Wearing highly amplified red plaid pants and shirt, along with a stylish black fitted jacket and his trademark backwards-turned baseball cap, Chad Smith looks taller than usual as he strides purposefully into the upper pool area of the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood, California.
It's a cool, crisp early evening in April, but in just a couple of days Smith and the rest of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will brave pummeling temperatures and near-sandstorm conditions when they play the first of two Coachella gigs. Tonight is something of a work night for the acclaimed drummer – he's launching his MusicRadar podcast series, In Conversation – but it's a kick-back-and-chill night, too, and Smith is looking forward to bonding with a fellow musician he's rubbed shoulders with briefly on tour stops but one he's known longer, like most of the world, as an ardent admirer.
Alex Lifeson, brimming with good cheer, dressed rockstar-casual (black trousers and sweater with a dark-brown leather blazer), walks up and greets Smith with a hearty bro hug. The venerable Rush guitarist has his own ginormous show coming up, but it's one that he and his illustrious bandmates, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart, certainly didn't see coming until recently: their much-publicized, practically fan-willed induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Which right off the bat gives the two men something in common, as Smith and the Peppers joined the hallowed Hall Of Fame dream team last year. Big-time awards functions are just one of the topics the two men discuss while dining on striped sea bass and baked duck in their private cabana. Over the course of two and a half hours, they cover matters both personal and professional, including Lifeson's first date with his wife (at age 15!), his signature Gibson Les Paul, former band members, balancing work and family, life-altering tragedies, meeting heroes such as Jimmy Page, recording gear, the importance of having non-musical hobbies, and the ways that both gentlemen's bands maintain their commitment to artistic integrity despite massive changes in the music industry.
Lifeson: Did you like South Africa?
Smith: I did. We'd never been there before. You guys been there?
No, I haven't. My wife's South African. She's from Port Elizabeth.
She left when she was young, a few years old.
You guys are, like, high-school sweethearts.
Where's she from – originally?
From Port Elizabeth. Moved to Denmark… Her mother met a sailor… [Smith laughs] A Danish sailor.
[Laughs] That old story!
[Laughs] Yeah, that old story. But he was white, and they couldn't marry, 'cause they were "colored". So they left South Africa, and they moved to Denmark. They lived there for about a year and a half and then came to Canada, to the West Coast of Canada, Victoria, and from there to Toronto. That's where –
Did you guys meet in high school?
Yeah. I was 15. Grade 10.
And I had such a big crush on her, and I was so terrified of saying anything. I was very shy.
Fifteen? That's like… fertile…sort of.
Yeah. Oh, yeah.
I don't know if you're an early starter…
No, no, no, no. It was the first serious thing. And I remember going through the phone look and looking up the last name – there were probably 15 in the phone book – and nervously calling the first few. "No, wrong number…" Ahh, this is easy. I got to about 12, and [in a sexy voice] "Hi, is Shirley there?" "Yes, speaking." Huhpt!... It was total panic. So we went out on a date…
What do you do when you're… How do you date at 15? I have no idea. What do you do? You can't drive.
Well, first of all, I worked around the house. I did stuff for my dad. He was doing some work, putting a patio in the back yard. So I did all of that to make some money to take her out. I don't know, I think I made five dollars, 10 dollars or something. Yeah, we went to a movie. We went to see… uh, I think…
I'll be impressed if you think you can remember the movie.
Claudia Cardinale and Rock Hudson, and I can't recall the name of the movie. It was a cheap movie. It was in 1969, in the spring of '69… I can't recall the name of the movie.
We watched the movie, and I'm looking at her out of the corner of my eye – "Is she having a good time? This is a terrible idea!" The movie was awful. There were only, like, 10 people in the theatre. And then we left, and we took the bus back towards home, but stopped in an area just before where she lived, where there were some shops and restaurants and stuff like that. We went in and had a cup of tea. We went to one place, but they wouldn't let me in 'cause my hair was long. [Smith laughs] This is how it was all starting our first date.
And I built up the nerve… She could see something was wrong, and I built up the nerve to ask her if it was OK if I just held her hand while we walked. And she was like, "Oh, you big, stupid idiot! Sure." [They laugh] And then she got pregnant. And then everything went screwed up after that. [Laughs]
Fast worker this one! Wow.
Yeah, here we are… still together.
That's great. You've got sons...
Yeah, I've got two grandsons.
I think I've met both of them. Your one came to a show…
He's still doing music, right?
Yep. Web design, and he loves to write electronic music. Trance, moody stuff – it's what he's very much into. The web design is what pays his bills. He does some other things. Music doesn't pay very well, but he's got a real passion and love for it. He's been doing it for 20 years, so it's not like it's something new. But he gets the odd gig here and there.
Yeah? Is there a decent scene in Toronto?
Probably a decent scene for that sort of thing. There are a few venues and clubs that DJs play and you can get some work. He doesn't count on it that much, but he really loves it. He really enjoys it.
It's good that he can do that, and like you say, he's realistic about it.
He's realistic enough to know –
Yeah, 'cause how old is he now?
He's 36. Yeah… where he can afford to starve for a little while. [Laughs] I mean, I could afford to starve for a little while myself. [Smith laughs] That's what happens when you're at home for more than a couple of weeks.
I'm gonna eat… watch the TV…
And then I'm gonna eat again.
I think I'll have that… chocolate thing over there.
So… what else? You've got, Gibson's got – I have to ask a couple of nerdy –
Guitar questions… You've got a Gibson Les Paul, that is a signature?
And how is it different from the Les Paul?
Well, it starts out –
And how cool is that?
It's really cool. When I was a kid, when I first started playing, I started playing guitar when I was about 12. So when I was about 13, 14 years old, there was a Music Store in Toronto called Long & McQuades. They were right downtown, and we lived up in the suburbs. I would go down every weekend, every Saturday, and I would take either a Les Paul or an SG off the wall, and I would play it for, like, an hour. And this goes on at music stores all over the world.
Yeah. People playing Stairway To Heaven – badly.
They would let me play for about an hour –
Usually not plugged in. And then somebody would come over and say, "OK, kid, put the guitar back on the wall and beat it."
"You're gonna buy that?"
And then I'd come back the next week, and I'd do exactly the same thing. I was doing that week after week after week. And it was the same story: "OK, kid, beat it." But you always came back, and they always let you do it.
That's nice of them.
Years later, of course, we bought all of our equipment from them, and that was kind of a treat.
You get your first little bit of money: "I know I'm gonna go in there, and this time I'm gonna buy something!"
I dreamed of having a Gibson. I had a cheap Kent – you know, a Japanese guitar – and then a Kanora, a Japanese guitar. I borrowed a friend's Harmony for years. To have a Gibson was really, really my dream as a kid.
So, all these years later – all these decades later – to have a signature model with my name on it, that's part of the Gibson family, that's really a cool thing. I'm very proud of that.
That's really cool.
And we didn't just stick my name on a guitar that could sell a bunch; we spent a lot of time. We spent a couple of years developing something that really worked for me. We went through a lot of body weights, different types of wood. The chambering on this particular guitar is one of the reasons why it's a lightweight version of a Les Paul. And the body is –
The '59s were light, right? Wasn't that the thing about them?
Yeah, you can get different weighted bodies.
That's why everybody sort of liked – that's one of the reasons they liked it.
Oh, that period, yeah. 'Cause I've got a couple of guitars, a couple of Les Pauls, that I bought. I have an early '90s Custom – that thing must weigh about 85 pounds. It's so heavy. But with my guitar, I wasn't that keen on the chambering; I wanted something that was somewhere in-between a standard Les Paul and what the Axcess model provided. It was narrower – the idea was that it was narrower, lightweight. We wanted the density in the body for sustain.
We went through a couple of different types of pickups, wiring, until we achieved the kind of tonality that I wanted. I wanted a Floyd Rose vibrato arm, something that locked, that would stay in tune, for sure.
Coil taps –
And these are all things in the design that you have in your Les Paul that you use and record with?
Yeah. That was the whole idea.
Somebody who's getting your guitar, it's like, "This is what I need to do my thing." Right?
Yeah. If I came in and they said, "Alex, build a guitar that you want to build. Here – what do you need on that guitar?" And that's basically what it was. They were really cool about it; we spent a lot of time back and forth –
Did you go to Kalamazoo?
I went to Kalamazoo to get my first Gibsons, back in '76.
I've been there once.
Yeah, that was a treat to go in that old factory; in fact, I picked out the white 355, I picked it off the wall, the body. But this was in Nashville, at the Custom Shop.
So we spent some time; they sent some prototypes back and forth, and now it's one of their more popular sellers. It's done really, really well.
How long has it been out?
I think it's been released for about two… two years, I think. Something like that. Two, maybe three?
Two. I think it's two. Maybe it is three. Anyway, it's something like two or three years. [Laughs] Two and a half years!
Two and a half! Split the difference.
Cheers. [They clink glasses]
But it's done remarkably well. They're thrilled about the action that they've got on it.
Do you play, in a live situation, do you use one of the guitars that's an Alex Lifeson model?
Yeah, yeah. In fact, I use a few of them in the course of a show. I mean, I have four different tunings that I play during the course of a show, and I need backups for everything 'cause the tunings are such that there's always the possibility of something going wrong – a broken string or something like that. And it's not something that you just grab any other guitar; it has to be a dedicated guitar for that. So, consequently, I need to have quite a few with me.
And my model, I think I have four out on the road with me right now. And a couple of older Les Pauls and my 355, a Telecaster – you know, it has a slightly different character, tonality.
Do you use a doubleneck now, still?
I haven't had the doubleneck – the doubleneck's actually in the museum now.
I just went a couple of weeks ago.
Do you do any songs that you need that?
No. No, we kind of don't.
"Yeah, I think we're gonna do… Wait, I don't…"
I had it for Xanadu, in particular, and we haven't played that song in a long time. Whether we do it in the future, I don't really know. We never know what we're going to do, so… And it's a cumbersome thing to play. It's heavy in the headstock.
"Ughhh." You've gotta hold it up.
