Josh Klinghoffer definitely feels at home on La Vague Parallèle. As his third solo album This is the Show was just released, Pluralone opened up on the creation of this disc which holds a special place in his discography. We also discussed the evolution of this successful project since his departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 2019. His words perfectly mirror who Pluralone is: a simple and humble man, full of creativity.
La Vague Parallèle : Hi Josh! Thank you very much for having us again. It’s been a year and a half since we last met for the release of I Don’t Feel Well. What have you been up to these past few months?
Pluralone : In January, I started rehearsing for the Eddie Vedder solo tour and then that tour began in February. I took a little longer than I expected because we all got Covid in the middle.
Before that, Clint Walsh and I were putting the finishing touches of this new album, This is the Show, at the studio that I finally built for myself. It’s really been kind of non-stop since I talked to you last, because I did a lot of recording last year with Andrew Watts and then I did a little bit of touring with Pearl Jam, then Eddie‘s album…
The cool thing with my new album is that it was being worked on throughout the beginning of the year. Since I saw you, I had written the songs, sent them over to Clint, then he’s been working on them on his own, before I got involved again.
LVP : The idea of this new album and your collaboration with Clint Walsh started with a song about your friend Juan Alderete from The Mars Volta. Can you tell us more about this song? Is it on the album? Did it end up to be released as Divination?
P: It’s not, we are currently thinking about the best way to put it out. At first, we thought it was only for this small group of people that were friends with Juan, to help them with his recovery. It felt like it would cheapen it if we gave it to everyone else. But now, he’s doing so well so it’s fine. The only reason it is not available yet is because he hasn’t played bass on it. That was always the thing. I think he’s ready to go, he’s been playing for a little while so I think he’s ready to play bass on it. The minute he plays bass on it, we will put it on there. In the end, it is a happy journey.
LVP : This first song led you to work with Clint on this new record. It is the first time that you work that closely with someone else on a solo album. How did you manage to let go some of the control you have on your songs ? Is it an easy thing to do for you?
P: No, it is not, but it was a beautiful thing. It started because this album had begun as a Dot Hacker album and Clint plays in that band with me. It was 2020, everyone was recording things at home. We did one song called Divination and we did that one the same way we did the song for Juan: I wrote it and I sent it to Clint. In the case of Divination, I just wrote it, I sent it away and then I was done with it. That is how we thought it would work best to do a band-type thing in 2020. You know, sending things back and forth, do you part and then you are done and Clint would be the producer.
We had a long couple of Zoom conversations and we figured we would make another album and then it just… It didn’t happen. Divination went pretty well, we were pretty happy with it so we were thinking : ‘why would’nt we do a whole album?’. That was the way we were working: one side wrote it and recorded a simple version of the song, and then we were done. After a while, we realized that Clint and I were having a good time and that the other guys were just not in the same place that we were. We decided to just keep doing it ourselves and to do it under my solo name since people know that name right now, that name is about to go on tour with Pearl Jam… It just made sense. So Clint carried on working.
It has been great to relinquish the control. I never had the ability to do that before because I never trusted anyone was going to treat the songs with as much care as I did. It was an absolute pleasure this time. Sometimes, he would play me something that would be so different than what I imagined but I would open myself up a little bit and listen a couple more times and every time I was like : ‘I love this!’. This album has been such a gift for me in the sense that it is not very often that you get the chance to make an album and also learn how to grow as a person. I am so grateful to him and to the people who listen to it and give me a chance to make records at all. This album was such an experience for that.
I made an album last year and I put out another one a year later and I can really look at the difference in my mind from then to now. Even the growth in writing, the different ways in which I treated the recording, being ok to do things the way Clint does them… Just not caring at all because I trust him and asking myself: ‘why do I have these rules? Why does everything I do come with a set of rules and why not just take every situation as it comes and just be open?’. It is just not everyday that you get to do the things you love doing and get to recognize that you are doing it in an healthy way. With this album, at a certain point, it was almost less about music. You know, I had written the songs, I liked the songs. In the end, I did not care as much about the music, I cared more about the friendship and the communication between Clint and I. That was almost more the creativity.
