could easily be dubbed the hardest-working musician in the industry. Since arriving on the music scene in the early 1980's, the man perhaps most well-known as the Red Hot Chili Peppers
' drummer has proven that his talents extend far beyond the hard rock/funk genre. Idle time has become nonexistent for Smith, who in the past few years has undertaken everything from a supergroup (Chickenfoot) to children's music (Rhythm Train with Leslie Bixler) to straightforward rock collaborations (Glenn Hughes). One of the most fulfilling projects for the drummer, however, has been the instrumental rock/funk/jazz fusion endeavor Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats
. The idea originally spawned from meeting guitarist Jeff Kollman
and keyboardist Ed Roth
(mutual backing musicians for Glenn Hughes), who discovered that their jam sessions were creating album-worthy compositions. With the later addition of Kevin Chown
on the bass, the quartet released its debut back in 2009 and just unleashed the record More Meat
on October 19.
For a brief moment, Smith's work with the Bombastic Meatbats
and the buzz around his next album with the Red Hot Chili Peppers
seemed to indicate that his era with Chickenfoot was at an end. But in a recent interview with Ultimate-Guitar.com
, Smith dispelled any rumors and confirmed that he is still very much an active member of the Satriani-Hagar-Anthony supergroup. For as many projects as Smith has brewing, it was obvious that drummer was thriving in the organic Meatbats' environment. The 12 tracks on More Meat are a product of liberating and laid-back sessions that Smith deems some of his most fulfilling. And for those of you hoping that Smith still has plenty of creative juice for Anthony Kiedis
and the gang, fear not. The musician was in the thick of recording with the iconic group when we chatted with him and admitted he was excited
about the much-anticipated Chili Peppers record.
UG: Before we start talking about the latest album with the Bombastic Meatbats, I have to say how entertaining you were on the new Chickenfoot DVD Get Your Buzz On. Your man-on-the-street interviews asking people if they recognized anybody in Chickenfoot were hilarious.
The man on the street? Ah, yes! I was just walking around talking to people and they're like, Nope! Never heard of them. I don't know who that guy is. Is that Jimmy Page?
There was a rumor that you weren't going to continue with Chickenfoot.
That's not true. Sam likes to talk. He was kind of frustrated. He knew all along that I was in another group. A little band from Hollywood well, two bands but one of them takes a lot of my time right now. So he was a little frustrated. But we played the other day and it was really fun. We had a great time again. So Joe is doing his solo album tour, and I think he's starting now. In December or maybe two weeks in January, we're going to start up. I'll be done with my Chili Peppers stuff long before then. We'll go into the studio probably in the middle of January. That's the plan.
With the Bombastic Meatbats, was most of the material on More Meat finished during those initial songwriting sessions? What was the process like this time around?
"I just like to stay busy. People want to play, and I'm so happy to play with them."
This time it was much different because we played together. Kevin, the bass player, I met him the first time in the studio when we recorded that first record. There was another bass player Phil Chen, he was supposed to come and record with us. He was playing with The Doors at the time or something and he couldn't show up. So we called Kevin, and he literally came down and started playing right away. This time we played together new songs and wrote new songs. It was much more of a band effort. That was really the main difference. This record, we finished it before I went to New York last year. So it's been done for about a year and a half. We had the first record, the second one, and then the whole live thing that we recorded in L.A. at the Baked Potato. We had two studio albums and a live album done before anything had come out.
Looking back at the last few years, it's insane at how prolific you've been.
I just like to stay busy. People want to play, and I'm so happy to play with them. I love it so much. I have a great job and it's really fun. We were just kind of waiting for the right time to put it out, the second record. The songs are better because we know each other musically and personally and have traveled around playing the songs. It just had a better vibe to me. It sounds much better. We're very proud of it. And it's got a song called Shag!
Talk about Shag, which has a distinct jazzy feel to it. Was that the result of a jam session?
A lot of them come out of jams. It frees you up musically. You can stretch out a bit. It doesn't have to be verse-chorus-verse-chorus. In that way it's really satisfying musically. A lot of things come of jams, like a feel. With Shag we were going in to record, and there was this thing that Jeff sent like a guitar idea. He sent me it and we kind of forgot about it. I said, This is really good. We've got to make this into a song. That's what we did. It's so funny how half-minute things tend to be the best things because no one is thinking about it. You don't overanalyze it. You just kind of go with it. That was it. We did the song and it had a really nice melody to it. That was a late addition.
How unique is the songwriting process with the Bombastic Meatbats compared with Chickenfoot or the Chili Peppers?