You're playing it, and you squeeze it with your right arm. But it's a cool thing. I've probably seen more pictures of me with that guitar than anything else because it's so iconic. The same thing with Jimmy Page.
And with Page?
Page, same thing, probably 90 percent of the pictures you see of him, he's got that pose with the guitar up.
I was just walking in here, and I saw a picture of Jimmy. There are a lot of rock pictures at [directly into the recorder] the Sunset Marquis, where we're at… I know that he's maybe your biggest influence on the guitar.
Yeah, for sure.
He's like Jimi Hendrix. They never take a bad picture. They always look so fucking cool!
And Jimmy's clothing… like, some guys can look a little dated maybe. You can tell, "Oh, that's from that era." He always was very… whether it's the dragon thing, he just always looked really cool. I mean, Hendrix, to me, is maybe the coolest-looking – not only probably the most amazing musician, but he looked great. Page just always… I can see, if I was a guitar player…
That's the guy.
Jimi Hendrix, it goes without saying. But Jimmy Page… when you were a kid, was that… ?
I remember… Zeppelin, of course, were a huge influence. Seeing him then – and I knew who he was before that… The Yardbirds and the session work that he used to do…
Did you know about his session work prior to him being in Led Zeppelin?
Oh, yeah. When we were kids, we lived off music. Yeah, we read everything –
Which you can't do anymore. It sucks!
Yeah. It's completely different. I hate to sound like an old guy, but we kind of lived through the golden age of recording – just the whole industry and the way things worked. But Jimmy Page definitely had something about him. There was even that period – what was it, the Houses Of The Holy era? – where he had that really shabby look. He had a beard and a trench coat.
But he still looked really awesomely cool! [Laughs]
It was a little before that, I think. I think it was right before Zeppelin IV, right around that time. They were all workin' the beards. Plant had a little –
That's right. But they still looked very cool.
If you can pull off the bum look… [Lifeson laughs] As soon as you put on that Les Paul, and it's down here…
Yeah, that says something right there. That's not easy to play, when it's down there.
No. He plays it kind of low, right?
Yeah. Yeah, he's great. I met him once… in 1998. Geddy had met Robert in Morocco. Ged was on a trip with a group, and Robert was there with his wife or girlfriend – I'm not sure what their relationship was – but they met. They happened to be staying at the same hotel, down the hall from each other, oddly enough. They spent a few days kind of eying each other, sort of smiling.
Finally, Ged came up over on the last night that they were there. He said to his wife, Nancy, "I have to go over and just tell him how much I've admired him, what a great influence he's been." And he went over, and he says, "Excuse me, Robert, I don't mean to bother you…" [Imitates Robert Plant] "Oh, Geddy, I was wondering when you'd finally come over! Sit down, have a glass of wine…" And they spent the whole evening together, getting to know each other. And he's a terrific guy.
You know… you meet your peers, and they're like us. We talk about a lot of different things. From the first time we met, it's not about your work and that so much. Yeah, you share those sorts of things, but it's about your family, it's about kids, it's about those places you've visited that are really special – the impact that it's had on you… Not always, but every so often you meet somebody and they're like that, and you can engage on that sort of footing. Certainly, Robert and Geddy were like that.
That's great. And probably what a relief, instead of "Yeah, right, you're the best – now, fuck off!" Aaaaggghhhh! Or whatever. To not be like… That's so great that he was like –
Well, at the end of the trip, Robert said, "We're coming to Toronto later this year, and you must come down, and bring Alex." They exchanged phone numbers and all that. And you know, you do that, but it's seldom that anybody acts upon it. You know, everybody's got a busy life.
But a few days before they arrived, Ged got a call from him, and he said, "You know, we're in town, come on downto the show." And Ged said, "I don't know. We've gone through this terrible nightmare with Neil, and everything that he's been through. I don't know if our hearts are in going out," and all of that. But you know, he's been through that. He lost a child, as well.
He said, "No, you must get out and come down. Please do." We went down. It was kind of cool because it's a venue that we play all the time when we play in Toronto. We know lots of people backstage, the crew and stuff like that. So we went up to the dressing room, we're sitting with Robert and chatting – again, you know, talking about all kinds of things – and then Jimmy came into the room. I'm telling you, I was like, "Oh, my God! Jimmy – oh, my God!" [Laughs]
[Laughs] You were 14 again!
I was totally 14 again. [Smith laughs] He was just so sweet and gracious and engaging and funny. We chatted for, I don't know, 10 or 15 minutes, together there. I gave him a copy of my solo record, and I'd written something for him in it, because his playing, the influence of his playing, is all over that record. I was so nervous about giving it to him 'cause I know what it's like when somebody gives me stuff –
"Here, here. I'm gonna give it to you, but don't read it now."
[Laughs] Exactly. And then they invited us down to sit at the monitor desk, right at the side of the stage, while they performed. Throughout the whole show, Jimmy would look over and smile and wink. It was just like so… cool. [Laughs] It was a really, really great experience.
It's so nice when that happens.
Yeah, your heroes are heroes.
Yeah, man. You know, I've been fortunate to meet a lot people. You stick around this whole racket we've been doing for a while. More often than not, everybody's… You know, lots of times I think, you're know, you're professional. Like you say, sometimes it can be like, "Oh, whatever. Thanks a lot," and then… [whistles]. A other times, you connect with people, like we did. For the most part, people aren't, like, assholes. You don't get anywhere –
I agree with you. The majority aren't.
The majority aren't. Once in a while, and it's usually, I've found, it's different from meeting your peers or people you looked up to, but younger bands, where maybe they get a big hit or something, you know, they kind of think –
They're cocky. They just don't even know how to deal with it.
Yeah. Exactly. And I don't blame them for it. I can see how it can happen – people around them, certainly in this day and age, the way our industry is and everything happens now.
Yeah, it is so different now.
It's so different. To me, what's kind of sad is that, one aspect of it, is that both of our groups would have never been able to grow and have the opportunity to suck for a while – not even suck but just to learn –
[At the same time] To learn –
– and get better, three records, four records, that would be unheard of today. If you didn't sell your x amount or whatever, then "sorry," and bands would break up. They're not nurtured like they once were, which is sad because you miss out on bands like U2 and REM and Rush and Chili Peppers. You know… we were doing the best we could do, obviously, but the public wasn't on board the way that the industry thinks about it. And people would have missed out on all that great music. It's kind of sad…
Well, record companies were developers then, and now they're speculators.
Bankers. Bottom line.
Basically, you have to make your own record and shop it to them [Smith laughs], and if it does OK, then they'll sign you. There's no commitment or help from them. Our first deal was for five records. The idea was that the first two records would be those starting points; and maybe on the third record it kind of turned around and the record company would make a little bit of money. Everybody would be moving forward. And the next two would be those stronger commercial records.
What that like a plan?
I think that was the plan then. And it makes sense on the curve of the five records. This is sort of the mid-point, the third one, and the next two, everybody's laughing –
[Laughs] "We love everybody!"
But that… that can't happen.
No, it doesn't happen. I just wonder what we're missing out on.
We got to experience it. It's all the young kids now who are missing out on it. But at the same time, for fear of sounding like an old guy – "arrggh, get off my lawn!" deal [Smith laughs] – it's a different world that is their world, so they work it accordingly. They don't feel, I'm sure, that they're missing anything, just like we didn't feel like we were missing out on anything.
I don't know how many times I heard older people, and not just parents but just older people, say, "Oh, my God. Your generation is just totally nuts. You have no sense of what it was really like, when it was great." And every generation has that same feeling, you know?
Yeah, maybe you're right.
It's a pretty normal kind of cycle, I guess.
Well, I'm just glad… now that you're a young-and-upcoming band…
[Laughs] It's only been 40 years.
Let me ask you, you're… next week… going into the Hall!
I know you've been talking about it or whatever –
Yeah, we've been talking a lot about it.
[Laughs] And people are asking you about it. That's what happens. It was a year ago, this time.
Yeah, exactly. In fact, they've been playing the HBO special a little while. I saw it back then.
Let me tell you what, it's quite edited down. It was six hours. We went on last. Six hours. Now, I don't know if that's going to be the case again this year. When are you slotted – are you supposed to go last?
We're supposed to go last.
You're the Snoopy. It's a long show. At least the only one I went to, our experience is… Obviously, there's performing, but the speeches, depending on who's being inducted, there's no… [He drums on the table.]
Right. The music starting to play.
And when we went, it was –
Well, it was all of you. Everybody said something, right?
Yeah. But not just like – well, it was Guns N' Roses, and they had a lot of members; we had a lot of members. They inducted the Comets and the Crickets, and these older… I think it was the first year they did bands that… obviously, it was Bill Hailey and the Comets. Not just Bill Hailey, the Comets get in, too. Now the Crickets, not Peggy Sue, that gentleman, his band… they had the first time with the bands. There were a lot of people that were in these bands that were old, and they're all up there talking.
Yeah. They haven't done anything in 40 years. [Smith laughs] It's their big chance.
It was their big moment. Everybody thanks their first grade teacher. It's a long night, in that way. It's heart-felt, and it's a big deal.
It's a very big deal.
As you know, awards are great, and it's nice to be recognized. This is for 25 years or plus, more. It has a lot of weight to it.
Of the people that are inducted, you have a wacky combo of Public Enemy and Donna Summer and you guys, which wouldn't be played on the same radio station.
It's not really Rock and Roll Hall of Fame anymore, is it?
I'm not so sure it ever really was. Madonna's in there, ABBA… They all are very notable artists on their own. Whether they belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… There again, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not like an industry-sanctioned thing. It's not something that we all vote on and are a part of.
It's basically one person's idea of this thing. He runs it the way he wants to run it, and he can have whoever he wants to have in it. So at the end of the day – and there's been so much controversy with us in it – you know, we've been eligible for 65 years or something. [Smith laughs] I remember the last 19 years, or 15 years, or something like that. And our fans are so dedicated. I'm sure that they must feel like, "Thank God, this is finally going to be over." We're not going to get deluged with all this mail.
Now they have to find something else to chat on the Internet about.
