John Frusciante On The RHCP Album That Eddie Van Halen Inspired His Playing

Who’s to say producing a rock album can’t come from two musicians going at it with playing metal tracks? Sometimes the barely noticeable touches that musicians add to their works become what separates them from the rest. You know what they say? The greatest talents often lie buried out of sight. This can’t be more true for Red Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante, as he and Chad Smith’s work behind the scenes enabled them to produce an album that comes from musicians who know how to play metal.

Frusciante explained in the Broken Record Podcast how RHCP’s ‘By the Way’ album shaped out the way it did. He said, “We would play whole albums of Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and Ozzy Osbourne. We were doing ‘Diary of a Madman,’ and we were doing a bunch of the songs from that and ‘Blizzard of Oz,’ but it was just guitar and drums, but we were doing these heavy metal rehearsals.”

He continued, “It’s magical to have things you can do that you’re not throwing on the surface for people to see. The way I play on that album, it’s a real synth pop-based, new wave-based, surf guitar-based style. Yet, at home, I was playing along with Van Halen and playing those solos like I was never as good at playing Eddie Van Halen’s stuff as I was at the time of ‘By the Way,’ and the album is nothing like that. There’s no hint of that in the way I play.”

“It’s in there still, yeah; there’s certain confidence between the way that I’m playing those simple things that I’m playing in a certain precision in the accenting of things on the album,” added John about how Eddie’s playing inspired the album. He also noted, “Then the rhythm playing, it’s a lot of things that I got from his style that aren’t obvious, you know, frontal parts of his style, so yeah, I think it adds magic to things when there’s something hidden.”

Meanwhile, Eddie Van Halen was so influential to RHCP that they released a song to honor him this past fall. Frusciante gave one of his most heartfelt solos in ‘Eddie,’ which was released as part of their 2022 album ‘Return of the Dream Canteen.’ A full-circle moment, right?