The Watt from Pedro show (Jan 25, 2009)


Josh Klinghoffer and John Frusciante

Transcribed by Eleni Philos

Mike Watt: [This is] The Watt From Pedro Show. January 25, 2009 edition. We started off the show with John Coltrane playing, Offering, which actually came out after. It was done in the last year, it was live. And then we heard Feedbacker, Part 3, by Boris. Brother Matt.

Brother Matt: yeah.

Mike Watt: …..we have some guests who drove down to Pedro.

Brother Matt: Cool.

John Frusciante: Hello (chuckles)

Brother Matt: Welcome

Mike Watt: John Frusciante. Josh…

John Frusciante: …Klinghoffer (chuckles)

Mike Watt: Klinghoffer. Welcome aboard. You been to Pedro a lot? Well you came and did a video last year.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah.

Mike Watt: Over here at Silken Street (?)

John Frusciante: We drove past there on the way here.

Mike Watt: Yeah.

Brother Matt: Right here at the end of the street, right?

John Frusciante: …Gus Van Sant.

Mike Watt: That’s right over here.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah.
Brother Matt: Yeah, if you come back you’ve got a hideout here if you need it.

John Frusciante: Ok (Laughing).

Mike Watt: Yeah, so welcome aboard, uh. You made a record.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah. I mean, Josh umm…

Mike Watt: Yeah, you both did.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah…and..uh.

Mike Watt: He was on tour with you.

John Frusciante: Yeah, he was playing rhythm guitar, and, uh, keyboards and some percussion, uh, for the last, like, 6 months of the last Chili Peppers tour.

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: Um. We’ve probably made, like, what like, 7 or 8 solo records, of my solo records we’ve done together, and um.

Mike Watt: You on ‘em all, Josh?

Josh Klinghoffer: Yeah, most of ‘em. Most of the last…from a certain…

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Most of the last batch?

John Frusciante: Yeah, and then there’s a couple where he was on tour with somebody else or something. Or…, there was one I did in DC, where I just went there by myself and did that thing with Ian. But uh, but yeah, uh we’ve known each other for, like, 11 years, and I dunno, the album we just made it’s kind of, kind of uh, yeah, it’s just sort of the furthest step in everything that we’ve been, like, reaching for and, uh, taking it upon ourselves to to just, you know, to be doing whatever we want in studios, just gradually, you know, understanding mixing and recording and…

Mike Watt: Yeah, yeah.

John Frusciante: and figure out ourselves how to get the sounds we’re hearing in our heads…

Mike Watt: Which studio did you use?

John Frusciante: My home.

Mike Watt: Yeah

John Frusciante: Yeah. Yeah, I have a few studio setups in my house. And, for this album we used the big one. It was, like a big 48-track, uh, you know, two 24-track tape machines, and a big 40 channel EPI(???) console that used to be at The Record Plant in New York in the 70s, and yeah, it’s, you know, really cool, it’s a whole 70s style record.

Mike Watt: Yeah. What did you call this record?

John Frusciante: The Empyrean

Mike Watt: The Empyrean?

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s symbolic on a lot of levels of the story, which is kind of, uh, has a lot to do with, uh, uh, sort of about inner life, um, the kind of trials you go through inside yourself that really don’t ever get even talked about into the outside world or, expressed in any way, other than in your connection to creativity, you know, and uh, all the ups and downs that come with that. So, that was the subject matter, and then, the music was reflecting the same dynamics of the story, and I just feel like as a record, it was kind of, like a, just a peak for us in terms of really being able to have what’s coming out of the speakers be what we’re hearing in our heads. Cuz, for a long time we had to translate through other people so I also see it as being kind of a peak that me and him have been working towards for a long time. Flea plays bass on it, and uh, Johnny Marr played guitar on a couple of songs.

Mike Watt: When was it done?

John Frusciante: It was finished, like, a year ago.

Mike Watt: Oh!

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Josh Klinghoffer: It was finished a year ago?

John Frusciante: Almost. Not, uh, you know, I guess we finished it in, like, April.

Josh Klinghoffer: Yeah. We started it in the end of two thousand sss….

John Frusciante: Seven, yeah

Josh Klinghoffer: No, the end of 2006, I think. The very end of.

Mike Watt: The end of 2006?

John Frusciante: Noo

Josh Klinghoffer: Christmas. Like, right around Christmas.

John Frusciante: Yeah, it was done over the course of, like, a year. Is that…

Mike Watt: But the end of 2006 is when I was playing with you in Europe

Josh Klinghoffer: Yeah, six, because then I was touring with..

John Frusciante: Yeah so it was December 2006. Then, mostly recorded throughout, on and off. You know, there’s probably only a total of about two, two-and-a-half months at the most of actual recording and mixing time but…

Mike Watt: Yeah, yeah, yeah…

John Frusciante: It was just huge gaps in between.

Mike Watt: Right.

John Frusciante: Cuz we were on tour and then when I got home I was making other kinds of music all the time, and didn’t want to just do one thing all the time, so, yeah, it’s probably only…we still..we record really quickly. It’s probably only…it was…and this the most we’ve ever taken out time making a record and it still probably only totaled two, two-and-a-half months of actual days.

Mike Watt: Like, what demo? Or just go for it?

John Frusciante: No, we had a pretty clear in my, in our heads cuz I, I usually…our process usually starts where, like, I’ll write a song and I’ll make, uh record a version of all the songs that I’m thinking we’re going to have on a particular album.

Josh Klinghoffer: Just on guitar.

