For this interview and photo session, I visited Chad Smith at his home in Malibu overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Although he is active as a guest drummer teacher, and drummer with Chickenfoot and The Bombastic Meatbats, he is best known for his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which he joined in 1989 for the album Mother’s Milk. He has been a Chili Pepper ever since, and is respected and admired by fans and fellow drummers all over the world for his talent at combining an explosive rock sound with a hypnotic funky groove. The new Chili Pepper album, I’m With You, drops on August 30. OK, let’s get down with one of the most inventive and successful drummers of all time.
BONZAI: Why are you a drummer?
SMITH: I am a drummer because only the smartest and most handsome powerful extremely talented geniuses of the musical community play the drums, excluding myself, of course.
BONZAI: When did you decide to be a drummer?
SMITH: Well, I’m still thinking about it! But when I was seven years old, I discovered that drums were the only instrument in the house that wasn’t taken. My sister played piano, my brother played guitar. I gravitated toward the drums, and I think that the drums chose me.
I was lucky to find my passion at an early age. I just started banging away on cardboard Baskin-Robbins ice cream tubs that my father had grabbed out of the trash behind the store. I used little Lincoln logs children’s sticks for drumsticks. I had only the finest equipment at a young age, hence my rapid mastery of the instrument.
BONZAI: Can you remember the first gig where you actually made some money?
SMITH: It was with a band called “Rocking Conspiracy,” in 1973. My brother Brad was the guitarist of the group. Brad was never in tune and we created a terrible racket. Out first gig was my dad’s going away party when we were going to move from Chicago to Detroit. We did “Light My Fire,” “Country Roads,” and a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” I have a tape of that show and I did the same fill every four bars. I thought that was great, I had it mastered, and I was ready for the big time. At the end of the show there was one person clapping and I could here mumbling, “The band is his kids.” I think I made five dollars for the show. And for that performance, I was overpaid.
BONZAI: Are you a big hockey fan?
SMITH: Yes, I love the Detroit Redwings, my favorite team. I used to play hockey when I was a kid as a goalie. I think I just liked stuff and the goalie had the most equipment, like a drummer. I was attracted to stuff.
The third part of this four-part interview will be posted soon!
To view the second of four videos with Chad, visit: http://www.mrbonzai.com