I think the Hall needs to really open their doors to all forms of rock music, in particular. If they're going to have the Crickets and the Comets and ABBA, then they really need to have Yes and Moody Blues.
Yeah… Deep Purple?
How can you not have Deep Purple?
I can't believe Deep Purple's not in.
Like, I feel guilty going in –
I know who I voted; I got my little voting thing, I'm like "Rush, Deep Purple… " No brainers, they're in. They're in!
That's why we're in, because guys like you have a vote now. It's changing the core. It's diluting the core's… who are strongly influenced –
The little boys' club.
Exactly – who are influenced by Jann. I'm not complaining about that. That's fine. They can do whatever they want, it doesn't matter. It's their place, or it's his place; he can do whatever he wants. The perception to a lot of your fans is that… and I'm sure it's the same thing for you… that this is a big, big deal. To them, it's so incredibly important that you get this recognition. They feel validated by your inclusion into this thing, even if it doesn't mean that much to you. It means a really big deal to them.
To the fans. I agree.
I'll tell you quite honestly, a year ago or more, I really couldn't care less. I probably would have preferred not to be a part of it, only because it didn't really mean that much to me, and my priorities are different. It's about being a musician and about playing and all that stuff. Like you say, the awards are nice, but they're not important at the end of the day.
But seeing the response of our fans and what it means to them, and really even outside of that, you can't possibly be a dick about it. You have to be gracious.
[Laughs] Some people are, though.
Some people are, and that's fine. They can do what they want.
I totally, 100 percent agree with you.
At the end of the day, you want to be gracious. You want to be courteous. You want to do the honorable thing.
That's how you are, though. That's an extension of you guys, and what you have always been: "We do our thing. We don't give a shit about what anybody thinks – we just do it." It's great, and people love it. Obviously, your longevity and everything, and all the success that your band has had, and you never are like, "Oh, we're trying to be like this, because we want someone to like us." Which is beautiful; which is what being a true artist is really all about. I admire that to the nth degree.
And now, it's great that you're like, "If it happens, no big deal. You know what? We're not going to change anything that we do. Gee, I need to feel validated by these New York whatevers." [Laughs] They can't kick me out – it's too late!
No, they can't. I think it's too late to kick me out, too.
It's too late to kick you out, too. You're right. The fans are so… the fans are everything. They're the ones that keep you going. It's important to them. It's almost like your family. My mother thought it was great. It doesn't matter if you sell out this or have these records or whatever. "Oh… You're in the Hall of Fame? Wow, that's really something. I might have to come to that."
Did your mom come?
My mother was there with drum earrings on [Lifeson laughs], the whole nine. She was so proud. There is something to do when there's a Hall of Fame involved…When there's only one, there is some sort of special thing to it. Your friends and your fans and your family… it means almost more to them than maybe it does to you.
Oh, easily. Yeah.
It's a great gift for them.
Dave and Taylor are gonna just gush!
I know. Taylor came by rehearsals today.
Did he? He was in Chile or something.
Yeah, he came back yesterday.
He texted me, like, "What are you doing?"
I can't believe he actually got there.
That guy's got some energy.
Yeah. Yeah, he's a sweetheart. We were planning on doing some stuff, and just for logistics, they asked him if it would be possible for him to play Neil's kit. It's like giving a right-handed guitar player a left-handed guitar. Neil's snare is really high, and everything's wrong.
It's like wearing somebody else's shoes or something.
Yeah, you can't do it.
I sat down at Alex Van Halen's kit once. He sits, I swear…
Really low. His snare is above… I'm a tall guy. He's not as tall as me. Everything is up here. It's "Bang, bang!" And your knees are like… I was like, "How the fuck do you play?" It's crazy. I was like, "Kink, kink!" I couldn't… [Lifeson laughs] So he's going to tackle that monster. What song are you going to do?
Well, Dave and Nick Raskulinecz…
Yeah, of course. Very quiet man...
When does this come out?
I have no idea.
They've got something playing, yeah. [They laugh]
Good. That's all we're going to say about it.
They're going to the 2112 Overture, but they're going to wear kimonos. Taylor's going to have the big moustache that he had…
And they're going to play the Overture, and then we'll come in after they finish it at the end, and do a couple songs.
They want to get it all right. [They laugh]
Who's you? Who's playing you? Grohl?
That's Grohl, yeah.
That's great. See, because I know you love… You were dressed as [laughs] Amy Winehouse in your tour booklet?
Yeah, I don't know where that came from.
Where's that come from? How long ago was that?
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I think it was the last tour.
Was it before she…?
Yeah. Maybe she saw the picture and –
Couldn't take it.
– couldn't take it anymore, because I was better looking.
Being made fun of by Canadian gentlemen. Did you make a good Amy Winehouse?
I don't know. What do you mean by good? [They laugh]
Good is a subjective word.
Good, like handsome? I was a handsome Amy.
Portly. She's a little thinner.
A handsome Amy Winehouse. Maybe when she was going through one of her not-so-healthy times, maybe.
Maybe. I probably look like a healthier Amy Winehouse, unfortunately.
Yeah, I don't think she for to the… I don't know. And you paint? I didn't know you were a painter.
I'm not really.
You Renaissance man.
I really enjoy it. I love it. I enjoyed art in school. I've always done little drawings and stuff like that. I don't really know what I'm doing with the painting, but I experiment. I got into it about six or seven years ago. I got a request from the Kidney Foundation in Canada to get involved with their... with a program that they run annually, where they get different celebrity artists.
Then they auction them?
Right, they auction it. It's called… Brush of Hope, I think. I did a painting, just a little acrylic painting on the little board they send you, with the little paints that they give you.
Did it have numbers on it?
No numbers. It sold for $7,000 or $8,000. I was so thrilled, as they were.
[Claps] I bet. Do you want some peppa?
Sure. Most of these things sell for between $25 and $100... thank you. It was a pretty big deal. They asked me to come back, and I thought, "For sure." This is a great idea. Since then, I now buy my own canvasses. I do bigger canvasses. I spent a couple thousand dollars on paints, so I can do some really decent-quality work. I still don't know what I'm doing.
I'm still experimenting. A lot of stuff, I kind of redo and paint over. But it's getting there. I really enjoy it.
Do you have a studio at your place? What do you do?
I sit at the table… the dining room table.
Not like …
No. I laid out a bunch of newspaper, and set everything up where it's nice and sunny, and a couple of lamps when I'm working in the evening. I got a little tabletop easel, so I can set it up there, and get a different perspective on it.
That's so cool.
The last one I did …
You could start painting guitars.
You know, I was asked to do that, again for a charity. There's something about working on a canvas that makes it realer. It takes it out of what the other thing that I do.
Yeah, that's true. That makes sense. I get it.
In fact, they ran a series of an earlier painting, and it got prints and sold a few hundred, for $100 or something.
You can retire.
Yeah, it raised a lot of money for them.
That's really great, too.
It's really great. I'm really proud of it.
This is really good.
I'll try one of those, for sure.
That's so cool. Later on, you can be like... you liked it in school, but then you never really did it after school.
Yeah. Charlene's an amazing artist. She was tops in her class. We have some stuff at home that she did in high school that is just so beautiful – mind-blowing. But soon became a mom, and I was away…
She didn't keep it up?
She never got a chance to really do it. She's been trying, but her whole life is so busy. It's too bad. It's really a waste that she doesn't do that. But you never know. It is a lot of fun. I enjoy that a lot.
Is it relaxing?
It's relaxing. I put some music on, and I'll have a puff every once in a while and get creative. Before I know it, it's dark outside. And I start in the morning – I've had nine cups of coffee. When I'm doing it, I can't stop thinking about it. I keep wanting to go back. "I've got to... I just thought of something. I know how I can feather that color out." It's great. At the end of the day, you feel like you're doing something that's helping somebody else.
I used to fly… my pilot's license.
Flea's getting his pilot license right now.
Is he? Good for him.
He's just going to start solo.
What does he want? OK, so he's about 15 hours or so, 18 hours into it.
I think so. He's been doing it …
What are his intentions?
He's going to get a little Cessna. I can't remember the name of the plane. He's going to buy a plane, like a four-seater.
A 182, something like that?
I can't remember.
Something a little bit bigger?
No, not too big. It has all the latest modern –
A safe …
He's just planning on being a recreational flyer, and just going up.
Right. I think so, yes. You did that?
I did do that. I got my license in 1980, and then I was so keen after I got my license. It was a challenge. We were touring a lot back then. We were gone for long periods of time. It took me a year to get my license, because I couldn't fly. I was away a lot. When I was home, I went as much as I could. Winter, it's minus 30 – that's when winter was winter, and you aren't going to fly on those days. It's just too cold.
I was so into it. I wanted something that would challenge me, that I would do that would, again, be different from being on tour and playing and all of that stuff, and force me to be very responsible about what I was doing, and the application of this thing that I was learning.
After I got my license, I got my multi-engine rating. I got a float rating, I got a night rating – I got basically everything except my instrument rating. I have lots of instrument time, but... this is something that he should be aware of, too, and he probably is. Unless you're going to be really serious about your instrument rating, and really work towards it and keep it current, then you're better off to not get it and just be a recreational flyer when it's sunny and nice outside, and go and enjoy it.
You can't fly at night if you're…
You can get a night rating to fly at night. For an instrument where you're in cloud and those sort of things, things can happen so, so very quickly. If you don't have the experience, and you're up to date with it, it can be extremely dangerous.
I think the Kennedy had …
John Kennedy is a perfect example. He went out at dusk. He figured, "It's still light outside. I can get there, just as it's getting dark. I'll be fine." He had a fair bit of experience, but not a great deal, and no instrument – from what I understand – no instrument experience. The thing is, at dusk, that's maybe the worst time because there's no horizon. That's what happened. He got disoriented, because he couldn't see the horizon. Even though it wasn't night... he's looking for this, and he's not looking at his instruments. What he should have done, as soon as he sensed any kind of problem, was to immediately turn back and go back to his departure airport. But you know, that's not the way guys think, mostly.
Yeah. "Oh, I can make it. I want to get there."
It happened so, so quickly.