John Frusciante: Yeah, just guitar, and singing onto a mini-disk

Brother Matt: Just like a sketch outline

John Frusciante: Yeah, I mean, I usually have the basic arrangement real clear in my head, so I’ll just record, like, the whole album just as just guitar and singing into my mini-disk, and then I’ll give Josh a CD of it and then he just drives around in his car, like, listening to eat and making up drum parts in his head and stuff, and then we get together, you know, a few times, and refine, you know, the drum parts, but like, he pretty much has it all mapped out in his head. We think of music real similarly so it doesn’t seem like I ever really play with, like, I dunno, it seems like with him playing drums and Flea playing bass it was just like, not really…

Mike Watt: Yeah, you ain’t got to teach anybody

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah, they know where I’m coming from, you know, so we just, uh, you know, maybe an accent here or there, but basically, I like to be surprised by what they come up with and stuff. So, yeah, so we just do that, and we just record ‘em from there. We once made demos, and we didn’t really like that. Like, we ended up kinda in the studio just trying to copy the demo

Josh Klinghoffer: And we still often liked the demo a lot

John Frusciante: Yeah, we liked the demo more. So it’s better to enjoy that process of creativity in the studio, rather than thinking of it as, like, you’re trying to copy something which is just like measuring something or something. It’s not fun. With this album there’s a lot of experimentation and fun.

Josh Klinghoffer: The main basic guitar, drums, bass were done in 3 days, I think.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah, the basic tracks were done super quick. Laughs.

Josh Klinghoffer: 3 or 4

John Frusciante: And any other songs we added after that, like the first song was done in, like, 2 days, yeah.

Mike Watt: Experimentation? I wanna hear it. Can we hear some?

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Dark/Light is played

Mike Watt: Ok, Watt From Pedro Show. We just heard something off John Frusciante’s new solo record, The Empyrean. A tune called Dark/Light. You wanna tell us something about that?

John Frusciante: Yeah, it was, it used to just be the first half of the song, and then uh, and then just at a certain point pretty late in the record we decided to have the song carry on and have a completely different feel for the second half. The first half’s sort of lyrically and musically is sort of symbolic of inner darkness and the second half is symbolic of inner light.

Mike Watt: Ah, hence the title, Dark/Light.

John Frusciante: And it sounds that way too, like, the first half has kind of a dark sound to it.

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: and the second half is really bright sounding. And yeah, um, yeah, the second half is one of the few things I play all the instruments on the record, where I play bass and I play drum machine and stuff. But, like, usually it’s Flea playing bass and Josh playing drums.

Mike Watt: Right, right.

John Frusciante: Um, yeah, experimenting a lot with tripped out (inaudible)

Mike Watt: The tune’s done and then like, “I want to add more to it.”

John Frusciante: Uh, yeah, the first half was the whole song and then just one day it popped into my head a way to, to continue it on, you know. Yeah.

Mike Watt: Trip. And before that we heard, uh, Myaku, by newryokutanshi. I think it’s a father and son. This guy’s playing bass, he’s like, in his mid forties and his got his boy playing with him, half his age. It’s kind of a trippy concept. Father and son. I saw Amin Ali and Rashid Ali like that.

John Frusciante: Mmhmm.

Mike Watt: Rashid played with Train and Amin a bass player. In fact, at first he was with James Blood Ulmer, a wild guitarist. And the drummer, a young guy, this is early 80s, and the drummer’s this guy named Calvin Weston, a Philadelphia guy, and last year he came out from Philly and played some gigs with him, 25 years later. And uh, he told me Amin Ali stopped bass, put it away, doesn’t play it anymore.

John Frusciante: Mmhmm

Mike Watt: The guy was a monster bass player

John Frusciante: Yeah

Mike Watt: Like freight train coming out of his chest. I remember meeting Rashid and his hat was a turtle shell.

Mike Watt: Trippy drummer. Oh yeah, before that we had a band called, People, with Eyeball Balls Reporting Faster, and then we started that chunk of music…with another song from John Frusciante’s new solo album, The Empyrean, Before The Beginning, which is the first track.

John Frusciante: Yeah

Mike Watt: Any thoughts?

John Frusciante: Wanna say something about the first song?

Josh Klinghoffer: Umm…it was kind of our Maggot Brain

John Frusciante: Yeah

Mike Watt: Oh, wow!

John Frusciante: Yeah, it was inspired by that idea of having an album have a slow start that kind of invites you into a place rather than pushing itself out at you. But…

Josh Klinghoffer: It’s not in a hurry.

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s not in a hurry to get anything started, and just doing all kind of tripped out, you know, tripped out backwards effects of different types and, uh, playing the mixing board like an instrument, you know

Josh Klinghoffer: That was another one that was done a lot later

John Frusciante: Yeah, it was one of the last things we did. And it was done really quickly, and uh, you know, it was just kinda trying to round out the record. The album already had this song called After The Ending that seems like a real specific type of ending so I figured I wanted to have a really specific type of beginning. And uh, I just thought there’s not enough records that start out slowly like that, like Maggot Brain does. People just often try to put their, you know, their big people pleaser out front, so we figured we’d start out in the mirky depths of darkness and kind of rise up out of there and uh, just for the whole album we were really into trying to do new things with old styles of recording that, uh, in terms of doing all tape edits, and uh, no automation on the board, but like, me and Josh, and our engineer Adam would just be there with our hands on the board (inaudible??)

John Frusciante: It was just, like, uh, you know, sort of trying to do new things with old techniques that in a lot of ways have been discarded.

Mike Watt: (Laughs) Sorry.

John Frusciante: Typically in the computer world.

Mike Watt: Yeah, yeah. Did you ever hear about the Maggot Brain?

John Frusciante: George Clinton actually came to my house and I played it for him, the uh, that Before The Beginning and another song that has a sort of early Funkadelic influence. There’s nothing funk about the record, but mixing wise I’m real influenced by the sound of their first 3 records and that sort of haphazard style of mixing. So yeah, George Clinton’s kind of like told me about everything that he was doing when they were doing that track.

Mike Watt: Saying, like, your mother died.

John Frusciante: (Laughs) You should play it like your mother died, yeah.

John Frusciante: Did you ever hear the original version of that? It’s like…

Mike Watt: With the whole band?

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s the whole band.

Mike Watt: It was done in the mix with mute buttons.

