The Truth About The Red Hot Chili Peppers' John Frusciante

When it comes to alt-rock-soul-funk bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are by far the most famous and, according to many, make the best music. This gang has been superstars since their album Blood Sugar Sex Magik dropped in 1991, and, pending a horrific catastrophe that could only come about in a year like 2020, they're not going anywhere. (Hang on. It's almost over.)

The band has a unique model for acquiring guitarists: They hire so many of them you're never sure who is actually in the band on any given day. Dave Navarro joined their ranks in the mid-'90s. Josh Klinghoffer signed on for a decade, 2009-2019. Hillel Slovak (God rest his soul) was one of the founding members of the band and was around through their early years, before they reached the pinnacle of fame.

Then we come to John Frusciante. Good ol' John Frusciante, whom we could've thrown in pretty much anywhere along the lineup. Frusciante's history with RHCP has been so "on-again, off-again" it might make your head spin.

Frusciante couldn't handle the fame

After Red Hot Chili Peppers' original guitarist, Hillel Slovak, died from a tragic drug overdose, an 18-year-old John Frusciante took up his spot in the band. At the time, you probably wouldn't have caught the band's singles on the radio. The explosion into fame wouldn't come until Blood Sugar Sex Magik, while Frusciante was still relatively new to the scene and definitely not ready for fame. He was barely into his 20s when that fame hit. "John would say, 'We're too popular. I don't need to be at this level of success. I would just be proud to be playing this music in clubs like you guys were doing two years ago,'" RHCP frontman Anthony Kiedis recalls in his memoir, Scar Tissue.

Tensions were high for everyone in the band. The others had more experience being on stage, but everyone was new to fame; Frusciante was just feeling it the hardest. Kiedis, according to Diffuser, even thought the young guitarist was trying to sabotage the band when they appeared on Saturday Night Live, because Frusciante couldn't bring himself to play or sing on key. Whether or not that was the case, Frusciante couldn't handle being with the band and quit in the middle of their Japanese tour, causing the band to cancel the remainder of that tour, along with their upcoming Australian tour.

Leaving the band led him down a drug-paved road

Now free from the band and with way too much time on his hands, John Frusciante had to find something to do. Like a rockstar, he turned to the lovely world of heroin addiction. It's not as though RHCP was exactly a sober band. Kiedis had his problems with substance abuse, as did other RHCP guitarists like Navarro and Slovak. And from the looks of it, Frusciante was heading down the same path that had taken Slovak's life a few years before.

"I tried to quit by taking speed and other stuff, then smoking crack and just taking heroin occasionally. I tried it by shooting coke. I knew I was going to die," Frusciante told The Guardian in 2003.

His drug use was so bad that by the time he got clean and rejoined the band in 1998 — they coincidentally had an opening after Navarro was booted for his drug issues — Frusciante's teeth fell out, requiring several thousands dollars' worth of dental repair. The young guitarist's drug overindulgence nearly cost him his life in five different overdoses, and it drove away his long-time friend, RHCP bassist (and former addict himself) Flea. At least, Frusciante got himself sober and was back in the band, although that only lasted until his second departure in 2009.

The guitarist rejoins RHCP yet again

In a "completely within his previously trended behavior" turn of events, John Frusciante rejoined RHCP yet again after leaving in 2009 to work on his solo project. The news of the several-times-former band member's return broke in 2019 in an Instagram post from Flea. The post showed a lot of love for now-former guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who replaced Frusciante after the 2009 departure. "We also announce," the post goes on, "with great excitement and full hearts, that John Frusciante is rejoining our group."

The only time Frusciante has played with the band since leaving on his own ventures was during a benefit concert in 2016, according to Rolling Stone. Maybe that's when the spark of reunion first took hold. Or, maybe, it's simply a repeated pattern of destiny. Regardless, the majority of the band is focused on sobriety and living a healthy lifestyle at this point in their lives. That includes Frusciante, who (as far as we know) hasn't relapsed since rejoining the band in '98. Maybe this time Frusciante will stick around a while.