Josh Klinghoffer sounds exhausted even after taking a nap, “I didn’t feel so well today,” he says over the phone from Los Angeles. He has worked himself into the ground over the past few days, working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their new album, but he’s excited about coming to play in Japan.
For a while, Klinghoffer says his own band, Dot Hacker, “never really left L.A.” It was too difficult to match up the schedules of the band members, so he laughs when he says last year they finally made it as far as Texas. But now Dot Hacker is coming as far as Tokyo.
“I’m just so happy to come play in Japan,” he said. “We don’t get a chance to be a band that often.”
While he has been here a few times before, he’s more excited about Dot Hacker traveling abroad.
Klinghoffer, 35, is a prolific musician, which gives him an excuse for being exhausted (or hungover, or both; I don’t ask).
“I don’t really take any breaks,” he says. “I’ll try not to let a day go by without making a song. I don’t think I’ve created a lot of music.”
He has toured and played with Beck, John Frusciante and Butthole Surfers to name a few. It was Frusciante and Klinghoffer’s time with Bob Forrest (of the band Thelonious Monster) in a group called The Bicycle Thief that saw him hanging in the same circles as the Chili Peppers. He eventually joined them in 2009.
When Klinghoffer replaced Frusciante as guitarist for the Chili Peppers, his timing couldn’t have been better. The band had just been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and at age 32, Klinghoffer was the youngest person ever to be inducted.
“It’s something I don’t think about much,” he says. “It felt silly for me to be standing up there. I don’t think there should be a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, period,” he says. He doesn’t mean to be “talking sh-t” about it, Klinghoffer says he just doesn’t believe music can be ranked in the same way sports can. However, now he gets a ballot to nominate other acts into the institution. Surely if there’s a band he thinks is extremely deserving he’ll use his vote? He says he won’t.
“You’ll never get me saying Chic is better than Lou Reed, or Lou Reed is better than N.W.A.,” he says. “How can I pick one of those things?”
Klinghoffer dropped out of school at 15, learning to play guitar by listening to records. Before that he was playing drums (which he says lets him talk “drummer speak” with Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith). At 17, he met Forrest and the pair played their first show together shortly after.
But what about school, did he just not care? “It wasn’t done really well,” he says with a laugh before stressing the decision worked out well for him in the end. Considering his work ethic and how exhausted he sounds, is he happy now?
“I’ll never be satisfied,” he says.
When Klinghoffer isn’t with the Chili Peppers, he’s recording solo, with friends or he’s working with Dot Hacker. The group’s latest album, “How’s Your Process (Play),” comes on the back of “How’s Your Process (Work).” Both are frenetic and layered with guitar, electronic effects and beats as Klinghoffer’s voice gives the impression it’s almost winding itself in and out of the music, with guitarist Clint Walsh’s vocal harmonies following suit.
The band seems to be an outlet for the members, who are mainly session musicians (bassist Jonathan Hischke and drummer Eric Gardner round out the group).
“Dot Hacker, to me, sounds like a collection of all my tastes,” Klinghoffer says. “I hear four people trying to fill up as much space as they can.”
Klinghoffer will normally bring a few chords or riffs to the band, which they then expand upon before adding lyrics later. The idea, he says, is to create something that carries meaning but still sounds good sung or spoken.
“How’s your process? Are you sure it still works for you?” Klinghoffer sings on “Anger,” the strings-laden closing track on “How’s Your Process (Play).” “Devoted to the way it’s always been, halcyon implies that it was once good.” Typical pop music, it’s not.
“Life seems terrible and disappointing, so you need to find something you need to make you stick around,” he says. “Music that makes me happiest is the saddest music, with the most emotional feel.”
It may seem like a down way to finish up the conversation, but Klinghoffer peps up when talking about Japan again. Tickets to Dot Hacker’s first show sold out, but promoters have added another one. Hopefully, he’ll get a decent sleep on the plane.
Dot Hacker plays Shinjuku Marz in Tokyo on Feb. 23 (7 p.m. start; ¥5,000 in advance; 03-3202-8248) and Tsutaya O-Nest in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Feb. 24 (7 p.m. start; ¥5,000 in advance; 03-3462-4420). For more information, visit www.dothacker.org or www.alive.mu.