This album has been such a gift for me in the sense that it is not very often that you get the chance to make an album and also learn how to grow as a person.
LVP : I think it is even more interesting for you to experience new creative processes that you wanted to release an album a year. Is it a way for you not to get bored? Do you still want to maintain that pace?
P: Yes, I would love to! I just always feel like that it is what people used to do in the past, in the 60s maybe. I definitely want to stick to that kind of schedule if I could, I am already sort of working on another one so… As long as you take the necessary steps to make sure that it is an exciting new place for the listener, then I guess it doesn’t matter if it comes out in a year or in five years. As long as it is not purposeless and you are not doing it just to put something out. I said that to kind of inspire myself to just always key writing.
This year was a funny year writing wise because I wrote a bunch of stuff back in March or April of last year on the guitar thinking that my next album would be an acoustic thing but then I did not get the chance to work on that stuff until now. It has been a long time since I’ve actually had the chance to write. The minute 2020 was over, it was like the world sort of turning again at the same speed.
And the thing about coming out with an album every year… I spent ten years in the Chili Peppers and we made two records, that’s where that comes from. We could have put out ten albums in the stretch of time I was in that band. That’s where that statement of mind came from that I wanted to make one album a year. It was a way to tell myself that all I want to do is to be learning and growing and working and I refuse to let the structure of the music business put it out.
LVP : It is already your third album as Pluralone. We can feel that you are refining and affirming your style through the albums. In hindsight, how would you describe Pluralone’s musical identity?
P: Oh Gosh, I don’t know… Because this album is quite a bit different than the first two albums. I guess the consistent thing would be the songwriting, the lyric writing, the singing. I don’t know how to explain it or describe it. I would say it is emotionally and psychologically minded modern music. Well, it would have been modern music twenty years ago (laughs). Heavily influenced by music from the 50s through the 90s… I am not sure. People used to call me ‘alternative’ but I never thought that term was appropriate.
LVP : There are way more electronic sounds on this new album. Does it come from the electronic experiments you were talking about during our previous interview or is it linked to Clint’s influence ?
P: This album is heavily influenced by Clint because he was the producer. When I would send him the first song of the album, The Fight For The Soul, it was written on the piano and when he sent it back, he turned it into this kind of synth-anthemic song. It is great because I did not know what it was going to be like. When it is time for me to make an album, I always think: ‘shouldn’t I do it the way I wrote it?’, and then I just start adding from that place. That was what was great about getting someone else involved. It is just that I don’t trust people. And I think Clint‘s palet is a lot poppier that mine. I would have the tendency to sound a little broken, a little off so I probably would not have had a synth sound like that. If it was me, I would have made it sound like it was coming through a broken speaker. And then I would ask myself: ‘why do you want to sound broken? What is wrong with this?’.
Clint is into synthesizers, I am into synthesizers… We are into different types of electronic sounds but we love the same kind of 70s synthetic string sounds. I am always pulling out my modular synthesizer to treat things and make them sound weird and broken, and they let me get away with that a little bit.
So I would say on this album, the electronic influence is more from Clint. So many of the electronics you hear on the record likeThe Fight For The Soul or the strings in A War Within, the lushness of Wait For Me, that was all Clint. I love them all, I love all that stuff (smiles).
In the end, I did not care as much about the music, I cared more about the friendship and the communication between Clint and I. That was almost more the creativity.
LVP : At the end of our last discussion, you talked about your interest in history, especially in the Cold War. What do you keep in mind from this study of history ?
P: That is what was funny about this album… When we spoke then, I was probably reading that book and I thought: ‘oh that would be a nice organizing principle for the next Pluralone album’. I was not really thinking about a concept-album but more about a bunch of songs that kind of had to do with the bomb, the Cold War, the breakdown in communication between civilizations or even people. A marriage could be as difficult as the West and the East getting along. I guess history and specifically the history of the last hundred years, when we finally reach the point in the human experiment where we could destroy ourselves in an instant… That is like a whole new paradigm, a whole new problem that never existed before. There is something that has always fascinated me about that, ever since I was a child. My grandparents had a couple friends who fought in World War II and I was always interested in war. I mean… This is not that long ago!