John Frusciante: Yeah he just mixed it like. I guess he made the people in the…you know, like the bass player was like, “You took away the groove of this song!” You know, but to me, it is Billy Bass’ groove and the drummer’s groove, you know. It’s like, uh, it was that way a lot on our record, cuz we’d do basic tracks with me playing rhythm guitar and some songs, like, that didn’t have drums, the basic that that…we didn’t use a click, it would be like, play to the groove of my guitar but we didn’t use my rhythm guitar on most things, you know, um….

Josh Klinghoffer: We replaced it with the stuff that had a lot less time. Like a tempo structure. Keyboards…

John Frusciante: Yeah, but still that’s the groove that’s running through everything. I like those kind of invisible connectors. A lot of people use a click track that way, but when it’s an actual human groove it really creates an unusual link between all the overdubs and stuff.

Mike Watt: Yeah. You know, you’re saying all this experiment in the real time, you know your first solo record, do you ever think about that when you do these things?

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Cuz that was really, man, that record was really, that record was wild…

John Frusciante: Thanks, yeah, I did a 4-track thing when I was making this record that sounds exactly like it would’ve been on my first record. My head is at a pretty similar place. In a lot of ways I feel like, uh what I did on this record is very similar in a lot of ways to what I would have wanted to do then had I know how to use a studio because it’s a pretty psychedelic album, and that was were my head was at at that time and that’s a lot of what I was listening to. And I just tried to be that trippy on that 4-track, you know, with just like, guitar and voice and backwards, you know…

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: ..flipping the tape over and stuff like that. But um, but yeah, I feel like in a lot of ways I was trying to produce those same kind of uh effects on the psyche of the listener. Uh, with this is what I was doing then. And also, like, my state of mind when I made that stuff on my first record, I wasn’t imagining people ever hearing it. And even though when we started making this record I was thinking of it like a record eventually it just became something to play late at night in my living room to trip my head out and to try to mix in such a way that I would have fun listening to it over and over because I’m just going, “Woaw!” You know, and play it when my friends come over and stuff, just to trip people’s heads out, like, it’s not, I stopped…I’m sort of good at tricking myself that way I guess I started, I stopped really thinking about it as something that was going to be released…

Josh Klinghoffer: Yeah, we didn’t hurry at all, that’s why it took so long.

John Frusciante: Yeah, we weren’t in any kind of a hurry. It really ended up being done in that same kind of spirit as the first record, where I was making it and thinking, this is just for me and my friends.

Mike Watt: I love that record, man. Wow!

John Frusciante: Thanks.

Mike Watt: Made me think a little bit of Syd Barrett.

John Frusciante: Yeah. I was really into Syd Barrett at that time.

Mike Watt: Oh really?

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: That Piper, but then the other two, the Madcap and Barrett.

John Frusciante: Barrett, yeah.

Mike Watt: Trippy records.

John Frusciante: They kind of…like, the whole time I was playing guitar as a teenager I wasn’t into playing acoustic guitar, it was kind of forced on me. I had to play acoustic guitar because my parents wouldn’t buy me an electric and I had to prove myself on acoustic, you know.

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: And so, so uh, I think I didn’t do anything with acoustic guitar for, like, the first nine years that I was playing guitar, but when I was 21 and I, uh, I’d had those Syd Barrett albums for awhile, but I got obsessed with them when I was, I had ‘em since I was, like, 15 but I got obsessed with them when I was, like, 21 and it, uh, made me become really into writing songs on acoustic guitar and recording. It just made me see acoustic guitar, um, as something that it’s a privilege to play instead of it’s something that you have to play.

Mike Watt: The burden. Wow. So when you were coming up with the songs to show Josh, Flea and those guys, jamming ‘em out, or in your mind you had…like, the rhythm guitar as a tool to show them, but, I have an idea…

John Frusciante: Uh, you know I write the music, the lyrics, you know, chords and lyrics and melody all at once. It’s always been one process with me, so, so uh…

Mike Watt: Did you ever think, I’ll show the guys the guitar and we’ll have that guide track, then I’ll lose it?

John Frusciante: That was the idea because I was really at that time, at that time I was really enjoying records like the first couple of Roxy Music records and The Doors in the 60s where the guitar unlike in most rock music it’s not playing a prominent role it’s more playing embellishments on top. Josh got really good on the organs and electric pianos and stuff like that in the last few years he was uh, playing that in a couple of bands that he was on tour with where he was just… I was just really liking that. I was never really using those instruments on my solo records and then it started to just seem like a good idea to make music that was more, uh, where the keyboards are more the thing that’s playing the chords, and if there’s a guitar it’s more something on top of it. And then it takes the song away from its original conception. A lot of these songs when they started they sounded, like, kind of, uh, just very different than they do now. Like, now, the chords are all kind of difficult to place, whereas I was, I used to be really into making complicated chord progressions and stuff in my songs, and this was like going back to, like, major and minor chords and stuff like that, but if I would’ve used guitars as the main thing it might’ve even sounded kind of stuck or something like that. But with the keyboards you don’t even hear what the original conception of the song was. You just hear the textures that are, that it’s being pulled out of and all…

Josh Klinghoffer: And you…

John Frusciante: Huh?

Josh Klinghoffer: You don’t often hear the original form of the keyboard either.

John Frusciante: Yeah, we would do electronic treatments to the keyboards, so every, the it, the actual end thing is so far from the original, from the original idea.

Mike Watt: It grew.

John Frusciante: Huh?

Mike Watt: It, like, grew. The process.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah.

Mike Watt: So it couldn’t be, like, the same.

John Frusciante: Yeah, that’s especially why making demos of the things wouldn’t have worked, because we really used the studio as the compositional tool and as the arrangement tool. We’d fill up all the tracks with all kinds of ideas and then, gradually figure out, ok, cuz we would edit each section, we would mix each song in sections, like, and do tape edit so it’d be, like, ok, for the first section we’re just gonna use, uh, strings and bass and, uh, the electric piano and the vocal and the next section will have drums and no, and you know, no, like, you know, whatever it is, like, we’ll have this guitar melody here and we’ll use these reverb effects. Each section was mixed like it was its own song, you know, so it would be a different combination.

