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Date Posted: 12:14:29 07/14/06 Fri
Author: There's alot of typos. I copy/pasted it.
Author Host/IP: 69-19-137-39.nocal.dialup.o1.com / 22.214.171.124
Subject: In here
In reply to:
I likey when he talk theory vs. feel meh! :-P
's message, "Total Guitar magazine article '06" on 12:10:42 07/14/06 Fri
Congestion ahead. Delays are expected.'
It's 1:38 on Good friday and from the passenger seat of our car' TG is surveying the endless strean of vehicles snaking their way into the distance. We're braving the M6 motorway, heading north for an Easter sojourn with the in-laws.It's a labourious process at best of times (we're refering,of course, todriving up the M6, not visiting the in-laws),but this timethe holiday traffic, combined with a full Premiership football schedule,has turned one of Britain's worst motorways into one of Britain's worst car parks.
The sound of our mobile phone ringing briefly distracts us from the tedium of tarmac. Scrabbling around, TG locates our vibrating friend and notes a mystery London numberis on the line:
"Hi it's John Frusciante here".
"Oh, er hi John..."
Rewind 24 hours,and we're waiting in Room 105 of the world-famous Claridge's Hotel, a luxury five star establishment right in the heart of London's West End. The hotel rooom is the epitome of glamour: spacious, decked out with antique Art Deco furniture with copious bowls of fresh exotic fruit dotted around and a bathroom so long you coulh hold a bowls tournament in it.
John Frusciante is fashionably late. Our alloted hour's interview was due to start at 1pm but John is still upstairs wharfing down his breakfast, so we recline on an opulent chasie longe, grab a grape and wait. 10 minutes latae Frusciante appears, shuffles slightly awkwardly across the room and greats us warmly. His long unkempt hair, unshaven rugged features and simple jeans, t-shirt and lumber shirt attire seems out of place in these sumptuous surroundings. With his tattoos andheavily scarred arms hidden from view, he looks unremarkable - seemingly more likely to produce a Big Issue from up his sleeve than the kind of diamond-encrusted watch he could so easily afford- yet perversley, Frusciante's is perhaps the most remarkable guitarist Total Guitar has ever met.
His incredible life story to date has been told often, but bears repeating. A prodigious young musician, he joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers aged just 18 years-old and his impact on the band was immediate. As the craetive force behind 1991's brilliant album Blood Sugar Sex Magik album, Frusciante transformed the band from slightly embarrasing sex-obsessed funk metallers to global rock giants in three short years. Then, at the height of their popularity he quit the band in a haze of heroin then crack cocaine. As Frusciante battled with the "beings of higher inteligence" or "spirits" he had in his head since childhood, he lost his teeth, his skin(the burns on his arms a consequence of setting fire to himself while freebasing), his house (burnt down) and by overdosing regularly, almost his life.
With the Chilis floundering after an unsuccessful phase with Dave Navarro on guitar, it was bassist Flea who was instrumental in bringing Frusciante out of his addiction and back into the band. His reinstatement once again bore immidate fruits. The band next studio album, 1999's Grammy award winning Californication, sold 15 million copies, while an astonishing one in 35 UK households own a copy of 2002's By The Way.
But it's not just Frusciante's musical Midas touch that's remarkable. He's a fascinating man to spend time with. Despite the scheduled one-hour slot, the enigmatic guitarist eventually spends three hours in our company and rarely have we encounted a guitarist so deeply studied, progressive and passionate about his art. Every facet of his existence is channeled towards
his music; whether it's an in-depth study of every form of composition from classical to the electronic avant-garde, dissecting pioneering foreign cinema and British comedy, or practising Buddhist meditation, a technique that has replaced drug intake as the guiding force in Frusciante's life.
Often his conversation is convoluted as he grapples for the ideal words to explain his complex creations and persona, yet it's clear Frusciantis deeply intelligent; a pioneering perfectionist who functions on a level most musicians aspire to yet few ever achive. A perfectionism that leads him to interrupt Tg's M6 journey to clarify some of the finer points of our previous dasy's conversation, and what led him to the sonic highs that dominate the Red Hot Chili Pepper's monster new album Stadium Arcadium.
Next month, John describes some of the practice techniques, chord theory, instrumentation and studio trickery that went into making one of the most anticipated guitar albums of the year. While the first part of this in-depth interview, he discusses meditation, soloing, drugs, Jimi Hendrix and his early years in one of the world's biggest rock bands...
