Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante has penned an open letter shaming “sell-outs” while sharing a heap of unreleased material which can be downloaded for free. Think of it like Frusciante’s early Christmas present to the world.
Frusciante has launched a Bandcamp page and a Soundcloud page which include “a bunch of weird anti-rock star guitar solos”, an interpretation of Fight For Love from the movie Casa De Mi Padre recorded with Omar Rodríguez-López, the full 20-minute version of his all-sample piece Sect In Sgt and more.
In his lengthy open letter announcing the free release of this material, Frusciante offers up his thoughts on the relationship between art and money, taking aim at “sell-outs” by suggesting that “art is a matter of giving”.
“Recording artists have been ‘giving’ the public music by selling it to them for so long that we now think of sell-outs as dedicated musicians who love their audience so much that they aggressively sell them products, and sell themselves as an image and personality to this audience on a regular basis just as aggressively,” Frusciante says.
“Sell-outs is an antiquated term which, when I was a kid, referred to artists who love making money more than they love making music. The word indicated a lack of artistic integrity. Sell-outs suck, in my opinion. Its a shame it’s become so normal, expected, and acceptable to be one.
“Giving people music for free online being so common these days is a good reminder that artistic expression is always a matter of giving, not taking, or selling… Creation is the source of life, while making money is what people do for food, clothing, shelter, necessities, and comfort in some cases, and to exercise their greed in others.”
Elsewhere in the letter, Frusciante clears up the situation surrounded an old interview of his which he says was “misinterpreted” to suggest that he believes he has no audience.
“Ever since I quit my old band in 2008, I have made music specifically to learn and to make the music which I want to hear, without an audience in mind,” Frusciante says.
“I am grateful that I still have an audience, considering that I do not make music preconceived to conform to ‘what people want’.”
Frusciante’s open letter can be read in full below, alongside a couple of his newly-released tunes. More music is set to be shared on Frusciante’s new online accounts in the future.
John Frusciante’s Open Letter (24/11/15) Via John Frusciante
I now have a Bandcamp page and a Soundcloud page and have put up a bunch of unreleased music of my past. My own name has been taken by several people, so one is called jfdirectlyfromjf.bandcamp.com and the other is called soundcloud.com/jfdirectlyfromjf.
At present, I have put up a 19 minute group of 6 songs recorded on 4-track cassette in May 2010, the instrumentation being 3 guitars and one drum machine. It is a bunch of weird anti-rock star guitar solos, played mainly on a Mosrite Ventures guitar, and a Yamaha SG, accompanied by an Elektron Machinedrum, excepting one song where I used a Roland TR 707, and another where a 707 was used, but is not in the mix.
I have also uploaded a 37 minute collection of tunes made between 2009 and 2011 which were all recorded in my main studio during various stages of its development, as well as various stages of my devopment as an engineer.
Furthermore, you will find in these places the full 20 minute version of Sect In Sgt, my all-sample piece, in its entirety. The version which was online before, under the name Trickfinger, omitted the first 5 minutes of the piece.
In addition, there is an interpretation of the song Fight For Love from the movie Casa De Mi Padre, recorded one sunny afternoon in November 2013 by Omar Rodriguez and myself, plus Medre, a track recorded in 2008, and a vocal and guitar only version of the song Zone, from my album Enclosure.
This music is all free of cost to the public, and can be downloaded or streamed on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. With the exception of Zone, this is all music which was made purely for the sake of making music, rather than for having it released and thereby sold. In other words, Zone is the only song which was intended to be on a record.
When someone releases music on a label, they are selling it, not giving it. Art is a matter of giving. If I sing my friend a song, it goes from me to her, at no cost. That’s giving. If I sell you an object, we do not say that I gave you that object. Recording artists have been “giving” the public music by selling it to them for so long that we now think of sell-outs as dedicated musicians who love their audience so much that they aggressively sell them products, and sell themselves as an image and personality to this audience on a regular basis just as aggresively.
