Many Rock and Roll legends share an addiction that appear to nurture their great talent but also lead them to darker paths. Inside this genre’s universe, there seems to be a general belief that destruction is needed to create. Many think that the bond between narcotics and legendary musicians is what makes them radical and renegade beings, but the truth is that a real protest must be transgressive and energetic. Perhaps, for these musicians, the true way to protest against restrictive social standards is through their search for new dimensions or views on reality, which they have found in an altered state of mind.
John Frusciante, the mythical guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is living proof that any destruction can lead to a reawakening when it’s controlled on time. Like David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Frusciante became attached to the psychedelic experience in his pursuit for new experiences. Through narcotics, he explored the most inhospitable corners of the human mind.
In 1988, the RHCP went through a dark period after the dead of Hillel Slovakval, the first guitarist of the band. After battling a severe addiction to drugs, he was found dead in his apartment on June 25 of the same year. This event impacted the whole band, but it was Jack Irons the one who was more affected and decided to quit the band.
After a not so intense selection process, Michael “Flea” convinced Anthony Kiedis to accept Frusciante into the band. And so, the iconic alignment was formed. Kiedis, Flea, Chad, and John recorded Mother’s Milk in 1989, an album that was highly acclaimed by British and American critics. At that time, no one really knew about Frusciante’s addictions, or al least they thought he had it under control.
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John Frusciante became addicted to cocaine when he was 17 years old, which progressively increased when his popularity gave him the chance to get everything he wanted. In 1990, he was highly attached to heroine, a stronger and more dangerous drug. When he found out about this, Kiedis feared the story would repeat itself.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik was released in 1991 and everything seemed to be okay, regarding John’s addiction. However, tranquility was interrupted when the guitarist abandoned the group while touring to promote the album. The overwhelming fame and success pushed John into an emotional decline.
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He released two albums as a solo artist: Niandra La Des and Usually Just a T-shirt and Smile From the Street you Hold. He recorded a third album, which was later discontinued because he was not happy with the result. Frusciante’s life began to spiral out of control. His body took the brunt of this pressure, his teeth began to rot, he lost a lot of weight, and even his tattoos began to fade and become distorted.
Dave Navarro, Jane’s Addiction guitarist, substituted him temporarily, and the band recorded One Hot Minute (1995); however, Navarro quit the band due to creative differences with Anthony. Afterward, Frusciante returned to the band completely recovered, showing his new appearance and denture with the release of Californication in 2001.
During his absence, in 1994 to be precise, Frusciante gave an interview to VPRO in which he showed his daker side. While being high in front of the camera, he confessed that his love for drugs was due to the apathy he felt towards the world. He found a shelter in drugs and rock, and he felt he belonged to a group that also shared his existential discomfort.
In that interview, Frusciante admitted his addiction to heroine, his admiration for David Bowie, and his reliance to cocaine.
“When I was on them was the only time I was happy. So I figured there was no disadvantage in it. I felt I was doing something good and healthy for myself, and I didn’t care if other people said it was unhealthy.”
In a later interview he added:
“I was smoking crack all day long, shooting heroin, shooting cocaine, drinking wine, taking valium. I was this close to killing myself. But when I was going extremely fast in my head and feeling I was about to die I would get these warnings from spirits saying ‘You don’t want to die now.’”
John Frusciante left the Red Hot Chili Peppers after releasing Stadium Arcadium in 2006. Flea negotiated a break for the band, but John thought they were at its best moment, so he decided to resume his solo career. Currently he has produced 12 albums. Enclouser (2004) was his latest release, in which he shows something completely different to what he did with the RHCP.
The Peppers have ended their long break and begun a new era without Frusciante. Despite the great success of the band, there’s something missing. When John played his guitar, it was as if he were speaking in a particular language that provided a unique sound to this band’s music.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
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