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Friday, 15 June 2012

John Frusciante - Red Hot Chilli Peppers

[This article has build details on the Boss CE-2, Ibanez WH-10 Wah and Marshall Shredmaster]


The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are a band renown for producing chart topping albums - Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication, By the Way and Stadium Arcadium all hit the top of the charts all over the world with all of them going multi platinum winning huge critical acclaim and commercial success.


However, there is a darker side to The Chilli Peppers, a band with a curse over it's guitarists; Hillel Slovak (dead - drug overdose), Dave Navaro (mad) and John Frusciante (drug addiction) have all had spells as the main axe man in the Chilli's before tragedy or troubles forced them to leave.

One of the best albums ever?
Although all of these guitarists left their own mark on the Peppers it is John Frusciante that is most well known and associated with the band as it was he who lent his guitar riffs and songwriting skills to the band in the era of their greatest success. Rolling Stone ranks him as #72 on their "100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time" and has this to say about his talent and style;

"The Red Hot Chili Peppers always knew how to rock a party; it took John Frusciante to turn them into an arena-packing band with a sound they could call their own. Frusciante is a remarkably elastic stylist and a gifted sculptural arranger who pushed the Chilis to explore new worlds without getting in the way of their funk-pumped energy; he beefed up their sound with both well-placed fire (the volcanic, Hendrix-style solo on "Dani California") and remarkable elegance (the indelible opening chords of "Under the Bridge")." [1]


So, apart from an exact understanding of the laws of funk and rhythm and supreme talent what makes John Frusciante sound like John Frusciante? What gear's in his locker and how can you replicate all those awesome tones yourself?

I'm going to be looking at his tones from around the 1999/Californication stage of his time with the band as that's my favourite album and also because after this time his set up becomes hugely complex, check out this image of his 2006 "Stadium Arcadium" tour setup [3];


Key;

1 - Moog Expression pedal
2 - MXR Micro Amp
3 - Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi USA
4 - Boss DS-2 TurboDistortion
5 - Mosrite FuzzRite
6 - Ibanez WH-10 Wah
7 - Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb
8 - Moog MF103 12-Stage Phaser
9 - Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
10 - Moog CP-251 Control Processor
11 - Boss FV-50 Volume
12 - Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler
13 - Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress
14 - DigiTech PDS 1002 Digital Delay
15 - Guyatone VT-X Tube Tremolo
16 - Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeler
17 - Moog MF-101 Low Pass Filter
18 - Moog MF-105B BassMuRF
19 - Moog MF-105 MuRF
20 - Moog MF-102 Ring Mod

And compare it to his much simpler Californication recording setup [3];


Key;

1 - Boss DS-2 TurboDistortion
2 - MXR Phase 90
3 - Boss FZ-3 Fuzz
4 - Ibanez WH-10 Wah
5 - Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble (x2)
6 - Boss DS-1 Distortion
7 - Electro-Harmonix 16 Second Delay
8 - Electro-Harmonix Micro Synthesizer
9 - ??
10 - Uni-Vibe Expression Pedal ?
11 - Dunlop Uni-Vibe UV1SC Stereo Chorus

Further more popping over to the guitargeek archives and checking out his stage setup from 2001 we can see that his go to gear was;

"Amps
Fender Dual Showman Silverface Head
Marshall 2550 Silver Jubilee Head
Marshall Major Head 


Cabinets

Marshall Cabinet / 4x12

Guitars

Fender Stratocaster American Electric Guitar 
Fender Telecaster American Electric Guitar 
Gretsch White Falcon Electric Guitar 

Pedals

Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Distortion USA 
Ibanez WH10 Wah 
MXR Phase 90 Phaser" [2]

Which was all set up and connected something like this [2];


Now, I should say that this article is not going to show you how to build guitars or amplifiers, just his pedal board, so we'll get the guitars and amps out of the way now - you'll need a Fender Strat type guitar, or at least something with single coil pickups, humbuckers are a real no-no for John's tone. You'll also want a decent amp, if you're on a budget go for something with two switchable channels - a clean and a crunch setting with a marshall-esqe voicing.

Now, moving onto the pedals. I've previously covered some of the pedals here in my Kurt Cobain article (The Boss DS-1 Distortion and Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi) and here in my Jonny Greenwood article (MXR Phase 90, The Magnus Modulus Delay (for John's Delay tones)) so that leaves us to work out the Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion, the Ibanez WH-10 Wah pedal, the Boss FZ-3 Fuzz and the Roland CE-1 Chorus Ensemble.

Firstly the Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion;


And a video of how it sounds;


And a schematic;


Looks pretty complicated doesn't it? And it is. It's a design utilizing discrete opamps and a switchable boost and mid peaking filter, not something seen that often in pedal design. There aren't currently any project files out there for the Boss Turbo Distortion so it looks like if we want to build up this pedal board we're going to have to find something similar and go with that instead.

For this I'm going to recommend the Marshall Shredmaster Distortion pedal:


It's contour control allows you to get those ultra high gain "peaked" tones that you're looking for. Here's the PDF file for the Marshall Shredmaster build;



With the distortion requirements covered next up is his fuzz pedal - the Boss FZ-3;

And a demo video;


It's a pretty decent sound really, and that from Boss - not a company renown for it's Fuzz Box pedigree! There isn't a lot of info on the circuitry of the Bozz FZ-3 but here's an unverified Boss FZ-3 schematic from Dirk Hendrik;


Now, check that out - looks like a silicon Tone Bender. The silicon tonebender sounds great and will enable you to produce all the tones you'll need - so if you're looking for all those Boss FZ-3 tones and more build the Silicon Tone Bender project which you can find here.

Now - the Roland CE-1 Chorus Ensemble;

With a demo video;


The CE-1 really is a great chorus pedal but there are a few problems with it's design when using it with guitar;

1) It was designed for keyboard, meaning it's input impedance was way too low for standard guitar usage and caused significant loading issues in most setups.
2) It requires plugging directly into the mains, so there's no chance of it popping onto your board seamlessly.
3) It's f&*king massive!

Now there is a schematic out there and I'll present it here for reference, I am, however, going to suggest a different build here - the Boss CE-2; the updated version of the CE-1 which was designed to work with guitar!

The Roland/Boss CE-1 Schematic
Here's the Boss CE-2;


And here's a great project file for it from Tonepad.com;  http://www.tonepad.com/getFile.asp?id=101 

It's worth noting that the MN series chips are now obsolete and tough (but not impossible) to find. If you do some digging you will find some around and they are worth it - the CE-2 is one of the best sounding analogue choruses I've ever heard and if you do manage to build one up it'll be a cherished part of your rig for a long time!

Finally we're going to need a Wah Wah, for all those wah soaked riffs and solos. The Ibanez WH-10 is regarded as a modern classic and is still popular now with the pedal currently in it's "V2" phase.


The WH-10 isn't like other more traditional Wah Wah pedals as it is "inductorless" (it doesn't require an inductor to do it's Wah Thing!) unlike, for example, the Dunlop Cry Baby which does. So, how does the WH-10 sound? Check this out;


Here's the schematic of the WH-10;


Here's the project file from the great Dirk Hendrik;


Give it a crack, the pot is just a standard linear 50kB. The project file is all lined up for use in a crybaby shell.

So that's it, your guide to John Frusciante's Californication tone, done!

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