Josh Klinghoffer: You should probably play Central.

John Frusciante: HUH?

Josh Klinghoffer: You should play Central next.

John Frusciante: Yeah, Central’s the peak of that cuz we really got, we started to realise we could really get away with these crazy edits that you wouldn’t think would work.

Mike Watt: When Brother Matt asked you about touring it’d be a little intense.

John Frusciante: Yeah, no, cuz it was, it’s all made of edits. It would be very different.

Josh Klinghoffer: It’d be an interesting thing to try and do but…

John Frusciante: Yeah, it would be the songs, but in a different form. There’s no way we could reproduce what we did on the record, you know. But, but we could do something interesting, but yeah, yeah it was, like, yeah, we gradually started to realise that you could get away with really drastic edits as long as there’s one element that stays the same everything else can change. And we didn’t figure that out till late and up till then we were like, “Make sure nothing moves off any of the tracks,” and eventually we were like, “Move everything, but one thing.” You know, and uh, it worked, you know, as long as that keyboard part doesn’t sound like it’s changing, leave it but everything else changes place you know, so, we, if we would’ve made demos we would’ve had no idea where it was going and we would’ve probably fallen in love with them in some form that we would’ve felt like we had to adhere to.

Josh Klinghoffer: We did even. There was a couple of times where we made rough mixes in, say, January and then when we started working again on it in July and we were going back to those old rough mixes and we started killing ourselves trying to recreate it and we would move on from that but…

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: That’s the end of the first hour of the January 25, 2009 edition of The Watt From Pedro Show. Hold tight for hour two. We got a jam coming.

Mike Watt: Watt From Pedro Show. Umm, started off the second hour with “The Sea” by Daughters Of Fission. Arizona band. And then, “I’m Gonna Marry You” by Connect 9. Then something from Brother Dale, “Uno For Dos”. What he called a tribute to “One Bass For Two”. And then something new from John Frusciante’s solo album The Empyrean called “God”. And now we’ve come to that point of the show for Brother Matt’s spin cycle and, uh, special edition because we get to jam with Josh and John. And Watt’s even gonna play bass, which I don’t do much. I did on the (???) right? Did I do it another time? I can’t remember another time. At least once or twice, but this is rare.

John Frusciante: I didn’t know that.

Mike Watt: Well cuz I’m always talking so much, like they gotta hear me play bass too. So usually it’s for my guests, but I consider it an honour and privilege to jam with you folks so…and Brother Matt, so, without further ado we’re hittin’ the mic. Here we go with our jam.

Mike Watt: Watt From Pedro Show. Started the third hour off with “Elephants” by Warpaint. John that’s something you just mixed?

John Frusciante: Yeah, about a year ago actually, but it’s just coming out now.
Mike Watt: Just a year ago. (Laughs) Just about a year ago.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Josh Klinghoffer: Yeah, just after The Empyrean was finished.

John Frusciante: Yeah, it was done, like, exactly right after The Empyrean was finished. After we were done with The Empyrean, we, I started mixing, uh, Warpaint.

Mike Watt: The Empyrean? Yeah, I’m thinking about “empyrean”.

John Frusciante: It means the highest point in heaven.

Mike Watt: Yeah, yeah. It’s in the, uh, Divine Comedy.

John Frusciante: Right.

Mike Watt: It’s one of the…yeah, really up there. It’s where the choir is. It’s kinda where Beatrice disappears. She aint at the very end. She goes and sits near Mary. It’s, like, Saint Bernard, I think (laughs) ends up taking ‘em the last…gig…show…floor show. Empyrean. But like, Empirical.

John Frusciante: Are they, are two words connecting?

Mike Watt: Maybe, uh…

John Frusciante: I don’t think so.

Mike Watt: Maybe Empirical means something …

John Frusciante: Right, high up.

Mike Watt: Something you can measure.

John Frusciante: Yeah, but Em…yeah, but Empyrean is specifically…

Mike Watt: Yeah, Empyrean was a level above…cuz they thought the planets were around us. So it was above the levels of the planets cuz we were in the centre.

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s supposed to be the highest point of the highest…yeah.

Mike Watt: Yeah, we were, uh, the idea was we didn’t go around the sun, everything went around us.

John Frusciante: Right.

Mike Watt: and Empyrean was way up there. In fact, that says levels of heavens are different planets. Yeah it was trip.

John Frusciante: Yeah, that’s something, you know, since it’s pretty impossible to conceive of space ending at some point, but at the same time it’s im…it’s all…it’s just as difficult to imagine it going on endlessly so…

Mike Watt: I know.

John Frusciante:…I guess the Empyrean is a way of sort of expressing…

Mike Watt: You mean like infinities?
John Frusciante: Yean, you can’t…it’s impossible to picture space ending at a point but it’s also impossible to picture it going on forever and, and the Empyrean was a way sort of…

(Music playing loudly)

Mike Watt: Come on. Stop Mr. Coltrane.

John Frusciante:…of conceiving of a highest point that could be, or something.

Mike Watt: Yeah. I mean, some infinities are bigger than others.

John Frusciante: Mmhmm.

Mike Watt: Which is kinda hard to conceive of.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Like the set of all numbers.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Right? They go one forever.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: They’re always going to be bigger than the set of odd numbers.

John Frusciante: Right.

Mike Watt: Right?

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s always going to be twice as big but there’s..
Mike Watt: It keeps going

John Frusciante: But there’s no twice as big…

Music playing loudly

Mike Watt: See I don’t know how to work these leashes. So what I do is, I just hang up on the dude.

All laughing

Mike Watt: There must be away to silence him without…crashing against the wall. But Empyrean, a high point, and like you were saying about the inner light…

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s about reaching for stuff that’s sort of beyond your grasp, but that you keep charging towards…

Mike Watt: Proof?

