‘Being addicted to heroin? I really value that period of time.’
Inside the fried mind of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ visionary guitarist, John Frusciante
What do you remember about growing up?
“I grew up being somebody who just loved being by myself and practising guitar. I used to wear a mask in front of other people. The person I was when I was 17 wasn’t the real me.”
What do you mean by that?
“I was usually pretending or putting on a show when I was around people. When I joined the Chili Peppers at 17, I was frightened that the others wouldn’t accept me because I was different and unusual. For my first couple of years in the band I was just trying to find my feet. I had to figure out who I was going to be, both in the band and as a person. I pretty much decided to be as similar to the rest of the band as I could. I was a mask in front of a mask.”
You left the band after the release of “BloodSugarSexMagik”. What sort of pressures were you under then?
“When I was in the band the first time, I was very confused and didn’t really know how to process all the changes in my lifestyle or the new found freedoms I had. I couldn’t make use of them at all. I didn’t know how to be successful.”
During the period when you left the band, you were addicted to heroin. How much do you still think of those times?
“If you’re an artist, I don’t think you ever put anything that’s ever happened behind you. Everything that’s ever happened to me culminates in everything I do thereafter.”
Was that period important for you?
“When I had all that time to do whatever the Hell I wanted without being pulled, pressured or having any expectations put on me, it meant I could sort through everything. I became much clearer about everything so I really value that period of time.”
Still, walking out on one of the biggest bands in the world in order to do drugs, paint and play the guitar alone isn’t always a recipe for success.
“Granted, if I saw a kid in the same position, I would tell him that there are other ways to come to the same end as I did. But they didn’t occur to me at the time. You do what makes sense to you at the time. It ended up working, so I value that period. Everything I figured out during that period, I still think of as valuable and -to some degree- still believe in.”
Do you think you could ever fall back into those old habits?
“I don’t know. If it happened it would be through not paying attention. When it comes to taking drugs, I really have to make sure I don’t get carried away because I feel that it’s a part of my nature – a part I have to resist.”
When was the last time you took drugs?
“I’m not going to talk about it.”
Are you happy at the moment?
“I’m feeling good right now. Making the record [new album “Stadium Arcadium”] wasn’t a happy experience – I went through a lot of weird phases and did a lot of worrying. Mixing the album was a drag because it’s not a very creative process. But now we’re going into a freer period of time. I can meditate and practise more now. I can take walks in the sunshine now.”