John Frusciante in 2006
|Birth name||John Anthony Frusciante|
|Also known as||Trickfinger|
March 5, 1970 |
Queens, New York City, United States
|Genres||Experimental rock, avant-garde music, alternative rock, art rock, electronica, funk rock, funk, ambient, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, acid house|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, keyboards, drum machine, bass guitar, piano, synthesizers|
|Labels||Warner Bros., Record Collection, Birdman, American Recordings, Funk Soul Recordings, Neurotic Yell Records, AcidTest|
|Associated acts||Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ataxia, Josh Klinghoffer, The Mars Volta, Omar Rodríguez-López, Wu-Tang Clan, Black Knights, Venetian Snares, Swahili Blonde, Kimono Kult, Fugazi, Duran Duran|
John Anthony Frusciante (i//; born March 5, 1970) is an American guitarist, singer, producer and composer. He is best known as the former guitarist of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, from 1988 until 1992, and again from 1998 until 2009. He recorded five studio albums with them.
Frusciante has an active solo career, having released eleven solo albums and five EPs; his recordings include elements ranging from experimental rock and ambient music to new wave and electronica. In 2015, Frusciante will release his debut acid house album under his alias, Trickfinger. He has also recorded with numerous other artists, including The Mars Volta, for whom he was a studio guitarist (and occasional live performer) from 2002 until 2008; Josh Klinghoffer and Joe Lally, with whom he released two albums as Ataxia; and various collaborations with both Klinghoffer and Omar Rodríguez-López.
At the age of eighteen, he joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers, first appearing on the band's 1989 album, Mother's Milk. The group's follow-up album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991), was a breakthrough success. Frusciante became overwhelmed by the band's new popularity and quit in 1992. He became a recluse and entered a long period of drug addiction, during which he released his first solo recordings: Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt (1994) and Smile from the Streets You Hold (1997). In 1998, he successfully completed drug rehabilitation and rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Their next album, Californication (1999) would eventually go on to sell 16 million copies. His album To Record Only Water for Ten Days was made in 2001. A fourth album with the Chili Peppers, By the Way was released in 2002. On a creative spree, Frusciante released six solo albums in 2004; each album explored different recording techniques and genres. 2006 saw the release of his fifth and final album with the Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium. In 2009, Frusciante released The Empyrean, which features Flea and Josh Klinghoffer, and announced he had again parted ways with the Chili Peppers.
He has produced and/or recorded with the Wu-Tang Clan, The Mars Volta and Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Swahili Blonde, Black Knights, The Bicycle Thief, Glenn Hughes, Ziggy Marley, Johnny Cash, George Clinton, and others.
Frusciante has received critical recognition for his guitar playing, ranking at number 18 on Rolling Stone 's list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" in 2003; and again in a second list published in 2011, where he ranked at number 72. He was ranked as number 42 in Gibson's list of the "50 Best Guitarists of All Time". He was voted "The Best Guitarist of the Last 30 Years" in a 2010 BBC poll called "The Axe Factor". Frusciante was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on April 14, 2012 although he did not attend the ceremony.
- 1 Biography
- 1.1 1970–1987: Childhood and early life
- 1.2 1988–1992: First term with the Red Hot Chili Peppers
- 1.3 1992–1997: Drug addiction
- 1.4 1997–2002: Rehabilitation and return to the Chili Peppers
- 1.5 2002–2007: The Mars Volta, 2004 recordings and Stadium Arcadium
- 1.6 2007–2009
- 1.7 2010–present
- 2 Musical style
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Discography
- 5 References
- 6 External links
1970–1987: Childhood and early life
Frusciante was born in Queens, New York on March 5, 1970. His father, John Sr., is a Juilliard-trained pianist, and his mother Gail was a promising vocalist who gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mother. Frusciante's family moved to Tucson, Arizona, and then Florida, where his father served as a Broward County judge until October 2010. His parents separated, and he and his mother moved to Santa Monica, California.
A year later, Frusciante and his mother moved to Mar Vista, Los Angeles with his new stepfather who, he says, "really supported me and made me feel good about being an artist." Like many young people in the area, he became intimately involved in the L.A. punk rock scene. At nine he was infatuated with The Germs, wearing out several copies of their record (GI). By ten, he had taught himself how to play most of (GI)'s songs. He has stated that he did not really know what he was doing, and that he would play every chord with a single-finger barre.
