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(Credit: Chad Carson)

Music

How Eddie Van Halen and Kurt Cobain influenced John Frusciante’s guitar playing

John Frusciante is one of the best guitarists of his time, inspiring a generation to pick up the six-string and delve into the endless expressiveness that the famous instrument offers.

And expressive is certainly a term fitting for the playing style of Frusciante. He was evidently influenced by the playing of the famous guitarists of the 1960s, such as Eric Clapton and, most notably, the great Jimi Hendrix.

There’s an argument to be made that Frusciante can do it all. From the Nile Rogers-esque Stratocaster-based funk to the rip-roaring solos that he is famed for on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ albums Californication and By The Way.

Reflecting on his career to date, Frusciante once revealed the inspirations of his own playing style, not only on the distorted wah tone of his days in the Chili Peppers but on his later solo career that focused on acoustic and electronic musical elements.

“I really love guitar players like Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen for the way that they could make the instrument explode through hand and whammy bar techniques,” Frusciante said. “But I also really like the way people like Greg Ginn or Kurt Cobain play without it being so much about technique – although there are all kinds of unconventional techniques in there – but the focus is definitely a more visceral thing.”

He added: “Eventually, by the time we were recording, my concept was to find a bridge between those two conceptions of the instrument: that idea of making it explode with the electricity of the human energy that comes through the strings. And, also, using the full range of the instrument in terms of the types of techniques that, while Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads did a lot to develop them, I see them all as being rooted in what Jeff Beck did on Blow By Blow and Wired.”

In fact, the guitar that Frusciante used in the ‘Dani California’ video was a replica of the guitar that Eddie Van Halen used in the 1970s. Frusciante also once famously borrowed a wah-wah pedal from Van Halen as the model that Frusciante preferred would break easily. It so transpired that the only one they could find in Southern California at the time belonged to the legendary guitarist.

Elsewhere, Frusciante elaborated on the role that Kurt Cobain’s playing style had on Frusciante’s solo career, which was a departure from the flamboyance of his tenure in the Chili Peppers. He once said, “Kurt Cobain’s improvisations are very impressive guitar solos because it’s more about his energy, his looseness, not trying to impress you with the flying fingers or whatever. Not adhering to things like staying in the right key – just play whatever note you want.”

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