This is an excerpt from the May 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Zakk Wylde and Joe Satriani (our cover stars), Death Angel, how to build a pedal board, a complete finger picking lesson, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Line 6, Ibanez, Strymon, G&L, Ernie Ball and Orange, check out the May 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.
Inner Flame: Former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante keeps the home fires burning with his latest solo effort, Enclosure, and tells why his days onstage are behind him.
Since leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers—for the second time—in 2009, John Frusciante has remained largely absent from the mainstream public eye.
But that doesn’t mean the guitarist hasn’t been busy writing, recording and releasing new music. In fact, his output in the past few years has been staggering in both quantity and scope.
It encompasses full-length solo albums (2012’s experimental and electronic PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone), genre-mashing EPs (2012’s Letur-Lefr and 2013’s Outsides), one-off compositions distributed as free downloads (the 10-minute guitar solo piece “Wayne”), collaborations (with, among many others, singer—and his wife—Nicole Turley, and At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez), and even production work (for Wu-Tang Clan–affiliated rap act Black Knights).
But no matter what project he is pursuing these days, the common thread is that Frusciante is always, in one form or another, making music. Which is not quite the same thing as playing music.
“What’s important to me is being in the creative process,” he says. “I used to be really frustrated when I was in a rock band with everybody’s obsession with being done at the end of the day. I don’t think that should be the goal, like, ‘Oh, great, now we’re finished. Now we can go on to the more important task of promoting ourselves or getting out onstage.’ To me, being in the studio and recording and being creative—that’s its own reward. And the best things that happen come during the process, not after the process. So I’m glad I get to live in the studio and immerse myself in music.”
And, apparently, finish projects on his own schedule. In this regard, Frusciante’s latest offering is Enclosure, a 10-song effort that he wrote and recorded mostly in 2012, at the same time that he was producing the Black Knights record Medieval Chambers. Like his past few solo releases, Enclosure finds Frusciante delving further into his fascination with electronic sounds.
Your solo music encompasses many different sounds and styles. For those who only know you from your work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it’s pretty outside what they’re used to hearing from you.
When you’re in a popular band, you tend to do what you think the audience of that band will respond to. But my tastes have always been very different from that style. But [in the Chili Peppers] I was aiming at writing things I knew Anthony [Kiedis] would want to sing over and Flea would want to play bass over and Chad [Smith] would sound good playing drums over.
So you get into a situation where you’re aiming your musicality in a direction that’s for the audience of the band and the members of the band and the managers of the band and the record label of the band. But the music that I make now, it’s not directed at any specific audience or any specific business interests or anything like that. I specifically don’t make music in order to make other people happy; I make music that makes me happy. So I understand how from the outside [the music I’m making now] would be surprising based on what I’ve done before. But for anybody who knows me they know I’m doing exactly what I want to do.
You also write and perform all of the backing instrumentation, which tends to consist mostly of synthesizer, drum machines and samples. What led to your interest in electronic instruments?
As far as electronic instruments, you just have to understand that the reason I learned to play all these instruments is I believe in my own vision of music, and I didn’t want to just contribute to a piece of music like I did when I was in a band. I want to create a piece of music by myself. So I want to play drums the way I want drums to sound and play synthesizers the way I want synthesizer to sound. And I want to use samples because I feel they’re the strongest and most powerful instrument in the world. So that’s the reason these are the instruments I play, because as a musician I desire to hear my complete vision realized.
Do you plan on playing your own material live at some point?
Ummm…no. I don’t think being an entertainer is what I was born to be. I think it’s something that I adapted to and something that I forced. But I don’t feel like it’s who I really am. Flea and Anthony and Chad to me are natural-born entertainers. I’m not. It’s not what I was put here to do.
You’d prefer to make your music in the studio.
Yeah. Going up onstage to me just seems like…it’s a parade. You’re sort of using your physical presence like a prop or something. It’s not really a musical endeavor. And I think all these generations who have come since MTV came on should remember music is not a visual thing. It’s a sound. It’s a disturbance of air molecules. It’s not a face somebody makes or an outfit somebody wears.
Now what we think of as a real musician is someone who we see up onstage hitting his instrument and doing his gyrations and making his faces. But I think people should remember that it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the most powerful musicians in the world were composers. They weren’t even there when you were hearing the music. They spent their time in isolation, writing.
Photo: Neil Zlozower/atlasicons.com
For the rest of this story, plus features on Zakk Wylde and Joe Satriani (our cover stars), Death Angel, how to build a pedal board, a complete finger picking lesson, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Line 6, Ibanez, Strymon, G&L, Ernie Ball and Orange, check out the May 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.