The gear used by John Frusciante on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’

The gear used by John Frusciante on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’

On September 24, 1991, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their defining Blood Sugar Sex Magik album – which would solidify the band as one of the biggest bands of their era. At the time, BSSM was somewhat overshadowed by Nirvana’s Nevermind which had come along and redrawn the landscape of rock music forever, but the album was still a resounding success for new label Warner Brothers, and spawned some of the Chilis’ most iconic and enduring tracks, including Under The Bridge, Give It Away, Suck My Kiss and Breaking The Girl.

READ MORE: The Libertines on keeping it analogue on their new album

But the album’s success would come at a price – a year later guitarist John Frusciante would quit the band, overwhelmed and disillusioned by the band’s newfound stardom. Frusciante’s playing would inspire a whole generation of Strat-toting guitarists, but the man himself became a heroin-addicted recluse until he cleaned up and rejoined the band for their similarly influential 1999 album, Californication.
But when people talk about John Frusciante as a guitar player, it’s likely this early Chilis period that they’re talking about and is the gear he took into the studio to record with Rick Rubin at his Mansion recording studio in Laurel Canyon.

The Guitars
Frusciante is one of the iconic modern Strat players, and so it’s no surprise that relied heavily on his beloved Strats for the recording on BSSM. Specifically, he used a 1958 Sunburst Stratocaster and a 1957 Stratocaster, which he had turned into a fretless, as he explained to Guitar Player magazine in a 1991 interview,
“My main guitar was a ’58 Strat, though I used a Les Paul reissue on a couple of things. I also have a ’57 Strat, which someone had screwed up by putting on those big stupid frets that everyone uses these days. I vomited and told them to make it fretless. That’s what I used for the Mellowship Slinky solo.”
Upon further investigation, there does seem to be an issue with one small detail of Frusciante’s comments. The photos accompanying this interview showed that these Strats had Rosewood fretboards. Rosewood necks were not introduced at Fender until May of 1959. So, if we are to assume that those guitars were stock, they were not from ’58 and ’57.
That being said, neck swaps were not uncommon, nor was it uncommon to find stock Fenders with different years noted on the neck, body, and pickups, as these parts are made separately and then assembled at the end of the process. It’s very likely that the dates on the bodies were 1957 and 1958, or perhaps the guitars were actually 1959 models with pickups from a 57 and 58 – it’s unclear how the guitars were dated.

The 1991 interview in Guitar Player also shows a beautiful Sherwood Green 1966 Fender Jaguar. That Jaguar is now owned by the Hard Rock Café. It is still unknown how the guitar found its way to them – if Frusciante sold it or gave it to them, or if he sold it to someone who resold it to HRC. This was the guitar famously featured in the video for the song Under The Bridge and is believed to have been used for overdubs on the recording.
The acoustic parts on the album were done, primarily with a Martin D-28, though a Maton Messiah 12-string was used for Breaking The Girl.
Following his departure from the band in 1992, Frusciante fell on some pretty hard times – living in squalor and selling his belongings to fund his addiction to cocaine and heroin. When he rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1998, he only owned one guitar, a red 1962 Jaguar he had purchased the previous year. So the whereabouts of his vintage Strats used on the album, and the ’66 Jaguar remain unknown. Although the guitars he didn’t sell off were likely lost in a house fire in the mid-1990s.
The Amps
As for amps, Frusciante told Guitar Player in the aforementioned 1991 interview, “For most of the basics, I used two Marshalls: a guitar head for edge and a bass head for punch and low end. I split the signal with a DOD stereo chorus pedal. For some overdubs, I used a Fender H.O.T. practice amp, but for a lot of parts, even solos, I just went straight into the board. You can get amazing, funky tones that way. In fact, a lot of my distortion is from overdriving the board.”

The Fender H.O.T. was a relatively cheap 25-watt solid-state practice amp made in the early 90s, most of them have a 10-inch speaker.
The Effects
The album didn’t use many effects, and we don’t have a definitive list of effects used in the studio but, around this era, Frusciante was using a Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion and a DOD chorus pedal, which was believed to primarily be used to split the signal between amps – we know this was the case on the song Soul To Squeeze which was recorded during the BSSM sessions.
Finally, Frusciante’s wah of choice was somewhat obscure – the Ibanez WH10V2. Frusciante still uses an old version of the pedal that was released back in the 80s and has since been discontinued.
They are now pretty difficult to find. Ibanez did make a reissue of the pedal, but it featured some modern tweaks that the originals didn’t have. We know this was used on Naked In The Rain and is likely the sound anytime a wah effect can be heard on the album.

The Rick Rubin Effect
Of all the modern superstar producers, few can be said to impact a band’s overall sound more than Rick Rubin. As such, it’s difficult to discuss the tone on the album without acknowledging the important vision that Rubin brings to the table. Frusciante said to Guitar Player (via MusicRadar),
“When [Rick] started producing us at the Blood Sugar time, he kept adding ideas to the arrangements. Like, ‘Have no guitar for the first verse,’ or, ‘Have no bass for the second verse.’ He came from this hip-hop experience, so he was essentially muting the instruments in certain sections.”
Clearly, the band took some of those compositional suggestions to heart when writing and fine-tuning the songs on the album. Frusciante began to see the guitar take on a different role within the context of the band. BSSM lives on as a pinnacle of the band’s sound and a showcase of Frusciante’s brilliant guitar work.
The post The gear used by John Frusciante on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ appeared first on | All Things Guitar.

read more