He's taking it very seriously. He's a pretty responsible guy. I don't know how far he wants to go, but I know recreational. I'll ask him about the whole thing.
I'm sure he's …
He wants to get a plane. He's into it.
It is fun.
He's like, "I just want to fly around and go here."
He lives here?
In California, the coast.
Exactly. All over the place.
He's got a house in Big Bear.
Easy. That's an easy flight during the day. It's nice.
I think that's his plan. What happened, you lost interest in it?
If you own your own airplane, you can go and fly it any time you want. Staying current on your license, after I think 40, is an annual physical that you go for. After a while, I wasn't flying that much, so I wasn't getting my minimum annual... It's not a lot, 10 or 15 hours. I just kind of lost interest in it. I was playing golf.
Life happens – other things, kids, whatever.
The kids, grandkids, all that stuff. If you're not current every month... if you haven't flown in a month, if you're renting, you have to go back for another…
Is that right?
Yeah, you have to go with an instructor, fly around for an hour. He'll sign you off that you're…
You're thinking, "I want to go here next week."
It's too much work. I just want to go flying for an hour.
Exactly. "I've got to go with this guy now?" I get it.
I kind of lost interest in that.
I know that you're like "gadget guy." You like, I think… correct me if I'm wrong… pedals, and things that go "ping"? You like all that stuff?
I love all that stuff. I've always been interested in that sort of thing, right from the very beginning.
From your sound, or in your mind, what you're trying to... I know it depends on the music and where you're at, and what you're writing and stuff. How much does it dictate? Is it after the fact? You're in the studio and the song is developing, and like, "This is going to work?" Or can it be from the beginning, like The Edge, his thing. It happens both ways?
That's a great question. I think probably in the past, I would utilize effects or tonal shaping, more from the beginning. Less so now, because I really believe that the core of the song should work, no matter what you do.
You can play it on acoustic or whatever.
Exactly. That's the real test, is on an acoustic. If it works on an acoustic, it's going to work no matter what you do. It's easy to get caught up in the technology and be enamored by the sound of something. But it's just that – it's a superficial thing. It's not deep inside what makes the song a song, and makes it compelling. I've moved away, much more. It's more of an afterthought now. I've always been ensconced in the technical end of it, from a wah-wah pedal, to a fuzztone in the early days.
That's probably all you had. What were your first effects?
My first effect was the Fuzz Face Fuzztone. I remember, I used to plug my guitar into the back of my parents' TV. [Smith laughs] It had a little RCA input. I don't know why that input was there.
Was it distorted?
Oh, yeah, it was distorted before I even put the Fuzzface in. [Smith laughs] Then I got a wah-wah pedal, a CryBaby wah-wah pedal.
Jimi Hendrix had one of those. Gotta have it. Page…
Yeah, all those guys. Clapton when he was in Cream – White Room. I mean, there was lots of wah-wah. The Echoplex was the big one, and then the chorus pedal changed everything in my sound. I came to really rely on that from the mid-'70s on.
Yeah, it just makes things bigger, especially in a three-piece. It makes it wider.
It can be a crutch. [Smith laughs] It can be. Delays can definitely be more of a crutch, because it masks insecurities and inaccuracies. Playing in this band with Neil and Ged, they're so active. You need to do something that kind of fills... it's the glue.
It's the situation. Certainly early on, before Geddy got into the Taurus pedals and keyboards, you were... that was it, as far as real melody. That was your job. You had a big job, a big thing to do.
Yeah, in a very busy space.
Where's... let me ask you this, and go back to the Hall of Fame for a second… Will anyone from the Rutsey family be involved?
I don't know, personally. Yeah, John passed away a couple of years ago. We hadn't really seen much of each other. When he left the band, he really left music. He sold his drums a few months later.
Look what you did to him. You ruined him.
He became a body builder.
He became a body builder? [Laughs] Really?
Yeah, he competed provincially in Ontario.
John was a complex kind of guy. He was so funny – he was wonderful to be with – but would get into these moods where he hated you for some reason all of a sudden, and would have nothing to do with you.
Kind of no reason?
Yeah. For a couple of months.
A couple of months?
Yeah. Oh, yeah.
How are you going to be in a band with a guy like that?
I know, it was difficult. Suddenly, one day he would call and say, "Hey, what's going on?" – like nothing happened. He was a very moody, weird guy in that way. He had juvenile diabetes, and I think it had a big influence on his life. I remember, I met him when we were both 10 or 11 years old. We were friends from being kids. There were a lot of those little cycles where he would get like that.
You think maybe it was from the diabetes?
He was very self-conscious about the diabetes. He worried about touring, going away, how would he store his insulin and those sort of things. He didn't want people to know. It was a complex thing with him. I think when it came down to it, he had a very rough year before we got our American deal in 1974 and went on tour. That year, he was very sick. He had issues with his diabetes and other physical issues.
He kind of had enough.
In fact, we had another drummer – Jerry Fielding was his name. He sat in and learned the stuff, and played for a couple months with us while John was recuperating.
I didn't know that.
Then it went back and forth a few times. He was one of the candidates to join the band, when John left. He was a great drummer, and a really nice guy. But Neil was just something else.
I'd see John every once in a while, when we would come home, not very often. I didn't see him probably from 1976, I guess, until mid- to late '80s. And then we got together, and I started working out with him, training with him. We socialized a little bit. It was kind of nice. We actually went on a holiday together. Then I didn't see him or hear from him until four or five years ago, I guess. It was long, from '88 to 2008. Suddenly, I remember he called and asked me about something that he was – some charity thing that he asked if we would get involved with. The next thing I knew, he passed away, which is sadly not uncommon for people with juvenile diabetes.
It's bad when you get it as a juvenile, I think.
Yeah, and he was in his mid- to late 50s by then. It's tough. I don't know if there's anybody from his family that reached out to the office.
So you haven't been in contact with them.
No, not really.
I get it, I get it, I get it.
Forty years, that's a long time. There's no denying that he was an important part of the beginning of what our roots were, but we were a very different band not long after he left, really. It's kind of the way things go, I guess.
I remember they would ask, "Who do you want to be there?" Because we have quite a few members as well. They were asking us, "Who do you want to be included?" Usually, it's founding members. They gave us the usual parameter stuff, and it was up to us. Actually, I was talking to Sammy not too long ago – Andy Johns passed away last week, did you see that?
He did our first Chickenfoot record.
Yeah, that's right.
We knew Andy, and he did a Van Halen record, he did one of Joe's records. We were just talking on the phone about that. He said, "Yeah, Denny Carmassi, who was the drummer in Montrose, I've been doing stuff with Denny and Bill Church in the studio, recording." I said, "That's great. How does it sound?" "Cool, man. We've got the old Montrose thing going." I'm like, "You're kidding me." He's like, "Denny's really upset, because Denny was in Heart in the '80s.
[Laughs] He wasn't invited to be involved in the whole thing, and he was really bummed.
Yeah, well, you know…
But you guys are like... that's a no-brainer.
Yeah, I think if John was still around, I think an invitation would have gone to him, for sure. He's not, and it's nothing really to do with his family or anything. We did have another guitar player in the band.
Yeah, Mitch Bossi.
Yeah, he was in the band for …
The Mitch Bossi?
[Laughs] Yes – the teacher. He was in the band for, I don't know... I think it was three or four months. We were playing clubs and high school dances and stuff like that.
Was this in your movie? I don't remember that.
I think. Yeah, Mitch was mentioned in it. There were some photos with the four of us. He was a friend of John's. Mitch was not that great of a guitar player.
You're being nice.
He was OK, but not that great.
He could play.
He could play.
John really wanted to go to more of a Bad Company kind of, Small Faces, er, Faces sort of thing. That's the kind of music that he was really into.
Yeah, the English bluesy kind of thing.
He had more of that vibe?
We went for a while, for a few months. I remember we were at a rehearsal, and we told Mitch that it wasn't really working out. [Smith laughs] He picked up his stuff, and he left.
Spinal Tap. Was John part of that decision as well?
Yeah, John actually made that decision. I remember him saying, "This isn't working out. I'll talk to Mitch." It was at a rehearsal. We were all there. I guess John did the talking.
In a band... How do I say this? When you have to fire somebody …
It's hard. We're terrible at it.
It's the worst! So are we. We're the worst, and we've had to let some people go, and it's…
It's a horrible… When John, our guitar player, left, we got another guy to play just a tour, the Lollapalooza tour. We did another one in the fall. Arik Marshall, he was a really good player. But we'd never written, and we tried to write songs with him, because John quit in the middle of a tour.
Yeah, learn the stuff.
Right. He played great. He was a really good player, but we'd never tried to write. We were jamming and improvising, and that's kind of how we write our songs. He tried that, and it just wasn't happening. You're like, "Oh, no…. " We had to fire him. It was really rough.
We did this whole thing, auditioning guitar players is a nightmare. We put an ad in the LA Weekly. This was 1993, or something like that, and we had every crazy person come down and audition for the band. That didn't really work out. We saw this one guy playing in this band called Mother Tongue. His name was Jesse Tobias. We'd been so frustrated by the audition process; we saw him play and we thought, "Wow, he sounds good. His band sounds good." "Want to jam with us?" "Yeah, OK." We had one jam – an hour, hour and a half – good, funky, he played everything cool. We were so excited by this. We thought,
"Wow, the guy's kind of got his own thing."
"'This is going to work!'"
Yeah, exactly. We were so frustrated. "You're in!" Ahhhh… He quits his band. We start jamming… two, three days …
Yeah. It was premature. At the time, we'd asked Dave Navarro to be in our group and he said no. Then he was like, "You know? Yeah, all right." We'd always kind of wanted him to be in the group to begin with.
Yeah, Dave's pretty …
Dave's a good player, right? It made sense, we know him, and Jane's Addiction. Dave says, "Yes, I think I'm ready to do it." And we had to fire Jesse…. Ohhh! The picture was already in Rolling Stone, [laughs] the new guitar player – aarrrgghhh! That was really bad. It's a hard…
Yeah, it's really hard.
