GW: But elsewhere, as you said, your approach to soloing was more improvisational.
Frusciante: Definitely. For the guitar solos on Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication, I knew what I was going to do more or less in advance...or at least I knew how I was going to start and end them. I wasn't going out on a limb too often. On this album, almost every solo happened spontaneously. I had no idea where I was going to start or end, and that's also due to this rhythmic approach I've discovered. You can't plan that kind of off-rhythm solo unles you know exactly what groove the drums are going to be in, and that changes subtly from take to take. An idea that sounds off time but in the groove will sound like total nonsense if there's even the slightest variation in the rhythmic underpinning.
GW: So Chad had to be really tight.
Frusciante: Yes, which he's great at: tight but not rigid. I was especially pushing for lots of sections to be at slightly different tempos than other sections. Like in "Dani Californa": I really wanted the chorus to be slower than the verse, and Chad can do that. In the studio, we're always talking about how many "clicks per minute" something is. Chad's really in control of that. We'll tell him "just slow down two clicks," and he can do it. It's something we all do together; we all feel the tempo in precise, scientific way.
Flea and I found our rhythmic connection on a deeper level on this album. As a result, there's a lot of tempo shifting, but it's in service of the song, and it's subtle enough that you probably don't even notice it. Like on "Desecration Smile": when I tried to double the rhythm guitar on that, I couldn't do it; the tempo was changing too much. So instead, we doubled the part with a digital delay that also had a bit of pitch modulation; it bent the notes slightly out of tune, so it gives the illusion of something being doubled, because it's not perfect.
GW: That's something else about the album: there's an amazing variety of guitar tones, some of them quite otherworldly.
Frusciante: A lot of times I changed the sound of my guitar after I recorded it. I used the same guitars and amps I've always used: My sunburst '62 Strat and white '61 Strat go into a Boss Chorus Ensemble, and the stereo output on that splits out to my 200-watt Marshall Major and Marshall Silver Juiblee. I also have a '69 Les Paul that I put through just the Silver Jubilee with one cabinet. But after the guitars went down to tape, I'd process them through my modular synth gear. A lot of people might think they're hearing effects or even a keyboard synthesizer, but that's not what I was using. There are parts of a synthesizer that make sound, and parts of a synthesizer that process sound. And I was using only the parts that process sound, like filters, LFOs [low-frequency oscillators, which create effects like vibrato and tremolo] and envelope generators [which affect attack and sustain characteristics].
GW: We've talked about your modular analog synth gear in the past - that German-made Doepfer system.
Frusciante: Right. Now I'm really into using it like a big guitar effect - using the guitar signal, rather than oscillators, as the sound source. I'm inspired a lot by what Jimi Hendrix was doing with his guitar on Electric Ladyland, or what George Clinton was doing to Eddie Hazel's guitar [on Parliament/Funkadelic records] or what Brian Eno was doing to Robert Fripp's guitar [on their collaborations as well as on David Bowie's "Heroes"]. These were people who didn't want sound to just sit there; they wanted to hear some kind of movement going on all the time. That idea was very important for me on this album. In some ways I went further than I ever though I could go, and in some ways I didn't go as far as I would have liked. Our style of mixing sort of prohibited me from having the drums, guitar and bass all coming up and down in volume all the time like on Electric Ladyland. But at least my guitars are in constant state of movement. For instance, on "Tell Me Baby" when it goes from the guitar solo back into the verse, it sounds like it's two different guitar tracks recorded at two different times, but it's actually the same track with two different modular synth treatments. I was constantly taking what was on tape, running it through the modular and putting that back onto tape.