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Josh Klinghoffer: "Rick Rubin was way more a hindrance than a help" on Red Hot Chili Peppers' I’m With You

Josh Klinghoffer (left) and Rick Rubin
(Image credit: Jim Bennett/Getty Images, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Spotify)

Since his departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2019, electric guitar player Josh Klinghoffer has kept plenty busy, touring with Pearl Jam (both as their opening act and as a live member of the band) and with Eddie Vedder's solo band.

He's also released a few solo albums under the Pluralone name, the most recent being this year's This Is The Show. With all that going on, Klinghoffer recently sat down with VW Music (opens in new tab) for a chat about Pearl Jam, his solo work and his time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Interestingly, when asked to reflect on his two albums with the Chili Peppers – 2011's I'm With You and 2016's The Getaway – Klinghoffer seemed to strike a regretful tone.

“I’m incredibly conflicted about my output 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 said (opens in new tab). “I like almost all of the songs that we wrote together, but seldom did we capture them in the best way.”

I'm With You – just like the five Red Hot Chili Peppers albums before it – was produced by Rick Rubin, while The Getaway was helmed by Danger Mouse. Though he acknowledged that his opinion was perhaps "biased" and "warped," given the lack of time that's elapsed since he was replaced by returning guitarist John Frusciante, Klinghoffer expressed particularly strong opinions about 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. “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.’”

Rubin is one of music's most legendary producers, and has worked with countless megastars from the worlds of rock, country and hip-hop. Klinghoffer, however, is not the only prominent guitarist who's gone on record about their issues with Rubin.

In a 2003 interview with Guitar World, AC/DC's late rhythm guitar dynamo, Malcolm Young, revealed that Rubin's methods didn't quite click with the Aussie hard-rockers. 

"When we worked with Rick [on the band's 1995 album, Ballbreaker] there was something not quite right there," he said. "He’s not a real rock and roller, that’s for sure. All he worried about was the snare drum. We would never go back to him. We thought he was a phony, to be honest!"

Others, however – including Metallica's James Hetfield – have praised Rubin in the pages of Guitar World. The Metallica frontman said in a 2008 GW interview that Rubin's work – along with that of engineer Greg Fidelman – on the band's Death Magnetic album brought his band's "sound to a new level."

Klinghoffer's feelings aside, Rubin did return to produce both of the Chili Peppers' 2022 albums with John Frusciante, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen.

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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.