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: Of all the concerts you played, which one stands out as the strangest and wackiest and craziest?
SMITH: Well, we have done a lot of wacky shows, but back in the early days, we could get way with crazy things because we were relatively unknown. This was before MTV and radio.
We played a show in Texas once and we were young, feeling free about a lot of thing, including drugs and sexuality. We had socks on, and one time after a show, we had to run away, and the cops were chasing us. I ended up hiding in somebody’s house because we showed pubic hair on stage! It was fun, and we were entertainers who liked to shock people. Now we can’t do that because we would be arrested. Actually, we have changed and now it is all about the music. We just used to express ourselves differently.
BONZAI: Did you ever have a panic attack on stage?
SMITH: I have had stage fright, but it is only when I am in an unprepared situation. When we played the Woodstock Festival in 1994, we played with these big giant light bulbs on our heads, which we had never tried out or rehearsed with. We had silver suits that made us look like giant baked potatoes with light bulbs for heads. We played in front of 300,000 people and it was our first gig with Dave Navarro, who was our guitarist then. I had a little trepidation about how this was going to go. It wasn’t because of the playing, because I knew the songs, but it was the extra stuff. But it was good. You need to take chances, you need to challenge yourself, and you need to improvise. That is a big part of playing music, trying new things and challenging yourself as a musician.
BONZAI: What is the best part about being a Chili Pepper?
SMITH: I think it is being in a group that gets to do whatever we want. We are really free to express ourselves as people, and as musicians and a band. There is no restraint and there is no pressure to be like anyone else. We just do what we do, naturally, and people like us. It’s great, it really is. From a musician’s standpoint, it’s great to be able to do your art, and do what you are passionate about, and not try to conform to anything else or follow a trend. This band that has been successful for years, we sell records and people come to see us. I think we are successful because we are a band that wants to challenge ourselves and change and play music that we love and which comes from our hearts, and is real. People connect with that, and we are fortunate. I am so lucky to be able to do what I love to do, and be paid for it.
To view the final episode of four videos with Chad, visit: