Back in December 2019, the alt-funk veterans, Red Hot Chili Peppers, announced that John Frusciante would rejoin the band. Frusciante, who originally joined the band following the death of founding member Hillel Slovak in 1988, had left the band (for a second time) back in 2009. Upon his departure, members Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and Chad Smith hired Josh Klinghoffer to replace Frusciante. Over his 10-year tenure with the Chili Peppers Klinghoffer would record two albums and tour countless cities.

While fans met the news of Frusciante’s return with elation, the news was heartbreaking for Josh. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone‘s Jason Newman, Klinghoffer opened up about the situation surrounding his termination from the band and what the future holds for the musician.

Many months into writing the follow-up album to 2016’s The Getaway, he received a text from Flea, asking him to meet to “discuss the state” of the band. “When I got the text, my heart sank a little bit,” Klinghoffer said. “There was something in the air and the dreariness of that December day that told me… I remember thinking like this could all disappear.”

Related: Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith Confirms New Album With John Frusciante

When Klinghoffer arrived at Flea’s home, they got right to the point. “We decided to ask John to rejoin,” Flea told him. After a moment of pause, Klinghoffer responded. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “I wish I could’ve done something that would’ve made this an impossibility. But I’m really happy for you guys.” Reflecting on the situation, Klinghoffer says he loves them deeply and wants nothing but the best for them. “I had this amazing journey with those guys that was bringing me to this moment where it was ending. I was able to just grab hold to the fact that I really, truly had a great deal of love and respect and gratitude for everything that they allowed me to experience with them…”

When asked about Kiedis’ input and reaction in the interview, Klinghoffer explains that Flea did most of the talking. “Anthony didn’t say much. But I [could] see in his eyes that it was a very painful decision… I could see that he was caught between his usual wanting to be supportive and carry somebody and having to cut it loose. I think It all comes from Flea’s connection with John.”

Newman then asked him to elaborate on the statement the band released announcing his departure. “It was less than an hour after it happened and at the time I thought, ‘Wow, that is crazy.’ Flea put it up there; it was very clearly his composition… And it does look exactly like a death announcement… It truly felt like a death, but how many times do you get to walk away from a death and live the rest of your life?” Klinghoffer would spend the remainder of his afternoon texting friends and family who offered support in that difficult time.

“I didn’t know John had been talking to them about rejoining the band,” Josh said when asked if he knew the band had been in contact with Frusciante. “He was definitely showing his face in Chili Pepper world a little bit just with emails and apologizing about past behavior. So every time I would hear a story about that, I thought, ‘What is he doing? Does he want to come back?’ Despite images of Flea and Frusciante attending a boxing match together, among other instances of Frusciante’s involvement with members of the band, he said the news of his return “was a total blindside.”

Throughout the interview, Klinghoffer likened it to the end of a relationship when one’s partner begins seeing their ex. “At the core of all of these events, John and Flea created a musical language and camaraderie with each other when John was a teenager… They were in a very different place in their lives, and they were willing and able to create a language and a musical connection with each other that’s so deep and meaningful. Like with a relationship with that burning love that you’ll always have.”

He goes on to discuss how he used to be self-conscious about his ability, given the comparisons fans would make between him and John. Had this news come five years before, it would have destroyed him, he said. “It would have confirmed all my worst intuitions about how much I suck and how worthless I am as a person… But now after having done it for 10 years and basically writing three albums with them… I’m very proud of what I accomplished with them musically and personally… If this was five years ago, I would have fucking jumped off a bridge.”

Though he didn’t take the decision personally, he did foresee being with the band for another tour, at the very least. Because of how far along in the writing process they were, he didn’t think it was a possibility at the time. Looking back on the albums that they did record, Klinghoffer is “not particularly fond” of them. While he liked the songs, he never felt like he was able to have the input he wanted. Rick Rubin, the longtime producer for the Chili Peppers, produced I’m With You, the first record Klinghoffer worked on with the band. “I felt like those four had a relationship and I was the odd man out,” he said.

For the second album he worked on with the Chili Peppers he didn’t want to work with Rubin. Instead, they chose to work with Brian Burton, a good friend of Klinghoffer. Still, Josh didn’t feel he had the input he wanted. “That record wound up working where [Burton is] a producer, and then Flea is the guy that started the band in high school… I never felt like it was easy to fight for what I wanted…”

Towards the end of the interview, Newman asked about the possibility of a return as a guest or even a permanent member, and Klinghoffer didn’t rule it out. “Yes, of course. I love them as people and I always want to play with my friends and that’s all I ever wanted.” Klinghoffer went on to describe his appreciation for the fans that have supported him over the past 10 years to close out the lengthy interview. “For anyone that likes anything I did, or anyone who was concerned about me in this process…I’m totally, totally grateful. And I’m very appreciative and I hope they’re still interested because I don’t see myself stopping playing music.”

Klinghoffer will return to the stage on March 18th when his solo project, Pluralone, opens for Pearl Jam on their Gigaton tour. Visit the band’s website for tickets and more information.

[H/T Rolling Stone]