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah. some kind of something inside yourself, or something, whatever it is that drives your imagination to keep striving to sort of become one with that energy more and more so, and all your actions in your life, or…or um..yeah, you know, or like people in science or religion where your constantly sort of reaching for things that can’t completely be understood or attained, but it doesn’t stop whatever that force is inside you that drives you to want to know more and learn more and do more, you know.

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: It’s about some of…the record’s about some of the struggles that you go through inside as a creative person just trying to uh, trying to become one with something that you don’t really understand that doesn’t really have any concrete form that you can grasp onto but that you’re born with this incentive to, to do something, whether it’s playing music or painting, whatever it is, you know.

Mike Watt: Yeah. You paint, too?

John Frusciante: I used to, yeah.

Mike Watt: No more?

John Frusciante: Not anymore.

Mike Watt: Oh wow.

John Frusciante: Yeah, about 10 years ago I decided to limit myself to the things that I felt I had the most aptitude for, because I’d spent about 5 years concentrating on things that I didn’t have a lot of aptitude for. It was a good learning experience and it was something good to keep me connected to the artistic force for other reasons besides, that I was making a living at it or something, you know. I kind of stopped doing it in the situations where I had any value to the public and started just following my creativity. I think it was a good period of time for me. But when I sort of came back into the world as it were, I just really wanted to, uh, focus on writing songs and playing guitar…

Mike Watt: Music.

John Frusciante:..and learning about, you know, electronic music from time to time, and stuff.

Mike Watt: I got an interview with John Coltrane. He says all musicians are after some kind of truth.

John Frusciante: Yeah, you’re’re trying…I feel like we’re all expressing things that really can’t be expressed any other way. We’re expressing truth when something sounds good to our ear, when something connects to our soul. I feel like it’s saying something to us, but it’s not something that we can put into words, and I think, uh, in some point, in some ways they can probably be reduced to some kind of mathematical formulas, but no musician’s conscious of that, you just sort of decide, ‘I’m gonna play this note, this hard, at this particular, exact point in time.’ You know, it’s all reducible to numbers, but we’re driven…like the organization of it…if something’s too many numbers off it’s gonna be off time…

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: …and if it’s within a certain margin then its, then we hear it as on time. If it’s a little late, depending on where you are in the song, it’s gonna be a good groove. It can be, it can, um, it can be analyzed that way, but, we do it purely on intuition and feeling and emotion and the set up of our muscles, and stuff. And we don’t really know what we’re saying, but we know when it means something, and it’s just an odd set up, you know.

Mike Watt: And interactions, too, between people.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Cuz then you got more.

John Frusciante: A lot of times the music expresses the…

Mike Watt: You call them solo albums, but you collaborate.

John Frusciante: Oh yeah, it’s very…it’s just cuz I write the songs…

Mike Watt: Right, right.

John Frusciante:…and I’m, you know, producing and stuff. We actually made one album that was a collaboration. We could play something off that if maybe. Um, we made one song where it was both of us writing songs and stuff, and…

Mike Watt: Collaborating with the write?

John Frusciante: Yeah, where some songs were Josh’s and some were mine, and uh…probably if I wasn’t so busy in the band over the last 10 years I, we would’ve done stuff like that more often but, um, you know, it seemed like I was always so anxious just to make solo records anytime there was a little break….

Mike Watt: Right, right.

John Frusciante:…and so, that’s what we would do.

Mike Watt: Yeah, the need for solo records. I think it’s great.

John laughs.

Mike Watt: You know.

John Frusciante: You know, I’ve always just spent all my time recording since I was a kid, so it’s kinda more natural for me to do that than it is to do a band, you know. A band has been something more that I sort of, uh, settled into, it didn’t come naturally, at first. I’m much more comfortable just working by myself and calling the shots, stuff like that…

Mike Watt: I wanna talk about who you got into music….but uh. Oh yeah, we uh, after Elephants…well yeah, you didn’t tell me about how you got involved with that. How’d you end up mixing that, Warpaint.

John Frusciante: They’re just friends of mine and uh, Josh played drums on one song, and I played mellotron on one song. And, they just, they had recorded a record and they needed someone to mix it, and I was so, sort of, hot on the mixing from…

Mike Watt: You were in mix mode.

John Frusciante: Yeah…from…yeah, my friend Adam started forgetting that I play guitar. The engineer who was doing it with us, because he was so used to me being the guy on the mixing board and stuff. I’d play guitar on something and he’d be like, ‘I forgot you, you’re so good on guitar.’ (Laughs.) But uh, but yeah. Warpaint, it was just, uh, I really love the band and stuff. They, they uh, they make music that really expresses things that I feel inside me. So, it was a pleasure to…

Mike Watt: You wanted to get in on it.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Like, uh, Omar…

John Frusciante: Mmhmm.

Mike Watt:..had you be a guitar player for him.

John Frusciante: Yeah, I’ve played on all their albums, except their first EP. I just did another one in August.

Mike Watt: Does he play on it? I mean, there was one where he didn’t play, right?

John Frusciante: Well, no. He played, but he played, like, overdubs. Like, I played..there’s two where I played all…most of the written guitar parts and then he did additional parts on top of that, like, tracking with the drummer or, umm…I guess there was just one where for the whole album I played all those parts. But even on the next one I did after that, the last one that was released, I did pretty similar, you know, where I’m playing uh, a lot of written parts.

Mike Watt: I think, that’s really righteous that you would say, ‘Yeah, guide me.’

John Frusciante: Oh, it’s fun! Yeah, cuz, uh, I’ve spent so much time concentrating on practicing guitar, just learning things of records, and things like that, that uh, to be able to apply that skill that I have of being able to learn something and then play and just have being, like, how hard I’m hitting the guitar, how I’m expressing myself through the part, rather than thinking of the notes and the rhythms. It’s just fun. When I was kid, I thought I would be in Frank Zappa’s band when I grew up, you know.