Frusciante began studying guitarists like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix at eleven. He discovered Frank Zappa, whose work he would study for hours. Frusciante first heard of the Red Hot Chili Peppers around 1984 when his guitar instructor was auditioning as a guitarist for that band. He dropped out of high school at sixteen with the permission of his parents and completion of a proficiency test. With their support, he moved to Los Angeles in order to develop his musical proficiency. He began taking classes at the Guitar Institute of Technology, but turned to punching in without actually attending and left shortly thereafter.
1988–1992: First term with the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Frusciante first attended a Red Hot Chili Peppers performance at fifteen and he rapidly became a devoted fan. He idolized guitarist Hillel Slovak—familiarizing himself with virtually all the guitar and bass parts from the Chili Peppers' first three records. He became acquainted with Slovak; the two spoke months before Slovak's death and Frusciante's subsequent joining:
...Hillel asked me, 'Would you still like the Chilis if they got so popular they played the Forum?' I said, 'No. It would ruin the whole thing. That's great about the band, the audience feels no different from the band at all.' There was this real kind of historical vibe at their shows, none of the frustration that runs through the audience when they jump around and can't get out of their seat. I didn't even watch the shows. I'd get so excited that I'd flip around the slam pit the whole time. I really felt like a part of the band, and all the sensitive people in the audience did too.
Frusciante became friends with former Dead Kennedys drummer D. H. Peligro in early 1988. They often jammed together, and Peligro invited his friend Flea (bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers) to join. Frusciante and Flea developed a musical chemistry immediately, with Flea later acknowledging that might have been the day he first played the bass riff to "Nobody Weird Like Me". Around the same time, Frusciante intended to audition for Frank Zappa's band, but changed his mind before the final try-out as Zappa strictly prohibited illegal drug use. Frusciante said, "I realized that I wanted to be a rock star, do drugs and get girls, and that I wouldn't be able to do that if I was in Zappa's band."
Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, incapable of coping with Slovak's death, left the group. Remaining members Flea and vocalist Anthony Kiedis regrouped, determined to persevere. The pair added Peligro on drums and DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, formerly of P-Funk, on guitar. McKnight, however, failed to connect musically within the group. Flea proposed auditioning Frusciante, whose intimate knowledge of the Chili Peppers' repertoire impressed him. Flea and Kiedis auditioned him and agreed that he would be a suitable replacement for McKnight, who was promptly fired. When Flea called Frusciante with the news of his acceptance into the Chili Peppers, Frusciante was elated; he ran through his house screaming with joy, and jumped on a wall, leaving permanent boot marks. He was considering a contract with Thelonious Monster at the time—and had actually been playing with the act for two weeks—but his unanticipated reception into the Chili Peppers prompted him to change his plans.
However, Frusciante was not familiar with the funk genre of Red Hot Chili Peppers' sound: "I wasn't really a funk player before I joined the band. I learned everything I needed to know about how to sound good with Flea by studying Hillel [Slovak's] playing and I just took it sideways from there." Several weeks into the band's new lineup, Peligro, whose performance was suffering due to extreme drug abuse, was fired. Soon after, Chad Smith was added as the group's new drummer and the new lineup began recording their first album, 1989's Mother's Milk. Frusciante focused on emulating Slovak's signature style, rather than imposing his own personal style on the group. Producer Michael Beinhorn disagreed, and wanted Frusciante to play with an uncharacteristic heavy metal tone, largely absent from the band's three preceding records. Frusciante and Beinhorn fought frequently over guitar tone and layering, and Beinhorn's idea ultimately prevailed as Frusciante felt pressured by the producer's much greater knowledge of the studio. Kiedis recalls that "[Beinhorn] wanted John to have a big, crunching, almost metal-sounding guitar tone whereas before we always had some interesting acid-rock guitar tones as well as a lot of slinky, sexy, funky guitar tones."
