The Red Hot Chili Peppers are back after five years! RHCP Drummer Chad Smith weighs in on the break from recording, new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and working with the legendary Rick Rubin on their new album, I’m With You. Published June 27, 2011In their 27 year existence, The Red Hot Chili Peppers have grown into rock deities simply by doing things their way and letting the music guide them. After countless tours, studio albums and a number of line-up changes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are back again and eager to release new music for the first time in five years. The new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, ‘I’m With You’ will be released on August 30th 2011 and the debut single from the album, ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’ makes its first radio outing on July 18th!
IGN got an opportunity to sit down with longtime RHCP drummer Chad Smith to talk about what time off has done for the band, how new lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is fitting in and what super producer Rick Rubin brings to the band.
Since you’ve been at this awhile, when you go into the studio, is it business as usual, or does each Red Hot Chili Peppers album kind of take on a life of its own?
Chad Smith: Each album definitely takes on a life of its own… I’m looking at the same faces, except we have Josh Klinghoffer playing guitar with us now, and so that really, obviously, is a big change for us. We were well prepared going in, which is always the best way for us to make our records. I feel in the past when we’re most prepared, it’s just about getting a good performance. Little things will change, but for us, that’s what works the best. We were well prepared, but it’s still as exciting, making records. We’re so lucky and fortunate to do what we love to do, something we’re passionate about. It was a very satisfying, fun experience. When we’re having fun and it’s going well and fairly easy, I know that good things are going to come out of it.
In terms of preparation, do you practice a lot, or is it beyond that?
Chad Smith: It’s having the songs as formed as possible. Rick Rubin does a lot of work with us prior to—we call it pre-production where we play our songs for him and he gives us his input and his creative ideas and we work on them some more so we did that. We wrote songs for probably 11 months and then we did a couple months with Rick and that’s what I mean by being prepared: having the songs as finished in a song form as possible. That way you you’re comfortable. You’re not coming up with new things. I mean things change when you get in the studio a little bit, but basically [it's] the arrangements of the songs, so you can concentrate on just playing them well and getting that magical take in the studio.
Obviously, Rick Rubin’s been a huge part of the band’s success. What is his specific impact? What does he bring to the table in terms of producing?
Chad Smith: He’s so knowledgeable about so much music and he’s our friend and we trust him and what he really does is [in the] beginning when he comes in, he’s that new, objective ear. We’ve been in the room bangin’ ‘em out and trying to come up with songs and ideas and some obviously are in a more finished form to us when we play them than others, but he likes to hear songs going, and the progress.
We trust him because he’s so musical and often his ideas, I’d say 85% of the time, would improve our song whether it’s an arrangement idea or “is it in the right key” or “you should try this.” Often his ideas are right and it makes the song better and makes more sense of it. We’re kind of all over the place a little bit. He’s very concise about his ideas, he has a really gut feeling about “this is what I hear is the essence of this song” and helps us focus on that. He’s just a big, lovable teddy bear kind of guy and we’ve known him so long, we know each other so well, we work together well. He’s very helpful and he’s just getting better and better at what he does.
Which is scary, because he’s already one of the top guys…
Chad Smith: I know, I know… It’s just that he loves music so much. He’s just such a music guy, and not in a “oh, can you play E minor instead of D” [way]. More in what feels right. He’s a fan of music and he has a really good instinct of what feels right and that’s very helpful to us.
You’re involved in a lot of solo projects. How do you feel going off and doing your own thing helps inform what you’re doing with the Peppers?
Chad Smith: We all play with lots of different people, always have. We took this time off to just not be in the Chili Peppers for a couple years and it was a thing we said we were going to do, not just like, “Oh let’s just take a break.” For the first time in ten years, it was write, record, tour, and we need a break from that cycle, and do what we wanted to do with our lives without these sort of commitments.
I’m off with Sam and Mike and Joe from Chickenfoot and that was a fun project. I played with my own group, this kind of fusion thing. It was completely different from the Chili Peppers. I made a kid’s record with Dick Van Dyke. Just anything and everything. I played on Kid Rock’s album. I just think it’s healthy to play with other people. I’m a musician, it’s what I do, it’s what I love, so I’m just not going to stop playing because my group is not at the time working. What it does do is, when you come back, it’s like anything, all of your experiences and what you do goes into your playing. Not only was the break good, but playing with other people and then coming back… It’s like being in a marriage. It’s a 23-year old marriage that I’ve been in and then you go off and have sex with some hot chick. You come back and it makes you appreciate the love, because we love each other, and we have some really special… and obviously, having a new person in the band, that’s been really amazing, cuz that’s all just fresh and new.
That was a very fun and interesting–and still continues to be—process to getting to know Josh as a person and as a musician. His contribution to the music and on this record was fantastic. It’s not like we told him what to do. He is a very creative person and plays bass, drum, piano, sings, guitar, obviously. We’ve known him for a long time and it was a very natural thing to get him. He was our first choice. We thought about other people, but we played with him before, he toured with us on the last record a little bit, and we’ve known him a long time. That’s the thing, we get someone new in the group… and we’ve had guitar players before, and it’s “What’s this guy like?” That whole kind of personality thing… and the way we work, it’s not like one or two guys write songs. We jam and improvise and that’s a big part of the way we write music and that’s an important aspect to have and we’d never done that with him, so he came in and just fell right in, and it was great, and he’s an integral part of our group now.
What’s the anticipation like for you the moment before an album drops?
Chad Smith: I can’t bullshit anybody and say, “Oh, it’s my artistic thing and I don’t care what anyone thinks.” I do, I want people to like it. I really do. Because I think we make really great music and the world needs positive, great music out there, so I want as many people to hear it as possible.
You work on something a very long time, it’s very close to your heart and your soul and four, five other people included, obviously, and at some point, it sounds very selfish, but we make the music for us. If we like it, that’s great. Then you put it out there, and then it’s out in the world, and then whoever likes it, does.
I guess [it's] the unknown of what’s going to happen. I know we’re going to put our record out, and I think it’s great and I think people are really going to like it. We’re going to go play it, along with some other songs, all over the world for a year and a half. That’s what’s going to happen. And that’s cool because we’re ready to do it, we’re excited about playing. We’re excited about playing live, we’re excited for the record, and we’re excited to have Josh in the band. It’s like a real, new beginning for us after 27 years. It’s great. Everyone’s ready to go. Chomping at the bit.