Guitarist John Frusciante has experienced both colossal highs and death-defying lows in both his musical career and personal life. Born in 1970 and raised in California, Frusciante dropped out of high school when guitar playing and rock music took hold of the up-and-coming musician/songwriter. Embracing both the unpredictable side of rock (Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, King Crimson, Funkadelic) and punk (the Germs, Black Flag), Frusciante created his own guitar style — combining both technical skill with a knack for penning funky, psychedelic riffs. The Red Hot Chili Peppers became an automatic fave when the young guitarist discovered them early in their career, and his dream to join the band came true in 1988, after striking up a friendship with the Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea (in the wake of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak’s death from a drug overdose). Interestingly, Frusciante had just been hired by another L.A. band, Thelonious Monster, prior to joining the Peppers.
Frusciante’s first recording with the Peppers, 1989’s Mother’s Milk, helped break the popular college rock band through to the mainstream — resulting in their first gold record, with Frusciante’s amazing guitar playing serving as a catalyst for many of the songs. The quartet released an even rawer record next, 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, produced by Rick Rubin. The album catapulted the band into the rock stratosphere, as it became a multi-platinum hit and made the Peppers one of the premier bands of the ’90s. But all was not well in Pepperland. Frusciante found it increasingly difficult to handle his newly found fame, and retreated into a haze of hard drugs and unpredictable behavior. At the height of Blood Sugar’s success, John abruptly left the band while on tour in Japan.
Besides releasing two obscure solo albums (1995’s Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt and 1997’s Smile from the Streets You Hold), little was heard from Frusciante after his split from the Peppers in 1992. Then a disturbing article appeared in the L.A. Weekly, one that painted Frusciante as a heroin abuser with a death wish (the interviewer was also shocked at his ghastly appearance). Thankfully, with the advice of friends, Frusciante checked himself into a rehab center and got off drugs and stopped his path to certain destruction. Just a few months after getting his life back on track and facing the world again, he got back in contact with the rest of his ex-Pepper mates (he regularly kept in contact with Flea), whose then-current guitarist, Dave Navarro, had just split from the band.
After a loose jam session was deemed a success (as well as a psychological evaluation!), Frusciante was asked to rejoin the band. The newly kindled relationship was a rousing success, as the reunited Peppers issued the great Californication in 1999 to rave reviews and big sales. Two years later, and with drugs a thing of the past, Frusciante emerged a tough singer/songwriter by releasing a solo effort entitled To Record Only Water for Ten Days. Merely a creative outlet from his band’s original material, Frusciante appeared motivated and relaxed as an individual and free from the deception of drugs that haunted him before. In 2004, Frusciante released an astounding six solo albums as well as a project with Josh Klinghoffer (who appears on several of those six albums) and Fugazi’s Joe Lally called Ataxia.
Then Red Hot Chili Peppers duty called once again, and Frusciante did some work with Glenn Hughes before releasing a follow-up to the Ataxia album in early 2007. The Empyrean arrived in 2009, and in 2012, two wildly different solo albums showed up in the form of an EP called Letur-Lefr and a full-length called PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. These two recordings were dizzying affairs that reflected Frusciante’s lifelong dream to make electronic music, and employed acid house bass synthesizers and sampled jungle drum breaks, and even had cameos from MCs like Wu-Tang’s RZA. The 2013 EP Outsides took yet another odd turn, offering up a ten minute piece based solely around an extensive blues-based guitar solo and a few other abstract tunes.