John Frusciante

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John Frusciante

John Frusciante (born March 5, 1970 in Queens, New York) is a guitarist performing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His father, John Sr., and his mother, Gail Frusciante, were both musical themselves. Gail even lent her voice to the Red Hot Chili Peppers song, "Under the Bridge." John is considered by many to be the greatest guitarist of his generation.


'Mother's Milk'

John first saw the Chili Peppers in concert in 1985 and they instantly became his favorite band. John began to hero-worship Hillel Slovak, the current guitarist for the band, learning every guitar part from their first three albums. Hillel, however, died from a heroin overdose in 1988 and the band decided to continue with another guitarist.

John had become good friends with D.H. Peligro (drummer for The Dead Kennedys) around 1988, and they often jammed together. One day, Peligro invited Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers over, to jam with them. Flea was so impressed by John's skill, and since he was looking for a new guitarist (their current replacement for Hillel, Duane 'Blackbird' McNight had no good bond with the others) he called Anthony Kiedis (vocalist for The Chili Peppers) to watch John play. It was a unanimous decision: John was in. John was about to sign a contract with Thelonious Monster at the time, but Flea and Kiedis swiped him from under their noses. Needless to say, Thelonious Monster was not pleased, but the two bands remained friends anyway. (Frusciante also had an offer to join Frank Zappa's band, but decided against it due to Zappa's strict prohibition of illegal drug use amongst musicians in his band.) When John was asked to join the band he was thrilled, claiming to have "boot marks five feet high on the wall in my room for months after that call."

Frusciante made his first album with the Chili Peppers: Mother's Milk. Produced by Michael Beinhorn the album didn't stray too far from the funk that dominated the band's three previous albums: Frusciante's playing on this album is heavily influenced by Slovak's playing. According to Anthony Kiedis' autobiography 'Scar Tissue', John and Beinhorn fought often about the tone of his guitar and double layering.

Frusciante is thought by many critics to contribute greatly to the creativity of the group with his unique guitar riffs and solos. He has said himself that it seemed like he was doing the majority of the writing during the recording of this album. Nowadays John claims to detest this album, saying it was too "macho".

Mother's Milk was the Chili Peppers' first gold album, helped by their first hit single, a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground". The album contained the song "Knock Me Down" (the lyrics of which were written by Kiedis about the death of Hillel), which exemplified the band's increasing musical sophistication.

'Blood Sugar Sex Magik'

The band hooked up with legendary producer Rick Rubin to record their fifth album. Rubin rented a mansion in California to record the record which had formerly been owned by Harry Houdini, among others, and is allegedly where the Beatles experienced LSD for the first time. While staying in the mansion the band put their outside lives on hold and just focused on making the best album they could possibly make. This was also the first album the band recorded on their current label, Warner, who had bought them out of their previous contract with EMI.

Blood Sugar Sex Magik sold incredibly well, and was the band's breakthrough album, mostly due to the hits "Under The Bridge" and "Give It Away," and also to the expert production by Rick Rubin.

On May 7th, 1992, just as the Chili Peppers were supposed to do a show in Japan, Frusciante left the band (though he did play the show and later departed). When asked by the media what he said to the band, he replied, "Just tell them I went crazy." His departure was considered to be the result of mental illness - specifically depression - as well as fatigue from the Chili Peppers' celebrity status. He also couldn't handle being back in the real world, after living in the 'Mansion' for so long with no worries. It was hard to re-enter reality.

The Years Out

Frusciante had already begun recording his first solo album before leaving the band in 1992, and the album that was released in 1994, Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, is viewed by many as his best solo album. Regardless, it is an incredibly vivid, bizarre, jaded and beautiful glimpse into the mind of (some would call) a madman; a man who lived in an altered state of mind. A notable eccentric, Frusciante claims that his music is a gift from spirits that frequently spoke to him during his absence from the Chili Peppers from 1992-1998. The album is dedicated to Flea's daughter Clara Balzary as John loved the innocence that children have. It was also dedicated to his long time friend Toni.

