Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Drummer plays Havana with Bombastic Meatbats

It’s simply not enough for Chad Smith to be a part of two rock music super-groups. Smith, the funky, heavy-hitting drummer for both the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot, needed another outlet for his love of music. Enter ‘Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats‘ – an all-instrumental jazz/funk band that was born out of the sessions the band had while  jamming with Glenn Hughes’ (of Deep Purple fame) solo band. The band has just released their second album, More Meat.

Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats are ‘Passing Thru Princeton’ on their way to Havana in New Hope, PA on Thursday, November 18th. Tickets are $25. “More Meat” from the Warriors Record Label is also available on iTunes and other outlets.

 Here Chad was interview by Chris Sullivan:

You’re recording with the Red Hot Chili Peppers right now. What can you share about the album and the new guitarist?

The guitarists name is Josh Klinghoffer and he’s a friend of ours.  We’ve known him for about 10 years and he’s a great, smart, wonderful musician. We’ve been writing songs and playing with him for about a year now.  It’s going great and we’ve got a new band – the new guy changes the chemistry of the group so there’s different sounds and different things coming in.  It’s still me, Flea, and Anthony playing and it still sounds like the Chili Peppers.  I’m excited for people to hear it and we’ll probably, I’m predicting, don’t hold me to it, but I would say around late spring/early summer, we’ll have our record come out.

There are some conflicting reports on the upcoming Chickenfoot Tour.  If you’re not playing, who gets a say in who gets your chair?

I’m not going to be playing with them, so it’s whoever they’re comfortable with.  They’ll pick someone that is right and that feels good to them.  I support whatever they want to do.

It started out as this fun project to do and Sammy [Hagar] and I have known each other for years.  We both have places in Mexico, in Cabo, and he’s like the mayor down there.  It just came out of that. I’d go and see him and we’d jam. I had some time off – my first planned time off from the Peppers in like 10 years – and I said “Sam we’re always talking about playing something together, let’s do something!” So that’s what we did.  It turned out to be really fun and we had a great time. We  really loved playing that music and the people enjoyed it, so we wanted to keep doing it.  I’d love to (play), but I got this other thing.   I’m in this other band, remember? They’re like “oh yeah, I forgot.  You’re in the Chili Peppers.”

Whatever I can do, I’d love to do it. And if they want to do it with another guy, by all means.  I think we have a cool chemistry, we’re going to probably try and make a record together in January. Then they’ll probably get someone else for the shows.

You recently played with Glenn Hughes. How much of a Deep Purple fan are you? And anything else you can tell us about that playing experience.

I’m a huge Deep Purple fan; one of my biggest influences growing up.  The late 60’s early 70’s English, hard rock, blues bands.  I loved Deep Purple and Glenn I’ve known for 8 years now.  There’s an industry show called NAMM every year out here in California. We played together and I was like “Wow, Glenn Hughes. He’s from Deep Purple. Oh my god, I would love to play with that guy.” We just hit it off as friends and musically as well. And personally, he’s a godfather to my son. He’s just a great guy and an amazing musician. I played on three or four of his records and helped produce one of them or two of them. He’s just a wonderful musician and that how the Meatbats came about. We were playing with Glenn and he was late one day. We were just jamming on this kinda stuff that sounds like the Meatbats and we ended up saying,  “Ya know, lets make some songs” and that’s how that came about.  So we owe the Meatbats to Glenn, actually.

Let’s talk about the new album, More Meat. How does the songwriting/composing process come together on this album?

We get together in my house in Malibu. I have a little room called the Tiki room which is kinda a man cave – pool tables and dart boards and instruments – and we just get together there and improvise. Everyone contributes ideas and we just take notes outta the air and turn them into songs.  There’s no singing – it’s all instrumental. So we have a lot of interplay between the instruments to keep it interesting.   It’s not just jamming. There’s song structure with verses and choruses and bridges and solos. But it’s really just us getting together in a room and just seeing what comes up and often good things come out of that.

Do you guys have an approach when you are recording? Is it done more live or do you have any first takes that have made it onto the album?

We record it all live. Everyone together in the same room. Everybody looking at each other and most of them are first or second takes. We finished twelve songs in three days. We are really old school in that way. There’s no ProTools and very minimal overdubbing and very minimal fixing of anything.  We just go for a really good performance.  That’s the best way. Almost all the groups I play with – certainly with Chickenfoot and the Chili Peppers – we do it the same way. We all play together at the same time and go for just a really good, ya know, magical performance.

You say there is song structure as opposed to just an open jam. But one song I really like is “Four Your Courtesy” and it sounds like it would be right at home on any jamband stage.  Is there any future plans to play festivals or something that is more jam-oriented to reach a different crowd?

