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True Stories About John Frusciante, The Guitarist So Intense He Quit Red Hot Chili Peppers (Twice)

Updated December 17, 2019 437.6k views14 items

Ex-guitarist of Red Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante's career in the limelight tells a tale of immense mental anguish. The troubled rock star, who quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers twice, struggled with dependency for years. He emerged from those depths with some scars, a catalog of platinum albums, and a set of false teeth. While his struggles are harrowing and relatively well documented, they typically play second fiddle to the bizarre, nigh-unbelievable antics of other band members, including astral funk priest Anthony KiedisFrusciante wrestled with demons induced by childhood pain the notoriously press-shy guitar prodigy refuses to specify in interviews. He told the Guardian in 2003, "It's subconscious childhood pain which you've pushed into your memory and then suddenly it pops out 20 years later and you's a drug addict."

After joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers at age 18, Frusciante went from practicing his craft 15 hours a day to spending $500 a day on illicit substances while living in a hotel. He found himself in the middle of a perfect storm of addiction with easy access, money to burn, and a lifestyle that supported and encouraged his vices. Through it all, the guitarist was instrumental in crafting RHCP's signature sound across multiple eras, from his early, Hendrix-influenced funk style to later contributions as a backing vocalist, effects pedal guru, and occasional shred master. 

A major part of the LA scene in the early '90s, Frusciante traveled in the same circles as the likes of Johnny Depp, who made a harrowing film about his friend. The Johnny Depp documentary Stuff, co-directed by rock frontman Gibby Haynes, was a wakeup call; it depicted the guitarist living high and in squalor after River Phoenix's passing (John Frusciante and River Phoenix were on a days-long bender when the latter collapsed and perished outside of the Viper Room in 1993). Throughout all of it, Chili Peppers bassist Flea never left his struggling bandmate's side. And 10 years after his second departure in 2009, Frusciante rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers for another round. 

  • He Was On A Days-Long Bender With River Phoenix The Night Of Phoenix's End

    Frusciante and Phoenix, who were very close, were on a binge together when the actor collapsed and passed outside of the Viper Room on Halloween of 1993 in Los Angeles. According to Bob Forrest, a friend to Phoenix and Frusciante, "The ... routine stayed pretty consistent for all of us. First, smoke crack or shoot coke directly into a vein for that ninety-second, electric brain-bell jangle. Then shoot smack to get a grip and come down enough to be able to carry on a conversation for a few minutes before you start the cycle again.

    River's brother Joaquin and sister Rain were at the Viper Room that night as well, as were Flea, Johnny Depp, and actress Samantha Mathis, who was River's girlfriend at the time. 

  • He Started A Band With Flea After He Left The Chili Peppers

    Flea and John Frusciante remained on good terms after the latter left the band for the first time. In 1995, during his break from RHCP, Frusciante formed an instrumental supergroup called The Three Amoebas with Flea and former Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins.

    The band recorded a few jam sessions but never released any music. 

  • Johnny Depp Made A Documentary About Frusciante's Frightening Descent Into Addiction

    Video: YouTube

    In 1994, Johnny Depp and Gibby Hayes visited John Frusciante's home to document his lifestyle. The footage became Stuff, an unflinching short film about Frusciante's dependency. The film included a cameo from drug guru Timothy Leary, and it was an eye-opening account of the squalor in which Frusciante lived. On the walls of his home, graffiti spelled out "My eye hurts" and "Stabbing pain with discipline's knife."

    It paints a grim picture, but someone thought it would be a good idea to send it out to journalists to promote the release of Frusciante's first solo record, Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T Shirt.

  • He Lost His Teeth To Drugs And Told A Reporter He Didn't Care Whether He Lived

    Photo: Gary Minnaert / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In 1996, after being kicked out of his Hollywood Hills home for not paying rent, Frusciante moved into the Chateau Marmont hotel, where reporter Robert Wilonsky visited him. Wilonsky described the rock star's concerning appearance––including that of his rotting teeth––in a profile for The Phoenix New Times:

    His upper teeth are nearly gone now. They have been replaced by tiny slivers of off-white that peek through rotten gums. His lower teeth, thin and brown, appear ready to fall out if he so much as coughs too hard. His lips are pale and dry, coated with spit so thick it looks like paste. His hair is shorn to the skull; his fingernails, or the spaces where they used to be, are blackened by blood. His feet and ankles and legs are pocked with burns from unfiltered Camel cigarette ashes that have fallen unnoticed; his flesh also bears bruises, scabs and scars. He wears an old flannel shirt, only partially buttoned, and khaki pants. Drops of dried blood dot the pants.

    In the harrowing interview, Frusciante admitted, "I don’t care whether I live or die." He was kicked out of Chateau Marmont and moved to the Mondrian on Sunset Strip, which eventually kicked him out as well.