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by Dimitri Ehrlich
Interview Magazine, March 2001
A LONE PEPPER SINGS IT LIKE IT IS
It's a common parlance in the record industry to refer to music as "product."
This is a fact that would probably make John Frusciante cry. Best know as
guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frusciante is the epitome of the sensitive artist-tender and spacey to a degree that is refreshing in an era of careerist hype-machines but also in a way that has proved dangerous to himself. While on tour in Japan with the Chili Peppers in 1992, he quit the band for six years, during which time he was unable to make music, losing himself in a diet of red wine, crack and heroine. "I totally lost touch with the spirits that help me make music," Frusciante says of that
period. The Chili Peppers might have said something similar about their period without Frusicante: There is something special about the group's chemistry when Frusciante is in the line-up and their two best-selling albums have been the ones he played on: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) and, upon Fruisciante's return to the Chili Peppers, their greatest success to date, 1999's Californication. On Frusciante's new solo album, To Record Only Water for Ten Days (Warner Bros.), you can hear the sound of a man with nearly translucent personal boundaries, a self so utterly given over to music that it is difficult to tell where the guitarist ends and the song begins. The songs are defiantly non-commercial, fragile, tenuous and pure. They are also resolutely personal yet somehow selfless: in becoming his own music, Frusciante loses himself.
From an artistic point of view, it's a wonderful and doggedly idealistic approach.
In terms of basic human functioning, it has nearly cost him his life. But after
years of fighting with depression and addiction, Frusciante now says he's
replaced drugs with yoga. Of course, his main fix is still music. To Record
Only Water for Ten Days is the sound of one man saving his own life.
Suprisingly, Frusciante doesn't lament the years he abandoned music and
gave himself over to drugs. Instead, he insists that the experience was useful,
and that while from the outside he might have looked like a zombie, the
internal adventure he went on was a valuable form of self-exploration.
"I was very happy," he says. "I wasn't one of those drug addicts who falls into it
by mistake. I made a clearheaded decision that I needed to be that way all
the time. Marcel Duchamp said the only thing he regretted was not taking better care of his teeth, and that is my only regret: I just wish I would have brushed my teeth every day."