Grateful Web Interview w/ Chili Peppers Guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer
In 2012, Josh Klinghoffer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the newest member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers; the youngest artist to ever accept this honor. When long-time RHCP lead guitarist, John Frusciante officially left the band in 2009, touring guitarist Klinghoffer was the obvious replacement and went on to write and record the bands’ tenth studio album, I’m With You. In addition to his work with RHCP, and numerous credits sessioning for artists like Beck, Gnarls Barkley and the Butthole Surfers, he fronts Dot Hacker, a creation that is truly…and finally, his own. Perhaps he has earned his chops amidst some of these well-season veterans, but the new Dot Hacker LP, Inhibition, is possibly his greatest, most innovative accomplishment to date.
GW: This is Dave Papuga with the Grateful Web. With me today is Josh Klinghoffer, lead guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and front man for the California-based, experimental rock and roll band Dot Hacker. How are you today, Josh?
JK: Pretty well. How are you?
GW: I’m pretty well, man. So, Josh, give us a little background on the formation of Dot Hacker. You and Clint Walsh and Eric Gardner initially began playing as a part of Gnarls Barkley’s touring band?
JK: Almost right…Clint Walsh and I did on Gnarls Barkley’s first tour, which was in 2006, for their first album, on which I actually joined half-way through, as the tour was a couple of months in, replacing the keyboard player. So Clint and I did that tour together, and Clint knew Eric from playing in a couple of other bands…I think The Motels. Eric did tour with Gnarls Barkley, but not until Gnarls’ second record, by that time we had initially formed Dot Hacker, and started playing together, and Chris Vrenna, who had been playing drums in Gnarls, left, and I jumped on the opportunity to get Eric involved in Gnarls Barkley. So, three out of the four Dot Hackers were in Gnarls Barkley at that time, but Eric came on to the second tour.
GW: And you played keys for Gnarls Barkley?
JK: Yeah. I played guitar on a couple of songs on the second tour, but yeah, I was mainly the keyboard player, and I had no idea what I was doing when I agreed to do it.
GW: It kind of worked out.
GW: So, the debut Dot Hacker album, Inhibition, was actually recorded before you joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
JK: Yes, it was finished and everything, before…I had, sort of, given up the idea of focusing any time on other peoples projects—like records or touring—you know, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to support myself or anything like that, but I was determined to focus on my songs and my writing only. So that’s what I did, during 2008 and 2009, and with the help of our friend, Adam Samuels, who is an amazing engineer, we recorded that record, and finished it and mixed it, did a little mastering job at home, on my kitchen table, and kind of closed the door on it on my 30th birthday, which was October 3rd, 2009, and then it was out of my system, and I thought, “okay, I don’t know if it’s ever going to come out, and I don’t know what will happen with this band, now that I’m about to join the Chili Peppers. At least we’ve made a record and I have that to show for myself.” And then, nine days after that, I started playing with the Chili Peppers, on the twelfth of October.
GW: Did Anthony Kiedis’s foot surgery and the subsequent postponement of the RHCP tour provide the window of opportunity for you to release Inhibition?
JK: No, that had nothing to do with Anthony’s surgery or that injury. My really, really good friend, Steve McDonald, worked at Warner Brothers for a while, and he was always a fan of the record; and just being a friend, tried to help it see whatever light it could. He was really supportive of it when we first finished it, then it just kind of left all of our radars for a while, and, as the Chili Pepper recording process wound down and the release was almost upon us, he said, “maybe we should give that Dot Hacker record one more chance, see if we can get anyone to put it out, because once you start with the Chili Peppers, you’ll really be gone.” So, obviously, I agreed. The whole plan was to release the Dot Hacker album, get it out there so that the band existed, and it didn’t seem like a side project if we were to do something later on. Jeff Bauer, who worked at WB, but also has ORG—he, obviously, being a WB employee, understands my commitment to the Chili Peppers—he was totally cool with it. He likes the Dot Hacker record, and he decided to put it out…and we’re all more than thankful to him for doing that because it gives the band an existence, rather than…the record was already three years old, almost, so this way, when we do one in the future, it will be the second album, rather than the first. So, Anthony’s injury didn’t really provide a time to put it out or anything. We wanted it to come out before I’m With You, but somehow, we missed that. And then, once I’m With You was ready to come out, everyone thought we should wait until it’s out, because we wanted it to exist separately. We didn’t want to piggyback it on I’m With You…or put it right before I’m With You. So, it was all just timing and scheduling.