Stadium Arcadium was recorded at the same studio whers you recorded 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik album. What was the reasoning behind that?
"It just seemed like the perfect idea because I live one minute away and Anthony and Chad live about 10 minutes away. Flea's about an hour away in Malag, but because of the way it's set up he could sleep at the studio. Flea made it his home for the week and then went home for the weekends. So it was just practical in that way. Also, the studio we normally use, Cello Studios (where we did Californication and By The Way), closed down."
Did recording in the house bring back any memories?
"Not really. It seems like a different place now to what it was then. I like it better now. It's cosier a little more warm an homely. The other guys have a different impression than me, but that's how it seemed to me. I lovedit both times but before it seemed a little cold and chilling."
How different was the recording process to when you recorded all those years ago?
"Well, back then I didn't do many overdubs. Blood Sugar was naked. At the time that was the concept I wanted, especially because on Mother's Milk [producer] Michael Beinhorh had really pushed us. He'd had me quadrupling guitars, so it was years before I ever doubled anything again because I had such a weired experience on Mother's Milk. I did a lot of doubling on this album and it came out really good, but I hadn't done doubli ng since Mother's Milk. The template for Stadium Arcadium was to have an album like Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality where the guitars are in stereo, hard left, hard right, and it's just the simple powerchord and sounds as thick as you'd ever want it to sound."
Do you ever look to the Funky Monks film that was made at the time of Blood Sugar? How do you feel about watching yourself back then?
"I have all the respect in the world for my guitar playing then, especially as that was a point when I'd broken out of being in a particular place. When I was a teenager I loved Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and Steve Vai, and was balancing out those three guitarists styles in my playing. I didn't have my own identity and I didn't know what my musical voice was going to be. Around the time we started writing Blood Sugar, I finally put aside those guitarists styles and I forgot about what's technically good. I thought, for example, that Keith Richards makes music that connects with so many people and he plays in such a simple way, so why don't I pick a variety of people along those lines who play simply but do something that makes a beautiful sound that effects people emotionally? For me that was a new way of thinking that took a little adjusting to. So by the time we recorded Blood Sugar, I still felt as though I was doing a balancing act and I didn't really feel comfortable with what I was doing, which is probably a good thing. The same thing happened when we were making this record. I felt as though it could just as easily be bad as it could be good.
Many guitarists will be interested in this facet of your work. Please explain exactly how meditation helped your playing and how you've developed it?
"There are different kinds of meditation. There is on kind where the mind focuses on one object that could be a blue circle or a person's face that you like, or a mantra. The concept is your brain has been able to do exactly what it wants your whole life, thinking whatever it wants that it's basically this organ in your body that's run amock. Your brain is interfering with your ability to be in the moment and the idea is to cause the brain to focus on one particular thing for an extended period of time.
"Then there's another type of meditation where you're bringing awareness to your brain. We say bringing awareness because it's not the same as paying attention. You're letting your brain go through whatever it needs to go through to process, but there are games you play with yourself. It's a little bit beyond the scope of this to explain the in detail, but basically your brain gets sick of those games that you make it go through and eventually you sit ther in silence and just bring that awareness to the silence.
"In both of those ways it is an incredibly powerful feeing when you can just sit there and focus on the mantra, stillness or silence. When you do this for half an hour or two hours a day, what I've noticed for myself and for every other musician who has done this for an extensive amount of time - JohnMcLaughlin, Robert Fripp and people like that - is that it brings this energy and focus to your musical practice and to your listening to music. The only thing I can compare it to when I fisrst started smoking pot, where music had a much fuller body than it had ever had before. I hear music so much sharper now, and when I hear a solo I learn it so much quicker. When ideas are flowing my drive to let the idea come to it's complete fruition is relentless. The idea being that if you can focus on nothingness for half hour or an hour, it's no problem to focus on something that gives you pleasure, like music."
So how does meditation affect your ability to learn solos.
"Have you ever learned a solo, then a year later you realise that you had figured it out wrong? You didn't hear a little bit, and when you think back to the time there was a little tiny voice in your head that told you it wasn't exactly right but you didn't have any real contact with that side of your brain so you didn't listen to it.
"Well, once you start meditating you can't bullshit yourself like that. Once you start meditating and your doing it for the righ reasons, you have to be honest with yourself all the time and you have to be honest with other people. It forces you to clear through your shit. It compartmentalises things in your brain so when you set out to do a task, like learning a guitar solo or a piece of music, your brain is 100per cent with you and unified to that on task."