It's hard… What's the longest... it was probably during when Neil took time off, that was probably your longest inactivity for the group, right?
Yeah, that was from... we'd come off that tour, I think in June of '97, the Test For Echo tour. The accident happened in August, and then his wife Jackie passed away in June of '98, and then he went on his odyssey. It wasn't until... was it 2011? Yeah, it was 2011, because we started in January of that year.
I'm sorry – 2001. We didn't finish until fall of 2012, and I remember we were in the studio when 9/11 happened. We had some friends that were visiting from the States – actually, one friend from here in Los Angeles and another from Boston. They were stranded in Toronto. It was really interesting, because right in front of our offices, from 3:30 to 6:30, there's no parking. At 3:31, the tow trucks come and pull the cars away that are parked there. This one friend of ours, from Boston, his car was parked out front, right in front of our office. He had Massachusetts plates on the car. They didn't touch his car. Everybody was so freaked out about what had happened, and so supportive.
Yeah, that was a tough album, that one. After everything that he'd been through, it was so delicate and fragile. Honestly, he hadn't played in a few years. Once he'd played, in three years, and he barely got through that playing session. He talks about it, and how he broke down when he was playing, and really never wanted to play again, and didn't think he could. When we came back into the studio… he just was not anywhere close to being the same drummer that he was. He couldn't play.
That's the thing – you don't do it, you use it or lose it, right? Especially the way he performed.
You hit the drums hard. [Laughs] In different scenarios, at the club at the Orbit Room, when you played with the A Team that time.
Oh, that's right! I forgot about that.
It was so exciting. The tonality out of that kit – you just know what you're doing. You know the kind of pressure that's required to make the drums speak. When we were in the studio, oh, my God, he was hitting the drums at 65 percent of what he used to. I'm a pretty strong guy, and I'd go in there and mess around on his drums. I hit them as hard as I could, and it was nowhere near what he was doing in just his regular playing. I know a lot of it is technique, and how to snap your wrist or whatever it is. It was a long, arduous climb for him to get back together, to his playing speed. He did get back to it. It was a very difficult time.
He's such a perfectionist, you know? I'm sure he was just like... it must have been frustrating, to not be able to do your thing.
I think it was, but at the same time, I think he recognized that he'd gone through a terrible, difficult period where he just didn't play. He didn't exercise his…
Yeah, he wasn't like, "I just lost it for no reason. No, I know why."
There was a good reason why he couldn't do it. I think he realized that, and it was a long, hard climb to get back up. Some days, I think he was discouraged by it. Other days, he was more focused on it. Getting married, and Carrie coming into his life was really, really, really important. Carrie came up when we were there. She did that beautiful book of his hands – she's a photographer. She spent time with him, and it was therapeutic, I think, for her to be involved, and to shoot him while he's playing, and all of that stuff.
It was a very powerful remedy, I think, for him. It was important. She was there every few weeks. She would come back up and spend time with him, and be together and support him. She was the instigator in getting him back to work. She didn't know anything about the band when they met, and they got married. She basically said to him, "I don't really know a lot about the band, but what I do know is that you do what you do, and you're pretty good at what you do, from my understanding. You've got to do something with your life. Why not do the thing that you were really good at doing?"
[Laughs] That's very innocent, though, right?
It is very innocent. That doesn't account for all the turmoil that you're feeling, and this horrific experience that he went through. How do you eliminate, or at least dilute that emotional horror show? She was willing to support him, and lift him up. We were there all along for him.
I'm sure you guys were. That's amazing.
That first gig in Hartford, after coming back from all of that and making a record, there were moments where we all came together and played and looked at each other. I just had a lump in my throat. I could feel my eyes watering.
After the show...
All the emotions, too.
Yeah. I'd look out in the audience, and people were crying in the audience, because they couldn't believe it was happening again. They understood the pain and everything that he'd experienced, that we'd experienced. I think in a way, it kind of makes you more human. It puts you on a more common ground with your audience.
Everybody has terrible things that they deal with. Everybody. Just because you're some big shot rock star, doesn't mean you're immune to having these awful tragedies in your life. It brings you closer. I think as a fan, it just strengthens your bond to these guys. We were all...
That's heavy, man.
All huggy. It was very sweet.
You guys have grown up together. It goes way beyond, "We need to play music together." Way beyond that.
It was interesting. I like to think that this would be the case with anybody that goes through this sort of thing, but when it happened, the band immediately became nothing. It had no importance whatsoever. It was all about helping a brother come back from the edge. I was at their house every day, after Selena had died, just helping Jackie, mostly. Other people were helping Neil. Then when he was on his quest to find solace and peace, we kept in touch. We sent e-mails, we sent faxes, whatever we could. He'd send postcards.
Yeah, the postcards. I remember reading about that in the book [laughs]. You guys would get these crazy postcards, with a couple lines on it.
Yeah. "I'm OK." You know what? I think that experience...
Real life stuff – it makes you go, "It's just a fucking rock band, for God's sake."
People die in our group; people have trouble with drugs and personal stuff. Everybody goes through... If your first thought is, "Gee, when's the band gonna get back together?" You don't have a real connection. You have to have... I think, to play music that means so much to you guys, and therefore translates to mean so much to people that love it and listen to it and connect with it, they wouldn't be able to do that if you guys didn't have your own connection that you have.
People feel that. I do. I think the Eagles... "Well, we don't talk to each other, and we get up and play," and that separate dressing room shit and all that Pink Floyd kind of stuff; I don't want to get up on stage and play with people that...
I wouldn't do it.
I can't do it. It's not worth it. I want to connect. I want to engage and connect with the people that I'm playing with. I love these guys that I play with. We're lucky to be in a situation where we've been in a group with the same people, the ups and downs, and this and that. "I know he's weird sometimes, and I'm an idiot... "
But you can still love each other.
Exactly. At the end of the day, that love comes through.
Absolutely. You have to have that. I even saw it with Chickenfoot. I don't know how well you guys really knew each other.
But we enjoy it.
When I was in the dressing room with you guys, we all jammed together.
We had so much fun. Everybody was involved in it. It was a real fun thing, and connected. It shows on stage.
People pick up on that. They really do.
For sure they do. Especially when you come from diverse backgrounds, where everybody's a star in their own...
We got together because we were friends. Except for Joe – I didn't know Joe. I knew Mike, and I knew Sam. That started from jamming in his club down in Cabo. It wasn't like, "Let's put this guy with that guy." It was just, we were friends and we had fun playing. We kind of liked the same kind of music; we had a jumping-off point together. That was it. It was just a fun thing to do. It stayed that way, which is nice. We got Joe, and Joe's in the same way. He was just like, "I want to play in a band. This is great. I love Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin." We all grew up on that, right? Let's do our own thing. That shows.
I also think what's important... I don't know how it is with you guys, but for us, we have this... I come from a more rock background, the English... the Led Zeppelin, the Sabbaths and the Purples, like that era. I love that. I started playing when I was young, like seven. My older brother would listen to all these English blues, hard rock junk. I listened to all those records.
Flea is not – he's a trumpet player. He's jazz. His house was filled with jazz. His stepdad was a jazz musician. The trumpet was his first instrument. He started to pick up the bass, not until he was maybe out of high school – still in high school, so later, like 19 years old. Didn't know Led Zeppelin. I mean, he heard of it, but he was busy with Dizzy Gillespie and Ornette Coleman and stuff.
Anthony comes from kind of a rap... he likes everything. He's kind of all over the place. Then John, our guitar player at the time, came from a real punk rock aesthetic but also loved Frank Zappa. I think if everybody likes the same thing, though, it's going to be very one-dimensional. You have to like different things, certainly musically. I appreciate all those kinds of music, but I've got my thing, he's got his. You've got your own personality.
Then you put it together.
You put it together.
That's why you guys are completely unique, from any other band… in the history of rock music, in fact.
For those reasons.
I think it's a big part of it, I really do. We're honest about what we do. I'm saying this in an analogy, I think, with you guys as well. We have a similar thing – we're unique. It's hard to have really your own sound. If I hear something coming out... "That's Rush." If I hear Police, if I hear... there's certain groups. When a Red Hot Chili Peppers song comes on, you go, "OK, I know who that is." Whether it's the vocals or the singing or the sound... that's not the norm these days.
I agree with you.
I want to know why.
Yes, why is that?
How did it get so homogenized?
Where's the uniqueness?
Is it because recording is no longer... no thanks, I'm good. Is it because recording no longer requires a recording studio, where you're focused, and you work with an engineer, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?
Everybody actually plays together?
Now on GarageBand, you can make a good-sounding record. If you spend the money on a Pro Tools rig or Logic or something like... you know what I'm saying? Any kind of mediocre musician or band can make music now and release it and put it on iTunes. There's a glut of mediocre stuff. There's still some great music. You have to look for it. There's something, even in the sound of music now.
I think partly, without sounding like an old fart, which I am... but I don't want to sound like one... I noticed that everything's kind of made super-compressed, and make it mastered as loud as you can. It comes out of these little speakers.
When you're talking about studio quality and stuff, that's one thing; just a general sonic sound is less pleasing. Maybe it doesn't take as much... I can't believe that people wouldn't take as much time and want that to be a big part of your creative process
I also think that another thing, too, with Pro Tools and stuff like that is that certainly in rock music... I'm talking about the rock bands that I hear. I miss the sound of a real performance. Play this song from the beginning to the end, like in the old days. "I really like the turnaround on that verse." There's good ways to do it, and there's other ways. It seems just a few times... with other people that I've worked with as well... it's really easy, because of Pro Tools, to cut and paste.
You lose the excitement of a performance that happens at the beginning, and the change in dynamics, and it speeds up and then slows down in the verse a little bit, and it's exciting. There's things I do at the end of the song that I don't do in the beginning; there's a reason why. If you cut and paste it, "I did that the first time, I did that the second time." Yeah, but it was really good and exciting. There's people that think like that now, too.
That's a really good… When we're recording, when we write, we do that cut and paste a lot of times. It's economical. You go back, and you get the real drums on. You play the demo from the beginning to end, and that's where the second chorus is a little different. You start injecting those nuances. You never really get away from that. You understand, that's always been the fun part of songwriting.