The Chili Peppers collaborated with producer Rick Rubin for their second record with Frusciante, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Rubin felt that it was important to record the album in an unorthodox setting, so he suggested an old Hollywood Hills mansion, and the band agreed. Frusciante, Kiedis and Flea isolated themselves there for the duration of the recording. Frusciante and Flea seldom went outside, and spent most of their time smoking marijuana. Around this time, Frusciante started a side collaboration with Flea and Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins called The Three Amoebas. They recorded roughly ten to fifteen hours of material, none of which has ever been released.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik was hugely successful upon its release on September 24, 1991. It peaked at number three on the Billboard charts, and went on to sell thirteen million copies worldwide. The unexpected success instantly turned the Red Hot Chili Peppers into rock stars. Frusciante was blindsided by his newfound fame, and struggled to cope with it. Soon after the album's release, he began to develop a dislike for the band's popularity. Kiedis recalled that he and Frusciante used to get into heated discussions backstage after concerts: "John would say, 'We're too popular. I don't need to be at this level of success. I would just be proud to be playing this music in clubs like you guys were doing two years ago.'" Frusciante later said that the band's rise to popularity was "too high, too far, too soon. Everything seemed to be happening at once and I just couldn't cope with it." He also began to feel that destiny was leading him away from the band. When the Chili Peppers began their world tour, he started to hear voices in his head telling him "you won't make it during the tour, you have to go now." Frusciante admitted to having once taken great pleasure in hedonism; however, "by the age of twenty, I started doing it right and looking at it as an artistic expression instead of a way of partying and screwing a bunch of girls. To balance it out, I had to be extra-humble, extra-anti-rock star." He refused to take the stage during a performance at Tokyo's Club Quattro on May 7, 1992, telling his bandmates that he was leaving the band. He was persuaded to perform, but left for California the next morning; according to the guitarist, "it was just impossible for me to stay in the band any longer. It had come to the point where even though they wanted me in the band, it felt like I was forced out of the band. Not by any members in particular or management in particular, but just the direction it was going."
In a 2015 interview, Cris Kirkwood said that following Frusciante's departure from the Chili Peppers in 1992 he auditioned for his band the Meat Puppets. Kirkwood said "“He showed up with his guitar out of its case and barefoot. We were on a major label then, we just got signed, and those guys had blown up to where they were at and John needed to get out. John gets to our pad and we started getting ready to play and I said, ‘You want to use my tuner?’ He said, ‘No, I’ll bend it in.’ It was so far out. Then we jammed but it didn’t come to anything. Maybe he wasn’t in the right place and we were a tight little unit. It just didn’t quite happen but it could have worked."
1992–1997: Drug addiction
Frusciante developed serious drug habits while touring with the band during the previous four years. He said that when he "found out that Flea was stoned out of his mind at every show, that inspired me to be a pothead". Not only was Frusciante smoking large amounts of marijuana, but he began to use heroin and was on the verge of full-scale addiction. Upon returning to California in the summer of 1992, Frusciante entered a deep depression, feeling that his life was over and that he could no longer write music or play guitar. For a long time, he focused on painting, producing 4-track recordings he had made while working on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and writing short stories and screenplays. To cope with his worsening depression, Frusciante increased his heroin use and spiraled into a life-threatening dependency. His use of heroin to medicate his depression was a clear decision: "I was very sad, and I was always happy when I was on drugs; therefore, I should be on drugs all the time. I was never guilty—I was always really proud to be an addict." Frusciante openly admitted to being a "junkie", believing that drugs were the only way of "making sure you stay in touch with beauty instead of letting the ugliness of the world corrupt your soul."
Sample of "Your Pussy's Glued to a Building on Fire", from Frusciante's first solo album, Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt
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Frusciante released his first solo album Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, on March 8, 1994. Despite the common belief that most of the tracks were recorded while he was strung out on heroin in his home in the Hollywood Hills, Frusciante has said that "That album was not recorded when I was a heroin addict. It was released when I was a heroin addict."
The first half of Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt was recorded shortly after the completion of Blood Sugar Sex Magik; the second half between late 1991 and early 1992, during the album's tour. "Running Away Into You" is the only track recorded after he left the Chili Peppers. The album is a heavily experimental avant-garde composition whose initial purpose was spiritual and emotional expression: "I wrote [the record] because I was in a really big place in my head—it was a huge, spiritual place telling me what to do. As long as I'm obeying those forces, it's always going to be meaningful. I could be playing guitar and I could say 'Play something that sucks,' and if I'm in that place, it's gonna be great. And it has nothing to do with me, except in ways that can't be understood." Frusciante further asserted that the album was meant to be experienced as a cohesive unit rather than separate entities or songs. Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt was released on Rick Rubin's label American Recordings. Warner Bros., the Chili Peppers' label, owned rights to the album because of the leaving-artist clause in Frusciante's Chili Peppers contract. However, because he was reclusive, the label gladly handed the rights over to Rubin, who released the album at the urging of Frusciante's friends.
