John Frusciante

A long haired John Frusciante looking happy. This is well after he kicked a long standing heroine addiction.

I am a long time fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It’s probably one of the only bands where I actually know the names of the members and who plays what, a bit of history of the band members and so on. It’s also the only band where I have actually watched several recordings of live concerts, which is usually something that bores me immensely.

Their sound has changed a lot over the years, which isn’t surprising considering the constant change of band members they have gone through. Their early years were especially bad. By the time they released “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” they had become somewhat stable. Dave Navarro subbed for John Frusciante on guitar while John was off on a heroine bender that lasted some 7 years, but I think that was that (if you ignore the fact that it took them a few tries to find Navarro).

My 2 favorite records from the Chili Peppers are from this “stable” period.
This might make me a lesser fan than the ones who’s favorite albums are obscure demo tapes from their early days when they were called “Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem”, but I’ll stick to my guns and say that there was a reason they didn’t really break through until later.

My favorite RHCP albums are Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication.
These two records just happen to be made by the same configuration of band members and producer.

“Californication” marked the return of John Frusciante and the bands old “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” producer Rick Rubin (curiously, a renowned hip hop producer), and it was their first real hit record since “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.
I remember the feeling I had when listening to “Californication” for the first time, in the car back from the store. Started out with a long slow bass note, then another. Then a distorted guitar riff and noisy wailing on top of it. Speed picked up and Kiedis started yelling, and violent flappy rock drums join the fray.
“Doesn’t sound too promising,” I managed to think during the first 24 seconds of the song.
Then Chad Smith quells the hi-hat while all instruments cut out and it drops to Frusciantes controlled and minimalistic funk-like guitar riff. Then Flea joins, playing a very controlled bassline and Kiedis adds his rap-like singing. That moment of contrast was exactly the stuff I loved about “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”. All my hairs stood on end. Here was another record like it. Hell, all my hairs stand on end now, just thinking about it.

I like good punk music, and I definitely like funk. I listen to much more funk than punk, because punk is massive and my ears get tired. I have this same problem with noisy rock music. I like to listen to it, I just need it either in small doses or when the mood is right.
I have always loved Red Hot Chili Peppers for striking this balance between punk and funk, with noisy all-out punk parts intermingled with funk parts, or sometimes melodic rock parts. And then a good deal of what I can only describe as “California”.
But they need Frusciante for this. He does it just right. When he does funk, he does it a little punky, and when he does punk he does it a little funky.
By comparison, Navarro is too minimalistic when he’s funky and too punky when he’s punky. Or rather, Navarro does it by the book. But it lacks the Frusciante Feel.
For an example, try listening to “Falling into grace” from “One Hot Minute”. Navarro is doing this weird electro-wailing noise over the verses and very uninspired little funk riff over the chorus. It’s an ok song, but I am certain that if Frusciante had done the guitar on that track, it would have been a great song.

I am by no means saying that Frusciante is the good component in the band. But he just works so well with the others. And apparently Rick Rubin brings out the best in these guys when they’re in the studio.
To me, the current Chili Peppers are the magic configuration: Chad Smith, Anthony Kiedis, Flea and John Frusciante. And for studio albums, Rick Rubin. The records they made together are by far the best that the group have put out.
This also includes “By The Way” which is also among the best RHCP albums.

But all this is just a bit of background.
What I really wanted was to point out is that John Frusciante put out a solo album back in 2001, which has only now really caught my attention. I’ve had it since then, but haven’t really given it much of a chance.
I don’t know how I could have overlooked it, because it’s really good. Musically it has nothing to do with Red Hot Chili Peppers or why I like them, but Frusciante is pretty good on his own.

The record is “To record only water for 10 days”.
If you only listen to a single track, listen to “murderers”.

He has recorded more solo albums since, and I think I’ll have to check them out now.