You're building it.
You know that it's going to be a subtle build, all the way through. Every part's going to be a little bit different, because you want it to be a little bit different from the other part.
Yeah – make it exciting for the listener.
You want it to be a true performance. That's really the excitement.
That's what affects people. That's how they get excited. I'm not exactly sure why.
Maybe because you've got the buds in, and you've got 2,000 songs on your iPhone, and you're walking down the street. It doesn't matter.
They're not even listening to the whole song anymore.
It's not the title of the song.
"I love track three on your new album, and six is awesome."
"What's the one after six?" "I don't fucking know. It starts out, then it stops." I had this girl the other day, I swear to God, she came up to me... a young girl in Starbucks. "You're in the Chili Peppers? I love your band." "Oh, thank you."
Yeah, "I'm your biggest fan."
[Laughs] "Really? All right, name me a song off Blood Sugar Sex – " No, she says, "I just love that one song, number two." I swear to God. I went, "Number two on the last record, or the one before, or the song number two? We don't have any songs called number two." I said that to her, and she got kind of red. She goes, "I mean, it's number two on the CD. It's really good." She tried to sing a little bit.
Yes, this sounds like number two. [They laugh.]
Exactly. Al, we're just a couple old farts.
I know. Sitting in front of the barber shop, spitting.
"Remember the good old days, when people actually played all the way through?"
I know, it's so sad. Oh, well.
You know what? The good thing is, people will still come out and see people play. God bless them.
We get to out and play our hearts out. We get to do just what we want to do. More and more and more, people want to see that and want to experience it and be a part of it. I think that's... for us, that's a lot of the appeal. We've always cared about the live performance and always tried to be the best that we could. We didn't always succeed at it, but always tried to be the best that we could.
Even at this late stage in our lives, and I don't know how you feel about that, as you get older and more mature in your playing, there's a comfort and a confidence, and kind of a relaxed component to your performance. It's really nice to reach that. Maybe it's the additional hours above the 10,000 hours that make that difference. I feel like we're playing better than we've ever played. I don't know if that's true or not, but I feel like we are. We're more aware of it.
I don't see how that not... other than the physicality of it, and maybe... I don't know for our group, the music has changed, and the urgency of our initial, when we used to play, everything was hard and fast. That's who we were then, and that was fun. I think that there's nothing that can replace experience. The more life experiences you have, and that goes into playing your music, the person that you are, that's going to come out, if you honestly represent yourself, right?
How can that not be more enriching to being an artist? How can that not translate out into your music? "Why don't you play songs and write songs like blah, blah, blah record?" "We did those. You can go listen to them." I'm sure you get the same thing. "How come you don't do that one like that anymore?" "Because I'm not 26, or I'm not 32. This is who we are now. This is what we do now. We love it, and we're totally into it."
I think it's less to do with you, or you as a musician, than to that moment, when you remember when you got laid that summer.
I do that, too.
We all do. We all connect to some music, at some point in our lives.
That's a great thing about art and music. It's a beautiful thing. But they do – they'll get stuck. I look at the guy, and he's wearing the same clothes he probably was wearing in high school, and I look really cool. [Laughs] "But you're 37 now… "
Yes, you're twice as old as you were then. It's a different world.
I'm not here to judge anybody. That thing about the experiences, good and bad – everything that life throws your way comes out. I think that that's... I love going to see bands with guys who have been together. I love to go see Aerosmith. When I was a young guy, I really liked Aerosmith. Maybe not so much... they've been playing together, like you guys, for 40 years. They've got a thing. Whether you like it or not, they've got a thing. I go, and I check it out, and I'm like, "OK, whatever. They're doing their thing." I love seeing bands or musicians that have been playing together for a long time. There's something to it.
Yeah, an identity.
You guys, it's a perfect example of that. How is it when you play with others? Do you enjoy doing other things? You do other records and stuff, right?
I know it's completely different.
It's completely different. It's an exercise in… your skill as a player, and as an arranger and a songwriter. When I play on somebody else's music or record, I feel so much freer than when it's our own stuff, for some reason.
Yeah, there's no pressure, I guess. You're here interpreting someone else's interpretation, and you don't really have to... it's not your identity. It's kind of funny. You can afford to experiment and try different things. I always provide alternates to whatever I do. "Here's one idea."
"If you don't like this one… " [Laughs]
A few more different takes – "I like this one, too." Whatever you like and where it's going. That's a fun thing to do. I love doing that. I would play on stuff all the time if people would ask me or if the opportunity exists.
Do you think, because you're in the group, they think like, "He's… "
He probably won't want to do this.
"He's busy. He's doing his thing." I get that, too.
"No, there's no way he's going to play on our record."
[Laughs] I'll be like, "I'd love to."
I have to give you so much credit, because you do a lot of other things. It's not just going to a studio and playing on someone's record on a song or two. It's going on the road; that's a big commitment.
The typical thing was, that's kind of the one that, mainly because we did have down time.
With all of your other projects?
Exactly. That was really the only thing, why I could go.
You all come from such a strong background, that you know the logistics are taken care of. You've got people that know how to do the things.
Yeah, everyone's a pro and has done it lots of times. Like I said, it was a fun thing and it stayed fun. You know what? Now, how do you juggle... 'cause you've been touring forever… How do you find a balance with your family life and the touring schedule, or just working in general?
I think because...
It's something I need to maybe get better.
[Laughs] With my wife and me, this is the life that we've known forever, for the last probably… 42 years. Even though we've known each other longer, this is the life that we've known.
Since you really started.
We were playing clubs, bars... not even clubs, they were bars in Northern Ontario for a couple weeks here, a couple weeks there. I'd be gone for months at a time and come back. Our life is structured on me being away a lot and her looking after the fort – raising our kids, and being a chauffeur and a cook and a housekeeper and a mom and a dad, and all of those roles. It's been an unspoken thing with us. I work, I do my thing. I've been successful, so we can have a good lifestyle. We can afford to look after family members that are a little less fortunate, and have this good, balanced life.
Now that our kids are grown up and gone, it's different, the way we structure our lives together. We enjoy our time together, but we also need our time apart. We both need it. It's not like...
She's not like, "I'm lonely!"
It's not. She's got a very busy life.
You're used to it.
I'm used to it. She is, too.
You're both used to it.
I think that even if I work less in the future, we'll always have this, "I'm going to go away for a couple weeks." Or, "Why don't you go with the girls, and go down to Florida," or whatever it is, without any kind of weirdness or fear.
"You don't want to be around me."
Yeah. We're 60 – almost 60. Those days are over, of all that kind of crap. [Smith laughs] I will say, though, now that I have grandkids, I find it really difficult being away from them. Even when I'm home, I don't like to be away from them for more than four or five days. We see them every weekend. My eldest grandson is into basketball. His practices are at 7 o'clock in the morning. What we were doing was, they'd alternate weeks, where he would come and stay with us the night before and I would take him in the morning, so that their dad didn't have to take them both to school and sit with the younger one until 8:30, like for an hour and a half.
We'd get to see them alternating, once during the week, both on the weekends. We'd take them every weekend, winter, March break we'd take them to Florida. We do all these things, and we're very close to those kids. For me, I feel almost like it's a second opportunity to go through being a parent again.
Even though being a grandparent is really quite different from being a parent; it's really all about loving and nurturing, and giving them a very secure place that they can go to. It's important as a parent to provide good guidance and discipline, and all of those things, that I don't think a grandparent needs to do. It's a little too much and over the top. I like to feel like when the grandkids are with us, they're free to kick back.
Hit the couch, do whatever they want. As long as it's...
I want to be your grandson. It sounds good. I'm too old, though. [They laugh.]
No, you're probably not.
No, no, no, no, no. That sounds pretty good, Alex. I don't have any yet, but I'm hoping.
You still have...
I've got young ones.
They're young still.
Cole's eight, Beckett is four, and we have a seven-month-old baby. Did you know that?
I didn't know that. [Smith laughs] My God, that's amazing.
You're going through... it's even more difficult. Taylor's nine, and Dylan's five. They're very close with your guys.
Very close in age, yeah – one year.
I don't know what it's like for you as a parent to have young kids now, this time around. Again, like playing music, you're more mature. Maybe you're not as energetic as you were when you were younger, but there's a different aspect of how you deal with kids, and how you are as a parent – much more relaxed. You don't…
Having them 15 years ago would have been like... It's a hard job, as you well know – well know. I honestly don't know how you handle that. That's difficult. Finding the right balance, for me... I feel like I'm being selfish because I want to do these music things. Should all my time away from the band, which is really my main thing, that's the thing that provides, and Nancy completely understands that. I get the feeling that, "If it's not the Chili Peppers, you need to be home with me, and raising the kids."
I understand that. It's a lot of work, especially with a new baby. Before, we would kind of divide and conquer [laughs]. Now with the third one, it's a lot. I'm trying to figure out the right balance, which is the right thing to do. The last thing I want to be is resentful towards them or towards my wife. "Oh, this guy asked me to do this thing that would be really great, but... " That kind of thing. I'll figure it out.
It's a tough thing to do.
I know for me, I know that those kids are not going to be kids much longer. The depth of our connection and our relationship, especially with Taylor, the oldest one… The first three years they lived with us in our house. They bought a townhouse that wasn't built; they were both working. We raised Taylor. He feels so close to us.
So connected, I bet.
He's a great kid, and very sweet – got a great heart. All that time I spent with him, learning about dinosaurs and flowers and all of that stuff, has connected. We share a certain bond. I'd like to think that he doesn't want to lose that, but I don't want to lose that. I will do anything to maintain that. I love what I do. I love the work that I do. Music is so important to me. [Re: Smith's cigarettes] Oh, you have those?
You want one? [Offers cigarette.]
Yeah! I have to say that probably for me, the best thing in my life is those two kids.
That doesn't surprise me, Alex.
It just gives me such a sense of completeness. I never, ever don't want to see them. I'm never too tired. I'm never too whatever to not see them. Even though I know they're going to come over, they're going to kick the shit out of each other with their karate and all that stuff, and not want to go to bed until 11 o'clock, I still cherish it and so enjoy it.
