As the Red Hot Chili Peppers wind down their touring in support of 2011’s “I’m With You,” drummer Chad Smith predicts it won’t be too long before the group starts working on its next album.
“We’re probably looking at getting together in September and getting on a roll and starting to write songs for the next record,” Smith tells Billboard. “We always have little ideas percolating in jams and rehearsal warm-ups and sound checks and gigs. Sometimes we bust into stuff… We just kind of play whatever, so we always have those little tidbits. But we don’t have any fully-formed songs until the four of us get in a room together. That’s when the real writing process starts. So, yeah, we’re looking at the fall.”
“I’m With You” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 589,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. The cycle isn’t quite over, however; the group has five shows slated for this year, including the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, a pair of performances in Anchorage, Alaska, the Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival in San Francisco and — closest to Smith’s heart — a June 8 co-headlining spot on Metallica’s Orion Music + More bash in his home town of Detroit.
“There’s probably an outstanding warrant or something from 1984 when I was trying to swim across (the Detroit River), y’know?” Smith says with a laugh. “We have the same managers as Metallica (QPrime) and they probably looked at our schedule and said, ‘Oh, maybe the Chili Peppers will do it.’ And we’ve known those guys for years, so we said, ‘Yeah!’ right off the bat. There’s a lot of cool stuff to do there… It’s not just the usual go and see bands. So we’re really looking forward to it.”
This year also marks Smith’s 25th anniversary with the Chili Peppers. Does he expect a watch — or a gold-plated tube sock?
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he says. “I like watches; I’ll get more use out of that than the sock. But it really feels like 24 minutes, y’know? I just think it’s great that they’ve been a band this long and we’re still relevant and playing music that we love and people still connect to. It’s crazy. I would have never thought 25 years ago this would have happened like it has. We were a pretty volatile bunch back then. There’s been a lot of ups and downs. But I think as we grow older and maybe grow up a little bit that we realize we’ve got this special chemistry and we make this music that people love all over the world. I’ve got a good job.”
Smith has a new job, too. He’s been tapped by MusicRadar to create a series of podcasts titled “Chad Smith in Conversation.” It began last month with Rush’s Alex Lifeson, and Smith says future guests on his radar include former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, Florence Welch, Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and even Elton John, who Smith says reached out to be part of the series. “The idea is for me to get with people I know or musicians that I know, and it’s not, like, typical question and answer,” Smith says. “It’s just a conversation. It’s a lot of fun and something different to do.”
While the Chili Peppers wait to reconvene in the studio, Smith has also been busy moonlighting as producer Rick Rubin’s go-to session drummer. He’s recently played sessions for a solo album by Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, though he confesses to being “a little jealous” that Rubin tapped Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk for Black Sabbath’s upcoming “13.”
“But it sounds good, man, heavy as fuck,” Smith notes. “Brad did a really great job, which shouldn’t be a surprise, y’know?”