John Frusciante is one of the most prominent Fender Stratocaster players on the planet and, accordingly, he’s had a few over the years.
His most iconic Strat remains, of course, his sunburst 1962 model, which was purchased by Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis when the guitarist rejoined the band in 1998.
But Froosh has had a string of other vintage squeezes over the years, including a stunning ’61 Olympic White Stratocaster, which found fame during the band’s 2006/2007 Stadium Arcadium tour. During this time, the guitar also made its way into the hands of Josh Klinghoffer, who was then a member of the group’s touring lineup, preparing to take over guitar duties full-time after Frusciante departed in 2009.
Yet when the Stadium Arcadium tour – and Frusciante’s tenure with the band – came to an end in August 2007, the Strat wouldn’t stay in the departing guitar hero’s rack for long.
Instead, it found its way into the hands of IRONTOM and AWOLNATION guitarist Zach Irons, son of original Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who revealed how he came to own the vintage Strat in a new interview with Guitar World.
“I first met John in 2009 or 2010, when I would go to his place and learn songs. He would teach me things, and at the time, I was only 16 or 17, so it was amazing,” Irons recalls.
“One day, I went over there – and I’m such a fan of his, which I’m open about – and I was talking to him about guitars. I’d ask, ‘What did you use on this song,’ and pick his brain.”
Irons couldn’t see any of the guitars they were discussing around the house, so he asked his mentor where they were hiding – only for the Chili Pepper to wonder himself.
“John was like, ‘I don’t know…’ and asked his assistant, ‘Hey, where are my guitars?’” Irons continues. “And the assistant says, ‘Oh, they’re in the backroom, and I said, ‘Can I pull some out?’ So, we pulled a few out – the ’61 Strat was one, and I loved it immediately. Eventually, John said, ‘I want you to take that guitar with you – it's yours.’ It was an amazing thing.”
Frusciante clearly saw something in Irons’ abilities, and believed his ’61 Strat would bring out the best in the young player. The Red Hot Chili Pepper made the right call, as he would go on to share his admiration for Irons when he named his favorite modern-day guitar players in an interview with Total Guitar last year.
“Zach Irons is a very creative, unorthodox guitarist,” Frusciante said. “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.”
The respect between the two players is mutual: Irons is a huge admirer of Frusciante’s work with the Chili Peppers and beyond. But as he reveals, that wasn’t always the case.
“At the time in my life when John gave [the Strat] to me, I was so malleable; my brain was a sponge,” he recalls. “I looked up to John so much, which is interesting because initially, I wasn’t really a fan of his playing. I was more into flashy stuff, like Eddie Van Halen, when I was a kid.
“That changed after seeing John at the Troubadour before Stadium Arcadium came out. He actually played my ’61 Strat that night, and I could see how amazing he was. I always thought, ‘If there was one guitar I’d want of his, that would be it,’ and it's the one that ended up being mine.”
Being a left-handed player, Irons had to make a few tweaks to make the guitar playable: reversing the nut and saddles, and removing the control knobs to prevent accidental adjustment (thanks, GroundGuitar).
For sentimental reasons, however, Irons doesn’t bring the ’61 out on tour; instead, he uses an ’81 Fullerton reissue onstage with IRONTOM and AWOLNATION, which he claims is “close to those sick guitars from the ’60s”.
“Because of John, I love the Ibanez WH10,” Irons explains. “He influenced me, and I couldn’t escape using his gear. I would want to do my own thing on principle; I don’t want to do everything he does, but he paved the way there.
“I’ve tried other wah pedals, and I hate them. The Ibanez is a staple of John’s sound, and I can’t get away from it. I had a pre-Reverb.com obsession with finding them, because they used to be very hard to find and super-expensive.”
Stay tuned to GuitarWorld.com for more from Irons, including what it was like to get Led Zeppelin guitar lessons from Frusciante and what made him finally come round to digital guitar tones.
And for more info on Frusciante’s current Strats, have a read of our in-depth 2022 interview with the RHCP guitar icon.