“We’ve got a little bit of everything because that’s what we love,” declares Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith about his band’s forthcoming tenth studio album, I’m With You, due out August 30.
That’s the wondrous and wonderful thing about The Red Hot Chili Peppers; they’re amazing at everything. Whether it’s a sun-soaked funk classic like “Give It Away” or a poetic and poignant ballad like “Desecration Smile”, the Chili Peppers always craft timeless tunes. I’m With You promises to be another collection of new classics featuring the band’s inimitable, infectious, and infinitely awesome stylings.
In order to preview I’m With You, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith spoke to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino in this exclusive interview. He discusses the album, capturing energy, rebirth, what the cinematic equivalent of I’m With You is and more.
Did you have one overall vision for I’m With You before entering the studio?
We don’t really have a vision when we start out. Our vision is, “Let’s get together, play, and see what happens. Let’s write some great music.” Going into an album, we never have any pre-conceived notions of what it’s going to be. It just happens organically. Obviously, Josh Klinghoffer joined our group, and we knew it was going to be quite different. We just want to be honest and open and play from our hearts. Every time we go in to make a record, that’s what we do. That wasn’t any different this time. Having Josh was the big change. He did a great job and wrote great music with us. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to play music with.
With all of your albums, you capture a real visceral energy within these beautifully catchy songs. It feels like it’s planned out after the fact, but it naturally generates from the four of you.
Yup! You hit it. That’s absolutely what it is. It’s something that comes from the four of us. Everyone is very involved in that process and I think that’s a big reason why it sounds the way it does because we all have a lot of input. There you go. I can’t say it any better than you did [Laughs].
Even though the music collectively rises from the unit, each individual instrument always stands out.
Everything has its place. We try to construct our songs so everything that needs to be heard gets to be heard. We play like a band. It’s four guys in a room playing together. We don’t build it from the ground up with machines and all of that kind of stuff. We play rock music. It’s about catching a performance. That’s somewhat gone by the wayside with technology and stuff. That comes across and touches the listener when they hear that. Josh sings a lot of great harmonies. It’s whatever serves the song best. I want to make the song the best it can be. Whether it’s playing the simplest drum part or something more exciting that needs to be ferocious, that’s all in this record. Last time, we had 28 songs to do that [Laughs]. This time it’s half. It’s all in there, man. We love so many different kinds of music. We cover so many styles, but it’s still us. That’s what we do, and I think we’ve done it again.
Is every Red Hot Chili Peppers album a rebirth?
Every record is a real snapshot of where we’re at during that time in our lives as a band and as a people. It’s always been that way. It’s not like, “Hey, I’ve got this song from three years ago”. We’re writing songs, and for that six or eight months, it’s it. In this case, we wrote a lot of songs for about eleven months. Each time you make a record, you want to grow, change, push yourself, and take risks. It’s important for any artist in any art form. We want to do new stuff, but the chemistry we have is something special. Everyone has a lot of input into the music and everyone’s personality comes out in his instrument. I think that’s what makes us sound unique. It’s a combination of those guys and those notes, and we mean it. We’re playing because we love to. It’s from our hearts. That comes through to the listener. I don’t know in what way, but we’re very fortunate people want to hear our music after all of these years.
Does Rick Rubin help foster that feeling?
Yes, Rick Rubin is very like-minded when it comes to lots of things. Certainly in the musical realm, we have a great working relationship with him. He’s been working with us for 20 years on all of our records. We feel that he’s the fifth Chili Pepper [Laughs]. He’s someone that we love and trust. He’s always searching, changing, and looking for new things as a music lover. He’s passionate about music and life, and we are as well. We’re fortunate that we’ve been on this journey together. We’ve changed, and he’s changed. Hopefully, we’ve gotten better as musicians. He’s gotten even better as a producer. He’s just so good. He knows how to serve the song the best. It’s so helpful. When we bring him to start working on our songs, he’s that new, objective set of ears. It just works. We’ve got this thing that works well together.
What’s happening with The Bombastic Meatbats? You sound different in every project you do.
We played not too long ago. We shot a DVD in New York. It’s always a fun side thing. I don’t want to be in a Chili Pepper-sound-alike band. I wouldn’t do that. I’m in the best Chili Pepper band there is [Laughs]. So I’m doing this jazzy funk-fusion instrumental, or I’ll play that classic rock thing that I grew up with in Chickenfoot with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Michael Anthony. I did a kids record with Dick Van Dyke. I bring all of that back into The Chili Peppers, and I have all of this experience. We’ve always done that. Flea has played with Patti Smith and Thom Yorke. We’re musicians. I love to be around people who are passionate about music, but I’m not going to do the same thing.
If you were to compare I’m With You to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
There’s a French movie called A Prophet. It’s pretty good. It’s kind of like the French Godfather. That’s what the new record sounds like [Laughs]. That’s just for me today. Tomorrow is another day. There’s a lot of love on it. I think it’s a very positive, uplifting piece of music that we’ve put together. There are a lot of different flavors on it. It’s very emotional, and it’s rocking. It sounds fresh to me. I’m very proud and happy about the way it came out.