February 2004, Deutschlandfunk.
Transcribed by Sabrina Samwald.
The interview centered on the release of Shadows Collide With People.
Someone else: Deutschlandfunk Rock et cetera.
Interviewer: It’s not unusual that some members of bands start a solo career someday and produce records under their own names. John Frusciante is the guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and together with them he achieved everything a musician could wish for. Nevertheless he always strove for independence from the Peppers too. That this way was really problematic and painful experienced Andreas Ewald in an interview with John Frusciante.
<”Water” is being played>
John Frusciante: There was a point in my life, sometime around 1997, at which I hadn’t made any real music for about five years. My life had become a downward spiral and at the end I had been close to death. Many people had the feeling that they watched me die all the time and at the end I myself felt that I’d die soon. At this point I decided to go back and to make music again and to concentrate on things in which I think that I’ve gained some abilities, like writing songs or playing the guitar.
Interviewer: This guy looks fit and healthy, this John Frusciante, here again, outgoing, companionable and communicative, I think, as I met the guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in February 2004 in Köln [Cologne] to talk about his new solo album. For someone who has been away due to the use of hard drugs, miserable vegetating and cheating the devil, John Frusciante makes the impression of a refined man, glad as can be to be escaped and on a creative journey again. Almost like Phoenix, the bird of the ancient Egyptian myth who is rejuvenated through the flames, resurrecting out of the ashes and becoming a symbol of regeneration. Since his successful withdrawal, he keeps himself in shape, says the 34-year-old with the more than shoulder-length black Indian mane. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink and does yoga everyday. Only the denture he’s wearing which makes him mumble sometimes is a reminder of the price he had to pay for time when he was abusing drugs. Okay, all this happened already six years ago, but John still processes it in his new solo record “Shadows Collide With People” in a moving way.
John Frusciante: I don’t necessarily write how I feel today, I write how I felt in 1995 or what I was going through in 1993. At that time I couldn’t express my feelings artistically because I was lacking will or motivation to write songs. Today it happens totally reflexive even though without me being aware of it. The songs just pour out of me. It seems like my unconsciousness is coming out. In my songs you can find the same things that a psychologist would find trying to hypnotize me.
Interviewer: The view of his soul John Frusciante converted into music on his record “Shadows Collide With People”, can be strongly inspiring. In it he doesn’t only show himself as an inventive guitarist and imaginative sound creator. In those surprisingly catchy and diverse songs in which his pain and distress embossed biography is reflected, he leads feelings between bittersweet melancholy and exuberant lust for life. With truthfulness you wouldn’t expect from a rock star of his caliber. Also in the interview John appears extremely friendly, likeable, almost shy, anyway totally free of airs and graces, you’d find throughout the celebrity world. When he talks about music, he talks with a love and passion which impresses. “I Regret My Past” he sings in “Regret”, one of the outstanding songs of his new solo record.
John Frusciante: It’s important for me to point out that in the last five years there was nothing that I’d have regretted. I’m happy with the way my life went at that time. Every time I’d have regretted something that would have slowed me down. I don’t have big goals, only the intention to accelerate. That’s what I’ve tried over the last years and I became faster and faster and faster. I also didn’t regret my period of drug addiction, only the things that have brought me to that point and they had to do with the fact that my character was weak and not tightened when I was around 18 years old or 19 years old.
<”Regret” is being played>
Interviewer: John Frusciante was born on March 5th 1970 in New York City. His father was a pianist and his mother a singer so that the little John was able to grow up with music. As a teenager he liked bands like Kiss, Aerosmith and The Germs and guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and most of all Jimi Hendrix. Later, after his family had moved to California, the Progressive Rock of Zappa, Yes, Genesis and King Crimson was added and, as Frusciante remembers, white Funk Rock by the Talking Heads and The Clash. John started making music much earlier and due to a different cause.
John Frusciante: I had so much energy going through me at a certain point and so many, like, voices in my head and strong emotions. I didn’t know what to do with all this energy. For a certain time I did skateboarding but then they closed down the Skateboard Park when I was eleven. The energy I had wasn’t only physical it was inexplicable and it could only be unloaded in music. On the day I started to play the guitar I was so angry and furious that I wrote 30 songs in one go. I filled a whole notebook with my little Punk Rock songs and afterwards I felt totally happy. Since then I know that whenever I’m sad, unhappy or angry, feelings that I had inside of me, I could balance them by playing guitar and bringing that same energy back into the music.
Interviewer: Like a madman the young John Frusciante practiced the guitar, sometimes ten to fifteen hours a day. In 1988 he met the bassist Flea and the lead singer Anthony Kiedis, who are members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band that John totally admired at that time, at a Jam Session in Los Angeles. When their guitarist Hillel Slovak died shortly afterwards due to a drug overdose, the eighteen-year-old John Frusciante became his successor even though he had never before been in a band. With his memorable punk-funk guitar the highly talented Frusciante formed the sound of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a notable degree. 1991 he helped the band to gain worldwide success. His shares and compositions to the album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” brought the band millions of sales and sold-out concerts all around the world. The amalgam of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a crossover of hot-blooded funk, fast heavy-rock, rap parts, catchy tunes and punk attitude. With that the Californian band became an architect of the very sound that brought the rock world of the 90s new impulses. John Frusciante about his role in the Red Hot Chili Peppers: