John Frusciante Admits He Tried Being The ‘Flashier’ Version Of Hillel Slovak

Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante spoke to Music Radar and recalled his first years as the band’s guitarist, replacing the late member Hillel Slovak. He admitted trying to be like another version of the musician by explaining what he decided to do about it next.

Singer Anthony Kiedis, guitarist Hillel Slovak, bassist Flea, and drummer Jack Irons, who were classmates from Fairfax High School, founded Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1983, which would be one of the most famous rock bands in the world. The band gained fame and popularity quickly, but this new lifestyle caused some of the band members’ uncontrollable drug addictions that started at an early age.

As one of them, Slovak struggled for a very long time to get rid of his drug abuse, but he couldn’t prevent this tragic end. The band’s founding guitarist died due to an overdose on June 25, 1988, at 26. His early and unexpected death became an eye-opening moment for his bandmates, so they tried harder and harder to get sober back then. Also, they needed to find a new guitarist, and they recruited John Frusciante.

During his interview, Frusciante revealed that being the new guy was a struggle, and he worked so hard to impress his bandmates and fans. He said he didn’t trust himself, and the guitarist began simplifying his performance to support the others in their live performances and recording sessions. Shortly after, Frusciante realized that he couldn’t be himself like that, and nobody in the band needed a flashier version of Slovak as he had tried to achieve earlier.

Frusciante stated in his interview that:

The first year or so that I was in the band was a struggle. I’ve got something to say that I think could probably be good for guitar players. I think that at the beginning of my time in the band, I had my mind too much on trying to impress people, and I wasn’t trusting myself enough.

I was feeling all these things. I want to be unique, I want to show off,  and I want to stand out, and everything I was doing felt forced. I didn’t feel free, and I didn’t feel like I was saying anything that I wanted to say. I didn’t feel like I was going deep into myself. I decided I was going to use my guitar to try to support the other people in my band. So I simplified what I was doing. At the same time, I was also putting a hundred times the amount of personal expression and soul into it than I had before.”

He added:

I thought I would play like Hillel, but flashier. After about nine months, I realized the flashiness wasn’t impressing anyone, and there wasn’t a place for it in the band chemistry. Those first nine months, I had the impression that a lot of their audience wasn’t into me, but by the time we released ‘Mother’s Milk,’ I felt pretty accepted.

I’m very lucky to have replaced such a great stylist. The challenge of attempting to appeal to his audience was character-building, and even when my style appeared, I was still using his style as the basis for what I did.”

Moreover, the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist highlighted that the fans accepted him after the band released its fourth studio album entitled ‘Mother’s Milk’ on August 16, 1989. He added that replacing a great and unique instrumentalist was challenging but helpful for finding his style by saying that Slovak still inspired him.