Sell-outs is an antiquated term which, when I was a kid, referred to artists who love making money more than they love making music. The word indicated a lack of artistic integrity. Sell-outs suck, in my opinion. Its a shame its become so normal, expected, and acceptable to be one. When I was a teenager it was very common for people who loved music to insult a recording artist for being, or becoming, a sell-out. I believe that this was a very healthy instinct on the part of music lovers.
Giving people music for free online being so common these days is a good reminder that artistic expression is always a matter of giving, not taking, or selling. Selling is the making money part, and artistic expression, creation, is the giving part. They are distinct from one another, and it is my conviction that music should always be made because one loves music, regardless of whether one plans on selling it or not. Creation is the source of life, while making money is what people do for food, clothing, shelter, necessities, and comfort in some cases, and to exercise their greed in others.
It is my pleasure to give you this music. Sometimes I will announce here on my site that I have posted music in these places, and other times I will not. Any music I stream from here on my site will now be linked to my Soundcloud page.
I also must clear something up. I normally don’t read my press, but I heard about this quote, recently taken out of context by some lame website and made into a headline, in which I said “I have no audience”. This has been misinterpreted, and by no fault of the excellent journalist who interviewed me for the fine publication Electronic Beats. Ever since I quit my old band in 2008, I have made music specifically to learn and to make the music which I want to hear, without an audience in mind. Nevertheless, between 2008 and 2013, every time I recorded a track, I sent it to Aaron Funk and Chris McDonald who are my Speed Dealer Moms bandmates, and often to a few other friends. Early on in this period, I realized that whoever I sent my music to or played my music for had become my “audience”, ie the people who I aimed my music at.
Even when you make music purely for the sake of doing it, as I do, it sometimes helps to have friends who’s ears and taste you have in the back of your head when you’re making it. But this can also put you in a straightjacket, just as aiming your music at the masses can. Therefore, in Jan 2014, I decided to stop having an “audience” in this sense, and so I stopped finishing songs or sending what I was doing to friends, and started making a lot of songs at once rather than one song at a time. This freed up my mind so that I could make music purely to hear it and live with it, in order to grow in a different direction for a while. This was not a permanent decision. In fact, I’m already past that phase. Trickfinger is not my final record, and I never said it was, as was claimed by that silly website.
Obviously I have a public audience. I am aware of them, and they know who they are. When I said “At this point, I have no audience”, I meant “audience” in the figurative sense of people who I have in mind when I am creating, who I intend to send my music to or play it for. In the original interview I had made this clear in an earlier sentence which was not printed, in which I recall saying, “There I was(in 2009), trying to make music without an audience in mind when I realized that Aaron and Chris had become my audience.” So when I later said “At this point, I have no audience.”, the journalist knew I was not referring to the public. In the context of the Electronic Beats article, which was in regards to an album of music which was not originally intended to be heard by the public, I believe my meaning is clear.
Reduced to a single sentence, it would have been accurate to say that, at this point, I have no particular audience in mind while I am making music. Thinking this way gives me a certain freedom and stimulates growth and change. It is a state of mind that has been extremely useful to me from time to time throughout these last 27 years of being a professional musician.
I am grateful that I still have an audience, considering that I do not make music preconcieved to conform to “what people want”. I don’t think people know what they want, except that the general public thinks that artists should sound as their audience expects them to. The general public did not “want” Jimi Hendrix’s music before 1967. They did not know that such sounds were possible. How could they have wanted it before they heard it? Did the public “want” Sgt. Pepper before it came out? That would have been impossible, because no album had ever sounded remotely like that. Yet musicians who aim at becoming or remaining popular have gotten into this stupid habit of attempting to give the public “what it wants”. I made a good living doing this for years, and in 2008 decided that I would never cater to people who believe its a musicians job to give audiences “what they want”, ever again. I have excellent relations with the two independent labels who release my music, and like me, they are not aimed at the masses.
In mainstream industry jargon, an artist who has a small audience is said to have “no audience”. I’ve always despised that expression, because it implies that audiences with uncommon taste are nonentities, rather than actual people. I certainly do not talk that way. I love people, and do not like to see them devalued. I’m glad that the people who continue to follow what I do have kept their minds active and open. And I’m pleased that rock fans are not the only people listening to what I’ve done. Thank you all for existing.