Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has saluted the return of John Frusciante, describing the prodigal guitarist as having a “profound impact” on all aspects of the Chili Peppers’ sound.
With the Californian rock institution having recently shared new single Black Summer as they prepare to release their long-awaited 12th studio album, Unlimited Love, on 1 April 2022, Flea spoke to K-ROQ (opens in new tab)’s Kevan Kenney about the impact of Frusciante’s return, and how it has revitalised the band and allowed them to tap into rich seam of creativity.
“John Frusciante has a profound impact on everything that we do, and even when we wasn’t in the band he had a profound impact on everything that we do,” said Flea. “He is just the most focused, dedicated, tapped-in musician who’s able to muster this diligence and focus about doing what he does consistently, that just uplifts us.
“Really, the big thing is that we all speak the same language, and when he is in the band we are able to communicate with each other without speaking and create a lot of music in a really fluid way.”
Unlimited Love is the first album to feature Frusciante since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium. Frusciante was replaced in 2009 by Josh Klinghoffer and returned exactly 10 years to the date. Flea reveals that those first rehearsals with Frusciante were all about having fun and jamming on cover songs.
“The day of our first rehearsal was – wildly – exactly 10 years from the day he announced he was leaving the band,” said Flea. “Instead of just getting back into trying to write songs right away, or going to play old Chili Peppers songs to get in the groove, it was fun to just play covers, to do it in a real gentle and easy way, to just have fun, play songs from bands that you love – and it was more to loosely get back into what we were doing without feeling like we had to go to work.”
Then the ideas came, and they just kept coming. Produced by Rick Rubin, Unlimited Love is a considerable piece of work, featuring 17 tracks, each sharing credits between Flea, Frusciante, drummer Chad Smith and vocalist Anthony Kiedis.
“We started writing and when we opened that tap it just didn’t stop,” continued Flea. “We wrote so much music, man. We have a lot of songs we recorded and our hearts are in every one of them.”
Speaking to the NME (opens in new tab), Flea said letting Klinghoffer go was “emotionally difficult.” Klinghoffer had played on two studio albums, 2011’s I’m With You and 2016’s The Getaway, and his talent with an electric guitar is beyond question, but the creative chemistry between Frusciante and the band was too good to pass up.
“Not only was he a great musician, he was also a thoughtful, supportive team-player – a communally-minded, kind and intelligent person,” said Flea. “But artistically, in terms of being able to speak the same [musical] language, it was easier working with John.”
Klinghoffer has since joined Pearl Jam as a touring guitarist, and will feature on Eddie Vedder’s forthcoming solo album. i beyond question, but the creative chemistry between Frusciante and the band was too good to pass up.
Unlimited Love is out on 1 April through Warner, and is available to preorder now.