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John Frusciante


John Frusciante is resilient. The guitarist struck it big in the early 90s with his band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but fame didn�t agree with him and a year after releasing a diamond (10 million albums sold) record he entered into a downward spiral of drug abuse. His addictions to crack cocaine and heroine brought him to the brink of both death and bankruptcy. In 1998, after more than five years of being a self-proclaimed �junkie�, the guitarist entered into a drug rehab program. He re-emerged from rehab with a new lease on life and resumed his role as the lead guitarist of the Peppers. Subsequently the band is currently bigger than ever and John is finally getting the critical recognition his guitar playing has always deserved. There is much that aspiring guitarists can learn from studying John Frusciante�s tale of success, despair and rebirth.
Frusciante was born in Queens, New York, the son of a Juilliard trained pianist and promising vocalist. His family moved around a lot in John�s formative years before he and his mother landed in Mars Vista, California after John� parents divorce. He began playing guitar at the age of nine and quit high school at 16 so that he could focus on musical endeavors full-time. He became a fan of the Chili Peppers in the early-80s just as the band was starting off in the Los Angeles club scene. He soon came to know the band members personally, forging an especially tight bond with guitarist Hillel Slovak. Frusciante replaced Slovak as the Peppers lead guitarist following Slovak�s tragic death in 1988.     
The first album the Chili Peppers released after Frusciante joined the band was entitled Mother�s Milk. It went gold and reached the Billboard Top 200; both firsts for the band. However it wasn�t until 1991, when the Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, that the band really became world-famous. Critics and fans alike adored Blood Sugar Sex Magik. It sold over 12 million copies and won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance (Give it Away). The iconic ballad �Under the Bridge,� about lead singer�s Anthony Kiedis� addiction to heroine, rose all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the band�s highest charted song.
Frusciante couldn�t handle the success of his band. He left the Peppers abruptly in 1992 and spent most of the next decade barricaded in his California home. Leaving the band thrust him into a deep depression, which he tried to treat with a bevy of illegal drugs. He developed full-scale additions to heroine, cocaine, and marijuana among others. Despite his drug use he managed to record two solo albums in the late 90�s, which were released, by his own admission, to get drug money. In 1997 he quit heroine cold turkey and in January of 1998 he entered a drug rehab center in Pasadena, California.
Frusciante recovered fully and after a month was released back into society. His band mates were glad to have him back. The Peppers had tried to replace Frusciante with Dave Navarro but never got the chemistry right. As soon as the band was back together they went into the recording studio and in 1999 produced the album Californication. The record was a smash hit, selling over fifteen million copies and netting the band another Grammy for Best Rock Song (Scar Tissue). They followed Californication with By the Way and Stadium Arcadium. Both were multi-platinum successes; the latter winning four Grammy�s including Best Rock Album. Currently the Chili Peppers are on temporary hiatus because they are exhausted. Frusciante has released 8 solo albums since beating his drug addictions and will use his break from the Peppers to focus more intensely on his solo career.
John began to learn guitar as a nine year old. He credits his inspiration for learning the instrument to Greg Ginn, Pat Smear and Joe Strummer, among others. As a youngster Frusciante became fascinated by Los Angeles� punk rock scene. In particular the punk band The Germs inspired him. He had learned to play most of their songs by his 11th birthday. John moved on to studying guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. He also was influenced by avant-garde acts such as Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, and The Residents. Then he discovered the music of Frank Zappa, who he would study for hours a day as a teenager. He left home at sixteen, with his parents� blessings, to develop his musical ability. He enrolled in the Guitar Institute of Technology, but his time there was marred by recreational drug use. As an adult, he auditioned for Zappa�s band. John backed out when Zappa told him of his no tolerance policy concerning illegal drugs in his band.