They're different and they're the same. Your ultimate goal is to play what's best for the song. In the Chili Peppers, we always jam. Then we have people come in with ideas, so it's a combination of both. The Chickenfoot thing is more certainly on the first record Joe had a lot of ideas. He would send demos around. He's got a little studio in his house. Then he and Sam would get together. Then Mike and I would come up from L.A. when it was like, Yeah, we've got great ideas. Joe comes up with the initial ideas, not just songs but riffs. Then everybody puts in their input, which is great. For the Meatbats, it's really organic. Out of 12 songs, I would say eight of them came out of jams. We came up with them in this little place that's cool called the Tiki Room. In the Tiki Room, it all goes down! I may have a beat or Jeff might have an idea. That's usually how it goes. Somebody has got something, and then we run with it. We start playing and jamming. Sometimes it's great and sometimes it doesn't go anywhere. It's a real organic process, which is really fun. It just comes out of nowhere and it's real. I prefer it because everybody has their input.
Do you have a dream collaborator with whom you'd like to work?
Yeah, I'd like to play with Jimmy Page. Who wouldn't, though? We have the same managers, and he used to come to some of our gigs. I was like, Man, do you want a rhythm section? He smiles! I can tell that he wants to play. He's frustrated. I don't think Robert Plant wants to do it anymore. I could play Led Zeppelin songs all day long, but supposedly he has a bunch of ideas and a bunch of stuff recorded. I don't know. That's what I've heard. I mean, Led Zeppelin was my favorite band. I think it would be fun to get in a room and bang out some ideas and see what would happen. I think there would be five million drummers right behind me wanting to do the same thing. I'm so fortunate. I get to play with the best musicians. I'm in a fantastic musical situation. The Chili Peppers have been together for 25 years and we're still happy to be doing what we're doing. We're lucky, fortunate, and grateful. We're changing and growing. I think wherever I go in all my musical situations, I am just happy to be playing music. That's what I love to do. I'm just really lucky, but I work at it. I want to keep growing and getting better as a person and a musician and a friend and dad and a husband. It all goes together.
Congratulations on being voted the 10th best drummer of the last 25 years by Rhythm Magazine. How does it feel to have an honor like that?
"Chickenfoot will go into the studio probably in the middle of January. That's the plan."
It makes me feel old! That's really nice. It's always nice to be recognized by your peers or the industry or your fans anybody. With lists and things like that, it kind of sounds like a competition. I don't really subscribe to that. Music is nothing about competition. You basically do your thing. It's what you like and what you don't like. You have a choice. It's really nice because I'm proud and do the best that I can. The great thing about that is that if I can inspire somebody to pick up an instrument or the drums or start a band or anything, that's great. For people who are just starting out, that's cool.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming musicians in today's current industry?
Be yourself first and foremost. That's the most important thing. Don't try to be like somebody. You can be influenced by other people, but don't copy somebody. You can really tell if somebody is being authentic. The only thing is that I see this immediate gratification or I want it now, right now, and then I'm on to the next thing tomorrow. It's a craft unless you're an incredibly gifted genius and can grasp everything at once, like if you're Tony Williams and you play with Miles Davis when you're 17. That's far and few between. You have to really work at it. That takes putting in time and energy. It just doesn't happen overnight. People are like, Oh, I've got my one beat and one fill and I'm going to be on TV. That's part of our culture and this whole reality TV thing. I think it's detrimental to what people really need to do to be able to be really good and have quality in their life. I think it just takes time, whether it's time as in years or time as in how much work you put into it. That's the only thing I can see a little bit. It's a lacking of a wanting to put in the hard work into what needs to be done to be proficient at what you do and get good at something. What good is something unless you really work at it? You have to be passionate about it. I want to work at it because I love it. I would just say be yourself and do it because you love it. Good things will happen. Whenever you play, try to play in all kinds of situations. Get out of the box. When I was a kid I really liked hard rock like Led Zeppelin and the English hard rock blues bands from the late 70's. I really didn't listen to lots of different music. I had music that spoke to me, so I stayed there for awhile. I wish at a younger age that I would have branched out a little bit to different types of music and became more well-rounded earlier. If you love it, you'll see it out. It will work out.
I understand the Chili Peppers do have an album in the works.
We're working on it as we speak. In 20 minutes I'm leaving for the studio and we're cutting songs. We're making the record and I'm very excited about it. It sounds great.
Is it top secret at this point?
Yeah, it's top secret (Laughs)! I'll tell you what it sounds like. It sounds like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Is it different? Yeah. We're always changing and growing and trying to get better and write better songs. It's definitely the Chili Peppers.
As far as the Meatbats, will there be an extensive tour?
Yeah. The good thing is that I might have some time to be able to play. We have some shows in L.A. at the end of October. In November we're playing in D.C. and Philly and New York. They are kind of sporadic dates. It's not like a tour-tour, but we're playing around to different places. There's a Vegas date, maybe St. Louis, maybe Denver. It's whenever we can all get together. On the last record people were like, What is this? This time around people are calling up and asking for us to play. We want to do it. So that's kind of exciting.
Interview by Amy Kelly