John Frusciante is one of the most well-respected musicians of the modern era, and it’s not hard to understand why. His work is incredibly dextrous, owing to his lifelong study of music, and the fact that when it comes to genres, he pretty much loves them all. This fusion of technicality and fandom has allowed him to create music a wealth of music, ranging from the hooky to the wildly experimental.
A child prodigy on the guitar, he joined Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988 after the death of his friend and hero Hillel Slovak, first appearing on their 1989 record Mother’s Milk. He once recalled: “I wasn’t really a funk player before I joined the band. I learned everything I needed to know about how to sound good with Flea by studying Hillel’s playing and I just took it sideways from there.”
The band then released 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and the rest was history, and over the decade they would rapidly rise to become one of the biggest bands on the planet. However, Frusciante’s drug use would increasingly get in the way of the music. He left the band on two occasions before finally reentering the fold in 2019 after more than a decade away.
Given that Frusciante has viewed the band from both the inside and outside, he is perhaps the best person to comment on the nature of its inner workings. Invariably positive when discussing the band and how much it means to him, you’ll never catch him criticising his bandmates, but the opposite. He turns what to some people might be negatives into positives, proving just why he is so important to the band on an extra-musical level.
To many, frontman Anthony Kiedis is the weakest cog in the funk-rock machine of Red Hot Chili Peppers, but this opinion becomes invalid when you note that without him, the band would not be the Red Hot Chili Peppers we all know and love.
Whether it be his iconic form of scat-like vocal delivery or the passion that he espouses on record and in the live setting, Kiedis is the essential cherry on the cake, and the perfect foil to the dynamic music of Frusciante, Flea, and Chad Smith. Kiedis feels the music, and it shows. In many ways, it is because of him that the band have been able to fill global stadia for over 30 years, he brings the human aspect to the fold.
“I think the original idea of having a singer like Anthony was that everybody say him as being very much like a non-musician,” Frusciante explained in a 2003 interview. “He comes at it from a standpoint of someone whose feelings for music are very concise, and he has a big capacity for feeling music, but he doesn’t know anything about music, or notes, or anything of these things.”
Frusciante then explained that the juxtaposition of Kiedis‘ fairly limited knowledge of music, to the rest of the band’s musical schooling, is what creates the best songs by the band. Promoting the band’s classic album By the Way at the time, on the record, you hear the brilliance of the band’s inherent juxtaposition across its duration, with Kiedis really coming into his own on cuts such as the title track, ‘The Zephyr Song’ and ‘Can’t Stop’.
The guitarist also acknowledges his bandmate’s progression over his career, moving from “rap type movement” to “pretty much almost exclusively melodically singing,” and he concludes by maintaining that Kiedis “has grown into a very mature songwriter”.
We need more John Frusciante’s in the world. His constructive positivity is just one reason why he’s revered as such a legend.