Guitar Techniques, (UK) March 2010 Added: February 17, 2010
Formed in Los Angeles in 1983, Red Hot Chili Peppers have been at the forefront of the US alternative rock scene for the past 20 years. The band members for most of their career have been guitarist John Frusciante, singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith. Frusciante left the band during the tour supporting their fifth album, BloodSugarSexMagik, which went on to sell over 13 million copies.
The following release, One Hot Minute saw Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro step into Frusciante's shoes, while he overcame an addiction to heroin. But the album didn't get close to matching the success of BloodSugarSexMagik. A sober Frusciante left rehab and returned to the Chilis in 1999, and the following album Californication went on to beat the success of BloodSugarSexMagik, selling over 15 million units.
The band have won seven Grammy awards, and also been one of the few artists chosen to appear in an episode of The Simpsons. With drummer Chad Smith back in his day job, after some extra curricular success alongside Joe Satriani in Chickenfoot, the Chilis are writing and recording a new album for release in 2010, although we hear without Frusciante, who has left to pursue solo interests.
Frusciante's playing has always leaned havily on sparse, syncopated funk lines, but he also has an impressive sense of melody and has performed many memorable guitar parts on Chili Peppers' albums. He is also an accomplished improviser, with many of the band's gigs featuring extended sections of improvisation. Frusciante is far more at home with the Hendrix style of vintage rock playing than the technical prowess of players like Steve Vai, although he has said he is a fan of listening to highly technical guitar players. As well as a successful career with RHCP, Frusciante has also recorded several solo albums.
While this month's track is not hard to play, it's difficult to get a good standard. There are a lot of repeated lines in both the rhythm part and the lead section, which serve to allow the phrases to become familiar to the listener. The chart is written in E minor (E F#G G A B C D), but there is a B chord (B D# F#) and an A chord (A C# E) in the track as well. The solo is entirely based around the E minor pentatonic scale (E G A B D), and there is a deliberate clash at times against the D# and C# in the rhythm part. Not just part of the US alternative scene, the Chilis' sense of melody and harmony owes a lot to the likes of The Beach Boys and The Eagles and this is shown in the descending harmony of the chords in the second section of the track.
Notice that the drum part is slightly swung, whereas the rhythm guitar is played straight. There are however a few triplet figures in the lead part that add to the swung feel. Finally, thanks very much to Mark 'Flea' Prentice for playing bass this month.
GET THE TONE
The rhythm part has a slightly crunchy tone so don't add too much gain. The lead has more grit added to it, and Frusciante is a keen user of different types of overdrives for his lead playing. He plays many different vintage guitars, but is often seen using a sunburst Fender Strat and a Gretsch White Falcon. I used a Valley Arts Custom Pro, with a BB preamp for extra gain on the solo, a Vox wah-wah pedal and Digidesign's Eleven plugin set to a 'Marshall Plexi' sound.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' album BloodSugarSexMagik (1991) features the fantastic Give It Away and the band's enormous hit Under The Bridge, while Stadium Arcadium (2002) has Dani California. Also check out the group's Greatest Hits (2003) compilation and of course Frusciante's solo album Shadows Collide With People (2002). We look forward to see what he comes out with next.
--- Martin Cooper
* There are commas missing all over the article, wrong years have been given for John's return to the band, Stadium Arcadium and Shadows Collide With People.