John Frusciante Explains Decision to Come Back to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Details How He Got Distorted Tone on Latest Album

Near the end of 2019, not long before you-know-what brought the entire music industry to a halt, Red Hot Chili Peppers revealed that they’re getting back together with John Frusciante. Although some may have felt bad about Josh Klinghoffer getting fired (with some suggesting that they pull off a dual-guitar formation), the decision resonated with the fans. And in 2022, they finally released a new record, titled “Unlimited Love,” featuring Frusciante back in the fold.

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During his recent chat with Total Guitar, the John looked back on the decision to get back together with the fellas and explained why it happened when it happened:

“I really wanted that challenge of trying to work in a democratic band with people that I respect and people that I have a chemistry with.”

“I felt that to move forward as a soul and as a human being, I had to accept that challenge. I felt that it would be good for me to try to work harmoniously with them, and not have my ego be the thing that was driving me forward, but to have love and respect for them. That was the thing: to try to be a part of a whole.”

“I’ve done a lot of reflection on the causes of my quitting the band the last time that I don’t think I had the mental space to be aware of at the time. It was like, ‘I just really don’t want to do all this living in this world of fame and publicity; I just want to concentrate on making electronic music and making music just to make music, and not to make people happy, not to be successful.’ And that was just what I needed at the time.”

“But I looked back and realized that with some of the personal stresses between me and other members of the band, I saw my own part of it more than I think I saw it back in 2009. And while I think no one person is at fault in a situation where somebody quits a band, I’d grown enough as a person to see my side in it, as opposed to just playing the victim.”

As John also explains, there was a special method for them to get their creative juices flowing. He said:

“I didn’t want to feel any pressure about writing stuff, because that would have been overwhelming. So for a month or two, we were just playing songs by other people, and playing really early Chili Peppers stuff. We just had a lot of fun. “

“And luckily, that spirit of fun ended up staying with us throughout the whole writing process, even after those songs had been phased out and replaced by going there every day being excited about the new stuff we were bringing in, or the jams that we were turning into songs.”

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He later added:

“I developed a real fan relationship with the different forms of rock music, without it having anything to do with my identity. So when I went back to playing in the band, I knew it would affect what I wrote.”

Discussing the album, Frusciante also shared a few very interesting details about the tone and gear that he used on it. Detailing his distorted tone on the album, John said:

“When there’s a heavy section with distorted power chords and that kind of thing, a lot of the time the Strat was what I played in the basic track, but [doubled with a] Yamaha SG straight into the Marshall with no distortion pedal or anything, just getting the distortion from the amp. Quite a bit of the time it’s the Yamaha on the left, for example, and the Fender Strat through a distortion pedal on the other speaker. And there are even some mellow, soft things where it’s the SG.”

Marshall amps in question, as the source explains, were Silver Jubilee and Major heads. Going more into amp setup details, John added:

“I also had an Ampeg B-15. I really loved both the guitar playing and the engineering of Greg Sage from the Wipers. He’s gotten some of the best guitar tones I think anybody’s ever recorded. He mentioned that he thought [the B-15] was the best amplifier ever made.”

“So I bought one of those while we were recording the record to have a small amp to have a difference in tone for certain things. Then when I brought it in, Flea looked at it and he said, ‘That’s the same amp my stepdad used to have!’ His stepdad was a bass player and upright bass player, and that was the amp he would plug his upright bass into. That was a funny coincidence.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Chad Carson (CCarsonChiliPeppersVoodooExperience2006)