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John Frusciante
John Frusciante

John Anthony Frusciante was born on March the fifth in 1970. He is an American guitarist, songwriter, singer and record producer. He is most famous as being the guitarist of the band “The Red Hot Chili Peppers”. He has recorded five albums with RHCP (red hot chilli peppers) and nice albums under his own name. He also did two musical collaborations with Josh Klinghoffer and Joe Lally. His solo albums contain a variety of musical styles, experimental rock, ambient music, new wave, electronic etc. Frusciante’s playing style very melodic and emotional. John joined the RHCP when he was eighteen. He once saw them playing when he was a little boy, and he saw them as his great heroes. He first appeared on the band’s album Mother’s milk, released in 1989. Their next album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was a big success. John was overwhelmed by their popularity and couldn’t handle it. He entered a long period of heroin addiction. In 1998 he rehabilitated and rejoined the peppers. They recorded their new album Californication with John as their guitarist again. His solo albums started to appear in the period of drug addiction.



Youth (1970-1987)

Frusciante was born in Queens, New York on March the fifth, 1970. His father, John Sr., was a pianist, trained by the Juilliard school. His mother Gail was a promising vocalist who gave up her career to be a housewife. The Frusciante’s family moved to Tucson and later to Florida, where his father still works as a Broward County judge. His parents separated and John lived with his mother in Santa Monica, California.
A year later, he and his mother moved to Mar Vista, Los Angeles. His mother also had a new friend who is Frsusciante’s stepfather. John said that he “realy supported me and made me feel good about being an artist”. John grew up in the Los Angeles punk rock scene. He was influenced by The Germs. When he was ten, he had taught himself to play almost every song of the Germs. He tuned his guitar in a way that he could play every chord with a single-finger barre. John then started taking guitar lessons, and this was where he heard about the RHCP.
When John was eleven he started study more and more guitarists. He started with people like Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. After mastering the blues scale, he discovered Frank Zappa which work he studied for hours. John Frusciante dropped out of school at the age of sixteen with authorization of his parents and the completion of a proficiency test. His parents supported him as he moved to L.A. on his own to focus on developing his musical ambition. He took classes at the Guitar Institute of Technology. There he didn’t really go to the classes. This allowed him to start using recreational drugs.

1988-1992: The Red Hot Chili Peppers

John first saw the RHCP at the age of fifteen. After seeing their show he immediately became a big fan. Late Hillel Slovak was the guitarist of the band at that time and he was John’s idol. He learned all the RHCP songs. He went to the RHCP shows frequently and two months before Slovak’s death Slovak and John talked about the band and their popularity. John was a friend om drummer D.H.Peligro and they jammed together. Peligro once invited his friend Flea, bassist of the RHCP, to come and join them on a jam session and here Flea and John met. They were a very good playing team.

In 1988, Hillel Slovak died due to a overdose of heroin and RHCP’s drummer, Jack Irons, was incapable of coping with Slovak’s death. Jack left the band and the remaining members were Flea and the RHCP vocalist Anthony Kiedis. They regrouped and were determined to keep making their music. They added Peligro on the drums and took DeWayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight on guitar. McKnight didn’t have any chemistry with the band. Flea then proposed to Anthony to let John Frusciante do audition. After the audition Flea and Anthony were very content with John and they let him join the group after promptly firing McKnight. After a few weeks, Peligro, who had problems with extreme drug abuse, was fired. Chad Smith became the new drummer to the band and this new lineup recorded their first album in the early ‘80’s. The album was called Mother’s Milk. At first Frusciante tried to imitate Slovak’s style as good as he could, but their producer, Michael Beinhorn, didn’t like that. He said Frusciante should play with a more heavy metal tone. Frusciante and Beinhorn fought frequently over things like tone and layering.

Their second record with Frusciante was Blood Sugar Sex Magik, a big success. They collaborated with Rick Rubin as producer. Rubin thought it was important to record the album in an abnormal setting, the old Hollywood Hills mansion. The band agreed and Frusciante, Kiedis and Flea lived in the mansion during the recordings. Flea and John smoked a lot of marijuana and recorded some hours of music with Jane’s addiction drummer Stephen Perkins. These recording sessions have never been released. Blood Sugar Sex Magik was a huge hit when it was released on September ’91. The album peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts and more then a million copies were sold in the U.S. alone. The album’s big success promptly made the band very popular. The RHCP were now rock starts. Frusciante didn’t like his new fame, and had a hard time coping with it. Anthony Kiedis recalled in his memoir that he and John had some heavy discussions backstage: "John would say, 'We're too popular. I don't need to be at this level of success.
RHCP original foto, left to right: Flea, Kiedis, Irons, Slovak
RHCP original foto, left to right: Flea, Kiedis, Irons, Slovak
I would just be proud to be playing this music in clubs like you guys were doing two years ago.'" Frusciante hated the popularity and began to feel that his destiny was leading him away from the band. When the peppers started a world tour, he heared voices telling him he won’t make it during the tour and that he had to leave. On May 7, 1992, John announced his bandmates he was leaving the band and he refused to take the stage during their performance at Tokyo’s Club Quattro. In the end he did get on the stage, but left to California the following morning.

