Red Hot Chili Peppers Drummer Chad Smith Talks Art, New Music

The drummer opened up about creating his art and what’s next for the Chili Peppers.
Chad Smith [© Matt Bishop Photo]

Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith is channeling his artistic ability to a new medium. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer appeared at a showcase of his art at Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor, NJ over the weekend. The Rock Revival caught up with Smith to chat about his art, how he creates, and, of course, what’s next for the Chili Peppers.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Smith said of the creative process. “It’s just another outlet as an artist. No one says that you can’t express yourself in a different way artistically. Obviously, I’ve been doing the drumming and the music thing for many years. This is still a part of that, but different. And, why not? I don’t see the art police here, do you?”

Smith also hinted that fans could be in for a special treat – a 30th anniversary celebration of the band’s seminal album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. “Thirty years of Blood Sugar [Sex Magik] in September. We’ve been talking with our record company about doing something for that.” While Chad didn’t have any particular details to offer, we can only hope this includes vinyl.

TRR: So, how did this all come about? How did you get started with painting and the artwork?

Chad Smith: Well, about five years ago the nice people from SceneFour in Los Angeles approached me and they said, “What do you think if we put you in a dark room with a drum set and light up fluorescent, different-colored drum sticks, and you improvise on the drums, do whatever you want. And we’re going to photograph you at different angles with varied shutter speed, which makes [crosstalk 00:00:41] [inaudible 00:00:41] blurry line.” So, I’m like, “Okay. That’s kind of interesting.” I didn’t really know what it was going to turn out to be, but I was open to it. And it made sense to me because it’s a connection for me with music and drumming. And then, afterward, I posted up some stuff. Extra-different canvases, different color, could change a lot of it if you wanted to. Add, embellish. And so, I started adding and embellishing, to sort of make it the power and the energy, and [inaudible 00:01:15], that’s a little more kind of equal to brightness. So I use, on this collection, a lot of bright colors to kind of bring that out. And then here we are in South Jersey.

TRR: It’s come to fruition.

Chad Smith: Yeah! It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s just another outlet as an artist. No one says that you can’t express yourself in a different way artistically. Obviously, I’ve been doing the drumming and the music thing for many years. This is still a part of that, but different. Why not? I don’t see the art police here, do you?

TRR: Nope!

Chad Smith: There’s nobody here!

TRR: Is it a much different creative process for you, from music to your paintings? A brush stroke, or a fill? Is there a big creative difference for you, or does it all kind of feel the same?

Chad Smith: It’s the same spirit of it, if you really think about it. The sticks are like paint brushes and the kit is like a canvas. So, when you’re playing music, you’re creating art on your instrument, whatever instrument it is [inaudible 00:02:29]. That just happens to be mine. So, I don’t have my stick in paint. I’m not doing that. But it is the same concept behind it. And expressing yourself. And I look at it like I would look at a piece of music, and say, “What does that need, from what I can add to it?” Or not. Or maybe it didn’t add anything. Maybe the best part of the drums in a song is no drums. That’s just being inspired. That’s sort of any art form that translates. To answer your question – similar, different. Obviously, I’m not playing the drums, but it has a similar intent, for lack of a better word.

TRR: What can we expect in the future?

Chad Smith: I don’t know, man. We’re going to do something else. And this company we work with keeps coming in. Some of this texture stuff is new. It’s like their technology is evolving, and they’re fine-tuning it. That would make me change what I do, and how it looks. Yeah. This was never this three-dimensional before. So, I love that. I think it’s fucking cool. It fucking pops! So yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t have the crystal ball, but we’ll keep going!

TRR: Well, hopefully you have a little bit of a crystal ball for this last question.

Chad Smith: I know, I know. I know what you’re going to say. “Where’s the band, where’s the band?!”

TRR: You got me. I gotta ask.

Chad Smith: I know, I understand! We’re making our record. And when it’s done, which should be…I don’t know when. I’ll get in trouble if I say, “It’s going to be done then.” And if it’s not, everyone will be like, “But you said…”

TRR: Yeah, I know, I know.

Chad Smith: So, when we finish the cake, and it comes out of the oven, and we’re really [inaudible 00:04:25] on it, then we’ll put it out. And I hope it’s soon. And then we’ll go play concerts when it’s really safe and everyone can have the best experience that they can. Hopefully, that’ll be next year [2022].

TRR: Well, we’re also about three months away from the ten-year anniversary of ‘I’m With You.’

Chad Smith: Oh, wow!

TRR: Any plans for a reissue? Some lost bonus tracks, perhaps?

Chad Smith: No. There were some, so we said, “Should we put out a whole other record?” So, we put out I’m Beside You. That one’s pretty much got all of them out. But, there’s talk of [reissuing] an even an older one – Blood Sugar [Sex Magik]. Thirty years of Blood Sugar [Sex Magik] in September. We’ve been talking with our record company about doing something for that. But I don’t know if there’s any stuff that we didn’t use. Back then, you’d put B-sides on singles. The Coneheads soundtrack – “Soul to Squeeze” is on there. I don’t know what we have that we haven’t put out. But they’re always looking for ways to do the record company thing. So, I don’t know if we’re going to do that, but there’s talk of it.

MvVO ART, creator of AD ART SHOW, announced last month that Chad Smith would be the featured guest artist and host of the AD ART SHOW 2021. The show opened virtually May 3 to great critical acclaim. Artworks by Smith were exhibited on the monumental screens of the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center the final weekend of the show on May 29 and May 30, 2021.

Chad’s collaboration with ADART and Road Show Company, the industry-leader in traveling fine art exhibition, is yet another creative outlet for him, and one in which he is rapidly becoming renowned, respected, and critically acclaimed. Each hand-embellished work is crafted from rhythm. As a painter uses brushes with oils of different colors, Chad Smith works with drumsticks to capture light in a variety of ways; crafting rhythms that translate to very unique artwork. Another feature of this exhibition will be a collection of Original Mixed Media on Drums; works created by printing one of Chad’s art images on a drum skin. It is then embellished and signed by Smith himself.

Red Hot Chili Peppers last studio outing was 2016’s The Getaway. Produced by Danger Mouse and released via Warner Bros. Records, the album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. It hit No. 1 in several countries around the world. In late 2019, the Chili Peppers parted ways with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and reunited with John Frusciante.

The Chili Peppers are currently working on a brand new studio album with Frusciante, which will be their first with the guitarist since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium.

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