“I have so much invested in this band, and I’m proud of it. It’s part of my identity. That’s not to say I couldn’t do other things, but I live the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” When Chad Smith said these words to Modern Drummer in August of 1999, the drummer might have inadvertently nailed the secret to his band’s success. To be sure, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the biggest rock groups in history, by any measure. And like all legendary bands—from the Beatles, to Led Zeppelin, to U2—the power of the Chili Peppers lies in the unique chemistry of its members. There is no “I” in rock ’n’ roll, and Chad Smith, as awesome a drummer as he is, knows this intimately.
Born and raised in the Detroit suburbs, Chad Smith took the well-worn rock route to stardom: garage bands, endless cover gigs, eventual major-label support…and subsequent disappointment. Chad knew that if he was going to take this rock thing seriously, a move to the city of promise, L.A., was in order. So he packed his bags, entered music school there, and promptly met the guys with whom he would capture that elusive brass ring. Twenty years, a million road miles, a novel’s worth of personal drama, and a bunch of record-breaking, trend-setting albums later, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a bona fide American institution. To an entire generation, their distinct blend of funk, rap, punk, and classic rock makes them the ultimate get-down party band, willing to put their blood, dignity, and lives on the line in the quest for a righteous groove.
Along the way, Chad’s own groove has deepened and matured, to the point where he has been able to go into the studio with such un- Peppery acts as John Fogerty, Johnny Cash, and the Dixie Chicks, and, simply, do the right thing, elevating the music with his big ears and super-consistent and energetic support. But, ultimately, Chad Smith is a band guy, and despite upheavals within and outside of the group—from lineup adjustments to the ever-changing musical climate—there seems to be no immediate end to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ incredible run at the top of the charts, and in the hearts of music fans across the globe.