Josh Klinghoffer Discusses RHCP, Danger Mouse, and His Solo Project, Pluralone

Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, Josh Klinghoffer, has a lengthy and prestigious musical résumé. Among his many professional accomplishments, Klinghoffer has worked extensively with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gnarles Barkley. 

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This year, he is set to go on tour, opening for Pearl Jam with his new solo project, Pluralone. The band, Klinghoffer says, has yet to play a single show. But now they’re head on one of the most recognizable bills in the country, stopping at cities like New York City, Toronto and Nashville, among many others. Pluralone, though, which sounds like a mix of Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead, should please rock fans with its elastic vocals and thoughtful, pulsing instrumentation. 

We caught up with the songwriter to talk to him about his early years studying music, how he connected with world famous artists and his hopes for the upcoming tour.  

What first drew you to music?

Thinking back, there was never a time I can recall that I wasn’t totally interested in music. There were all the kid records, of course. But I have a very strong memory of both my Dad and my uncle making me tapes of the Beatles and The Beach Boys at age 5. Those two I was instantly obsessed with and still am, to some degree. I have wondered many times if my proclivity to sing high or use falsetto was because of my early love for the singing of Brian and Carl Wilson.  

When you dropped out of school and were learning music at home, did you think of the future much, or was it all bucking down and practicing? 

I wasn’t thinking of the future all that much. The concept of supporting myself or being an adult at all couldn’t have been further from my concern. I always felt so mature and sophisticated when I was younger and only now do you realize how little you know. It’s still the same. I’m not sure anything has changed. I’m still just as annoyed and irresponsible and still think I know more than I do. I don’t know how much we change; we just might know how to hide it better. 

Was your family supportive of you then, are they now?

They were supportive in the sense that they signed me up for music lessons at age 9. Later when I was deciding to follow my own path, they didn’t kick me out onto the street, but I’m not sure they knew what I was doing was enough to truly support me. I’m not sure I did, either. 

You spent 10 years with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Is there one thing you learned about yourself as a person or musician in that time that’s especially valuable today?

I learned to follow my instincts more. I always have, to a degree. But always being younger than everyone around me, I think I often would defer to people more than I should. Then I would get annoyed when things didn’t run efficiently. I think I have a broad consideration of things in front of me and I know now to listen to myself more.   

What was the energy like working with Danger Mouse on Gnarles Barkley? 

They make the records on their own, Brian and Cee-Lo. I was just in the touring band. There is one song on the second album that we went in and recorded rather quickly, though; I think it was just a last minute composition. We were already rehearsing and came up with an arrangement rather instantaneously. That was a fun session because the live band had never been involved in the recording process before. I seem to recall it going fairly quickly and being fun, we all went out for drinks after.  

You’ve been in rooms with some of the world’s most prestigious musicians. To what do you attribute your ability to mesh so well with these larger-than-life people? 

Yikes. If I knew, I might stop doing it by mistake. I don’t know. I think just being myself? That’s a bit simplistic, and perhaps being myself used to mean sitting quietly in the corner and just doing what needed to be done without anyone having to ask. I really just enjoy the people I’m around. Enjoy their company. Enjoy hearing what they have to say and how they say it. I like learning about the world through people and figuring out how their brains work. Perhaps that’s something I do. I feel like I can’t help but wonder how people think. so I’m quickly considering how and why they are saying what they’re saying. I don’t know really, that’s a hard one.   

Is there something specific that you taught yourself in those early years in your bedroom that has been particularly useful in your creative collaborations today?

I feel like that was so long ago that I can’t remember any specific things I taught myself. But on the other hand, nothing’s really changed. I’m still the same person sitting on the floor figuring out records by ear. I think my patience has thinned a bit, so perhaps I always remind myself that it’ll come. Just stay there. Work it out. Don’t walk away. I’m still reminding myself that. 

How does Los Angeles influence you as an artist?

When I was younger, it influenced me because I wanted nothing more than to leave it. I didn’t much like LA when I was growing up, I was always jealous of my cousins who grew up on the east coast. As I’ve gotten older, I can see how incredibly rich the culture is here and I am beyond fortunate and delighted to be a part of it. Nowadays, just the history of this beautiful place with all of its people and its crazy stories influence me everyday. It’s a wild place. 

What did you do the night you were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with RHCP?

After the ceremony? You know, I honestly don’t remember. I’ll have to ask my parents. I do remember seeing Little Steven Van Zandt in the elevator going back to my room that night and I gave him some love for his induction of all the sidemen that night. I was also just getting over a bad cold. 

You will be opening for Pearl Jam on their massive 2020 tour. Is this daunting or does it feel like another day at the office? 

It’s totally daunting and I’m still getting it together. I’ve never played a solo show! It’s so crazy to imagine doing it in those spaces for the first time. These songs are all a bit more intimate, so I have to figure out the best way to play them on this scale. I may take the opportunity to play a load of songs by other people. Maybe I’ll throw one or two of mine in.

You recently released your debut LP, To Be One With You. Do you feel different in any respect now that the solo record is out?

That’s hard to answer accurately because of what happened three weeks after its release. It didn’t really feel different at all and probably would have just been this little record that was out there. The few people who knew to look would find it, and that’d be about it. I was about to get back to the writing, then recording the Red Hot Chili Peppers album, when there was a bit of a personnel change [Klinghoffer was replaced by former RHCP guitarist, John Frusciante]. It’s the most amazing stroke of luck that I just happened to have an album out. I keep thinking about what it would’ve been like to start recording one in the wake of leaving the band. It would have colored it massively, perhaps for the better, but I doubt it. The timing of it all just seems so fortuitously wonderful. Now, and especially since Pearl Jam have given it a place to exist and find itself, I couldn’t feel more lucky. I am so grateful to those guys. I think it probably won’t seem real until I start playing the first song in Toronto. I’m looking forward to doing much more under this moniker and hopefully with other people, not just myself. 

You’ve spent so many years playing in support of other artists, both on stage and in the studio. Do you feel more ready in any specific way, musically or otherwise, to have your name now front and center?

I would only say that I’ve been at it longer and my confidence is a little greater. I started with none, so there was only one direction to go. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly feel ready for anything. There is always more to do, more to prepare. I think I’m just a little more comfortable being myself.

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