Electron.se, June 2008
Digitally published only
The Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of the most popular bands around. John Frusciante is not only a Pepper guitarist extraordinaire, but also an avid user of electronic instruments. His esoteric take on technology can be heard in his numerous solo recording, where guitars and machines are fused into a compelling whole.
I heard you were on vacation recently – where did you go?
I went to a three-day rave by the beach in England. Some of my favorite artists were playing and I was very happy. A great trip!
Apart from making music, you also used to paint. Did your painting influence your composing?
The period when I used to paint really rewired my brain and made me appreciate my talents in music. I was seeing paintings in my head that I didn’t have a clue how to make. I mean I know the way that music is written on paper. I understand intervallic relationships and so on. The equivalent in visual arts, like perspective, I had no background in. That technical foundation helps me to combine disparate styles and to achieve what my imagination dictates more clearly than I could with painting.
What does your studio look like?
I have two main studio setups. One has two 24-track recorders and an API board that was at The Record Plant in New York in the seventies. In the living room I have an 8-track tape recorder and a Neve console. I have really cool outboard gear like early digital reverbs and that. It’s my favorite place to be in the world!
You are also a guitar player in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What is your part in the band?
It is pretty much about coming up with guitar parts. When I make a Chili Peppers record I make that my priority. I might write a song, with myself singing, and then realize that it is a good song for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I show it to Anthony Kiedis and he'll use what he likes and adds lyrics to the song. Being in a democratic band, you do your part and everybody else does theirs.
What is the difference, or similarities, between working with our gear and the guitar?
Being able to change the sound note for note is really an exciting possibility for me. On the guitar these subtle changes are made by pressure you’re putting on the strings and how hard you’re picking them. With the Monomachine and the Machinedrum you can have a drastically different sound per note, yet following a coherent train of thought. The functions of those machines have an amazing correspondence with creative thinking.
Are there any other aspects of the Monomachine or the Machinedrum that have caught your interest?
The Elektron gear has helped me realize new things about the relationships of parameters. I think it’s good to teach your brain to visualize something and hold it there. Like hearing a sound in your mind and holding it there while you twist knobs trying to find it. With the Elektron gear it’s great to see ideas crystallize and then come into being. he parameters being so close together and well organized inspires organized thought. My stuff used to be so disorganized that I used to be looking around for this or that module. I mean you wouldn't be able to see the logic and possibilities of a chess game if the squares were spread out around the room. The reason you see it clear is because they're all on a little board right in front of you. To be able to see the multitude of options so close together has helped me to see synthesis more clearly and to perceive the interaction of many parameters at once.
Where do you keep the Elektron gear? Do they have a permanent place in your studio?
It moves around. They can be on the floor, in the living room or in my bedroom. I brought the Monomachine on my vacation. It’s such a great thing to be able to lie in bed and make music for fifteen hours straight.