John Frusciante: So I kinda wanted to have a situation like that where I’m playing some, like, uh, you know, sort of difficult to play music and odd time signatures and stuff, and just like, locking into it and stuff.

Mike Watt: Like the challenge of it.

John Frusciante: Yeah, it’s fun! And the one we just did, I guess they’re probably about to mix it right now, that came out really cool. They’re going in a new direction, and it’s exciting.

Mike Watt: Mars Volta.

John Frusciante: Mmhmm.

Mike Watt: Uh, we heard, uh ‘Can’t Take That Away’ by Animal Train…and…some young cats…and then you guys played ‘Come Out’ by Steve Reich.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Thoughts on that?

ohn Frusciante: Wanna talk about Come Out?

Josh Klinghoffer laughs

John Frusciante: Umm, uh, yeah, um, Come Out, yeah it’s an experiment I guess in, in phasing that he did with tape recorders in the 60s, where he takes a loop of, uh, I think it’s an injured kid or something, uh, talking. I’m not sure who the kid is, but it’s almost like, you know, what people would do with sampling now and with, uh, with a lot of, you know, effects, and things like that. But he’s just doing it, from what I understand, just with tape recorders. It’s just some of the magic that can…and especially it shows all the incredible rich harmonics that are in the human voice, and some people have even more complex ones than others. And he pulls all kinds of incredible sounds and rhythms and melodies out of this one single phrase of a person, repeated over and over. I just…

Josh Klinghoffer: Five words.

John Frusciante: Yeah… come out to show them, and uh, Captain Beefheart also quoted that in, uh, what song is that? The last song on the first side. Mimics the drum beat of the song. Laughs. I’m forgetting the name of the song…I’m remembering the drum solo from the beginning. But um, but yeah, so I like Steve Reich.

Mike Watt: Yeah. Who would we play..lady…who came up with the Doctor Who theme song. She was working at the BBC studios in the 50s and 60s and they had to cut tape and you know, no synthesizers. Used oscillators…

John Frusciante: Yeah. A friend…

Mike Watt:…mainly a lot of tape manipulations.

John Frusciante: Totally. Yeah.

Mike Watt:…speeding up…slowing down.

John Frusciante: A friend of mine, Aaron, says that’s, like, his favourite song….I don’t know what it sounds like…I’ve read about it and stuff.

Mike Watt: What’s her name?

Josh Klinghoffer: Yeah, I know who you’re talking about, I don’t remember her name.

Mike Watt: She just died a few years ago. Pretty trip far ahead. There were no peers, no status quo. They were just pioneers.

John Frusciante: Yeah.

Mike Watt: Uh, yeah. Getting started in music. Your journey. Where’d it start?

John Frusciante: Umm, I guess it was, like, uh, first, like, hearing some music when I was four years old where I realised that, um, that it was resonating something inside me that I was connected to. It was, like, showing me something about the inside of myself that I didn’t know before that, soft of like…so there was that experience which felt important, uh, when I was, like, four, and then, uh, and then, and then uh, growing up being about seven, eight years old and hearing music in my head and thinking, ‘Wow! What is this music that’s going through my head? It sounds like..’

Mike Watt: Not from the radio?

John Frusciante: No, music I was making up, but with no effort. I was just hearing music that I would want to hear in my head and thinking, ‘Wow! If I could play an instrument I could write some cool songs.’ You know, like, but they were just there in my head, like, planted in there or something, It didn’t feel like something that I was thinking of or anything. It was just be, like, being bored, walking down the street and entertaining yourself by, like, hearing music in your head, you know. And so, uh, so that made me feel…the fact that that happened so much made me feel like I was meant to play an instrument, and…and then uh, I just always had that in my head. Even from before I knew what a guitar was, I knew that I was going to play a guitar. So the more I started to hear guitars and records and know what they were, know who Jimmy Page was, know who Eddie Van Halen was, or whatever, the more I started, like, uh, really wanting to play guitar really badly, and uh, tried when I was about eight, but nobody would buy me an electric and I didn’t like the way acoustic sounded so I, so I, uh, waited until I just had to play, it was killing me to not play so I played acoustic for awhile just to prove to my dad that I could play and I learned uh, I was just learning punk songs by ear, you know…

Mike Watt: Off records?

John Frusciante: Yeah, off records. And just, just uh, at first I don’t think I even knew how to tune it. I was just playing all the chords with one finger and tuning it to wear it sounded like what was on the records to me, you know, and uh, and then, it was good my….I…you know, convinced my dad that I was gonna, that I was gonna stick with it and stuff. So he bought me a Stratocaster, which is what I wanted. By then, I was also getting really into Jimi Hendrix and stuff, and then uh…

Mike Watt: And an amp?

John Frusciante: Yeah, so he got me a little Roland Amp and a Statocaster, and uh, and I started, uh, you was good because my taste sort of, you know, my taste was always going along with my ability. I started out learning punk songs and that was what I was really into and it was also a pretty easy think to learn how to play, you know, and then I got into 60s music, and then, got into, like, progressive rock, and I was really into Frank Zappa, and, you know. It was just like, I had between the ages of 12 and 16, it was like my taste kept getting more complex and my ability was growing with my taste, so, so uh, I never tried to play things that were way beyond me. I always was playing just things that were just a little beyond my ability.

Mike Watt: Yeah. What about at school? Did you know other people playing? Play with them?

John Frusciante: Yeah, I didn’t…not really, like, I didn’t, uh, I didn’t play with a lot of people. I mostly just sat in my bedroom and practiced all the time. I was, I was, you know, it would be anywhere between…it was pretty much all did besides eat and maybe, you know…

Mike Watt: Piss and shit.

John Frusciante: Yeah. Just sitting at somebody’s…maybe go over to somebody’s house and watch some, watch, you know, watch some videos or something like that. But usually it was just like, practice every second that I could. Sleep in school sometimes. Like, go to school and fall asleep on the couch and wake up when it was time to go home, you know.


