RHCP's Chad Smith Explores Improvisation, Silly Titles with Side Project

Chad Smith

For Chad Smith, the best part of having an all-instrumental band -- in this case, his Bombastic Meatbats -- is coming up with song titles such as "Oops, I Spilled My Beer," "Pig's Feat," "Lobster Legs" and "Into the Floyd."

"The songs are just all these inside jokes, which is the way the band works," the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer tells Billboard.com. "We have nicknames for everybody in the band, everybody that works for us. So because you don't have to name any songs from whatever the words are, we just have some fun with them. That's the personality of the band."

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The Meatbats' third release is the new concert set "Live Meat and Potatoes," recorded in 2009 at the quartet's "home" club, the Baked Potato in West Hollywood. The two-disc, 15-song set includes material from the Meatbats' two studio albums, including its funked-up treatment of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham showcase "Moby Dick."

"We were born out of being a live band," notes Smith, who started the Meatbats after he, guitarist Jeff Kollman and keyboardist Ed Roth backed Glenn Hughes on some solo projects (Kevin Chown joined on bass). "That's our jumping-off point, so to speak. (Live) is the best medium to show what we're all about. We're not a jazz band; we have structured songs, but in those structures there's room for improvisation and we just stretch out and listen to each other and play off each other and have little musical conversations. That's our thing. That's the Meatbats."

Smith acknowledges that the group had to make some cuts, even, to accommodate the space of two discs. That means no version of the Meatbats' big hit, "Shag," which received airplay on jazz radio stations and was part of the USA Network series "Covert Affairs." "There's 'Shag' and there's a couple other ones that we play all the time that didn't make it for whatever reason," Smith notes. "It was over two nights and most of it's from one night. There's no 'Kiss Alive!' There's no overdubs. It's just us playing, it's raw and it's a real good document of what we do and what we're all about."

The Meatbats plan to celebrate the live album's release with a show or two some time around the Chili Peppers' Aug. 11-12 dates at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Smith -- whose wife, Nancy, is expecting the couple's third son in late August -- says the group's next project is currently on hold pending the members' assorted other commitments.

"Everybody does different stuff, and, of course, for me I'm busy with the Chili Peppers," he says. "My schedule's pretty crazy. When we're all in the same place at the same time, which will probably be next year, we'll get back together. I'd like to just come up with some more music. Playing is fun, but I think we'll probably reconvene and write some new stuff, too."

The Chili Peppers are currently back in Europe for the rest of July, then return to the U.S. for the Lollapalooza festival on Aug. 4 in Chicago and shows in Los Angeles and Oakland before returning to Europe. Another North American leg kicks off Sept. 23 and stops at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 14. The group will also be releasing remaining songs from the sessions for its latest album, "I'm With You," as singles, with "Strange Man"/"Long Progression" kicking off the series on Aug. 14.