John Frusciante and Venetian Snares Say Releasing Music Is Like Sharing "Pornos of Your Sex Life"

Speed Dealer Moms hone in on "the best part of making music"

Photo courtesy of the artists

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 9, 2024

As the guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Frusciante has sold millions of albums and played some of the world's biggest stages. But when he reflects on his favourite part of making music, he envisions sitting on his living room floor with his synthesizers and drum machines laid out in front of him.

"There's a moment when you have to empty your machines — you have to erase everything that's in their memory before you start," he tells Exclaim! "There have been times when I've said, 'This is the best part of making music.' Sitting in front of an empty 303 or an empty Monomachine. All the possibilities are there before you, and you have no preexisting idea of what's about to come."

Reverently, he continues, "And then you start to see it come. It's one of the nice things about electronic music in general, for me — that there doesn't have to be a song written in advance of making the music."

This blank-slate approach — an open-minded commitment to follow well-honed instincts — is at the heart of Speed Dealer Moms, Frusciante's experimental electronic duo with Winnipeg musician Aaron Funk, better known as Venetian Snares. They formed about a decade and a half ago and released a two-song 12-inch in 2010 before disappearing for 11 years, eventually returning with another 12-inch in 2021.

Their third 12-inch, due out May 10 through Evar Records (the label Frusciante runs with his wife, Marci Pinna a.k.a. Aura T-09), houses a pair of epic nine-minutes electronic jams. "Birth Control Pill" and "Benakis" wildly careen between the frenetic jungle breakbeats Venetian Snares is known for, synapse-frying circuit meltdowns akin to Neo getting sucked into the Matrix, and brief flourishes of Frusciante's signature sense of melody.

"Usually, people come in with a contrived idea of what they want to do," Funk offers. "But, for us, we're making music for the sake of it. We're making music because the process is fulfilling and exciting and fun for us."

Frusciante says, "That was the frequency we were both on when we started. [It] really lent itself to making adventurous music and to taking risks, and to going places where sometimes we fell on our face and sometimes we flew through the sky. And we felt just as good about it either way."

The pair met roughly 15 years ago, around the time Frusciante's second tenure in the Chili Peppers was coming to an end following the tour behind 2006's Stadium Arcadium. Frusciante was a fan of Venetian Snares' rhythmically complex breakcore music, and he reached out to Funk. "Aaron's music was my favourite music, period," Frusciante says. "I was pretty obsessed with it."

Funk was, of course, familiar with Frusciante's work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He's 49, a few years younger than the 54-year-old Frusciante, and was a teenager when the Chili Peppers exploded to mainstream stardom in the early '90s.

Years later, when they became friends, Funk found a collaborator keen to keep pace with his intuitive, unrestrained creativity. The friends recorded their latest 12-inch on Frusciante's living room floor in Los Angeles, with their usual studio full of gear pared down to just a few key instruments.

"A lot of the old acid house stuff was recorded live to cassette tape, so recording live to a CD burner is the equivalent of that that we do at my house," Frusciante explains. "We were sitting so close to each other, because we had so few machines, and so we could say stuff to each other while we were performing. And we could look over at the other one's machine to see what he's about to do. We could anticipate it."

Funk agrees and adds, "I think we're still utilizing telepathy quite a bit."

Using their trusty CD burner, Speed Dealer Moms record entirely live. There's no mixing process at all — what listeners hear on their new 12-inch is exactly as the pair performed and recorded it. Funk handles the bulk of the rhythms while Frusciante focuses on melody and texture, although these roles become blurred to the point that they often can't remember who played which parts.

"On guitar, if I want to play a melody, I can just play a melody and go in a linear way forward through time," Frusciante points out. "But what I do with Aaron, I might have 12 melodies programmed into two machines that are sitting next to me that can all play simultaneously, or that can be played one or two notes at a time. And I can jump from one to the other."

He excitedly continues, "You don't know what you're going to hear next, but you do know that it's gonna musically work, and it's going to sonically work. You can play with time in ways that you can't with a conventional instrument. Making live music with electronic instruments, for me, is the funnest way to make music."

So, if throwing out all preconceptions and creating live electronic music is the best part of music for Frusciante, it begs the question: what's the worst part?

"No matter what, when you release music, it generally just feels like you lost something," concedes Frusciante. "For a lot of people, it's the whole point, and that's what they like the feeling of: releasing something. For me, it's never been like that. It's always been a disappointment."

Funk concurs: "Yeah, me too. I make music — but, really, it's not anyone's business. I like to show my friends, I like to show John. Releasing music is a different thing. With Speed Dealer Moms, it's more like: these tunes would be cool on a vinyl."

Frusciante and Funk love listening to their own music: seeing the artwork, hearing the vinyl, and being released from the pressures of self-analysis. They estimate they've recorded around 30 hours of music, including a session with the Doubtful Guest (a.k.a Libby Floyd) involving 10 simultaneous TB-303 synthesizers, but they've officially released less than an hour of what they've created.

"I probably derive 80 percent of my enjoyment in life from listening to other people's records," Frusciante acknowledges. "So just knowing, if you put something out there to take its place in whatever little notch in history that it'll be, it feels like, to one degree or another, it's a healthy thing to, to give back to that. Because records are the thing that's kept me going since I was a little kid."

Publicly releasing music is a necessary sacrifice, then — a generous act of giving back to a generations-long conversation of music-making. It's the latest unexpected chapter in a career that has been anything but linear, taking Fruciante to the dizzying heights of rock stardom as well as stints of rejecting the spotlight in favour of private experimentation.

Still, that doesn't stop Frusciante from feeling a little weird whenever he puts out new music.

"What I would compare it to is if you had an intimate moment with your friend or with your partner or whatever, and then all of a sudden it was on video and it was out in the world," Frusciante says, collapsing into giggles.

Laughing, Funk chimes in: "Like if there were pornos of your sex life everywhere." 

Latest Coverage