Inside Chad Smith's Intense New Art Exhibit

Chad Smith
Courtesy of Laura Glass

Chad Smith

Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith is going on the road next year -- but not with the band, or in places we're used to seeing him.

Road Show Company's The Art of Chad Smith opens Jan. 4 in Austin at the Russell Collection Fine Art and will visit galleries in eight cities during 2020, displaying a new series of works he's done in conjunction with Hollywood's SceneFour. The more than 80 pieces are built from photographs of Smith playing drums with lighted, fluorescent sticks, which are turned into abstract pieces that Smith subsequently put "personal touches" on -- "just a little of my DNA" he tells Billboard.

"It's a really cool medium," Smith says of the collection, the follow-up to a set called Parallax that he did back in 2016. "Music, sound and visualization, all those things go hand in hand. My hope is that the emotion of it and the fluidity and the intensity comes across. This really helps visualize the emotion that goes into (playing) and lets my personality come through. I mean, a lot of this stuff you wouldn't even know it's a guy playing the drums, which is kind of cool."    

Smith laughs as he adds, "It actually looks kind of spastic to me. I look kind of like an octopus sometimes, but it looks powerful to me, too, which I kind of identify with. I'm playing rock music, so I hope it captures the power of it. It's fun and something different to do. I'm always wanting to do something different, so why not?"

The Art of Chad Smith will also visit Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, Jacksonville, Nashville and Boston. Smith will be making artist appearances at each exhibit (Jan. 11 and 12 in Austin), but he's not yet sure exactly what that will entail. "I'll go and meet people, maybe play a little," he says. "I know other guys they've worked with, like Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer) and Steve Smith (Journey) and some other guys. It's just kind of a meet-the-artist thing...schmoozing, that kind of stuff, like Flea's been doing on his book tour."   

Smith -- who hasn't read Flea's Acid For the Children memoir yet -- and the bassist are back at work with bandmates Anthony Kiedis and Josh Klinghoffer on the Chili Peppers' next project, the group's follow-up to The Getaway in 2016. Smith says the band has "songs written, but we need to write some more and then we'll record them next year and we'll put an album out and go play concerts." There's no timetable yet, but Smith reports that "everyone's in good spirits and we're feeling good creatively and have a lot of ideas. I really like this time, the creating part, maybe even more than the performing part."

Smith was also part of a burst of creativity recently that led to Ozzy Osbourne's upcoming album Ordinary Man, which comes out in January. The set was an outgrowth of Osbourne's Post Malone collaboration "Take What You Want," which inspired Smith, who played on the session, and producer/guitarist Andrew Watt to take the next step. "He had such a great time and sounded so good, we were like, 'What the hell, let's write some songs for Ozzy and record some shit for Ozzy and see if he likes it. Ozzy needs to do music,'" recalls Smith, who recruited Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan for the project. "So we did and we played it for him, and he loved it. And he got inspired; He was coming in every day and singing and getting better and having a great time. And he was like, 'Omigod, you work so fast! I fucking love this!'"   

Ordinary Man also features appearances by Elton John, Slash and Tom Morello, and Smith says there was a concerted effort by all concerned to help Osbourne come back from illness and injury that kept him sidelined most of this year. "Everyone wants to bring it for Ozzy, 'cause he deserves it," Smith says. "And it's performances, not chopped-up, modern shit. It's a fucking good rock album. I'm just honored to be part of it and I can't wait for it to come out 'cause I think people are just gonna dig it."

Courtesy of Road Show Company