An article in the New Times LA described Frusciante as "a skeleton covered in thin skin" who at the nadir of his addictions nearly died from a blood infection. His arms became fiercely scarred from improperly shooting heroin and cocaine, leaving permanent abscesses. He spent the next three years holed up in his Hollywood Hills home, the walls of which were badly damaged and covered in graffiti. During this time, his friends Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes went to his house and filmed a documentary short called Stuff, depicting the squalor in which he was living. The house was eventually destroyed by a fire that claimed his vintage guitar collection along with several recorded tapes of music and left him with serious burns after he narrowly escaped.
Frusciante released his second solo album, Smile from the Streets You Hold, in 1997. The album's first track, "Enter a Uh", was largely characterized by cryptic lyrics and hysterical screeches. Frusciante also coughs throughout the track, showcasing his deteriorating health. By his own admission, the album was released in order to get "drug money"; he withdrew it from the market in 1999.
1997–2002: Rehabilitation and return to the Chili Peppers
In late 1996, after more than five years of addiction to heroin, Frusciante quit it cold turkey. However, months later he was still unable to break addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol. In January 1997, urged by longtime friend Bob Forrest, Frusciante checked into Las Encinas, a drug rehabilitation clinic in Pasadena, to begin a full recovery. Upon arrival, he was diagnosed with a potentially lethal oral infection, which could only be alleviated by removing all of his rotten teeth and replacing them with dental implants. He also received skin grafts to help repair the abscesses on his ravaged arms. About a month later, Frusciante checked out of Las Encinas and re-entered society.
Fully recovered and once again healthy, Frusciante began living a more spiritual, ascetic lifestyle. He changed his diet, becoming more health-conscious and eating mostly unprocessed foods. Through regular practice of vipassana and yoga, he discovered the effect that self-discipline has on the body. To maintain his increased spiritual awareness and reduce distraction from his music, Frusciante decided to abstain from sexual activity stating: "I'm very well without it." All of these changes in his life have led him to a complete change in his attitude toward drugs:
I don't need to take drugs. I feel so much more high all the time right now because of the type of momentum that a person can get going when you really dedicate yourself to something that you really love. I don't even consider doing them, they're completely silly. Between my dedication to trying to constantly be a better musician and eating my health foods and doing yoga, I feel so much more high than I did for the last few years of doing drugs.
At this point I'm the happiest person in the world. These things do not fuck with me at all, and I'm so proud of that—you don't know how proud I am. It's such a beautiful thing to be able to face life, to face yourself, without hiding behind drugs; without having to have anger towards people who love you. There are people who are scared of losing stuff, but you don't lose anything for any other reason than if you just give up on yourself.
Despite his experience as an addict, Frusciante does not view his drug use as a "dark period" in his life. He considers it a period of rebirth, during which he found himself and cleared his mind. Frusciante has since stopped practicing yoga, due to its effects on his back, but he still tries to meditate daily.
In early 1998, the Red Hot Chili Peppers fired guitarist Dave Navarro and were on the verge of breaking up. Flea told Kiedis, "the only way I could imagine carrying on [with the Red Hot Chili Peppers] is if we got John back in the band." With Frusciante free of his addictions and ailments, Kiedis and Flea thought it was an appropriate time to invite him back. When Flea visited him at his home and asked him to rejoin the band, Frusciante began sobbing and said "nothing would make me happier in the world." With Frusciante back on guitar, the Chili Peppers began recording their next album, Californication, released in 1999. Frusciante's return restored a key component of the Chili Peppers' sound, as well as a healthy morale. He brought with him his deep devotion to music, which had an impact on the band's recording style during the album. Frusciante has frequently stated that his work on Californication was his favorite.
During the Californication world tour, Frusciante continued to compose his own songs, many of which would be released in 2001 on his third solo album To Record Only Water for Ten Days. The album was stylistically unlike his previous records, less markedly stream-of-consciousness or avant-garde. However, the lyrics were still very cryptic and its sound was notably stripped down. The songwriting and production of To Record Only Water for Ten Days were more efficient and straightforward than on his previous recordings. The album strayed from the alternative rock he had just written with the Chili Peppers on Californication, focusing more on electronic and new wave elements. In addition to his guitar work, Frusciante experimented with a variety of synthesizers, a distinctive feature of the record.
In 2001, Frusciante began recording his fourth album with Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way (2002); he considered the time to be among the happiest in his life. He relished the chance the album gave him to "keep writing better songs". While working on By the Way, he also composed most of what would become Shadows Collide with People, as well as the songs created for the movie The Brown Bunny. His goal to improve his guitar playing on the album was largely driven by a desire to emulate guitar players such as Andy Partridge, Johnny Marr and John McGeoch; or as he put it, "people who used good chords". The album marked Frusciante's shift to a more group-minded mentality within the Chili Peppers, viewing the band as a cohesive unit rather than as four separate entities.