The first time John saw one of the Red Hot Chili Pepper�s shows he was fifteen. He rapidly became one of the group�s most devoted fans. He idolized Hillel Slovak, and he spent years learning all the guitar and bass parts to the Chili Peppers� first three albums. When Slovak overdosed on heroine, Frusciante was well equipped to replace him.
Frusciante�s musical style has evolved a lot since he played his first gig with the Peppers in 1988. His early work was influenced by New Wave and underground punk musicians. On the Peppers� last album, Stadium Arcadium, he used a rhythmic pattern that was inspired by hard rock royalty, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. His work on Stadium Arcadium is his most critically acclaimed effort to date. A lot of the uniqueness in Frusciante�s sound can be attributed to his exclusive use of vintage guitars. He refuses to use any guitars that were crafted after 1970.
All of the guitars that Frusciante used prior to 1992 were destroyed in a house fire in 1996. The first guitar he purchased after rejoining the Chili Peppers was a 1967 Fender Jaguar. His most frequently used guitar is a 1962 Sunburst Fender Stratocaster, which he has played on every album since joining the Peppers and their tours. His most prized instrument is a 1957 Gretsch White Falcon, which he used twice per show on the By The Way tour. All of his acoustic work is played on a 1950s Martin 0-15.
Frusciante�s playing style focuses on melody and emotion as opposed to virtuosity. He has been quoted as saying that in general, guitar mastery has not evolved since the 1960s, and he considers the greatest guitarists of that era to be the greatest, ever. Frusciante feels that too many guitarists from when he was growing up, the 1980s, focused on speed. Consequently many New Wave and punk guitarists of that era are not given the credit they deserve. It is this belief that makes Frusciante imitate the melody-driven technique of such 80�s performers as Bernard Sumner (Joy Division) and Mathew Ashman (Bow wow wow). He also considers himself a fan of technique driven guitarists such as Steve Vai but doesn�t emulate their style. As he explained to Guitar Player magazine, �People believe that by playing faster and creating new playing techniques you can progress forward, but then they realize that emotionally they don't progress at all. They transmit nothing to the people listening and they stay at where Hendrix was three decades ago. Something like that happened to Vai in the 80s.� Frusciante tries to break as many stylistic barriers as he can. He hates to have his music pigeon-holed into one genre or another. He believes that the vast majority of his contemporaries lack guts and �follow the rules with no risk�.
Frusciante has always welcomed what he calls �imperfections� in his music. On his first two solo albums his guitar was generally out-of-tune and the vocals were really only distressed screeches. He thinks it is not advantageous to have only �clean� sounds so he goes to great lengths to produce a �grimier� sound. He has been known to �mistreat� his guitars and use a generous amount of distortion when soloing. In recent years he has backed away from this philosophy a little bit. On his solo album Shadows Collide with People, for instance he tried for the opposite sound, �I just wanted everything to be perfect�I didn't want anything off pitch, or off time, or any unintentional this or that.�
John Frusciante is the type of musician that generally doesn�t receive much recognition during his lifetime. Too often it takes an untimely demise for people to truly appreciate the musical genius of the deceased. If you want examples you can look at Jimi Hendrix, or Duane Allman, or Robert Johnson, or any of dozens of rock n roll luminaries who passed away much too soon. That almost happened to Frusciante. He was so close to death that in the 1990s he was described as, �a skeleton in thin skin�. Now, after almost a decade of sobriety, he is more popular and more critically acclaimed than ever. It�s about time to give praise to a Hall of Fame caliber musician while he is still with us.


Eddie Van Halen
Joe Satriani
Eric Johnson
Steve Vai
Paul Gilbert
Jimmy Page
Randy Rhoads
Kurt Cobain
Kirk Hammett
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Yngwie Malmsteen
Robert Johnson
Pete Townsend
Jerry Garcia
Bo Diddley
Jeff Beck
Duane Allman
Jimmy Hendrix
BB King
John Frusciante
Joe Perry
George Harrison
Chuck Berry
Eric Clapton
Dimebag Darrell
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