John Frusciante is the device which makes Red Hot Chili Peppers tick. His return to the group has helped make them return to the top, and unsurprisingly, he styled himself on some of the greats.
In 2016, Anthony Kiedis was promoting the band’s album The Getaway, which didn’t feature Frusciante, when he discussed missing working with the guitarist. “Never did I meet someone who was so easy to write songs with, and really good songs. If I call him up and say, ‘I’m very sad today,’ he would be like, ‘Come over right now – we’re writing a song,”’ the frontman said.
He added: “So I bring my sadness to John and he’s like, ‘Sit down, get the notebook, start writing your feelings.’ I miss him, but I also accept the separate lives – but I miss him.”
Thankfully, Frusciante would make his wishes come true when he rejoined the Chili’s in 2019, and he’s now enjoying his third spell with the group. Below, we look at some of his favourite guitar players and how they have inspired him.
John Frusciante’s favourite guitarists
Jimi Hendrix is the archetypal guitar player, and according to Frusciante, he crafted the “perfect” sound. Most guitarists will name Hendrix among their heroes, and the Chili’s axeman is no different. He once explained: “His music always sounds perfect to me, because he’s bending sound, taking care of music in every dimension.
“Where most people think of it in two dimensions, he’s thinking of it in four. I don’t think there’s a better guitar player in history. He’s not something that can be improved on.”
Frusciante added: “And there’s the spirit that goes into it. He creates a place where you can be high and hang out and lose yourself. He’s bringing out aspects of sound we didn’t know were there. I feel there are people moving ahead on that front, but they’re not so much guitar players — like [electronic artists] Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. They continue the work Jimi Hendrix started, but not on the guitar.”
Frusciante’s life might have been incredibly different if it wasn’t for Jimmy Page. At the MOJO Awards in 2004, the Chili’s guitarist even told the audience Page was “the first person that made me want to play” before handing him the ‘Maestro Award’.
Years later, a handwritten letter emerged, which Frusciante penned to Page after discovering the Led Zeppelin guitarist had watched one of his shows. In the letter, he asked him to collaborate with The Mars Volta, which unfortunately never came to fruition, but at least he tried.
Like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck cut his teeth with The Yardbirds before confirming himself as one of his generation’s most talented and technically gifted guitarists of his generation. Frusciante grew fond of Beck at a young age, and he remains an influence on him today.
“Another major moment for me was gradually discovering Jeff Beck’s guitar playing around the same time as Jimi Hendrix,” Frusciante once explained. “My mom had gone out with a guy, who was a pot smoker, and big fan of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow and Wired albums which were very popular around that time.”
He added: “I didn’t know where these sounds were coming from. He’s doing it on a Les Paul, but there’s no whammy bar on Truth, yet, you’re always hearing him do these tricks.”
Eddie Van Halen
Another guitarist Frusciante is full of admiration for is the late guitar sensation Eddie Van Halen. Following his sad death in 2021, the Red Hot Chili Peppers axeman opened up about how Van Halen was an inspiration to him and put it down to his ability to become a “team player”.
“Too often, people assume that a guitar player’s worth comes from their ability to draw attention to themselves. And there are a lot of great guitar players who are great at drawing attention to themselves,” he explained. “But to me, the essential thing that those people have, those other people who don’t draw attention to themselves.”
He added: “Eddie Van Halen happened to have a flashy style, but he was a great rhythm guitar player, and he made those drums sound great. He made that bass sound great. He made the singer sound great. To me, it really doesn’t matter how much technique you have; the real skill in being a guitar player is in making the rest of the band sound good.”
Allan Holdsworth is a name which only the true aficionados of the guitar will be familiar with — if you know, you know. The late English player didn’t gain commercial success, but he did inspire the next generation of performers with Rush’s Alex Lifeson and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello.
Speaking to GuitarPlayer, Frusciante said: “I don’t think somebody has to be technically advanced to be soulful at all, but,” he concedes, “I really don’t think there’s anyone better than Allan Holdsworth… I’m sure I’ll always learn from him and never in a million years will I be able to do what he did.”
Jonny ‘Guitar’ Watson
In the same interview, Frusciante named ‘Too Tired’ by Jonny ‘Guitar’ Watson as one of his favourite songs of all time. He frequently collaborated with Frank Zappa and was also praised by the likes of Bobby Womack and the Vaughan brothers.
Etta James once said: “I got everything from Johnny … He was my main model … My whole ballad style comes from my imitating Johnny’s style… He was the baddest and the best … Johnny Guitar Watson was not just a guitarist: the man was a master musician.”
Meanwhile, Frusciante praised Watson’s “very mean approach to electric guitar that I don’t think anybody before him had come anywhere close to.”
In an interview with Guitar World, Frusciante talked about the modern guitar players he adores, and the first name on his lips was Ty Segall. Elsewhere in the piece, the Chili’s guitarist also praised the work of John Dwyer, Corey Hanson and Zack Irons.
Speaking about Segall’s magnificence, Frusciante said: “He’s so good at making the instrument and the amplification respond to his feelings – you never know what it’s gonna sound like next. His playing has that deceptive ‘careless’ quality that can only actually be done by people who are so intense as souls, that when they don’t give a fuck, you hear conviction and sincerity. In his carelessness, what comes across is that he cares deeply.”