2002–2007: The Mars Volta, 2004 recordings and Stadium Arcadium
Frusciante wrote and recorded a plethora of songs during and after the By the Way tour. In February 2004, he started a side project with Joe Lally of Fugazi and Josh Klinghoffer, called Ataxia. The group was together for about two weeks, during which they recorded about ninety minutes of material. After two days in the recording studio, they played two shows at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, and spent two more days in the studio before disbanding. Later that year, five songs provided by Frusciante appeared on The Brown Bunny soundtrack.
"The Past Recedes", from Frusciante's 2005 album Curtains, is a return to musical convention from the experimental ideas of his first recordings, Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt and Smile from the Streets You Hold.
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Frusciante released his fourth full-length solo album Shadows Collide with People on February 24, 2004. This featured guest appearances from some of his friends, including Klinghoffer, and Chili Peppers bandmates Smith and Flea. In June 2004, he announced that he would be releasing six records over six months: The Will to Death, Ataxia's Automatic Writing, DC EP, Inside of Emptiness, A Sphere in the Heart of Silence and Curtains. With the release of Curtains Frusciante debuted his only music video of 2004, for the track "The Past Recedes". He wanted to produce these records quickly and inexpensively on analog tape, avoiding modern studio and computer-assisted recording processes. Frusciante noted, "These six records were recorded in a period of six months after coming home from touring with the Chili Peppers for one-and-a-half years. I made a list of all the songs I had and they totaled about seventy. My objective was to record as many songs as I could during the break that I had. In the midst of doing that, I was writing some of my best songs, so some of these albums have as many new songs as old songs. It was definitely the most productive time of my life."
In early 2005, Frusciante entered the studio to work on his fifth and final studio album with the Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium. His guitar playing is dominant throughout the album, and he provides backing vocals on most of the tracks. Although usually following a "less is more" style of guitar playing, he began using a full twenty-four track mixer for maximum effect. In the arrangements, he incorporates a wide array of sounds and playing styles, similar to the funk-influenced Blood Sugar Sex Magik or the more melodic By the Way. He also changed his approach to his playing, opting to contribute solos and allow songs to be formed from jam sessions. In an interview from Guitar World, Frusciante explained how he approached his guitar solos for their album Stadium Arcadium completely differently from those for their previous albums. On Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication, Frusciante had a general idea how he wanted his guitar solos to sound. For Stadium Arcadium, almost every guitar solo was completely improvised by Frusciante on the spot. Several reviews have stressed that the influence of Hendrix is evident in his solos on the album, with Frusciante himself backing this up. He also expanded the use of guitar effects throughout the album, and used various other instruments such as the synthesizer and mellotron. He worked continuously with Rubin over-dubbing guitar progressions, changing harmonies and using all his technical resources.
Frusciante began a series of collaborations with friend Omar Rodríguez-López and his band The Mars Volta, by contributing guitar and electronic instrumentation to song "Cicatriz ESP" off their album De-Loused in the Comatorium. He also contributed guitar solos on their 2005 album Frances the Mute. In 2006, he helped The Mars Volta complete their third album Amputechture by playing guitar on seven of its eight tracks. In return, Rodriguez-Lopez has played on several of Frusciante's solo albums, as well as making a guest appearance on Stadium Arcadium.
Red Hot Chili Peppers departure and The Empyrean
Ataxia released its second and final studio album, AW II in 2007. Following the Stadium Arcadium tour (early May 2006 to late August 2007), the Red Hot Chili Peppers agreed to a hiatus of indefinite length. In early 2008, Anthony Kiedis finally confirmed this, citing exhaustion from constant work since Californication as the main reason. Frusciante quit the group on July 29, 2009, but did not publicly announce his departure until December 2009, two months after the band ended their hiatus in October 2009 and began work on their next album with Josh Klinghoffer as their new guitarist.
Frusciante's tenth solo album, The Empyrean, was released on January 20, 2009 through Record Collection. The record—a concept album—was in production between December 2006 and March 2008. The Empyrean features an array of musicians including Frusciante's ex-Chili Peppers bandmate Flea, friends Josh Klinghoffer and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, as well as guest musicians including Sonus Quartet and New Dimension Singers. Frusciante stated: "I'm really happy with [the record] and I've listened to it a lot for the psychedelic experience it provides," suggesting the album is "to be played as loud as possible and is suited to dark living rooms late at night."