Do you still learn other artist's material on a regular basis?
"Oh yeah, all the time. At the moment I'm excited about understanding how classical composers though - people like Brahms and Beethoven, Bach and Motzart. I'll basically take a piece of their music and dissect it. Maybe just a couple of minutes at a time, a section that really speaks to me where I feel, 'Wow, what is going on there? That is so beautiful, how are they creating those feelings? What is this change that's happening right at this second and why does this part in the song make me feel so emotional for these two seconds?' And the I'll learn every part wheather it's an orchestra, string quartet or whatever.
"Or I'll learn a Jimi Hendrix solo in great detail. Big solos for me when we were making this record were the long version of Voodoo Child: the three long solos from that track. When I was a kid I would figure out Jimi Hendrix solos but I was learning a skeleton, or I would learn it and there would be some little detail that I wasn't picking up. In the first few months that I was meditating, I made the most progress I'd ever made. I felt like. Jesus Christ! I'm learning exactly what he's doing.' and not only learning to hit the string in the same way and to put the same vibrato on it. It's not enough just to make a mental observation of what kind of vibrato you think he was using, you've got to feel it the way he was feeling it. that didn't happen to me until I started meditating. Pretty much everything on Electric Ladyland was my bible when we were making this record because, not only his guitar playing always speeding up and slowing down, he was playing around with lots of rhythmic expression and off time playing, which is what I wanted to do with this album. The production sense of constant movement and notion on [Electric Ladyland] that Hendrix caused as a producer was what I wanted to have my own version of."
Was that aspect of Hendrix's work difficult to replicate? How did you go about that?
"In his case he's playing with the pan pots alot, putting tape phasing on alot of things, turning the volume up and down while he's soloing. Basically playing with the mixing part of the process. I actually did my work before that. After I recorded the guitars I'd effect them with my [Doepfer A100] modular synthesizer and Moogerfooger pedals. It's the same thing idea of altering the sound after you've played it and not letting anything be static so that the sound is in a constant state of change. That idea was very important to me."
You're soloing more on this record. Was that a conscious decision?
"I'm a persom who likes to contradict and go against and what he was doing before, and on By The way I was completly against soloing. I didn't enjoy listening to solos and I didn't enjoy soloing. My perception of guitar playing at the time was influenced by John McGeoch from Siouxsie And The Banshees and Magazine, Johnny Marr of The Smiths and Bernard Sumner of New Order and Joy Division. If I was going to play the guitar I wanted it to be something you could sing. But, as one would expect, I got sick of that at a certain point and by the time we were going to start writing this record I was really into soloing. I started getting particularly excited about anybody who was doing off-time stuff. A lot of musicans play within a 16th note grid: any note that they play is going to land on any one of those 16th notes. That was the last thing I wanted to do. At first it wasn't so much that I was listening to Jimi Hendrix or Cream, I was listening to singers like Beyonce, Alliyah and Brandy, and rappers like Wu-Tang, Eminem and Eric B and Rakin. I would translate the rhythmic phrasing and bluesy kind of things that the do to the guitar and it would come out sounding like Jimi Hendrix. I was playing as Strat through a Marshall with wah-wah pedal and Fuzz tone, and it quickly became apparent that the result of trying to do this off- time stuff led to an unexpected parallel to what a lot of blues influenced people were doing in the 1960s."
The solos appear to be improvised in the main this time...
"Almost every solo was improvised. Even those that sound like they have been written were improvised. The solo in Wet Sand, for example, is one of those things you can sing along with but it was totally improvised. What's the key to improvisation? In polyrhythmic playing, where your finding your own groove inside the music and the hidden spaces between the music, you can't plan out what your going to do. Take the guitar solo Hey: I could only plan it out in the sense that I knew I was going to be constantly speeding up and slowing down. During rehearsal we were playing stuff much faster than we ended up playing in the studio, so the same solos weren't working. So I really had no choice but to wing it in the studio. For me, this really gave the album a live quality and an exciting spontaneity that I haven't had in the studio before. There is no more relaxing part of making a record than improvising solos. That's just fun for me."
While you use theory to your advantage, many top guitarists claim the don't know much about theory and play by 'feel' instead...
"Good luck to them. I have nothing against that way of thinking. In fact, I have more in common with that way of thinking than with people who normally get associated with theory. The people who inspire me when they talk about theory are [jazz musicians] Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Charlie Parker. These people didn't play by feel and were thinking completely in terms of theory. We were all playing by feel, but not in the definition of these ignorant guitar players who don't want to spend time learning the theory. People pretend there's an advantage to not learning theory, but I think they're just lazy. "
Yet you solo were still improvised...