John Frusciante: They let you do that at my school, so I took advantage. I would stay up practicing all night, and drink tons of coffee and then go to school and sleep.

Mike Watt: So it was a lot of listening to records and playing to ‘em.

John Frusciante: Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s, everything I…I feel like everything that I’ve done has had a lot..Josh is also really big on that. We both know how to…have such a backlog of song that we know how to play to…like off of records, where it’s a nice kind of shared knowledge because we have….it gives you a good sort of idea why things…you gradual start to put together why things make you feel what they make you feel, you know, like, when sometimes if I don’t know how to play something it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a colour that I don’t know how to express, or something.’

Mike Watt: Yeah.

John Frusciante: And then you learn how to play and you develop a sort of vocabulary of knowing which feelings can be produced by which combination of notes and which rhythms which um, uh, you know, uh, one instrument offsetting another instrument and balance it out…

Mike Watt: Interaction.

John Frusciante: Yeah, I, you know, I’m big on learning, like, as many of the parts as I can. I don’t just learn guitar things, I’ve spent a lot of time learning, like, you know, John Coltrane’s songs..heads, and Ornette Coleman heads, and, you know, Eric Dolphy. I go through periods of just learning things on other instruments. Or I’ve spent a lot of time learning things that were made on sequencers, learning parts off electronic music, records of all types and learning, you know, starting to see the guitar not just, uh, as a guitar, but just picking up the logic of other instruments, because it’s a completely different logic on piano. Piano is a real difficult one to play on guitar but you try to learn somebody’s chord progressions on piano and play them on guitar, it teaches you a lot. Or learn, like, classical music and try to understand the relationship of all the parts. So yeah, for me that’s seems like the styles that I’ve developed have been just various way of combining, uh, combining uh, you know, put…crossing together and combining feelings of various things, aspects of things that I like and putting them all together. Kinda like somebody makes a hip-hop track or something, where you just, like, you take a beat from one thing, and a guitar from another thing…

Mike Watt: Pile it on.

John Frusciante:…and you just sort of blend together a lot of things and that’s kind of how my music has been. I…I get inspired by learning things off records and I don’t, uh, it makes me happy to do, you know. As a kid, I dunno. I think I always had my own voice, but I remember a kid who didn’t really seem to care that much about music telling me, ‘Hey, you should be original! You’re better than this person or that person that you look up to so much.’ I would be like, ‘No I’m not..and, I love learning their stuff, like, there’s no reason I would not do this.’ And gradually I developed, uh….

Mike Watt: Yeah, when did you write your first songs?

John Frusciante: Oh, right away.

Mike Watt: Right away.

John Frusciante: It was actually the first thing I did, but it made me take it more seriously when I started learning other people’s songs, you know. But emotionally, I had to do it right from the beginning so…That was the day I started playing guitar. I was mad at a kid, and I just, I just went into my house and wrote all these songs about, ‘I wanna kill him.’ You know, I must’ve written, I filled up like a whole tape and wrote the name of every song that I wrote on the cassette tape and it was just one…I think…I don’t have the tape anymore, but it was, like, I think it was just one angry song after another of just these punk songs about this kid and about stuff that I was mad about. But it made me feel better. I became…I had been going through sort of a rough period where I was sort of imbalanced, uh, and uh, lost, and uh, I got that initial aggression out playing music and I very quickly went into a period of being a real peaceful person who, you know, loved the ideals of the 60s and things like that, you know, and just wanted to, uh, just wanted to make music that felt good and went into a very arty period after that, (???) things like Eno and Talking Heads. So my first 4-track recordings were all real kind of arty, experimental things uh….

Mike Watt: Did you make a band when you were young?

John Frusciante: No. I had conceptual bands in my recordings and stuff, uh.

Mike Watt: But, like, no gigs?

John Frusciante: No, no. I played a show with my guitar teacher, uh, that was my first live experience was playing a bunch of feedback on a cover of a 60s song that they were covering..he had kind of a psychedelic, a modern psychedelic band and uh, and it was kind of a feature for the guitar, I did all the soloing, long solos and feedback and stuff on this one song, “Love You To Sing” (?) and uh, that was a lot of fun. But yeah, other than that, I mean, there wasn’t really, uh…I didn’t really know kids I could see eye to eye with. There wasn’t a lot of kids that wanted to do the same kind of thing. People seemed to be very concerned with what other people would think of what we would do, uh, and they weren’t thinking in terms of following interests, they were thinking in terms of, like, ‘I want girls to like me at parties,’ and stuff like that. And somebody like me who was thinking totally in musical terms of wanting to do something weird or wanting to do something different, they didn’t see any place for that.

Mike Watt: You were purer.

John Frusciante: Yeah, yeah. I just loved making music….people didn’t, you know…I felt…whenever I tried playing with people I definitely had experiences but I felt, uh, me and them felt totally disconnected from one another, you know. They, uh, they thought I was too serious about recording sometimes, or sometimes they thought what I wanted to do was too weird or…So I pretty much just focused on practicing. I figured when I moved to Hollywood I would probably find some people who were more suited to playing with me. And , I did right away. I met a really good bass player when I moved to Hollywood, and he was the first person who I really started, uh, developing a real musical communication with, you know, uh, he died a few years later, but uh, he really, you know, he was the first person who I had a real…the kinda connection I have with Josh or that I have with Flea or Omar or whatever. I had that with him first, and that was a great experience.

Mike Watt: Yeah maybe it was so good, that’s how you extended it to these cats after him.
John Frusciante: Yeah, I mean, it’s weird the way the universe pushes people together, you know, I feel like when you’re ready and you meet the people who you’re meant to play with it sometimes happens like magic. You might never go out during a certain period of time, you go out one time and you meet somebody who becomes, like, a lifelong, you know, musical partner. It’s uh, I can’t help feeling like there’s a plan sometimes cuz it’s, it’s weird how I didn’t meet anybody who I had that connection with as a kid, and then, in my adult life I’ve slowly, you know, I’ve, I probably know, like, five people like that who I feel like I have a really, you know, born connection with, but…

Brother Matt: It’s pretty bold, movin’ out here when you hadn’t felt it yet.

