1979 recording featuring original Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea, Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons unearthed by Alain Johannes

What Is This?
(Image credit: What Is This? / YouTube)

Fairfax High School's class of '79 was a special one; its pupils included budding musicians Jack Irons, Alain Johannes and Hillel Slovak who formed a band called Chain Reaction (then later Anthem, Anthym and finally What Is This?) with fellow pupil Todd Strassman, later replaced by bass player Michael Peter Balzary aka 'Flea'. Between them they would go on to become members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Eleven, Them Crooked Vultures and Queens Of The Stone Age. Now Johannes has unearthed a previously unheard recording of the young band when they were called Anthym in 1979. And it's surprisingly good quality! 

"Anthym – Paradox 1979 8-track recording Jack Irons-drums, Flea-bass, Hillel Slovak-guitar, Alain Johannes-guitar, vocal," posted Johannes along with the recording on Instagram.

"Found this cassette deep in a box it has a bunch more lol," the guitarist added. "Can’t believe it still kinda plays. Oh and check out my E-HX Clone Theory-saturated solo tone on the left. Hillel on Messenger [1967 Musicraft Messenger guitar] on the right. Ah we were young and innocent." 

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Hillel Slovak (left) and Flea went on to join the Red Hot Chili Peppers, pictured here in 1986 (Image credit: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

The metal-infused track is already several cuts above most high school bands, with Johannes – who is now a successful producer as well as musician – sounding quite Geddy Lee on vocals. 

We're very much looking forward to hearing more from the cassette, and it will be especially welcomed by Hillel Slovak fans. The founding Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist passed away in 1988 after recording two albums with the band. 

Flea would eventually leave What Is This? to join Fear and he was replaced by bassist Chris Hutchinson. The 1979 8-track predates their first EP, Squeezed, by five years. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.