Deutschlandfunk radio interview transcript, 2004

John Frusciante: All the songs that we play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers start with an idea by either me or Flea, the bassist. It always starts with him playing a bass line or me playing a guitar riff. The singing is filled in later. In this way around 50- 60% of the music is created by me and I must have a clear idea in which musical direction the band is going to move. Anthony Kiedis writes the lyrics and the melody for the singing when the music’s ready. He rather decorates it. My job is it to define the direction of the band in a particular situation. It gets changed by the other members in a certain way, so that it becomes something different in the end than I thought it will be at the beginning. But that I even had a vision at the beginning, leads us to the songs you know from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

<”By The Way” is being played>

John Frusciante: In 1988 I joined the Chili Peppers. I was 18 years old. They were already together for a few years already but they still played in clubs. They were my favorite band. In 1991 we became really popular and in 1992 I left the band because we didn’t move on and the music wasn’t fun anymore. I also had the feeling that I didn’t grow as a person and I cracked up. I knew that there was something different than playing in a famous band, earning much money and doing things without being dedicated to the band or the music. I was disappointed about making music and I became interested in drawing and painting. Today music’s my life and I paint with my guitar and my synthesizers and my drum machine.

Interviewer: Why John Frusciante left the band exactly in the middle of the Japan tour in 1992, is unknown. Even the members of “the greatest band in the world”, as the New Music Express called them, still puzzle about it. The sight of huge halls, lighted by sparklers, and the sound of many voices belting out choruses from hits like “Under The Bridge” or “Give It Away”, didn’t seem to get along with Frusciante’s approach to music. Depressed, he began to take hard drugs and fell into the hell of heroin for five years. Desperate, helpless and frustrated he tried to set music to that on his first own albums as a toothless, emaciated and lonely junkie. Only at the end of the 90s John Frusciante was able to get rid of the demons of drug addiction. Like an old friend he was welcomed back in the band by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who could never find an equal substitute for the ingenious guitarist and his magical playing, after a successful detox.

John Frusciante: And then in 1998 I rejoined the Chili Peppers, after being to the hospital first for the detox. I was there for three months and watched movies. Then I was fit and joined the Chili Peppers again. Since then I’m happier than ever in my life. If there’s a problem in the band today, we talk about it openly, so that nobody’s mad at somebody else. We appreciate each other and would do anything to not ruin our relationship. That was different in former times. That’s the reason why it’s important today, that we get along well because we value each other not only as band mates but also as people.

Interviewer: The records that John Frusciante has written during his time of drug addiction didn’t only unsettle the fans of the Chili Peppers. “Niandra LaDes And Usually Just A T-Shirt”, written in 1994, and “Smile From The Streets You Hold”, written in 1997, were scatterbrained pictures of his mind and also for hard-boiled people nearly inaudible. Recorded in an amateurish and awful sound quality, Frusciante screamed out his pain so miserable from his soul in these scary experiments that it gave you the creeps. “Smile From The Streets You Hold” was taken away from the market by Frusciante himself. One thing he has, now that he’s already clean, saved for the time being:

John Frusciante: It’s important for me that my music and that my lyrics are real and honest and come from myself and that they show my soul that they aren’t invented. This kind of music is worth to me the most. If this authentic sound is combined with an abstract feeling, it’s even more exciting for me. In that way my lyrics can be authentic and surreal at the same time. I think that we can understand people from hearing the nonsense that they make as much as we can from hearing things that they say that we can follow or we think we understand.

<”Song To Sing When I'm Lonely” is being played>

Interviewer: When I met John Frusciante in January 2001 for the first time, he had presented the new songs from his third solo record “To Record Only Water For Ten Days” in the “Prinzenbar” in Hamburg the night before. Alone and only with an acoustic guitar, the, at that time short-haired, Frusciante delivered a haunting performance of almost painful intensity. Completely absorbed in his music, he and his music seemed to be from a different world. Lost in reverie, withdrawn, almost spooky, but most impressive. It seems like his guitar playing means still a lot to him.

John Frusciante: Actually I think that a guitar sounds better than any other instrument, but when I’m hearing a sound in my head it can also come from a bass, a keyboard, an organ or a synthesizer. Predominately I consider myself as a musician and songwriter and not till then as a guitarist. I mean, I play the guitar for so long that I’m able to write songs with it more easily. I’m also able to do it on the piano but with the guitar I know how to challenge myself to create moods and atmospheres which I can’t create on any other instrument.

Interviewer: The guitar of John Frusciante is staged cautiously and renounces bigger adventures on his solo records as well as on the records of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you listen closely though, you can find many delicate and subtle things. Imaginative sound gimmicks, wonderfully intricate melodies next to dry funk chords, forced melodies which only show for a moment but which intensify the charm of whole songs. John Frusciante combined all that innovatively with instrumental parts and interweaved with experimental sound patterns which announce his increased interest for electronic music on his current solo record “Shadows Collide With People”.

John Frusciante: I guess at the time I was writing this record I was listening to music by Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, the early Human League Orchestra Nervous In The Dark. Their music seemed to have been created while they were recording it. I, on the contrary, wanted to decorate and color the lyrics I’ve written with the sound of electronic music. The fundament should be organic. The record should sound as warm as possible, but also contain ice cold sounds you wouldn’t expect. I wanted to achieve something human sounding but still using a lot of electricity to get that.

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