They're going to grow up quick.
And they're not going to want to hang out with you. It's normal.
Fuck, no. In, like, three or four years, it's normal. He's going to be 13, he's going to be like, "Give me some money, and I'll see you later."
Yeah, and I'll give him the money, and I'll see him later. [They laugh.]
My brother's two years older than me. He has kids that are older. He's like, "Chad, you're just an ATM and a taxi service. That's all it is." As soon as they're 15, 16, they don't want to hang out with you. You're not cool. "Can I have some money?"
You were there. You know what it's like.
Totally. I go, "Brad, that's normal." He said, "I know, but man, you know..." Do what you can. It's hard. Those years, they fly. Cole just turned eight. I can't believe he's eight years old. He's talking about presidents and stuff. It's amazing. Yeah, you're right. I have to get out of my self-centered... Chad's world. Sometimes I can really put my Chad world thing on, like, "I want to do this." I've got to work on that.
That's balance. Everything is balance. There could be worse things to balance.
Like waking up. [They laugh.]
How do the other gents feel about this whole Hall Of Fame thing? Everybody cool?
Everybody feels pretty much the same way, yeah. In a way, it'll be a relief to be over it, and then we can sort of …
Go back. You know what was hard for us, was that we were in the middle of a tour. It was all of a sudden… "look back." This whole look back thing... we're always about going "this way," as I'm sure you are. It's jolting. We literally played Cleveland, the blah blah blah arena, two nights before. Then there was this whole back, back stuff, and people coming out of the woodwork from way back in the day.
Memory is a tenuous thing as you get older, too. [They laugh.]
Right. Right, it was all that. That was odd, and I was glad when it was over. I was like, "Let's go back to what we're doing."
I think there's been such a controversy with us, with the Hall Of Fame. It'll be nice for them as well as us to put it behind us.
Yeah, put that behind you. But enjoy it though, if you can.
Yeah, we will.
It's kind of cool. I think you'll like it. It was in Cleveland last year, which was kind of cool. There were a lot of fans that made it better. Performing-wise, it was six hours. Industry people... you've been to those things. They sit at the table, and it's like a long wedding or something. The fans kept it going.
The next night, we went to the Hall, and they gave us a little tour after it closed. We went up to the thing – it's cool. Have you been there before?
I haven't, no.
You should go. It's pretty cool. It gives you a real sense... this is pretty historic, and there's only 700 and so-odd many people in there. You go up on the top, the third floor. They have the hall where everybody's names are engraved there. It's kind of dark; there should be music on. You walk down the hall, and I'm looking at all these names… "Wow…" Hooker and all these people.
We're going to be right next to each other. You get down to the Rs, and it was my name right below Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and the Ramones. I was like, "Get the fuck out! This is not happening!" It was ridiculous… When you see it.
You feel the impact.
Yes, you do. You feel the impact a little bit. You'll be in the Rs. It was like, "Wow, really, me? Little guy from Detroit, just banging away in my basement, a little kid just wanting to have fun?"
For sure. It's like the guitar thing I was talking about with Gibson.
Did you ever imagine, in your wildest dreams, when you were going to that store playing an hour every day on a Gibson…
There would be a guitar with my name on it. Never. Never. This is the instrument that launched so many careers and passions, and to be a part of it; just like this is, whether it's Jann's thing or somebody else's, it's still a pretty cool thing.
It is a cool thing. I think it's a cool thing. There's controversy, and there always will be.
There should be.
Right – it's rock 'n' roll. It's supposed to be controversial and dangerous and wrong.
The seed of rock 'n' roll is rebellion. You should fight against the norm, and the establishment, even if it is a museum. [They laugh.]
I agree with you. At some point maybe... I doubt they will... it shouldn't be the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. It should be the "music hall of fame" or something.
Pop music, whatever it is. Broader.
[Photographer Jerome Brunet asks the two to sit closer together.]
No, that's impossible. I can't sit next to Alex. I have a restraining order. With our cigarette cases.
Kids… [They laugh.]
Yeah, don't do this insidious …
Don't try this at home.
Don't do this at home, kids. I saw today, where I know Geddy is a real baseball fan. Does he collect cards?
I saw this Honus Wagner 1909 – it was supposed to be the Holy Grail card – gone for like two million dollars, the most expensive card. The last auctioneer trimmed the edges to make it look more mint…
And sold it for 2.8 million. He actually came clean with it.
He's going to jail for doctoring a baseball card. [They laugh.] I was like, "Shit. Oopsie."
Yeah, Ged would be a great owner of a ball team. He knows the stats of guys who are coming up in A-ball, and who's going to be there in four or five years.
Did he enjoy the film Moneyball at all?
I don't know.
The general manager… the Brad Pitt movie.
The Brad Pitt movie, right. He plays it.
Is he on a team, like, in a league?
He's been in there. It's all based on the teams. You trade players. He's been doing it for 10 or 12 years. He's won it, I think, eight or nine years.
What does he play? What's his position?
No, it's not that he plays.
Like a fantasy team.
Exactly, right. Last year, he was in third or fourth place in his little league. In the last two weeks of the season, he raced up to first and won, much to the disgust of all the others [laughs].
He was pretty happy about that?
Yeah. He takes it very seriously. His collection is world-class. In fact, he had a huge Negro League collection that he donated to the Negro Museum. I think that's in Kansas City; I think that's where the museum is. That was a very big deal. He had a very extensive collection in there. He loves baseball.
That's his main thing?
What's your handicap these days? You scratching?
No. Currently, I'm about 13. I was down to a 10, went back up to 17, and I've been whittling away at it. That's the thing about golf.
You've got to play.
Yeah, you do. The game itself is so hard, to be consistently good at it.
You think about these guys, certainly like a Tiger Woods. He's doing very well again, obviously, but those guys, they're so good. All of them are at this level, and then he was like... how can you do that? It's amazing to me.
That's the exciting thing about anybody at the top of your field. It's incremental.
I think probably he has some sort of mental... from the competitive thing. A single guy, you're by yourself, like a tennis player or a golfer, but you're still competing, and there's other people around, and they know what you're doing.
It's really down to you.
Down to you. The subtle... you've got to make that putt. You've got to be consistent, do it over four days.
Yeah, and then do it again the next week.
And do it again the next week. And travel, and all this other stuff you've got to do. It's not like you go and do a gig and be like, "I fucked up, but that's OK, because I can do it tomorrow."
You're a team. You can make a mistake or a flub, and it passes. Nobody really notices, unless it's a terrible train wreck that you all sort of, at that moment, go through. Thankfully, those are fairly rare [laughs].
You're right. I have such respect for people at that level. It's a head game.
They say half of it is in your head, but I think it's more than that. Anybody can learn to turn and turn and hit a ball. To get your head out of the way of it is really difficult in golf. I think that's what's so challenging about it. It just drives people to try to get better.
That one shot, or that one hole that you play; you get lucky and have an incredible round. "I can do this. This is great."
There's nothing like it. That's an amazing feeling.
"I wanted to hit it there, and I did! Wow!" [Laughs]
"I put this little thing in that cup, 450 yards from where I…"
Have you ever got a hole in one?
No. Came close a couple times, but no hole in one yet.
Have you seen anybody hit a hole in one?
Yeah. A friend of mine, Paul McClain.
Yeah, I saw it once, one friend of mine. "Did it go in? I think it's in." It was an elevated green, I remember, and we were all like, "I don't see it."
This was yours?
No, not mine, another guy – my friend Russ. Maybe one of these days, we'll go and have some fun.
That would be great. I'd love to.
Once you go on tour, you start playing. That's the thing.
Yeah, I play a fair bit. Less than I used to.
Who do you go with?
I usually go on my own. I'm really the only one. Ged doesn't play and Neil doesn't play. A few guys on the crew play. I'll go out, and I'll play with a club pro or a member – whatever. Over the years, I've developed so many contacts, and I keep track of the guys I play with. I make notes of what they were like. Often, I come back into a town, and I'll get an e-mail from them, "Hey, I hear you're in town. If you want to play, let's get out." It's nice to have that to connect with. You need to find stuff on the road. Otherwise, it so easily leads to bad habits.
Sitting in a room, watching TV.
That's the worst. I generally hate my hotel room; being trapped in the room with nothing to do. It's hard to just go out and do stuff. You go to a museum, or you go to an art gallery, or you go for a walk; with golf, at least you're out for four or five hours. You're with some other people.
Every once in a while, you get a chance to walk the golf course, and that's nice. It's great therapy, for me, anyways.
It's completely... that's what I like. A couple months ago, it was like, "I forgot about everything. I don't even feel like I'm on tour right now," which is really nice.
It's an escape. It takes you away. It's cheaper and healthier than crack. [They laugh.] It's got something going for it.
It was good, though. It was fun. I forgot. Paul was like, "It really helps when you come, Chad, because then they really take care of us." He's like, "Usually I just go to the local thing. Are you going to play?"
"Then we can go to the private course."
"Then we can go to the nice clubs." [They laugh.] That's what he said. "I'm going to play this one, but if you come …"
"We can play that one."
The promoter knows the blah blah blah. You go, and the kids come to the concert. "We played golf tomorrow." It's kind of funny.
Do you know Gerry Barad from… the promoter... What's the promotion company? I went blank. They're the big promoters.
Live Nation, yeah. Do you know, have you dealt with Gerry at all?
We probably do, but I don't know him personally. Mellow guy? Laid back? Is he a golfer?
He's a good golfer, and he's serious about golf, and the history of golf. He's got a photographic memory. I go out and play with Gerry, and we'll play this course, and he'll be like, "Remember two years ago we played here, and on 16 you hit that shot that just came down the right side of the fairway, and then you hit it up onto the green, and you made that put but you almost missed it and it just dropped in at the last …" I'm like, "I don't remember that." He remembers all these shots. The depth of his knowledge of the history of golf; he's really great to play with. He's connected with the most amazing clubs in America. He's set up so many great games for me.