1992-1997: Drug Addiction

Frusciante developed a serious drug problem while touring with the band in the years before he left. He said when he “found out that Flea was stoned out of his mind at every show, that inspired me to be a pothead". John didn’t only smoke large amounts of marijuana, he also started to use heroin and was on the edge of an extreme addiction. Frusciante then entered a deep state of depression. He felt miserable and thought his life had no use anymore. He also started using more and more heroin as a medicine against his depression. He said it was his own decision to start using the heroin. “I was very sad, and I was always happy when I was on drugs; therefore, I should be on drugs all the time. I was never guilty—I was always really proud to be an addict." His mental state also changed because of the drug usage, he thought that the drugs were the only way to “keep in touch with the beauty instead of letting the ugliness of the world corrupt your soul.”. He also released his first solo albums in this period. The drug use had a big effect on his album’s sound. The albums were partly recorded during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions and were released on Rubin’s label American Recordings. The peppers’ label had rights to the album as well because of the leaving-artist clause in John’s contract. The RHCP didn’t release the album, but handed the rights to Rubing. He released the album at urgings of John’s friends.

Frusciante didn't look very good
Frusciante didn't look very good

Thing kept on going down hill for John Frusciante. He nearly died drom a blood infection caused by using dirty needles to shoot heroin. His arms were scarred all over because of his heroin and cocaine use. The next three years, John lived like a recluse, damaging his own walls and covering them in graffiti. During this time, Frusciante’s friends Johnny Depp and Gibby Haynes went to his house and there they filmed an unreleased documentary called stuff. Stuff can be seen on YouTube here. Antother documentary was made from this period. This one was originally made by a Dutch man for the VPRO, this documentary is on YouTube as well, divided in several parts. Part one can be seen here.(warning: contains nudity) His house burned down some time later. The fire claimed his vintage guitar collection and left him some bad burn injuries after he escaped.

In 1997 Frusciante released his second solo album called “Amile from the Streets You Hold”. The album’s first track was full of cryptic lyrics and hysterical screams. He also coughed through the whole track, showing his bad health. John said he needed the album for drug money, but he withdrew it form the market in ’99. Frusciante has stated that he likes the album and he has promised to re-release it in the future.

1997-2002: Back with the peppers

In the end of 1997, Frusciante quits using heroin after a period of more then five years. He couldn’t stop using crack, cocaine and alcohol, so he kept using that. This was until a long time friend, Bob Forrest, talked John into a drug rehabilitation clinic called Las Encinas. The clinic was located in Pasadena and this is where John started to fully recover. When he came there, he was diagnosed with a potentially lethal infection in his mouth. The only way to get rid of this was for him to let remove all of his teeth and replace them with dentures. He also got skin grafts to cover up his scarred arms. About a month later, Frusciante left the clinic and came back into society. After his recover he decided to live a more spiritual and healthy life. He changed his eating habits, started practicing yoga and he saw what this did to his body. To keep concentrated on his spirituality and his music, he also decided to abstain from any sexual activity. All these changes gave him a very different look at drugs. He then stated that he can get more high without drugs then with, just by dedicating to something you love. He also said that he was the happiest person in the world. You could say the recovering also gave him a new look at his life, a much more positive one. Frusciante did stop yoga after a while because it gave problems with his back, but he does try to meditate every day.

In early 1998, the RHCP fired their guitarist Dave Navarro and almost broke up. Flea said to Kiedis “the only way I could imagine carrying on with the Red Hot Chili Peppers is if we got John back in the band.” Frusciante’s recover and his good health convinced Flea and Anthony it was the right time to invite him back in the band. Frusciante accepted the invitation, and they began recording a new album called Californication. The album was released in 1999 and Frusciante’s playing returned the real RHCP sound that they lost for seven years. The moral in the band grew and John was again deeply devoted to music. Frusciante has frequently stated that his work on Californication was his favorite.

Frusciante with RHCP on woodstock
Frusciante with RHCP on woodstock

During the Californication tour with the RHCP, Frusciante kept writing his own songs. Many of these songs would be released in 2001 for his third solo album called To Record Only Water for Ten Days. The album made a bright contrast with the earlier albums. The lyrics were still very cryptic and the sound very straight forward. The album contained a different music style then the one he was playing with the RHCP at the time (which is alternative rock). This album contained more electronic and New Wave parts.
In 2001 RHCP, containing Frusciante, started recording a new album called By the Way. He said this time as being among the best of his life. He kept improving his guitar playing, because he wanted to be as good as players like Andy Patridge, Johnny Marrr and John McGeoch or as he says “people who used good chords”. The RHCP were now more like a team then before. They were no more four separate musicians, but worked together. In July, 2002, their album By the Way was released.

2002–present: Present

Frusciante wore and recorded a lot of songs during and after the By the Way tour with the RHCP. In early 2004 he started a side project with Joe Lally and Josh Klinghoffer, called Ataxia. They formed a little group for two weeks and they recorded around 1.5 hours of music. They also played two shows at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood.

