John Frusciante mostly listened to electronic music in his time away from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but towards the end of the recording sessions for the LA outfit’s new album Unlimited Love, he began to seek out fresh approaches to guitar-led rock.
Asked about the modern-day guitarists who inspire him, he initially gives props to Anthony Pirog of Fugazi offshoot The Messthetics, but goes on to explain how he found himself gravitating towards a particular style that he describes as “modern California psychedelic music”.
“They take a certain amount from prog, and they go in such a weird direction in a lot of their work,” he says. “It’s really refreshing to me to hear people making rock music where they’re not just trying to have a hit or trying to do something that they think might be popular.
“They’ve kind of thrown that idea out the window, and they just want to make music that’s fun to make. And I hear that spirit of fun in that music.”
With that, John shares his thoughts on four of his favourite contemporary players from the scene, all of whom are taking guitar playing in exciting new directions.
1. Ty Segall
“Ty Segall is a great all-around musician. One of my favourite albums by him, Twins, is just him playing everything. Manipulator is another fave. I love his guitar style because he just goes for it and pours his energy and magnetism through it.
“He’s so good at making the instrument and the amplification respond to his feelings – you never know what it’s gonna sound like next. His playing has that deceptive ‘careless’ quality that can only actually be done by people who are so intense as souls, that when they don’t give a fuck, you hear conviction and sincerity. In his carelessness, what comes across is that he cares deeply.”
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2. Cory Hanson of Wand
“I’m so glad Cory Hanson exists. What he does is exactly what I want to hear from the instrument. He has a very arty approach which has a ton of heart in it – it’s a perfect balance. And he’s such a good singer and songwriter. He really puts himself out there emotionally, and goes out on creative limbs in all kinds of directions.
“My favourite albums of theirs are probably Perfume, Plum and Golem. His soloing is so creative and engaging – he knows how to make the instrument speak, whether his tone is big or small.
“I love it when music conveys a vulnerability that makes you feel you have a friend. He’s one of those people who can be just as powerful making soft acoustic music as making loud electric.”
- John Frusciante on what prompted his return to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and how a deep-rooted playing philosophy fueled their explosive comeback album, Unlimited Love
3. John Dwyer of Osees
“John Dwyer is a great band leader and conceptualist. Each of their albums is so unique – some of my favourites are Protean Threat, Orc, and Smote Reverser. I love the direction he’s been taking their music – they keep changing and growing in such unpredictable ways.
“There is a very serious sense of humour in their music – which is a rare kind of musical emotion – but there’s also a very warm comforting coldness to a lot of it. It’s beautiful when music unifies contradictions like that.
“His guitar parts are extremely inventive – he uses both vertical and horizontal space in amazing ways, and creates guitar parts that assist in the big picture of what the band as a whole is saying, which often means he’s able to say a lot by barely playing at all.
“It seems he cares mainly for the overall statement being made by the group, rather than standing out or any crap like that. And he’s another one of these people whose energy rides like an express train through the instrument.”
4. Zach Irons of Irontom
“Zach Irons is a very creative, unorthodox guitarist. He’s always finding new ways to approach it: hand techniques I’ve never seen and ways of using effects unique to him. He is so deeply rooted in the essence of rock guitar playing that he’s finding ways of retaining that feeling while completely changing the role of the instrument.
“Lately, he’s been reinventing his whole style, which I only know because he’s a good friend of mine – the first time Zach and I played together, he was 17, and it was him and his dad [original RHCP drummer] Jack Irons, Flea, and me. We played the whole of Led Zeppelin’s Presence album together – it was really fun.
“Ever since then we’ve been close. We understand and support each other in a way that is unique to us. He was born on [original RHCP guitarist] Hillel Slovak’s birthday, which is a trip.”