How John Frusciante found his sound with the Red Hot Chili Peppers

5 March 2024, 13:59

Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante with an image of him from 1991 inset
Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist now and then. Picture: Bob Berg/Getty Images, Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

By Jenny Mensah

As the much-loved Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist turns 54, we learn how he let go of his ego and being himself made fans resonate with his music the most.

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John Frusciante is best known as the on-again-off-again guitarist of Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Under The Bridge musician was just 18 years old when he joined the band back in 1988 after the tragic passing of their guitarist Hillel Slovak and - went on to have his own well-documented struggles with addiction.

Though he's taken breaks from the band, his licks and guitar solos are often thought of as instrumental to RHCP's coure sound. Frusciante's chemistry with frontman Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea looks just as effortless as it sounds, but the rocker has admitted that it wasn't always that way.

In fact, Frusciante has previously talked about the "struggle" he had in his first year joining the Chili Peppers, mostly because he wanted to be "unique" and "show off" what he could do.

Speaking to Australian Guitar magazine back in 2022, he revealed: "The first year or so that I was in the band was definitely a struggle.

“I’ve got something to say that I think could probably be good for guitar players. I think at the beginning of my time in the band, I had my mind too much on trying to impress people and I wasn’t trusting myself enough.

“I was feeling all these things – ‘I want to be unique’, ‘I want to show off’, ‘I want to stand out’ – and everything I was doing felt forced.

“I didn’t feel free and I didn’t feel like I was saying anything that I wanted to say. I didn’t feel like I was going deep in myself."

Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante in the early 1990s
Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante in the early 1990s. Picture: AJ Barratt/Avalon/Getty Images

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Frusciante went on to explain that when he simplified his approach, took his ego out of the equation and began to support his bandmates, it was then people began to respond to his music.

"By the time we were ending that [first] tour, I got to such a point of unhappiness that I said, "‘I’m just going to throw away all these things that I’m trying to do,'" he recalled.

“I’m going to stop trying to grab people’s attention. I’m going to take my ego out of it entirely.’

“I decided I was just going to use my guitar to try to support the other people in my band.

“So I simplified what I was doing. And at the same time, I was also putting a hundred times the amount of personal expression and soul into it than I had before.

“[This] was the step that, all of a sudden, made people respond strongly to what I was doing.

“I wasn’t trying to be a Red Hot Chili Pepper in terms of what I thought other people thought that it was – I just started being myself.

“And that honest version of myself if what you’ve had ever since.”

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