John became severely addicted to hard drugs, primarily heroin. His 1997 solo album Smile From the Streets You Hold was released for purpose of "drug money" according to Frusciante himself, and was later withdrawn from the market. It was written and recorded largely in the style of Niandra Lades: lo-fi, with gossamer, layered guitar work and helter-skelter, impassioned vocals that are often unlistenable.

The Return

In 1998, Frusciante finally went to rehab, where he was visited by Flea. Flea wanted John back in the band, and although there was still some tension between John and Anthony, Flea asked John if he would do them the honour. John, elated, said yes, and he still thinks of it today as one of the best decisions he made in his life. The tensions between Kiedis and Frusciante disappeared with time as Frusciante remained clean. However, according to an interview, Frusciante had never gone to any rehab clinic. He claims that he danced the addiction away.

The band began work on Californication soon after, and the album was released in 1999. It was, and still is, their best-selling album to date, reflecting Frusciante's renewed passion for playing and creating music.

To Record Only Water for Ten Days

During the Californication world tour John wrote his own songs which would be released on another solo album called To Record Only Water for Ten Days. This album was not nearly as stream-of-consciousness and avant-garde as his previous solo albums, but his lyrics were still very cryptic and the sound of the album was notably sparse and stripped down. Instead of focusing mostly on his guitar work, John became interested in synthesizer sounds and textures, and his synth is a prime feature of this album.

Frusciante began his To Record Only Water for Ten Days tour on January 27, 2001 with a performance at The Borderline in London. The tour concluded on June 10 with a short show at The Ruby in Los Angeles, and all 16 concerts featured only John on acoustic guitar.

By the Way

The band recorded By the Way in 2002, and it was well-received by critics. It is their softest album to date, and the difference in sound between this album and Freaky Styley (one of the band's earlier works before John joined) is spectacular. Frusciante remains a major - according to some, the primary - creative force in the Chili Peppers.

2004: The Prolific Year of John Frusciante

Beginning in 2004 and concluding in early 2005, Frusciante embarked on a bold sonic quest. In February 2004 John released the much anticipated Shadows Collide With People, a well collected, amazingly orchestrated amalgamation of songs that outline Frusciante's growth experienced after his heroin addiction. The album featured guest appearances from some of Frusciante's closest friends, including Josh Klinghoffer from The Bicycle Thief, the Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from The Mars Volta and Flea, the infamous Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist.

At around May/June 2004, rumours began to circulate that John would be releasing another album at the end of June. These rumours were comfirmed as fans also discovered that John had plans to release another 6 more albums this year, the records being released roughly once per month through the label Record Collection.

The first of these albums was The Will To Death, released at the end of June 2004. The album lacked the meticulous editing and high production cost of Shadows Collide with People but the quality of the songs included were very highly regarded by fans. The album was recorded in 5 days total (December 18-19 2003 and January 8-10 2004) as John wanted the album to be 'imperfect' compared to his highly produced "Shadows Collide With People". Indeed, John's appreciation of imperfection in studio music is a trait that features largely in his music. (For a taste of John's taste, listen to the tambourine in the Rolling Stones song Time Is On My Side.)

The following five albums of Frusciante's most fruitful musical period represent an array of rock music that often incorporates instruments, tempo changes, and electronic sounds uncommon to traditional western rock. People may question Frusciante's decision to release all these songs on separate albums instead of producing some sort of "best of" work for this series, but when the series of listened to, it becomes clear that all the sounds are grouped together in terms of style. It did not make any sense for Frusciante to, for example, put a song from Curtains and a song from A Sphere in the Heart of Silence on the same record because they are too different in style, theme and genre.

The next in the series was Automatic Writing,a record of five long jams with hypnotic bass lines and experimental guitar parts. The album was released, not under the name of John Frusciante, but as Ataxia. Ataxia includes Frusciante on guitar, Josh Klinghoffer on drums and Joe Lally (bassist of Fugazi) on bass, with all three contributing to the vocals. "Automatic Writing" was released at the tail end of August and is apparantly the first half of recordings the trio did together under the moniker Ataxia. It is unknown whether the other half of recordings will be released anytime soon.