GW: So, your role in RHCP—you’re in one of the most established and influential bands of all time…decades of great music and records. In Dot Hacker, you’re fronting a newer group, of nonetheless established musicians, but the project is pretty fresh on the scene, and it’s, basically, more of your own. Would you tell us what the music making chemistry is like in Dot Hacker compared to being a part of RHCP?
JK: I’d say they are pretty similar, in the sense that they are both bands of four people who are really dedicated to making music that, above everything, excites them. Both Dot Hacker and the Chili Peppers—both bands make music that they really want to put on and really want to share with other people. The creative process in both bands are similar too…anything goes, any door is open, everything is encouraged. Everyone feels like their voice is heard. The only difference, and it probably goes without saying, is that the bands have different levels of notoriety. RHCP has been at it for sometime and that brings with it some differences. I’m 20 years younger than the other guys in the Chili Peppers…even if the band wasn’t big, that would just be a different thing, being in different parts of our lives. Creative process-wise—there is no real difference. There’s a difference for me, because in one band I’m singing and in one band I’m not singing, but the methods are pretty much the same.
GW: Regarding you joining the Chili Peppers and the making of the new album, were your opinions welcomed as much as any of the other guys’ in the band?
JK: Absolutely. My opinions are welcomed and encouraged as much as anybody’s are. The Chili Peppers weren’t trying to make any particular kind of record or any particular kind of music, except for music—again, that they would like. When John (Frusciante) made it official that he didn’t want to come back, everybody in the band, in their own way, had to ask themselves if this band was something that they saw taking into the future, if they wanted to do it anymore, if they wanted to keep this massive part of their lives—and the answer was “yes.” Anthony and Flea have been doing this since they were teenagers…I think it was a very difficult task for them to find someone they related with as much as they felt was necessary to do that…and it’s shocking to me, and I’m very grateful that it’s me. It doesn’t shock me because I know who I am, but it’s just crazy that life put me in that position where I was close enough to them to be there to do it.
GW: You were right under their noses. You toured with them on the latter half of Stadium Arcadium as a second guitar player, right?
GW: In your career, you’ve toured with Beck, PJ Harvey, The Butthole Surfers, RHCP. You’ve played some large tours and large venues. Do you particularly look forward to the intimacy of playing smaller venues with Dot Hacker?
JK: Yeah, I do, but it’s not necessarily venue size that I look forward to, it’s more…I mean, I look forward to any situation with Dot Hacker, and the Chili Peppers. I’ve been really lucky, and I’ve been really good at finding myself in situations that provide exactly what I want…it’s people who love each other playing music together, whether it’s on a stage the size of a Chili Peppers stage or a stage the size of a Dot Hacker stage, so it’s kind of the same thing. The only difference is logistics. Sometimes I can be accused of barely looking out into the audience, whether it be at a big festival or at the Troubadour. It really doesn’t matter to me.
GW: As long as you’re making music.
GW: Amidst your full plate of Dot Hacker and RHCP, do you have any other side projects going on right now?
JK: I’m always writing and I’m always working on stuff, but my schedule and my time is pretty limited right now, so no projects to mention. I’m always writing music, period. If I feel they are more suitable for my voice, they might wind up as Dot Hacker songs. Or if I look forward to hearing Anthony sing on them, then they might go to the Chili Peppers. I’m pretty much always writing. Again, I’m lucky to have two bands that I love. I would have more projects to mention, but I just don’t have time right now.
GW: Any future plans for a Dot Hacker tour?
JK: Yeah, absolutely. The Chili Peppers tour is pretty set; I know where I’m going to be for pretty much the next year and a half. And because everyone has a family at home, we’ve planned it to where there are a lot of sizable breaks…like two weeks work, two weeks off, two weeks on, two weeks off…it’s really amazing scheduling, and when you’re a band this size, you can afford to do it, I guess. So, during some of these breaks coming up, there will be Dot Hacker shows. I have no problem going straight from my last RHCP city to my next Dot Hacker city and playing everyday of the break, and then playing with the Chili Peppers the very next night.