Today guitarist John Frusciante turns 44. Frusciante, born in New York in 1970, is most well-known as an ex-member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but his obscure solo career and film projects showcase his talent as an avant-garde artist. Frusciante used to be good friends with actor River Phoenix, and the two even recorded a song, Height Down, on Frusciante’s Smile from the Streets You Hold album:
Frusciante is also good friends with indie actor, filmmaker, and musician (among other occupations) Vincent Gallo. Frusciante wrote the soundtrack for Gallo’s controversial indie film The Brown Bunny, in which Gallo’s then-girlfriend Cloe Sevigny gives him unsimulated oral sex. Frusciante produced probably some of his finest music for the film’s soundtrack. Gallo directed a video for one of the songs, Dying Song:
Stuff Short Film: John Frusciante’s World of Chaos
But it is Frusciante’s friendship with Johnny Depp that produced the haunting Stuff. The 1993 film is a hypnotic walk around Frusciante’s world of chaos and drugs. At the time Frusciante was strongly addicted to heroin and a rumor has it this was Depp’s homage to an artist about to die. Unlike Philip Seymour Hoffman, however, Frusciante recovered from his addiction. Stuff also credits Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers as a director.
The film was recorded in Frusciante’s house and features Timothy Leary. The constantly free-moving camera and Frusciante’s experimental solo songs enhance the hypnotic feeling of the film. The film’s editing favors dissolves and fades over cuts, which emphasizes the dreamy feeling. The film’s sound and music create the basis for the rhythm—a common filmmaking approach Chris Marker used in La Jetee, Louis Morton in Passer Passer, and Morgan Neville in 20 Feet from Stardom. At the time Frusciante was painting, influenced by Jean-Michel Basquiat, so his walls are covered with paintings, words, and scribbles.
Like the experimental short Three Poems, Stuff features a poem read by John Frusciante. Its stream-of-consciousness style is fragmented and maybe indicative of Frusciante’s state of mind around the time. Thanks to Frusciante’s unofficial website, here is the transcript of the poem:
Shadow’s been word
One win a hand
To sell it thru their thick little black wet cloth,
It’s a, it’s a passageway to drive, walk or run thru,
Or the wind and water can carry me.
I expect what didn’t happen just now to just happen
To just hear me up, part of the quan skies wine.
And body betrayals that’s designed by the shadows
Never forward or up or down climb to top
It’s the bottom so there’s no rush,
And you don’t get tired,
Just now, when if you burn the flames that’s around you
Trying to pretend,
Burying it wherever it grooves itself to the rage of life
And move like you do cause you do it for them.
I’ve been followed around for so long
Mistakenly killed for being so thin
I can flip inside out
The song of trash that can rise in depression,
So it grooves
I assume that whenever slides in her own ground spending life
So you flip each day to the night
That holds yourself in position
Folding pain tightly so it knows what it means
For its silent vowels to be all that bleeds
Like you knows the sides
Or what it needs to keep trying
And it didn’t mean to be N-I-A-P
My body is light
Cause the weight of whatever is carrying me thru the weak traps around
I’ve stepped anywhere not falling my being my way to be
I’ll never go empty for fex to have thee
Sitting around feels like running
And crowds dangle me from their thighs widening across where life is here
Cause my love is crying
I’ll share the way I’ve lost
Cause I’m a pretend me
And I’m real cause I can hit me softly
And bleed blood I can hear
Cause I’m here now and it’s far from me
Fall back into the ground
Flip dive through its holes
Burying the whole thing, landing is unimportant
As long as I’m giving the things that swirls
Like selling dreams to cannabis
Telling too to jump free.
Stuff is officially labeled as a documentary, but its unique vision and experimental elements transcend definitions—just like John Frusciante’s ever-changing music and personalities. From the early bad-boy punk guitarist to the spiritual electronic musician of recent years, happy birthday to all of your personalities, John Frusciante.