Collaborations with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Frusciante continued to collaborate with his friend Omar Rodríguez-López. Along with providing guitar work to The Mars Volta's studio albums, The Bedlam In Goliath and Octahedron, and Rodríguez-López's solo albums Se Dice Bisonte, No Búfalo and Calibration (Is Pushing Luck and Key Too Far), he functioned as executive producer for Rodríguez-López's directorial film debut, The Sentimental Engine Slayer. The film debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival in February 2010. Along with work on the film, Frusciante and Rodríguez-López have released two collaborative records in May 2010. The first is the album Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & John Frusciante, an album with just the two of them, the other a quartet record, Sepulcros de Miel, consisting of Rodríguez-López, Frusciante, Juan Alderete and Marcel Rodríguez-López.
Frusciante also contributed music to the documentary film, Little Joe, based upon Joe Dallesandro. In 2009, Frusciante appeared in the documentary, "The Heart is a Drum Machine." His full-length, forty-five minute interview is available in the special features of the DVD release.
On December 7, 2011, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were named 2012 inductees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In an interview that same day, Anthony Kiedis talked about Frusciante and if he would attend the ceremony. Kiedis stated, "It would be a guess on my behalf on whether or not he’ll come. I can’t imagine that he would, but it’s a 'you never know' kind of thing. I haven’t talked to him in quite a while. I don’t know where he’s at these days. He’ll obviously be more than welcome, and embraced if he does. If he doesn’t, that’s cool too." Flea also spoke about Frusciante by saying "He left us so many great gifts. He’s a phenomenal musician and songwriter who gave so much to our band. All the feelings I have for him not being in the band any more... He really took us to a higher level." Frusciante eventually declined to be present for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.
Switch to electronica
After his departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frusciante became more serious about his longtime dream to make electronic music. As he explained on his blog, "I started to learn how to program all the instruments we associate with Acid House music and some other hardware. [...] Then I started recording, playing 10 or so synced machines through a small mixer into a CD burner. This was all experimental Acid House, my skills at making rock music playing no part in it whatsoever. I had lost interest in traditional songwriting and I was excited about finding new methods for creating music." During that time Frusciante began an electronic trio with Aaron Funk and Chris McDonald under the name Speed Dealer Moms. Their first EP was released in December 2010 on Planet Mu Records.
In an interview with Blare Magazine Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, when asked about possible future collaborations with John, stated: "Maybe in the future, but John’s in a different place right now. He’s in a place where he couldn’t care less about putting things out or about something being a product. He’s living by different standards right now with a different philosophy, so he doesn’t want to be a part of anything that he knows is going to end up being a product. A Mars Volta record definitely ends up being a product".
Frusciante released a new EP on July 17, 2012, entitled Letur-Lefr. As with his previous solo releases, it was released through Record Collection Music. Recorded in 2010, Letur-Lefr marked a clear departure from guitar-driven sound of Frusciante's previous albums and combined elements of abstract electronica, pop and hip hop. He followed the EP with his tenth full-length studio album PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone on September 25, 2012. Prior to that, on the 16th of August, he also released a free download of the non-album song "Walls and Doors".
Frusciante's new musical approach met a mixed response from fans and critics. AllMusic's Fred Thomas in his review of PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone stated: "The ever-winding path of John Frusciante's solo career is a confusing one to say the least. [...] The thing is, there's no doubt that Frusciante is sincere in his expression with this incredibly warped music. There's no easy explanation for these sounds, no context for a lot of the choices he makes with the rapid-fire style changes and jarring production choices that come one after another after another on almost every song here."
Frusciante released an instrumental song named "Wayne" on April 7, 2013 through his website which was written and dedicated to the memory of his late friend, former Red Hot Chili Peppers' tour chef Wayne Forman. Outsides, his fifth EP, was released on August 14, 2013 in Japan, and on August 27, 2013 worldwide. The same year, he began collaborating with Wu-Tang affiliates Black Knights (Crisis The Sharpshoota, The Rugged Monk). Medieval Chamber, the second album by Black Knights, was released on January 14, 2014. All the music featured on the record was produced by Frusciante, with a few tracks featuring his vocals as well. Frusciante also became involved in Kimono Kult, a project including his wife Nicole Turley, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes, Bosnian Rainbows), string musician Laena Geronimo (Raw Geronimo) and guitarist Dante White (Dante Vs. Zombies, Starlite Desperation). Their debut EP, Hiding in the Light was produced by Turley and was released on her record label Neurotic Yell in March 2014. A track "Todo Menos El Dolor" was released on Soundcloud on January 16. Having released "Scratch", a single recorded during the PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone sessions, Frusciante released his eleventh studio album, Enclosure, on April 8, 2014. He's currently working with Duran Duran. In April 2015, Frusciante released his first album under the alias of Trickfinger. The album of the same name is Frusciante's first experimenting with the acid house genre. He previously released an EP, Sect In Sgt under this alias in 2012.
