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 musician, 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 Peppers 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: Who were your heroes when you were a young drummer?
SMITH: Bill Ward from Black Sabbath, John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, Keith Moon of the Who, Ginger Baker of Cream, Ian Pace of Deep Purple, Roger Taylor of Queen, Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie, Simon Kirk of Free. These guys were the drummers that I thought were great. I would play along with their records, and that is how I started becoming a drummer.
Keith Moon was the first drummer that I ever heard do drum fills and crashes, crashing his cymbals in between fills. You need a lot of drums to do that, but the drums to him were more of a lead instrument. He would play a regular drum beat and he would fan between the cymbals. The way he played was all over the place, and he didn’t keep a really traditional beat. He would use the whole drum set as a sonic assault. He never played the same thing twice. I think the Who was one of the most exciting rock bands of all time.
BONZAI: What is your favorite song to play on stage?
SMITH: That would usually be the last one of the evening, because then we get to go home. (laughs) Actually, it really varies. On the tour for “Stadium Arcadium,” I liked to play “Hump de Bump.” It’s not that difficult to play, but it has a really nice percussion breakdown in the middle and then it comes back. Flea plays on the floor tom, Anthony plays the cowbell, somebody plays the timbale, and it’s a lot of fun.
The second part of this four-part interview will be posted soon!
To view the first of four videos with Chad, visit: http://www.mrbonzai.com