As I have grown older, I realized that we all live with the knowledge, in the back of our minds, that we have the ability to kill entire countries at the snap of a finger. They did not have that problem in the past, so we are living in an age now where communication is getting stranger and stranger when you would think it would become easier. I think it is an amazing thing that you could be sitting in Paris and I am sitting in Pasadena and we are looking at each other and talking. These computers and these phones… That should be great but it is also doing terrible things to the human race. We are dealing with that but also with the fact that we can kill lots of people really fast so what do we do? We have to recognize that communication is really the only tool we have to save ourselves from a fiery death. It might be overthinking a little bit but I remember so clearly walking in Seattle on John Street looking around over the Space Needle, being blown away by the beauty of it and thinking that everything could go away in a second.
So I started to write a bunch of songs about that for myself and then when the Dot Hacker idea came up, I had written a few other ones. So some of them became the Pluralone album: A War Within, Can’t Put The Bullet Back In The Gun, The Fight For The Soul. A lot of them are about these historical references and the stuff I am reading all the time but it is mostly about communication and how two people or countries can communicate. The cover is a picture of the look on people’s faces when John Kennedy is telling them ‘hey everybody, we are in a tricky situation here, there is something going on in Cuba, just so you know, I feel like I have to tell you that we are on some sort of high alert here’. That is what is being told to those people on the picture. It comes out March 17th and one week later, to the day, this mad man in Russia decides to start bombing his neighbor. It is just insane that we are still dealing with the same stuff!
You would probably have a very different and richer opinion about what it’s like to be a citizen of Europe in the last hundred years. That is fascinating to me. I have a couple songs that I have not finished yet about that. The first time I went to Russia, I met a bunch of people that were my age and I was like: ‘wow, you had three different regimes, three different political systems that you had to acquaint yourself with’. What does that do to a person’s mind? You know, I have this spoiled kind of existence with a stability in my country but some people in the world suffer these terrible political situations and I think these are the outcomes from the inability to communicate!
That is more or less what I am always fascinated with, the way human beings communicate and specifically looking back at the last hundred years and the changes that we have made as a society. The technological advancements, the ability to destroy people and cause a lot of pain, the fact that it is 2022 and as a society we have not all agreed that it is just probably best to not make other people suffer… It is just beyond me. It is crazy. That is what I am obsessed with.
LVP : There is a set of very violent images behind the titles and lyrics of these news songs. Is it something that you needed to get out of your system to feel better?
P: For the song A War Within, I remember thinking about myself and the way I communicate with myself, the way I talk to myself. It is like I am my own fascist or stalinist! My mind is a dictator and my life is the suffering population (laughs).
LVP : You seem to be getting more and more comfortable in the relationship with your fans. You recently organized your first Instagram live. How did it feel for you to play and talk directly to people?
P: It was a difficult moment at the time because I came up with a bunch of songs to play, I played them and then I thought it would be fun to interact but I found it hard to do. It was fine but it felt a little funny because I felt like people were staring at me and I started to get embarassed when I was asked to play songs that I did not know how to play. Only in the moment did I feel uncomfortable. The minute I was done, I felt like people liked it so I felt better.
I still get sort of bashful so I was like ‘I am an idiot and I don’t know how to play any songs, these nice people are asking for songs and I don’t know how to play them’. At the end of the day, it was a weird experience. I am going through this whole thing right now about playing live because I have never done it by myself. I am supposed to be spending these weeks rehearsing but I just don’t know how to rehearse! You just play your songs over and over I guess? So when I posted this song called Elongate, it was a way for me to practice.
I am just so honored and so blown away that there are people that like my stuff. All I have ever wanted in my life was to write songs, like them myself, put them out and see if they connect with people. If my music makes people feel the way the music I love makes me feel, then I feel like I am not a total waste. It is the only thing I know how to do I suppose. It is funny because I am not someone who naturally wants to be the center of attention and I don’t really know how to perform. I can only be me.
There is something that feels really nice about communicating with people, or people communicating with each other: when I did this live-stream a couple weeks ago, there was a technical problem and all people were in a chat-room together and I heard from a viewer that they all hung out! These people being together, that is such a beautiful thing. I just don’t experience that kind of stuff much. Even when I was playing with the Chili Peppers, there were tons of people out there that were all happy but I feel like it was more for something that someone else made. These people here experiencing joy in life and I am kind of involved… That is crazy! I do like the idea of communicating, we are living in an age where that is easy.
All I have ever wanted in my life was to write songs, like them myself, put them out and see if they connect with people.
LVP : You also launched your own podcast in which you share music and you talk about your creative process, about things that influence you… What can you tell us about this new project? Can you tell us more about this mysterious map and the other images that were around you during the making of the record?
P: I was going to put out one a week but I think this kind of stuff should come out closer to when they are recorded. Maybe I can get a bunch out before I go on tour and then I will take a little break.
I think the map is from the late 70s of what the World would look like if the Soviet Union attacked Western Union or Europe. I was looking for artwork ideas for this album because a friend of mine who takes photographs that are on the first two albums was having a hard time coming up with something for this new one. So I started looking for images and I was obsessed looking for Cold War stuff, and I found these maps. Visually, that map was so perfect for my color palet. I felt it was too weird to use it for my album cover because I did not really know what it said at first.
I did not even want to call it a podcast, I was thinking of it as something on my little website, more like a radio show. Something I always think about is how everything is at your disposal now. Right now, I can listen to a Parisian radio station or any radio station around the world. When I was younger and the Internet was just starting, I used to think that I would listen to radio shows all the time and learn about so much music. I was doing that last night. I rarely do it but I did it last night. I just love the fact that we can listen to these radio shows, there is so much good stuff out there. You caught me in a really positive morning… Or I think it is you that is making me positive. Thank you so much!
It was fun the record that first episode, and just play some music that I really like. It’s just up there, people can listen to it, and if one person hears a song that I like and gets into an artist, that makes me really happy.
LVP : I know that you’re much of a digger and I read in Flea’s book Acid for the Children that you travelled to Ethiopia a few years ago to discover their music and culture. Can you tell us more about it ?
P: Oh gosh, it was an amazing trip. It was the way I like to do things, last minute and spontaneous. Flea had gone to Nigeria before and he got invited to Ethiopia so he came in to rehearsal one day and said ‘hey guys let’s go to Ethiopia’. Anthony and Chad could not do it because they have families and young kids but I was like ‘ok, I am there’. Not to mention I am also a massive fan of Damon Albarn who was there with us so I was like “wow, I get to go to an African country that I have already been interested in since the 80s. I have always been fascinated with Ethiopia, with the culture, the food, the music… I have always had an interest in going there. It was an Africa Express trip and going with Damon and a couple of other cool musicians and artists, I was like ‘yeah let’s go!’.
Are you familiar with Africa Express? It’s a group that Damon started with different people in the business that all have an interest in Africa. They decided that the best way to benefit Africa with was to go there and learn about it. It was like going to musical camp, see musicians, singers, villages where they make drums… It was an incredible trip.
LVP : Speaking of concert, you have finally been able to go back on stage. How did it feel?
P: Well, I have played seven performances at the Ohana Festival, that was crazy! I enjoyed all of them in different ways. Playing with Eddie Vedder is incredible: the strange groupe of people that this band is, between me and Chad, who love playing with each other, and Chad and Andrew Watt who have this beautiful friendship, and then Chris Chaney, who plays in Jane’s Addiction, which is an important band to all of our lives… It is such a family. Eddie is such an important part of my musical upbringing. And because we all knew it was kind of short, it almost felt like a vacation from everyone’s real life. Everyone has another focus: Andrew is producing records, Chad has got the Chili Peppers, Eddie was about to go back on tour with Pearl Jam…
That was a really emotional trip. Just being on stage, playing music with people that you love… There is this thing with Taylor Hawkins too, three people in that band were his best friends: Chris Chaney, Andrew Watt and Chad Smith were three of his closest friends and then Eddie and I were the next rung down. We both have great love for Taylor, he was like an honorary member of that band because of how much he was around the conversation. Last time I saw Taylor was on FaceTime at the last Eddie show backstage, saying how much we missed him and love him, and then less than a month later, he is gone… It really just made me want to remind everyone that I love that I care about them. You never know what can happen.