John Frusciante: Umm, well I, I knew I wanted to be a musician and I felt like Hollywood was the place to be.

Mike Watt: Where were you at before?

John Frusciante: Chatsworth.

Mike Watt: Oh yeah, okay. Not too far.

John Frusciante: No, it’s very far in some ways.


Mike Watt: Light years.

John Frusciante: It’s the deep valley and it’s just, nothing going on there and people, you know. It was good; it kept me in my bedroom practicing.

Mike Watt: Thermos bottle. It was a Thermos bottle.

John Frusciante: Yeah, cuz people, people were very, uh…

Mike Watt: Well, when it comes to working on yourself maybe you need….not distractions.
John Frusciante: Yeah, I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I would’ve grown up in Mar Vista where I lived before that, like, um, in Mar Vista, it seemed like there was…I knew some cool older kids and you know, like, had a friend who was into punk and stuff, like, I moved to Chatsworth and the fact that I was punk was just, like…

Mike Watt: Solitary confinement.

John Frusciante: …unheard of, you know. People thought I was so weird, and had the nickname ‘Punker-John’ and didn’t like that. (Chuckles.) You know, it just made me feel like a real outcast…

Mike Watt: Ostracized.

John Frusciante:…and just more and more, I kinda, I went through a weird phase of just trying to be kinda normal for awhile, and fit in and then I gave up on that and just focused on music in my bedroom over…you know, all the time and just let myself be as weird as I actually am. You know?

Mike Watt: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting. It’s hard to really plan the life journey.

John Frusciante: Yeah, I think it’s more important just to follow your heart. I think when somebody’s goal is to, to sort of, uh, to succeed at something, in some way or to, uh, when they’re thinking of it terms of, ‘I want to be seen by the outside world like this, or that,’ like, uh, I feel like it’s sending all kinds of weird mixed messages to your inner-self. I think you’ll get what you want out of life as long as you’re clear about what it is that you want. You know, if that’s all you want, yeah, there’s plenty of steps that you can take to do that. But, if you really love music I think just following your heart and playing the music that you’re interested in and, uh, and, just putting, you know, every bit of energy into every day towards that one idea of wanting to, uh, merge with that force that music comes from, uh. The Universe has really skillful, exacting ways of, of uh, putting you in the place that you need to be at the right time to play with the people who you’re meant to play with, you know. And uh, I think it only, you know, it only comes from some kind of inner confusion about the reasons that you’re doing when you, when you, uh, when you don’t get what you want. I think it just comes from, you know, I feel like…the…for me, my mind set was always just, like, I want to make music that, you know, that I feel good about making. I just wanna, you know….for me it wouldn’t have made a difference in my mind whether I was in a, in a club band or if I was a rockstar or something, like, it, that was a total non-issue to me. Like, I wanted to make, you know, music that I liked, that I felt good about and that was something that I was always doing anyway. So it just seemed like…and, you know, when…I just felt like, you know, if it’s good music there’s always gonna be some people who wanna hear it. The other stuff just wasn’t important to me, you know.

Mike Watt: That’s a good thing.

John Frusciante: Yeah, I think uh, some people are in sort of a state of confusion where your motivated by, sort of….and to some degree, you know, I can’t say that, like…I’ve gotten sucked into it too where you’re kind of…you lose a little of your focus on what you’re hearing on your inside and you’re, you’re concerned about what these people think or what those people think, and you’re uh… I feel like that’s the enemy there, you know, you really gotta listen to what’s….I feel like music comes through inner channels inside yourself. Just like I was saying when I was a kid I would just hear it in my head. It wasn’t like I was trying to think of a song. And that’s how song writing is, it’ just have to listen to what’s going on in your head. You don’t try to write a song. I think that’s why a lot the time people who write really good pop songs, a lot of the time the good song is the only good song on the whole album, because, they’re not really listening they’re just trying to achieve something. And I think it’s fine if that’s the goal, if that’s what you’re trying to do, but…I’ve always tried hard to listen to what’s inside me and to follow my ever-changing interests that are on the inside and, and uh, and to conform to some degree to the situation. Like, being in a band, like I was in, was really about like, OK, how can I bend this, or twist this, or push this in this direction or that?’ But it’s still ascribing to the previous energy of, you know, what the Red Hot Chili Peppers is, and then seeing in which directions can we move this and bend it and stuff, and that’s all…that’s another way of listening to what’s on the inside of you to conform it to a specific musical situation but, um, my favourite thing is just to really listen to what’s inside myself without any consideration of who’s gonna hear it or where it’s going or what place it has in the world or whether people would think it’s good or not, like, more and more I just don’t think that that stuff matters, you know. My favourite times in my life have been where I’ve just been making music for no other reason than just to do it, and, and uh, I think it’s important to always stay in touch with that part of yourself, even if you are in a band with people and, and some of the people are, you know, wanting to, uh, have their mind on other things other than just making the music to make sure that you at least for yourself stay connected to the musical source by, by uh, by having a good amount of activity that you’re doing that’s 100% just because you like doing it. You know?

Mike Watt: Yeah. Wise words. Thank you, John. Let’s play some tunes.

Mike Watt: Watt From Pedro Show. Uh, we heard Marlene Dietrich with “Lil Marlene” and then we hear, uh, “Enough Of Me” from John Frusciante’s solo record The Empyrean, along with Josh. And I thank you both for comin’ down to Pedro..

John Frusciante: Yeah, thanks for having us.

Brother Matt: Yeah, great having you here.

Mike Watt:…thanks for gracing us with the wise words and the righteous jams and your spirits.

Brother Matt: Definitely.

Mike Watt: That’s the January 25, 2009 edition of Watt From Pedro Show. Brother Matt thank you very much for aiding and abetting. And buddy, keep your powder dry.

Brother Matt: Yeah.

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