed a quote that Nick Cave had said in that regard. For a second that hurt my feelings because I love Nick Cave. I have all of his records.”

However, Flea would soon remember that he loved Cave for this very reason and that his music was still too important to the bassist to let one comment get in the way of a lifetime of love. “I don’t care if Nick Cave hates my band because his music means everything to me,” Flea continued, “he is one of my favourite songwriters and singers and musicians of all time. I love all the incarnations of the Bad Seeds.”

It’s fair to assume that Flea was pretty cut-up about the initial statement from Cave. However, things turned around quickly: “But it only hurt my feelings for a second because my love for his music is bigger than all that shit and if he thinks my band is lame then that’s OK.”

In an interview with The Guardian in 2011, Flea reiterated his love for Cave: “Creativity waxes and wanes. We’re very lucky. We’ve made bunches of fucking money. We could be sat on the beach eating burritos, but even when we’re pissed off with each other we sit in a room and work. Igor Stravinsky sat at his piano every fucking day. Some days it was rubbish and his wife was chewing his ear off – but he stuck at it. The same thing goes for Nick Cave, the greatest living songwriter. He goes to work! Every day. And that’s what we do.”

There’s no doubt that Nick Cave is capable of upturning an apple cart here and there. The Aussie rocker has been doing so with great pleasure and effectiveness for most of his career. Whether or not his statement was a serious moment or an off-hand joke, it certainly rocked Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea for a brief moment. However, perhaps in the greatest revelatory moment, we can see that music truly does triumph overall, including a few hurt feelings.