Frusciante's musical style has evolved over the course of his career. Although he received moderate recognition for his early guitar work, it was not until later in his career that music critics and guitarists alike began to fully recognize it: in October 2003, he was ranked eighteenth in Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Frusciante attributes this recent recognition to his shift in focus, stating that he chose an approach based on rhythmic patterns inspired by the complexity of material Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen produced. On earlier records, however, much of his output was influenced by various underground punk and new wave musicians. In general, his sound is also defined by an affinity for vintage guitars. All the guitars that he owns, records, and tours with were made before 1970. Frusciante will use the specific guitar that he finds appropriate for a certain song. All of the guitars he owned before quitting the band were destroyed when his house burned down in 1996. The first guitar he bought after rejoining the Chili Peppers was a 1962 red Fender Jaguar. His most-often used guitar, however, is a 1962 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster that was given to him as a gift from Anthony Kiedis after Frusciante rejoined the Chili Peppers in 1998. He has played this guitar on every album since rejoining the Chili Peppers, and their ensuing tours. He also owns a 1955 Fender Stratocaster, his only Strat with the maple neck. Frusciante's most highly appraised instrument is a 1955 Gretsch White Falcon, which he used twice per show during the By the Way tour. He has since stopped using it, saying there was "no room for it". Virtually all of Frusciante's acoustic work is played with a 1950s Martin 0–15.
After leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he switched to using a Yamaha SG as his primary guitar for his solo work. Frusciante has also noted his increased use of the Roland MC-202 for his electronic music, saying that he was at the point "where I thought as much like a 202ist as I did a guitarist..." The MC-202 has been his primary melodic instrument in his electronic music.
Frusciante uses a variety of vocal styles on his solo albums, ranging from the distressed screeches on Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt and Smile from the Streets You Hold to more conventional styles on later records. With the Chili Peppers, Frusciante provided backing vocals in a falsetto tenor, a style he started on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He thoroughly enjoyed his role in the Chili Peppers as backing vocalist, and said that backing vocals are a "real art form". Despite his commitment to the Chili Peppers, he felt that his work with the band should remain separate from his solo projects. When he returned to the Chili Peppers in 1998, Kiedis wanted the band to record "Living in Hell", a song Frusciante had written several years before. Frusciante refused, feeling that the creative freedom he needed for his solo projects would have conflicted with his role in the band.
Frusciante's guitar playing employs emphasis on appropriate melody, tone, and structure rather than virtuosity. Although virtuoso influences can be heard throughout his career, he has said that he often minimizes this. He feels that in general, guitar mastery has not evolved much since the 1960s and considers the greatest players of that decade unsurpassed. When he was growing up in the 1980s, many mainstream guitarists focused on speed. Because of this, he thinks that the skills of many defiant new wave and punk guitarists were largely overlooked. Therefore he accentuates the melodically-driven technique of players such as Matthew Ashman of Bow Wow Wow and Bernard Sumner of Joy Division as much as possible because he thinks that their style has been overlooked and consequently underexplored. Despite this, he considers himself a fan of technique-driven guitarists like Randy Rhoads and Steve Vai, but represses an urge to emulate their style: "People believe that by playing faster and creating new playing techniques you can progress forward, but then they realize that emotionally they don't progress at all. They transmit nothing to the people listening and they stay at where Hendrix was three decades ago. Something like that happened to Vai in the 80s." Believing that focusing only on "clean tones" is negative, Frusciante developed an interest in playing with what he calls a "grimy" sound. As a result, he considers it beneficial to "mistreat" his guitar and employ various forms of distortion when soloing. He also tries to break as many "stylistic boundaries" as he can to expand his musical horizons. He thinks that much of the output from today's guitarists is unoriginal, and that many of his contemporaries "follow the rules with no risk".