"As I told you, the most important thing for me is to switch off my mind.I don't need to think that something is a minor 3rd to play a minor 3rd, but I know it's a minor 3rd. It's not very complicated, it just sounds complicated because people don't use that language when they talk. It would be like somebody saying, 'I don't want to use words to talk, I want to just go by feel, I want to just go by feel, I want to rub peoples bodies and I want to rub my penis all over them. I don't want to talk.'
To me that's just useless, limited way of being, I like to talk and rub all over them. I think theory gets a bad name because a lot of people use theory instead of feel. But Flea and I are both huge fans of those jazz musicians I mentioned, who seemed to grow throughout their whole life as musicians. But a lot of rock musicians who don't think on that level often go through a decline within a few years. I'm not saying that's the only reason, as quite often they overdo it with drugs and sex and dishonesty. If your a person who think theory is going to limit you then don't learn it, make sure your being honest eith yourself and that you don't want to learn it just because your lazy and telling yourself, 'Yeah man, I play by feel,' because thats just being a pussy. Theory doesn't block pepole's creativity, only the ego blocks creativity. Excessive drug use or drinking can block it, but not theory."
It's interesting that you say drugs and alcohol prevent creativity, yet many musicians throughout history have used drugs to aid creativity...
"Oh,you can do that. I said excessive drug use. Marijuana, mushrooms or acid have the ability to really open somebody up, but they actually do it from one time of taking the drug. If you have one good experience with those drugs you've altered your brain permanently for the better. If the experience was bad you've permanently altered your brain in a bad way that might take years to correct. I believe that very strongly. When it comes to a drug like cocaine, I believe it takes a very special person in a very special environment during a very special period of time for this to be of any value, and I don't count the present time as being one of those times."
You're drug free now [John raises his eyebrows]. Well, if not drug-free you certainly seem to have your drug use under control...
"For me, that is the important thing. Since I've been meditating I feel very strongly that the highest a person can reach are from resisting that impulse to just take something all the time. When you take drugs you're essentially allowing your brain to do whatever it wants. The most important thing you need is to have some kind of contact with the person you are inside and to be honest with yourself. If you have that you don't need drugs. I feel strongly that there is no drug or drink that makes anybody better than they really are. Medication can bring a person around. It's hard as fuck and I had to go through some terrible shit at first. When I went into the studio to make this album my stomach was very painful and I felt that I hated myself all the time. The part of myself I'd been running away from was the Mother's Milk time, because I felt I hated that person, hated his approach and hated the way he lived his life.I was looking at myself as a stranger who had invaded my own life. During a meditation about three weeks into studio time I finally realised that I loved that part of myself, and from then on my knotting stomach went away and I kicked ass in the studio! I needed that part of myself to make this album."
It's a controversial step to release such a large volume of music [28 tracks, over two hours of material] in one go? Do you have any reservations?
"No. To me it's stupid that it's controversial. If a painter decides to paint 40 paintings nobody says,'How can you paint 40 paintings? What gives you the right to make 40 paintings?' Yet when it's a song all of a sudden everybody says, How did you think you could get away with this? But it's what we did. I'll say the same thing The Clash said with Sandinista, the same thing The Beatles said 'The White Album', the same thing Jimi Hendrix said when he wanted to make his fourth album a triple record: it's what we recorded. It's the music that came through us. We don't make music just for our own pleasure, we make music for our audience. If we write 28 songs that we think are top notch, Thats what we want to give the public. That's for mankind. Making music is my gift to mankind and it's what I have to offer.
"You don't put out 14 songs because thats what critics would except with a smile. We're putting out what we believe is worthy. I can't say that if somebody puts [the album] down it won't hurt my feelings, because it will.
But I can deal with it. What is important to me is that some kid somewhere, three years from now, could possibly hear one of these songs and decide not to kill himself. I've heard that plenty of times from people. People write to me telling they fell in love to my music. How do I know it's not going to be the 27th song on the album that's going to do that? Why, just because we're in the music buisness, should I have to shorten things to be like everyone else? Fuck that! Buisness considerations don't matter as much to us as it does to have the right artistic reasons for doing something. Luckily, our managers support us. When we said we wanted to do a double record they said 'You know what, why not?' Fuck statistics, we've made a good album so let's put it out."
End of this months interview.
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