I want to see someone be real, I don’t care about being perfect. I don’t really know how to perform. I can only be me.
LVP : You also did your live debuts as Pluralone. How was it? Did you enjoy it?
P: It was weird! I liked it when things were going well and then when things were not going well, it was embarrassing and made me feel like I should have done a better job preparing. This is hard for me because I am not very good at practicing. I just play when I am enjoying myself. If I am just supposed to be sitting and playing my songs over and over, I am bored stiff. I just want to be doing something new or to be writing something new… I have been conditioned that way: when I write songs, I don’t have a band to go on tour with.
When I was in the Chili Peppers and we put out a new album, we played those new songs a couple times at the beginning and then two months later, we could do it with our eyes closed so I know what it is like to get to a place where the songs are easier. But for my songs, it is just me using my brain, I need to remember the lyrics and the practicing is really hard for me, it comes more from the doing. I guess I have to accept that it is a combination between lived experience and a little more practice.
To answer your question… If this was the past, after that show, I probably would have moved to the North Pole and no one would have seen me for five years (laughs)! But the way I looked at life in the last little while… I don’t want to go up on stage and forget lyrics and chords. I also do stupid stuff like play a song of mine, Mother Nature, on the guitar and in a different key. I will make it harder on myself and then I will mess up and then I will be mad but it’s like, ‘you know, you did it to yourself’ (laughs). But at the end of the day, I have to remind myself that I actually like seeing those kind of shows. I want to see someone be real, I don’t care about being perfect. You know, there is something that really bothers me: my voice. I have been having a lot of trouble with my voice lately. I don’t know if it is because I am getting older but I sing high a lot and most of the time, I have trouble with my voice. I refuse to give up coffee and that is not helping. At Ohana Festival, I brought Nate Walcott and when the first note came, my voice went ‘arghh’ and it just didn’t work. So I had to swallow and then I was able to sing the rest of the song and I had a great time. That was the first time I was only singing a song. The only time I have ever only sang on stage was with Jack Irons for three minutes when we played a Pink Floyd song on tour. That was really fun. But I am guess I am just looking forward to getting better!
LVP : Recently, Kaly and Outer Space, which are two B-sides from The Getaway, appeared on the Internet. Were you aware that it was to be published ? How did you feel about that ? Can some other songs appear anytime soon as well ?
P: Yes, they appeared the day before my album came out! I was totally not aware that they were going to be published. There was a funny coincidence though: a guy that I met on tour sent me an e-mail a couple weeks before saying ‘hey! Can you confirm that this title is the name of an actual song?’. I wrote back that it was one of the songs that we did but did not end up on the album. He asked me if there was any way to hear that and I was like ‘wow, I cannot send it to you but I am gonna go listen to it’. I actually have not heard that in forever! The song had two names, one was Kaly and at one point it was called On The Bright Side but I always called it Kaly. So I listened to it and it was fun, I like this one.
I feel like that song was never finished, I remember I was going to put a guitar solo on it and I just did not get around to it. That album was so annoying… We were so behind schedule because Flea broke his elbow. I did the solo to Sick Love at 3 in the morning the day before the album had to go start being mixed. We rushed so much.
LVP : Eventually, do you plan to go on tour with Pluralone?
P: I am going to open for Pearl Jam. That is pretty much all of this year. I am not playing solo in Europe. I am not particularly excited about playing by myself, that takes a lot of energy, a lot of fire and I have not yet summon that fire. I am hoping to put together a trio band at some point and do it. That would be amazing.
Pratiquant assidu du headbang nonchalant en milieu festif. Je dégaine mon stylo entre deux mouvements de tête.