John Frusciante. A man of few words, yet still has a lot to say through his music. I discovered Frusciante’s array of musical releases in my early teens through the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and for many, hearing his name instantly draws a connection to the band. While he may be most known for his work in RHCP, some may be surprised to find that he has a rather large discography, spanning from work with acts such as Warpaint, to The Mars Volta and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, to his own extensive collection of solo releases.
Frusciante’s history with RHCP was a roller coaster ride to say the least. Joining the band after the death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak in 1988, he recorded two albums with RHCP, Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, before leaving for the first time. After an extended period of drug use and seclusion, he rejoined the Chili Peppers with a fresh perspective on life. He recorded and toured with the band in support of their seventh and arguably their most successful album, Californication in 1999. After seven years of constant touring and two more studio albums, Frusciante officially announced his second departure from the band in December of 2009, stating his displeasure and loss of interest in entertaining audiences.
So what has he been doing since then? A whole lot more than you may think. By the time he rejoined RHCP in 1998, he already had released two solo albums. He added 9 more solo albums and other guest appearances and collaborations to his discography in the time between then and his second departure, including the music of supergroup Ataxia (Frusciante, Josh Klinghoffer who is a familiar face in Frusiante’s solo efforts and most recently the new guitarist for RHCP, and Joe Lally of Fugazi), who recorded two albums and played a handful of shows before disbanding. He has only continued to add to that in his time away from RHCP.
Shortly after his departure he released The Empyrean, followed by the unexpected release of Letur Lefr, Frusciante’s first truly immersive dabble into his desire to make electronica. A few short months later he released PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone, an album described by Frusciante as “Progressive Synth Pop”, and most recently his EP Outsides. These releases were met with mixed reactions, my own being one of uncertainty. Where was the soul? But, like with any music, they grew on me with time. (You can see my review of Outsides here)
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Another big chunk of Frusciante’s work comes from collabs with other musicians. Aside from his work in Ataxia, Frusciante can be heard on releases from afro-beat outfit Swahili Blonde, hip-hop group N.A.S.A, and a whole lot more. The most significant appearance he’s made for me are his appearances in the music from The Mars Volta.
Frusciante was on every Volta album up through Octahedron, and also played with Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez on some of his solo albums (these albums kind of paved the way for my downfall as a Mars Volta “fanboy” if you will.) Seeing the partnership between them and hearing the two collaborate on so many projects together really inspired me in many different ways, including the beginning of my toying with the guitar.
My first time delving into Frusciante’s work outside of RHCP was actually the two Ataxia albums, Automatic Writing and Automatic Writing II. The cool mix of experimental rock and elements of unconventional song structure served as a perfect introduction to the rest of his music.
I really obsessed over everything relating to John Frusciante for about a year or so after first discovering him. I wanted a Fender Stratocaster, I longed for a “wah” guitar pedal, I spent hours watching YouTube videos observing his style (I particularly loved his soloing style), and I had dreams of writing music alongside him and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (which was a desire enforced later down the road when he wrote an album with Omar). Eventually the obsessiveness toned down, but I feel like I’m not the only person who went through this stage of complete Frusciante madness.
John Frusciante has been nothing short of a huge inspiration for me in many aspects of my life, as he has for many others. With all that being said, where he decides to go next with his music is anyone’s guess.