Justin Hawkins explains why he thinks John Frusciante is overrated

Justin Hawkins and John Frusciante
(Image credit: Elena Di Vincenzo/Archivio Elena di Vincenzo/Mondadori Portfolio / Ethan Miller via Getty)

Last week, Justin Hawkins invited What Makes This Song Stink mastermind Pat Finnerty onto his podcast, Justin Hawkins Rides Again, for an episode titled How NOT to Write a Song.

The two-hour conversation was, to say the least, incredibly comprehensive, and out of the numerous lines of thought-provoking discussion the pair pursued, one in particular stood out: namely, whether John Frusciante is an overrated guitar player.

In the episode, Hawkins addressed his historical criticisms of the electric guitar star, and explained why he believes the Red Hot Chili Pepper isn’t as good as people make him out to be.

During the conversation, Hawkins asked, “Why are the Red Hot Chili Peppers fans so sensitive? The videos that we do on them receive a lot of ‘critique’ from RHCP fans.

“My issue with Red Hot Chili Peppers is that I get nothing from John Frusciante’s guitar playing,” he added. “I feel like if we can call Mark Knopfler an underrated player, I would describe John Frusciante as an overrated player. In fact, I have done that, more than once.

“It’s always like, ‘You’re jealous because he sold more records than you have.’ And it’s like, well, Mark Knopfler has sold a lot more, more, more records than me, and I’m not jealous of him. I love his guitar playing. So that argument doesn’t really hold any water.”

Finnerty was in agreement: “I don't know why [Frusciante] is so revered. I feel like whoever’s listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers only listens to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

As for what the pair didn’t like about Frusciante’s playing, criticism centered around his lead style and the feeling – or lack thereof – that Froosh puts into his solos. “He doesn’t give me any of the… [plays a single note vibrato],” Hawkins demonstrated. “He goes like this… [plays a single note without vibrato].

“Somebody said to me it’s deliberately minimalist,” he went on. “Maybe it’s like that thing where you become a super-accomplished painter and start doing some naive child-like daubings, and that’s your phase. I think that might have been one of the things he was exploring, but it doesn’t stop it from being shit.”

Finnerty echoed this observation, drawing attention to the “dinky” solo found in Californication as evidence of Froosh’s shortcomings as a soloist.

Despite the critique, Hawkins did reserve some praise for Froosh, complimenting him on both his tone and choice of guitars. The mention of Frusciante’s guitar collection, though, sent Hawkins down a different train of thought – one that took an unexpected aim at PRS.

During his praise of Frusciante’s Stratocaster ways, Hawkins launched a not-so-subtle dig at John Mayer, saying, “I’m not a fan of a very, very popular guitar player who has his own [PRS model], which I think is a guitar that no rock ‘n’ roller should ever play.

“You and I probably would recognize some Knopler influence in a lot of the choices they make,” he said to Finnerty, “but they do so on a PR… on a particular type of guitar which I personally don’t think any good rock ‘n’ roll has ever been played on, because no rock ‘n’ roller would ever play that guitar.

“It’s too polite, it’s too easy. There’s no friction between the meat part and the wood part. It’s all so beautifully luthier’d that it’s just like playing butter. I don’t want to pay good money to see somebody playing butter, I want to see somebody struggling with a [Les] Paul.”

Hawkins' podcast isn't unaccustomed to hot guitar takes. In an earlier episode, the guitarist singled out prog virtuoso Plini and labeled him “a bit boring”.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.