Next up was the "DC EP", which included just four tracks (and totaled less than 20 minutes). The record was produced by Fugazi's Ian MacKaye, whom Frusciante idolized throughout his teen years. Frusciante was accompanied on this album by Jerry Busher on drums. Musically, the songs were somewhat similar to what one could find on his album The Will To Death, but slightly different in genre and very different in tone; the songs took on an almost "jazzy" feel. The recording of this EP was once again very fast (9-10 Februray). Rumour has it that the 'DC' name is because Frusciante recorded it in Washington, DC. The "DC EP" was released in September.

Next up came "Inside of Emptiness", an album that is very highly regarded by Frusciante's loyal fanbase. Recorded in just 6 days (8-13 March) this album adopted a more heavier feel to it than previous Frusciante releases. John himself said that one of the solos was accomplished by "beating the fuck out of his guitar". Indeed, "beating the fuck" out of things seems to be a common theme throughout his heaviest solo release. Frusciante was once again accompanied by Klinghoffer. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez makes another appearance. The album was released in late October 2004.

The final album of 2004 was "A Sphere in the Heart of Silence". Notable for its interesting combination of electronic music with rock, A Sphere shares certain resemblances to Frusciante's other highly electronic release, To Record Only Water for Ten Days. Klinghoffer shared equally in the production of this album. The album was released under both Frusciante's and Klinghoffer's names. Recorded in April {9-11, 14-15) the fifth album in the series was not released until November.

"Curtains" completed Frusciante's productive journey. Officially released February 1, 2005, the album was recorded in May 2004 (8-14, 19-23) so is still apart of the prolific year of Frusciante. The album is mostly acoustic, recorded in Frusciante's living room, and has the most commercial appeal of the albums in his series of six. It was also the most critically recieved, garnering Frusciante comparisons to Cat Stevens. Accompanying Frusciante on this album were, Carla Azar (from the band Autolux) on drums and Ken Wilde on upright bass. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez once again marks an appearance, adding lead guitar on certain tracks.

Each of the 'Record Collection' album's artwork were designed by Lola Montes and each was engineered by Ryan Hewitt.

John was also kept busy with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2004 as they embarked upon a summer tour in Europe. The band played in stadium sized venues, and was their biggest tour to date. The band unveiled three new songs on this tour: 'Leverage of Space', 'Rolling Sly Stone' and 'Mini-Epic'. A live album called "Live in Hyde Park" was released, compiling live tracks from the band's Hyde Park shows in London. Two of the new songs, 'Leverage of Space' and 'Rolling Sly Stone', were included. This album was released in only Canada and Europe.

Frusciante also performed in Los Angeles together with guitarist Michael Roether of Neu! and Kraftwerk fame. Playing with Roether was like a dream come true for Frusciante, who had been a great fan of the guitarist for many years.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers took part in the Bridge Benefit concert in November, run by Neil Young. At this acoustic based show another new song was revealed 'Desecration Smile'.


So far in 2005 Frusciante has entered the studio with the rest of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to work on their 9th studio album, the recording commenced on the 16th of March and apparently all that is left to record is Anthony's vocals. It has been said that the songs played in their Summer tour in 2004 will not be included in the album: 'Leverage of Space', 'Rolling Sly Stone' and 'Mini-Epic'. It is unknown if 'Desecration Smile' will appear. Frusciante has said recently that he plays a lot of 'Hendrix-esque' solos on this album.

Frusciante also revealed in March that he has plans to make a remastered version of the internet album, "From the Sounds Inside" and also to make all of his copies of "Smile from The Streets You Hold", which he has sitting in a warehouse, available to the fans by selling them through his official website, stating: "I recently listened to 'Smile' again and really loved it, it's really a wonderful album and it should be out there, people should be able to listen to it". A boxed set with all his solo works (including those just mentioned) is another idea that Frusciante is thinking of.

John recently participated in the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival curated by Vincent Gallo (who Frusciante is quite close with) on the 23rd of April, playing an acoustic set of songs ranging from "Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt" to "Curtains".


With The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Solo Material

Guest Appearances


  • Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" Soundtrack (2004)

External link

es:John Frusciante fr:John Frusciante he:ג'ון פרושיאנטה nl:John Frusciante sv:John Frusciante


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