We are open to anything. We will play anywhere, anytime with anybody.  Yeah, there are elements of the record that do have that, I agree.  We kinda cover a lot of different bases. But I want people to know that it is not serious. Lots of times people think of instrumental music as guys who are real serious, no sense of humor and play a bunch of notes. We are just musicians and we’re like a party funk band.  That’s the vibe that we go for.  We would play anything. I know New Hope is pretty supportive of this whole jamband kinda thing and we are coming to play there.  So we are looking forward to connecting with those people.

Speaking of New Hope, it’s such an interesting and quirky type of town. I think you are absolutely going to love it.  Especially if the band has the personality that you are describing. Havana’s, the club you’ll be playing, has Cuban vibe , it is right on the Main Street, and it’s a pretty intimate place.  You are going to be right on top of everybody.

Cool, we are really looking forward to it.  We are playing there and then we are going to New York City to play three shows there, too.  But this will be our first. We haven’t played too much out of California.  We have played Japan a couple times but, this is going to be our first foray into the east.  We are really looking forward to it.

Everybody in this band has serious chops, so while you do have song structure, in the live setting, do you guys stretch out at all and go beyond what the studio records portray?

Of course, some of our songs turn out to be like seven or eight minutes long.  We have to try to curtail that sometimes, but it’s just in the moment. We’re improvising and again its instrumental music, so we don’t have to worry about stepping on the singer too much.  We really play off each other a lot.  That’s what really gets us going. There’s a lot of dynamics and we definitely stretch out. We can do an hour in a half and do like eight songs. Not self-indulgent. We just get lost because we’re just having so much fun.  It changes night to night.

So Jeff Coleman, he absolutely rips on this album. Are there some times where you are looking over at him think, “how did you just do that?”

Yea, like all the time. He is a fantastic musician and he is just a soulful player and great listener.  The melodies that he comes up with are memorable and hooky. He can also come out blasting.  He can really play some astounding things.  People just come away from the show going, “God, who is that guy?” And they are right. I’m looking at him going, “Who is that?! I don’t know you!! Who are you?!!! I don’t know you anymore!!!!” Nah, he’s awesome.

One thing that actually comes through really clear in the album is the B3.  What can you tell us about keyboardist Ed Roth?

Ed Roth is old-school.  He’s not an old guy, he’s just old-school when it comes to his instruments.  He doesn’t play anything that wasn’t made before 1974. Clavinet, Rhodes, Wurlitzer. That’s his arsenal and he uses them all in a tasteful, organic, cool way.  The B3, he’s in that Billy Preston world.  He’s just a great guy, funny. His sense of humor comes through his playing and any real great artist or musician, their personality comes through their playing.  He’s no exception, he’s just fantastic.

You and bassist Kevin Chown seem to be pretty locked in on this recording as well.

You know, playing live really helps us get our musical conversations between ourselves.  Kevin joined right at the beginning of the recording of our last record Meet the Meatbats a year or so ago and he has been playing with Jeff for a long time.  He’s solid.  He likes to refer to himself in a football analogy: He’s the Ray Nitschke of the band – some obscure guard from the Packers in the 60’s or something.  He’s just solid, holding it down, reliable. He sets the table for us. Sets the canvas for us to paint on.  He’s just a real great time and he’s a great listener, brings a great dynamic.  Sometimes we really go off and he keeps us from going off into the ether.

So during this tour you’re playing at places like Havana and the Iridium. These are really small, intimate clubs. How does that compare with the stadium shows that you’re used to with the Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot?

Less people. Different songs.

I love playing small clubs. Normally we play at this place that’s kind of our home away from home in LA that’s called the Baked Potato.  It holds 90 people – like packs 90 people standing right on top of you.  It’s fantastic. You get this reaction from people right away and you’re sweating on them and they’re sweating on you and it’s great.  Kinda reminds me of the punk rock days when we used to play those little clubs, with stage divers.  Music isn’t supposed to be played in stadiums and basketball arenas. A good venue is one that has good sound and you can get enough room for everybody to enjoy themselves, but is intimate and you feel like you’re part of the experience. I love playing those Chili Peppers concerts, but they’re events.  The lighting and the sound and all that stuff. This is just about the music and I’m connecting with people, which is a totally different thing. But I feel it’s such an energy that you get from playing in small places.

So you have the Chili Peppers, Chickenfoot, and the Meatbats. What else do you see tackling in the future beyond these projects?

Right now, I’m in the studio with the Peppers and that’s my main focus. I think 3 bands is enough for me for life.  I have a wife and family and they’re like “when are you going to come home?” I need to have some balance in my life along with going to see the Lakers. I’m just really fortunate that I get to do the things I love to do and I’m very grateful for that.

Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats are ‘Passing Thru Princeton’ on their way to Havana in New Hope, PA on Thursday, November 18th. Tickets are $25. “More Meat” from the Warriors Record Label is also available on iTunes and other outlets.


Pennington resident Chris Sullivan is a VP at Princeton Partners – an award winning marketing and advertising agency – and writes for the blog, and as a guest blogger for PrincetonScoop.

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