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What The Players Play
Rack That Rock: What RHCP Use to Stage That Monster Sound
by David Farinella
Musician - September 1996

On the last leg of the most recent Red Hot Chili Peppers tour the band made a pitstop to record "Love Rollercoaster" for the Beavis and Butt-head movie. Although the studio was booked for two days, the band took just two hours to rip through the tune and every tech on the scene was thrown for a loop. "We were done," says guitarrist Dave Navarro with a shrug of his shoulders. "I waited for another hour, because I thought they were kidding," laughs Dave Lee, Navarro's tech. The episode exemplifies the way the Chilis work, both in the studio and onstage.

Brian Doyle, who handles tech duties for Flea, says that the bass sound he gets is purely Flea's doing. "It's just him, the way he plays and the way he holds the bass when he plays. Watch his hands, if you can." Rather than jumping from effect to effect, bass to bass, Flea changes tones by changing where his hands are located on the bass by changing his attack.

Likewise for drummer Chad Smith, according to front-of-house magician Dave Rat. "It's all straightforward generic sounds, right off the drums," he says. The only thing that Rat adds from his position, as well as your typical vocal reverb and delay, is a couple of pops from a sub-harmonic synthesizer which drops Flea's lowest notes an octave on the songs "One Big Mob" and "Deep Kick".

Even Dave Navarro, who bleeds melody and edge at the same time, doesn't run an effects-o-rama. About the only special trick he's put together is the amp setup, which is split between a clean channel and a dirty channel. "That way he can switch between a real clean tone for certain songs and then just hit a buttom for a real overdriven sound," says Lee, who Navarro calls one of the greatest techs he's worked with.

The effects Dave does use are all on a pedalboard so he can goof around with them during a show; they're mainly Boss pedals, simple to replace and easy to use. (Side note: "MIDI is shitty," agree Navarro and Lee.) "Also," says Navarro, "when I was a kid learning how to play, those were the things I bought. When I was 12 or 13 years old I had Boss pedals and I liked 'em." So there.



Microphones: Audix OM-7


Basses: Four Music Man basses (one silver sparkle and three black), one Tobias black bass.

Amps: Three Gallien-Krueger 800RBs.

Cabinets: Mesa/Boogie -two dual 10", two dual 15" per side.

Strings: GHS Boomers, medium gauge.

Pedals: Boss Auto Wah and Bass Overdrive.


Guitars: Fender Strat, Parker Fly, Fernandes Tele-style and Strat-style models, Paul Reed Smith.

Amps: Marshall JCM 900.

Cabinets: four Marshall 4x12s and a Mesa/Boogie 4x12.

Effects: Dunlop Jimi Hendrix wah pedal, Roger Mayer Octavia, Boss DE-3 delays, Super Chorus, Phaser, Turbo Distortion, and Noise Suppressor.

Strings: Dean Markley.


Drums: Pearl kit, Ludwing snare.

Cymbals: Sabian -14" hi-hats, 6" and 8" cymbal discs, 18" medium crash, 10" splash, 21" ride, 17" and 20" crashes, 14" mini chinese.

Heads: Remo Ambassadors.

Sticks: Vater.