It’s been a hectic few years for John Frusciante, whose much-hyped return to Red Hot Chili Peppers involved writing and recording a whopping 48 songs, and releasing two full-length studio albums – Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen.
Despite the abundance of Hendrixian guitar work and trademark Frusciante fretboard workouts we’ve been treated to this year, one song in particular stands out as a highlight of RHCP’s 2022 repertoire: their emotive Eddie Van Halen tribute track, Eddie.
The studio version saw Frusciante dip his toes into Van Halen-inspired sonic waters, with the Stratocaster master doubling down with one of the most technical and emotional guitar solos of his career when the band debuted the track live for the very first time.
However, speaking in the latest issue of Guitar Player, Frusciante revealed the Eddie lead effort proved to be particularly challenging to craft, and that it was the last solo he recorded out all 48 songs RHCP tracked.
“When we’re in the studio and between takes, I’m always doing things, like two-hand tapping. The engineer hears it all the time; I’ll play really flashy stuff during breaks,” Frusciante explained. “But when it comes to recording, I’m doing what I think is right for the song, and in most cases that doesn’t involve playing really flashy. But it is something I enjoy.”
Despite his affinity for such Van Halen-esque techniques, it was hard to translate them into a proper solo: “Doing that solo was a mind fuck, I’ll tell you that,” he continued. “And it was the last solo that I did out of all the solos on the 48 songs we recorded.
“I saved it for last, because the idea of having a song about Eddie Van Halen, you’re basically saying to people, ‘Think about Eddie Van Halen.’ And then when it comes to this long guitar solo at the end, you’re going, ‘Now watch this!’ And I did not like that idea.”
Given such challenges – and the trouble he had balancing his own style with Van Halen’s – Frusciante admitted he was “thinking of cutting the solo entirely”, but eventually managed to come up with something after taking a step back from his guitar.
“I was trying for a while, and I wasn’t happy with anything I was doing,” he reflected. “I was either going too far in the Eddie Van Halen direction, to where it was too busy and there was too much two-hand tapping and it didn’t sound like me, or I was just doing it and it only sounded like me… in a song about Eddie Van Halen.”
“I stopped being self-conscious about the idea that the song was about Eddie Van Halen and just did what was natural. We were recording, and I took maybe a 15-minute break. And when I came back in, I just did the whole thing, like I said, in one take.”
The result, according to Frusciante, is a guitar solo that reflects his love for Van Halen and “the love that I’ve felt for his playing since I was eight years old”.
In the same interview, the guitarist expanded on his appreciation for Van Halen’s approach to the guitar, observing, “There are also the parts of his style that don’t involve playing fast, that are just really exciting to me – playing in a way that feels spontaneous, or when you hear feedback because he recorded his parts in the same room as his amplifier. To this day, those things give me chills.”
Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Guitar Player, which features the full interview with John Frusciante.