Montauk’s Loudest Local: Chad Smith

Chad Smith has two homes, five kids, one celebrity twin, and more musical side projects than anyone could reasonably keep track of. Most famously, he has been the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for 25 years. A Midwestern native, Smith grew up listening to both classic Detroit funk and that city’s furious hard rock groups. Somehow, he also developed a fondness for living on the beach – and as a longtime Montauk resident, he’s equally committed to maintaining the town’s 1970s beach town vibe. By Ken Miller


What first brought you to Montauk?
My wife grew up out here-I think she just knew I’d fall in love with it here over any other Hampton town. It’s the laid back, low key, unpretentious life in Montauk that speaks to me. Plus I love the Irish! And they used to be everywhere here. Come back!

What enticed you to stay?
We found a little place with a face only a mother could love and my wife made it Home. Our children think this is the best place on earth all year round. We were also fortunate to be neighbors with some very long time local Montauk families and that has only encouraged our commitment to preserving Montauk as they grew up knowing it.

Most people think of you as Californian and would be surprised to know you have a house here. What amount of time do you spend on each coast?
I’m so busy I can only be here in between tour legs. Its a haul from wherever you are in the world, but its so worth it!

Growing up in the Midwest, were you more influenced by Detroit funk or hard rock?
Both . . . and everything in between. God bless the Motor City!

Describe the first time you ever played with Flea.
It was an explosion, like a bomb went off in the room, I swear to god. We don’t have a ton of verbal musical conversations; we have an amazing telepathy that can come only from playing together almost 25 years. Yes, he and I have played a lot of notes together.

Red Hot Chili Peppers has recorded with Rick Rubin and one of the Beach Boys. What role does surfing and surf culture have in your music?
Ha! Surfing and sobriety kinda’ go together, don’t they? There are a lot of people searching for the same peace and honesty that our music is about. You’d be hard pressed to find a band that writes in the peaceful honest way we do-completely together in one room, super organic, no hierarchy, all democratic-trying to reach that musical goal of all being in the moment.

What are some of your favorite beach songs?
Definitely The Ocean (of course!) by Led Zeppelin and California Dreaming by the Mama’s and the Papa’s (I parlayed that song into something that helped me convince my wife to move west!)

RHCP has already had a couple of huge all time radio hits. What keeps you motivated?
Playing music is what I was put on this planet to do… There is no greater motivator. I’m so lucky.

You have 5 kids-how do you balance that and touring?
I see my children as often as I can and we all have Skype accounts, thankfully! My children are each delightful growing individuals and I am honored to walk this earth with them.

Are you nervous or excited about getting back to touring?
Are you kidding me? (Laughs) This is what I do! It’s my oxygen. I love it and we are so excited to play our new album for the world.

In your spare time, you record with a lot of young bands, do they teach you anything or do you teach them?
There’s a great band from New York City called Outernational that Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) and I produced recently. It was a blast soaking up their energy and maybe I gave them some wisdom! (Laughs)

Since you also play with a lot of classic rock musicians, is there anyone who has particularly inspired or influenced you?
I grew up an English hard rock/blues junkie. Deep Purple, Zep, Cream, Sabbath, Humble Pie, Queen and The Who – those were my early favorites. Still love ‘em.

Is it possible to get a decent taco on the East Coast?
Not yet and we are still holding out for the Ditch Witch! Though Joni’s makes a mean breakfast burrito.

Do you get asked about hats in every interview?
Not as much as I get asked about my twin brother [Will Ferrell] separated at birth.


photo credits: top: Wendy Bird, above: via Flickr