Frusciante has stated that he became serious about creating and engineering his own electronic music in 2007. As he progressed in enhancing his skills with electronic instruments and techniques, he has stated that he felt comfortable with how R&B and Hip hop music integrated into his work. He has noted that these and other new techniques were all part the influences for his EP, Letur-Lefr. PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone was recorded while Frusciante looked to find new ways to play the guitar with the new forms of music and production that he had been studying. In his blog post, "My Recent History," he notes that "Aspects of PBX are the realization of combinations of styles of music I saw in my head many years ago, as potentials, but which I had no idea how to execute."
Frusciante's approach to album composition has changed. On his early recordings, he welcomed sonic imperfections, noting that "even on [To Record Only Water for Ten Days] there are off-pitch vocals and out-of-tune guitars." However, on later albums such as Shadows Collide With People, he pursued the opposite: "I just wanted everything to be perfect—I didn't want anything off pitch, or off time, or any unintentional this or that." Frusciante views songwriting as taking time, and does not force it: "If a song wants to come to me, I'm always ready to receive it, but I don't work at it." Much of his solo material is first written on an acoustic or unamplified electric guitar. He also prefers to record his albums on analog tapes and other relatively primitive equipment. This preference stems from his belief that older equipment can actually speed up the recording process, and that modern computerized recording technology gives only an illusion of efficiency. Frusciante tries to streamline the recording process as much as possible, because he thinks "music comes alive when [you] are creating it fast". He also enjoys the challenge of having to record something in very few takes, and believes that when musicians are unable to handle the pressure of having to record something quickly they often get frustrated or bogged down by perfectionism. With his focus on new styles of music, Frusciante describes having worked with the computer as an instrument, and having found the ability to merge old and new production techniques together. He has noted that there has been a change in how he works on an album. In the past he would work on one song at a time, but with the new "Progressive Synth Pop" that he has been working on, he feels much more comfortable to work within the album as a whole. He currently uses the music tracker Renoise as his main Digital audio workstation along with some drum machines, sequencers, and other hardware, along with his Doepher, Arp, and other modular synthesizers.
Frusciante's first major influence was Jimi Hendrix. He then saw The Red Hot Chili Peppers (at that point, The was part of their name) in concert in 1985, after which their then-guitarist Hillel Slovak became his second major influence, with Frusciante coming to idolize Slovak. Although Hendrix and Slovak were arguably Frusciante's most profound influences, he was also inspired by glam rock artists David Bowie, and T. Rex; as well as avant-garde acts such as Captain Beefheart, The Residents, The Velvet Underground, Neu!, Frank Zappa, and Kraftwerk.
He credits his inspiration for learning guitar to Greg Ginn, Pat Smear,and Joe Strummer, amongst others. As an adolescent, he began by focusing upon Hendrix, as well as bands like Public Image Ltd., Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, and XTC.
During the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Captain Beefheart and the acoustic, one-man blues of Lead Belly and Robert Johnson, were among the most noteworthy influences. Frusciante cites R&B singer Brandy as a musical inspiration and admires her voice, calling it “multidimensional” and “inspiring.” In describing her voice and signature sound, he said, “You can't hear [the elaborate harmonies] with your conscious; you have to hear her voice with your subconscious.” He also mentioned that Brandy was the “main inspiration” behind the guitar work on Red Hot Chili Peppers' 2006 album, Stadium Arcadium.
On Californication and By the Way, Frusciante derived the technique of creating tonal texture through chord patterns from post-punk guitarist Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column, and bands such as Fugazi and The Cure. He originally intended By the Way to be made up of "these punky, rough songs", drawing inspiration from early punk artists such as The Germs and The Damned. However, this was discouraged by producer Rick Rubin, and he instead built upon Californication's melodically-driven style. During the recording of Stadium Arcadium, he moved away from his new wave influences and concentrated on emulating flashier guitar players such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.
With his recent solo work, he has cited electronic music—in which the guitar is often completely absent—as an influence. His electronic music influences include Aphex Twin, Depeche Mode, New Order, The Human League, Ekkehard Ehlers, Peter Rehberg and Christian Fennesz. His interests are constantly changing, as he believes that without change he will no longer have any interest in playing: "I'm always drawing inspiration from different kinds of music and playing guitar along with records, and I go into each new album project with a preconceived idea of what styles I want to combine."
In 1991, Frusciante began dating artist and musician Toni Oswald. Oswald provided some vocals on Frusciante's debut solo album. The couple split in 1996. In 2000, Frusciante had a brief seven-month relationship with actress and singer Milla Jovovich. Following his break-up with Jovovich, Frusciante began a two-year relationship with actress and writer Stella Schnabel, who is featured on the cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers album By the Way and mentioned in the album's song The Zephyr Song.
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