Long Read: The Agony of John Frusciante

Vice/Noisey had a chance to talk with ex-Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante.

I remember the day my first Red Hot Chilli Peppers CD came in the mail. The title of Blood Sugar Sex Magik freaked me out so I’d ordered the Greatest Hits. I listened like a young lion tasting its first gazelle: ripping apart “Californication,” sucking marrow out of “Otherside,” picking “Scar Tissue” from my teeth. The Chillis conveyed bloody-raw emotion with sweet, fleshy hooks. John Frusciante anchored the sentiment with finesse. His deceptively simple riffs drip with innocence and experience. Youth never tasted so obvious.

A decade later I’m on the phone with the publicist for a man whom many consider the best modern guitarist. “If you want a happy Frusciante, there’s one topic you should avoid: The Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

Frusicante’s tumultuous relationship with the Chi Peps is legendary. He quit in 1992, bristling at the band’s popularity. He struggled with drugs and depression for years before rejoining in ’98 forCalifornication, and quit again in 2009. That’s when he dropped off the map for most of the world.

His creative output hasn’t slowed: in the last three years he’s produced a hip-hop album for Wu-Tang affiliates Black Knights and released three solo albums, each stranger than the last. His latest, Enclosure, came out this April. It contains drum & bass, hip-hop, IDM skitters, murky samples, 80’s drums, wide-eyed falsetto, and a healthy dose of shredding. Everything comes together on “Fanfare.” Frusciante wails and croons over a background choir, epic Italo-ish synths, and big 80’s drums, concluding with a spaced-out solo. It’s easily the weirdest music from anyone in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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