When it comes to an opinion on what makes for a sensational guitarist, few people’s perspectives from the current era hold as much gravitas as the Red Hot Chili Peppers mercurial member John Frusciante. For him, this is an open and closed matter.
Frusciante is the spark that lights up Red Hot Chili Peppers, and without him, the band fall flat. On both occasions in which he has departed, the group have suffered somewhat of a creative lull. At the moment, anticipation is currently sky-high as the band gear up to release their first new music since his third spell in the group.
Like every other guitarist worth their salt, an artist that Frusciante admires in the highest esteem is the late, great Jimi Hendrix, a musician that the Chili’s man believes is “not something that can be improved on”.
Truthfully, when you think of the ultimate guitarist, the name and image which immediately flashes into one’s mind when contemplating the instrument is Jimi Hendrix. As a talent, he’s the internationally recognised symbol of rock music, and it remains impossible to argue against his greatness. After all, his genius elevated the instrument to heady heights that no one had ever reached before him, and it’s hard to make a case for anybody toppling him since. Hendrix used his instrument as a gilded paintbrush, one that pushed the art form onto new heights that nobody believed was possible. Following his breakthrough, Hendrix caused waves of hysteria wherever he went.
“I’m an Electric Ladyland guy,” Frusciante once declared. “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.”
The guitarist continued, “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.”
As Frusciante elegantly points out, the legacy of Jimi Hendrix is not restricted simply to guitar music but can be felt everywhere across the musical sphere, and even in the unlikeliest of corners like electronic music. He was an endless innovator, an artist who pushed the boundaries of what music could be, and it’s an attitude that still exists today. When it comes to the guitar, nobody will have that same seismic effect that he managed to cause to ripple during his all too short career, but that doesn’t mean the art of innovation is dead.