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: Is it true that you hold the world’s record for playing the largest drum kit of all time.
SMITH: Yes, but I am not sure if it is still the record. A friend of mine from my high school days, Dan McCourt, has a music store and he is a drummer. I was visiting and he said he wanted to put together the biggest drum set. He asked if I would play it. I said sure and he put it together. In 1994, I played a room full of drums – 308 drums. I had a helmet with flames coming out. I just went around and hit everything: drums, snares, timbales, tympani. It was like being in a music store. I don’t think it was the most musical thing in the world, but I did my best.
BONZAI: What did you learn from your years of working with Flea?
SMITH: Flea has his own universe and he is the first bass player that I played with who never relied on me for time. He had his own time. He listens to me, and I listen to him, but he is never waiting for that backbeat or timing. We count it off, and then just go. Certainly back in the early days we had a lot of energy all the time, it was just a top energy, athletic style of music. It was all about burning as hard as you could all the time. Later on, I also learned from him about being more musical, and playing with better dynamics. As a rhythm section we have been playing for 20 years together. But we rarely speak about how we are going to play. When we are writing songs, we will talk about parts and try things out, but in general, there is very little conversation about what we do on our instruments. It’s musical telepathy that only comes together from playing together for a long time. I don’t think you can manufacture that. We just do it, and we just know by looking at each other. I think that is very special, and I feel very lucky to have that kind of musical relationship with someone.
BONZAI: If we could invite anybody in the whole world to play with you right now, who would it be?
SMITH: I’d play with Jimi Hendrix in a New York minute. He was an incredible musician. I’d also like to play with Jimmy Paige, and I have met him. There is a small possibility that we will play together some day and that would be like a childhood dream. I love Led Zeppelin’s music and I think he is a great songwriter.
The fourth part of this four-part interview will be posted soon!
To view the third of four videos with Chad, visit: http://www.mrbonzai.com