No. That might be somebody in the future; I won't make it here on this one, but the next time I go out. Gerry Barad?
When you start doing it, though, it's one of those things.
It's addictive, for sure.
As you know. I'm like, "I don't want to get up." Then 10am rolls around, and you're doing nothing. We don't do a soundcheck. We do nothing until fucking 6:30.
Yes, for us 4:30, but still you've got the whole day.
I'm like, "I need my rest," and this and that and the other thing. But then I'm like, "Just get your ass out of bed." At 6:30 at home, you're getting up with the kids. Come on, man.
Really, you can go to the gig and you can have a little nap or something, enough to get your energy back.
You play on show days, right?
I used to play on every day, show days included. Less so on show days now.
I always thought, "I don't know."
I'm just a little sore now, physically.
Us old men – I've got a little tendinitis in the elbow. I'm like, "Maybe I don't want to aggravate that."
That's a good point.
You've got to do your job.
I have psoriatic arthritis. I've been dealing with that for about 10 years. Every year, it gets a little more difficult, and it spreads a little more. I take medication.
Is it for anti-inflammation or something?
I take Humera. There's another drug called Enbrel that's similar. Mickelson's on Enbrel. You inject it every two weeks. It's really super-effective, particularly for psoriatic arthritis. I don't know if I could get by without it. I still have problems, even though I've been on this for a couple years now. I just find playing now, on a show day, my body gets really sore. It's a little too much. I'll still go out; it depends.
If I'm regular with my workouts... I've hit the gym every day since we've been here, for a week now. I have my fingers crossed that I can keep it up. Even if it's for half an hour, just get on the elliptical, or on the bike, do a little bit of weight stuff. It helps so much in just keeping you a little stronger and less fatigued.
As you get older, my God, it becomes so difficult. We lose it so quickly. You just have to be disciplined about what you eat.
When you don't feel like it.
You don't feel like it, or I'm like, "I'll be fine once I get playing." The last thing I want to be is winded, or not to be able to do what you want to do. You've got to take care of yourself. Sometimes I'm like, "Really? I really want to eat that fucking hamburger at 11 o'clock at night, and then go to bed." [They laugh.] It's not really a good idea.
No, yet it's such an awesome idea. [They laugh.]
With the ice cream. "I'm not 25? What? Fuck!" Here's the other thing, too, Al. We've been doing the same things we've been doing, since we were kids. We've been lucky to be able to keep doing it. I'm in this arrested development. I'm still playing music with my friends. More people are coming, and everything's great in that way. It's still what I was doing when I was a kid, but I'm not a kid anymore.
I know. It's a little shocking at times. "Why am I feeling this way? It's been fine for 40 years. Oh… oh, yeah, that's why."
You're rehearsing. Up until obviously …
Until Wednesday, and then we'll tear down, and then we do a soundcheck there.
Do you know who is playing? Heart is going to play. Public Enemy.
I don't know what Randy Newman's doing. I don't know if he's going to play. I'm thinking that he probably will. There's a jam, like everybody does.
Who knows? Maybe I'll jump up on the stage.
Yeah! You should.
Last year it was Green Day and everybody. I don't know if you saw the thing. It was really cool. I got to play with Kenney Jones, the bassist over here, and then who was the other gentleman?... It was the drummer from Green Day. He just kind of jumped up there. The other drummer from the Peppers, Jack, who was the original drummer, he was going to play. They played on Give It Away with us, but then I think Tre just kicked him off the drums [laughs]. Jack was so nice. "OK, you go ahead." I was like, "There's somebody else over there, banging along." It was fun to play with Kenney Jones; I like him. He's cool. They were all great. It's fun. L.A. should be good because there's lots of musicians. Slash and somebody else might come out. It's nice to see everybody.
Yes, we're kind of in the dark. There aren't a lot of definite plans [laughs], which is kind of weird, in terms of organization. We'll sort of see how it goes.
The crazy thing is, you sit there, which you'll do. You sit there all night, and it's nice. You do your speech, and then it's "Go play right now, and be fucking good." Do your three songs... Do they want you guys to do three songs?
Yeah, we had three. We're down to two now.
They want you to do three, one with... You do a little soundcheck, but you sit there all night and then get up and play. I'm glad we were actually on tour, and you guys are all rehearsing.
You're up to speed.
Still, it's like, "Go." It's a little like, "We'll do our best."
You know what? That's a good thing, to put you on edge a little bit.
You're on the spot: "Go." What numbers are you doing?
I think we're going to do... they want us to do older signature songs. We'll do Tom Sawyer and Spirit Of Radio. We were going to do YYZed, as well. It would be nice to have an instrumental song, with just playing. Because of the time constraint, we'll just do those two. There's the jam afterwards.
Are you having any kind of little party before? The night before or after?
Yeah. The night before, I think the Hall of Fame does a private party for the inductees only – not even wives or anybody, just the inductees. I don't know if we'll actually go to that. We'll go to soundcheck, and then we'll see. After, we've got a little thing going on. I know you're on our guest list.
Oh, good. I'll come for sure. We did a little thing at a bowling alley the night before, just for all of our friends. How many people have you got?
I think we're taking 20 or 30 rooms at the London, with just family and friends, and office personnel and all of that stuff.
That's the thing. Who do you invite? You've got this table, and then the second table is da, da, da... It's like a wedding, who's going to sit with who.
We've got someplace booked for the party, close to the venue, close to the Nokia. I think our guest list is 120 or 130, so it's a lot of people for a party.
It's a good celebration. It'll be fun.
Yeah, it will be. Then the next day we leave for Austin, for the first show.
I remember when we were playing last year, you guys were on tour, right?
I remember seeing, you were coming the week after us at the Charlotte blah blah blah.
That's right. There were a few dates that were like that. We missed each other.
I was, "Cool, they're out there doing their thing. Good." Did Nick do the last record?
So Nick's your guy now?
Well, for these last two records. We really enjoy working with him. He's a really, really great producer. He's a great producer for us. He's so enthusiastic.
He's got such a keen sense of music and arrangement. You can't bullshit him.
He knows music.
He gets it. When he gives you his comments, you know that they're valid, real kind of comments. He's not just saying it.
"I feel I've got to say something." Sometimes he goes, "You know what? I love it."
I will say, almost every time, he's right in the point that he brings up; at least there's validity to all his criticism and comments. Some of them you don't act upon. You could go either way on them. I think the function of a really good producer is to be able to do that; to give you options and ideas, and take you to other places –
That you wouldn't have thought of.
You're so focused.
That's what Rick does, the same thing.
I'd like to work with him. I think that would be a really good experience, to work with him. My understanding is he knows when not to get too far in; he stands back, he throws some stuff out, and he leaves it up to you. I think at the level that you and we are at, that's the kind of person you want. You know what you're doing, and you know what you want to achieve. It's nice to have a spark that makes you think.
He does. He's just such a lover of music – all kinds of music – as we are. We have that in common. We've been working with him so long. He knows us so well. Often, we'll be writing our songs and getting them to a certain point where we feel like, "OK, it's time to play them." We'll talk about other guys: "Maybe this guy would work…Brian Eno… or this guy or that guy." So far, we go, "You know what? Rick's gonna be the best guy." Rick's gonna come, and he's going to give us…
The things you need.
Yeah. That objective… It's funny sometimes. I don't know if this happens for you, but we'll have our songs in their sort of rough... "That part goes eight times, we really don't need that." [Laughs] When you jam, with us…
You're into it.
You're into it. "Wait until you hear this one." We'll think it's the fucking best thing that we have. He'll be on the couch, very laid back. It's exactly right, he's not a jump-around kind of guy. He's listening. He's always listening. We'll play him this thing that we all love. We think this is the freshest, greatest thing we've done, and he'll go, "What else have you got?" [They laugh.] We'll be like, "What?! That was amazing. This is going to be the greatest thing ever!" "You've done that before. I heard that on Californication. It's good, it's good…" We're like, "Ohhhh! Are you sure? You want us to do it again? I think maybe I played it too fast." But fuck if he's not right.
Yeah. Then you come up with something that's better.
He's always like, "What else you got? What else you got, what else you got?" We don't like to really play stuff until there's at least two parts and a bridge, or something.
That's a song.
It sounds like it's more than just one thing. We'll play something that we came up with on Tuesday. "This is one thing that we did, but we don't really have anything for it." We'll play it, and he's like, "That… that's fucking good!"
"Make a song out of that." It's something we were probably going to throw away. He's worth his weight in gold. You're like, "OK," and sure enough, that will turn into something. He's very musical, and then he's really good with arrangement. He's really good at turnaround and…
We need a lot of trimming.
Yeah, we all do.
'Cause you're grooving on this thing – "This is awesome."
[Laughs] "This is going to come in here; it's going to make it really great."
He's sitting there like, "When is this part going to end?"
Yeah, he's like, "It's great, get to the chorus."
"This is a link to the bridge." "Really?"
"That would be a good outro... [They laugh.] You're like, "Fuck!" Not in any sort of …
No, in a constructive way.
Totally in a constructive way. I'm like, "Goddammit, he's fucking right." With me, he'll be in the control room; he likes to lie down actually on the couch. He's got the talk back on. We're playing our hearts out, trying to get that magical take. The worst is the long pause after the take. Instead of, "Great! It sounds great, I love it, that's great." When you really have a long pause after you finish… "Uhhh, the turnaround after the second chorus, did you always do that?"
"One time before when you did it, it was really good. Not now."
"Did you always do that? Did you play all that, Chad?" Or, "That's great. Chad, can you come in here?" It's like the teacher. [Laughs]
Yeah. "OK, come on in."
"Bring your stuff."
"You need a break."
"Sounds good. Chad, can you come in here? The turnaround, did you always do all that? AC/DC, maybe be simple…" I'm trying to sneak something in there. Fuck! [They laugh.] "Yeah, right, simple's great." It's good for live. He's always paying attention… and musical. I'm anxious to hear the Black Sabbath record that he just did.
That's coming out pretty soon. I wonder what that's going to be like.
He likes it. He sounds it sounds like Black Sabbath. That's all I can really get out of him.