John Frusciante (Froo-shan-tay). This man is a living legend and possibly my favourite living guitarist. He’s best known for his work as guitarist and back-up vocalist with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but he’s also made a truck load of solo albums and has been involved in some pretty amazing collaborations.
His time with the Chili Peppers was interesting. He joined in the late 80s before the band recorded Mothers Milk, he stayed around for the recording and (most of) the touring for Blood Sugar Sex Magik, then he left, became a hardcore heroin addict, got clean, re-joined the band in the late 90s to record Californication, By The Way and Stadium Arcadium…and left again in 2009 to pursue his solo projects.
There is little doubt that the Red Hot Chili Peppers do their best work when John is part of the band. There seems to be a perfect synergy between Anthony, Flea, John and Chad, and things just don’t seem to work when that union is broken (One Hot Minute with Dave Navarro on guitar? Yeah…it sucked). Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication were musical revelations and John's influence on these records should never be underestimated.
John’s guitar sound is distinctive and I can usually pick it out of a line up. He has a lot of influences, from blues legend, Robert Johnston to Jimi Hendrix to Pat Smear of the Germs. His influences are diverse but they all seem evident and obvious in his guitar playing. John plays in a lot of different styles but always manages to keep his signature sound.
John also has an amazing singing voice which he really gets to showcase on his solo albums. His vocal range is amazing. He can wail, he can scream, he can sing perfect falsetto. His voice is so versatile and emotive, and it was a gift that was wasted as a backup vocalist in the Peppers.
So far, John has released 10 solo albums with seven of these being recorded and released in 2004 as part of the Record Collection project. Man, that was a good year! Although all seven records were recorded quickly and cheaply (most of them in John’s home studio), they are incredible. Each album plays with different genres, styles, themes and instrumentation.
Out of the seven, it really is hard to pick a favourite. Shadows Collide with People was my first introduction to John’s solo work so it’ll always be right up there for me. The final record in the series, Curtains is another favourite as it is mellow and melodic, and is full of beautifully poignant lyrics. The Ataxia record (a collaboration with Josh Klinghoffer and Fugazi’s, Joe Lally) Automatic Writing is also brilliant. A five-song, 45-minute long experimental record full of wailing synthesisers and pared back vocals.
Over the years, John has done some interesting collaborations with artists such as the Wu Tang Clan (weird, right?), George Clinton and the Mars Volta (John has actually contributed guitars to all of the Mars Volta’s records). He also intended to audition for Frank Zappa’s band in the late 80s but changed his mind when he realised Zappa strictly prohibited illegal drug use (that’s right, people, Frank Zappa is and always has been sober!).
John is an odd fellow who is incredibly spiritual and claims to be guided by the voices in his head. He recovered from serious and long-lasting addictions to heroin, crack and alcohol, which ruined his teeth, destroyed his arms and nearly took his life. He even released the 1997 album Smile from the Streets You Hold in order to get drug money. After more than five years of addiction, John managed to get clean and stay clean, and as a consequence his creativity flourished.
Simply put, John is a musical genius. I adore his solo projects, admire his collaborations and love his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His personal story is pretty inspiring too. Anyone who hasn’t checked out his solo albums should. Buy Curtains…it’s a good introduction.