One of the greatest rock drummers of the past 25 years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith is also a funky mutha, with the swing of Bonham and Paice, a deep, deep pocket and unerring sense of groove – a fact not lost on the readers of MusicRadar. You lot voted him the fifth greatest groove drummer in our recent poll.
Chad joined the Chilis just in time for their brilliant 1989 album Mother's Milk, and has enjoyed the band's stadium-sized success since. Locking in with bass player Flea, the pair have forged one of the greatest contemporary rhythm section partnerships.
Here we run down five of our all-time favourite Chad Smith records.
1. Mothers Milk (1989)
Chad's first album with the Chilis saw him take over the drum stool previously occupied by Jack Irons, and most recently Dead Kennedys’ DH Peligro. He quickly made it his own, proving the perfect funky foil for the band’s Parliament-meets-Zeppelin leanings, and in particular the funky slap basslines of Flea. ‘Subway To Venus’ is busy as a sackful of funky monkeys, their version of Stevie’s Higher Ground is a hard-rocking joy, there's furious funk-punk a plenty with ‘Magic Johnson’ and ‘Nobody Weird Like Me’ while stand-outs ‘Taste The Pain’ and ‘Knock Me Down' rang the doorbell of the mainstream just as alternative rock was blowing up.
Key track: ‘Knock Me Down’
2. BloodSugarSexMagik (1991)
The Chilis’ fifth, and Chad’s second, album was produced by Rick Rubin, and was that rare thing – a double album absolutely stuffed with all killer and no filler. Toning down some of the socks-on-cocks daftness of their previous albums was a commercial consideration that weighed heavily on the band, but resulted in a number of radio-friendly monster hits that still stand up today.
Slower more balladic like ‘Under The Bridge’ and ‘Could Have Lied’ have a brooding atmosphere and a feel that echoed Zeppelin more than their previous funky offerings, allowing Chad to cement his reputation as an inventive rocker with plenty of Bonham's power and swing. ‘Suck My Kiss’, 'Righteous And The Wicked’ and the title track are full on rockers, ‘Breaking The Girl’ has a haunting melody and 3/4 signature; there's still time for deep-pocket funk though on the likes of 'Mellowship Slinky In B Major’, ‘Naked In The Rain’, ‘If You Have To Ask’ and ‘Apache Rose Peacock’. Then Chad gives us one of the greatest drum lead-ins on ‘Give It Away’, too.
Key track: ‘Give It Away’
3. Californication (1999)
Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro was out of the band shortly after One Hot Minute’s release. John Frusciante, the guitarist whose trademark sound had had such an impact on BloodSugarSexMagik, recovered from the addictions that had left him almost dead, was back in the band and the Chilis returned to winning ways for their most successful album.
Chad plays the sweetest of grooves on the Grammy-winning ‘Scar Tissue’, and disco beats on Parallel Universe, while supporting the atmospheric Other Side with cross-stick and a fantastic shuffle groove. On the album's brilliant title track, Chad lays down a gently militaristic snare cadence behind the haunting verse melody.
Key track: ‘Scar Tissue’
4. Stadium Arcadium (2006)
The Chilis’ commercial steamroller trundled on with yet another Rick Rubin-produced smash that was a double album packed with the band's collective experience. While much of the band's wild years seemed behind them – not always to the music’s benefit –there's no doubt that musically they had matured, Chad's playing in particular.
For many, this distilled all of the band’s sound, though it lacks in rawness and bawdiness. Big, balladic radio anthems such as 'Stadium Arcadium’, ‘Snow (Eh-Oh)’ were the album's mainstays, but here and there they still surprise with the epic rock of 'She’s Only 18’, James Brown funk of 'Hump De Bump’, the Tom Petty-alike ‘Dani California’ and furious ‘Torture Me’ all stand-outs. Throughout Chad’s tight snare crack is laying down solid backbeats with funky ghost notes, his syncopated kick locked in tight with Flea’s virtuosic bass.
Key track: ‘She’s Only 18’
5. Chickenfoot (2009)
In recent years, Chad has found himself more involved in projects outside the Chilis, including his Bombastic Meatbats funk collective, drumming with Jake Bugg, and with Dick Van Dyke, on children's album Rhythm train, as well as rock bassist Glenn Hughes.
But Chad’s love for classic rock bore the juiciest fruit with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani and Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony. The first of two albums to date as Chickenfoot sees Chad leave the funk behind to channel his blues rock heroes, finding some of the swing of Ian Paice and Bonham on driving rockers like ‘Oh Yeah’, ‘Sexy Little Thing’ and Deep Purple-esque ‘Down The Drain’.