John released his foruth solo album, Collide with People in February 2004. The album contained some guest songs from his friends including Klinghoffer and bandmates Flea and Smith (drummer). Frusciante also released a serie of records, containing the record Curtains. Curtains contained the track “The Past Recedes” which was his only music video. It’s viewable here.

In early 2005, Frusciant and the other RHCP members entered the studio to record their fifth album called Stadium Arcadium. His playing is very important through the whole album and John also provides the backing vocals on this album. He also started using a full 28 track mixer to display a big range of guitars. He plays a lot of styles, from Blood Sugar Sex Magik to By the Way. He also played very influenced by Jimmy Hendrix, which John also backed up. He also started using more and more guitar effects on this album and used other instruments like the synthesizer and the mellotron. For this album he used all the tools he could use. Later he also collaborated with his friend Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and his band The Mars Volta. He contributed with vocals and electronic instruments on their album.

Musical style and Technique

John is a very melodic player. He loves to add some emotional vibes to his solos and intros. His playing is very recognizable because he has the “less is more” thing. He doesn’t play a bunch of notes in sixteenth triplets, he keeps it very gentle. He just picks the exact right notes full of melody. This playing style is also very characteristic for the RHCP albums and singles. Almost every song starts with a intro, some more technical and some more melodic. He and Flea are the only guitarists in the band and with Flea doing the bass line, all the rest is for John. He does rhythm, lead and solo guitar. This is also something recognizable in his and RHCP’s music: at around ¾ of the song, the song calms down and a solo starts. This calming down is probably caused by John who stops playing the rhythm at that point because he does the solo.

On John’s earlier recordings, there were certain imperfections and he let them be. Thos could vary from little mistakes to off-pitch vocals. He changed his style and on his later albums like Shadows Collide With The People he wanted his sound to be totally perfect. He says that song writing is a progressive procedure which you can’t force. His music is often written on a acoustic or non-amplified guitar. He also prefers using older equipment. Analogue tape recorders are a nice example of this. He prefers them above more modern equipment because he says it speeds up the recording process. He believes that recording something quick gives a better sound, because perfection only gives more frustration.


John used several guitars over they years, but his most used on stage guitar is his ’62s Fender Stratocaster American Electric Guitar with maple neck and three colour sunburst. He also used a ’55s Fender Strat American Electric guitar with cherry sunburst, a ’60s Fender Telecaster American Electric guitar in tobacco sunburst and a 50’s Gretch White Falcon in white. His fender ‘60s strat is his most used guitar and carries single coil pickups.

John now uses a pretty big rack (check the picture on the right! ), here’s a little overview. His rack can be spitted in two main parts and I’ll start with the first part. This part has a Marshall Major 200-WATT with two Marshall 4x12 cabs loaded with stock celestion speakers and a Marshall Jubilee 25/50 with two Marshall 4x12 cabs loaded with stock celestion speakers.
Frusciante's on-stage rack
Frusciante's on-stage rack
These two big combos are connected with some effects and modulators. From the guitar to the amp, the sound first goes to a Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion to give it some power. Then it goes into the ElectroHarmonix Big Muff PI to give some more sustain to the sound. The sound goes further, and now goes into the MXR Phase 90 stomp box for a Phaser-effect. The signal proceeds it’s “journey” and goes through a Ibanez WH-10 Wah Wah to get the classic Wah Wah sound and create some cool licks. Last but not least the sound goes to the Roland CE-1 Chorus Ensemble to add chorus to the sound. From there two cables go to the two combos. So this part of his rack can be plugged straight into the guitar with just one plug, here’s his second part, also coming from one jack in his guitar. From his guitar to the amps: the signal goes through a Boss DS-1 Distortion to give it some spine and get the rock sound. Then the sound goes into the amp combo, a Fender Silverface Showman head with two Marshall 4x12 cabinets loaded with stock Celestion speakers. If we see that both parts have a separate jack, he can’t plug them in both. He normally uses the big rack with the dual Marshall rig in combination with his fender guitars and uses the smaller rack with the Showman for his Gretsch. The information for his rag can of course be changed every day so it’s not guaranteed that his list is a right one.


This is a Discography, only of his solo albums.

-March 8, 1994 --------- Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt

-August 26, 1997 --------- Smile from the Streets You Hold

-February 13, 2001 --------- To Record Only Water for Ten Days

-March 5, 2001 --------- Going Inside

-February 24, 2004 --------- Shadows Collide with People

-June 22, 2004 --------- The Will to Death

-September 14, 2004 --------- DC EP

-October 26, 2004 --------- Inside of Emptiness

-November 23, 2004 --------- A Sphere in the Heart of Silence

-February 1, 2005 --------- Curtains

RHCP alubms with John Frusciante:

-August 16, 1989 --------- Mother’s Milk (his debut with the RHCP)

-September 24, 1991 --------- Blood Suger Sex Magik

-June 8, 1999 --------- Californication

-July 9, 2002 --------- By the Way

-May 28, 2006 --------- Stadium Arcadium