Josh Klinghoffer says playing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers was "enormously stifling creatively": "They’re an established band with an established sound"

Anthony Kiedis (left) and Josh Klinghoffer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform onstage at the Whole Child International's Inaugural Gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on October 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California
(Image credit: Rich Polk/Getty Images/Whole Child International)

Back in 2019, electric guitar player Josh Klinghoffer was bumped out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with whom he had been playing for over a decade, in favor of John Frusciante, the six-stringer who – during two previous tenures with the band – helped shape their best-selling albums and define their sound.

In a new interview with Guitar World (opens in new tab), Klinghoffer candidly reflected on both the positive and negative aspects of his time with the stadium-conquering funk rockers.

“Obviously, it’s sad when something is taken from you,” Klinghoffer tells Guitar World. “I did a perfect 10 years with them, but for as much as I love those guys and loved playing with them, it was also enormously stifling creatively. They’re an established band with an established sound, and I learned over time how little deviating from that was possible." 

When asked to elaborate, Klinghoffer said, "When I first joined, I wouldn’t use certain chords when I was writing if they sounded like something John would play. Or if it sounded like a choice they would have made on their last album, I purposely went the other way.” 

Klinghoffer says that his efforts to push the band in new sonic directions were met with little enthusiasm. “I thought I was doing a good job of writing music with them, but it wound up not kind of becoming part of my story, or if it is part of my story with them, it’s a small part," he said. "As much as I thought they were up for experimentation, they generally stayed in their own lane.” 

Klinghoffer took care to describe his time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers as “a blessing and a beautiful experience,” but also said he now views his departure from the group as “the best thing that could have happened to me. 

"I’m free to explore other musical avenues and perhaps find my own sound more than I was able to with them,” he says. 

It's not the first time in recent months that Klinghoffer – who's toured with Pearl Jam (both as their opening act and as a live member of the band) and with Eddie Vedder's solo band, and released solo material under the Pluralone name, in the years since he parted ways with the Red Hot Chili Peppers – has expressed some degree of reservations about the music he wrote with the Chili Peppers.

“I’m incredibly conflicted about my output (2011's I'm With You and 2016's The Getaway) with that band because I feel like, in both circumstances, producers got in the way of us truly making great music or a great record,” Klinghoffer told VW Music (opens in new tab)'s Andrew Daly in an interview in August. “I like almost all of the songs that we wrote together, but seldom did we capture them in the best way.”

In that interview, Klinghoffer went on to express particularly strong opinions about Rick Rubin's role in I'm With You.

“I will say that in the case of I’m With You, I feel Rick Rubin was way more a hindrance than a help,” Klinghoffer said of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' longtime producer. “He told me once, ‘I just want to help the songs be the best they can be.’ I should’ve said, ‘Well, then get your driver to come and get you.’”

To read our full interview with Klinghoffer, in which the guitar ace also discusses his musical relationship with Eddie Vedder, and his recent Pluralone offerings, pick up a copy of the new issue of Guitar World via Magazines Direct (opens in new tab).

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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player (opens in new tab). Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder (opens in new tab) and Unrecorded (opens in new tab). Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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