AT HOME WITH THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Away from the mapcap image of the Chili Peppers, drummer Chad Smith’s passions extend beyond music to his beloved Mustang car and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Katherine Turman gets the tour of his Hollywood pad, including a personal introduction to Serge the sexually ambiguous goldfish.
Not far above Chad Smith’s house looms the legendary Hollywood sign whilst below lies the mean streets of East Hollywood. Escaping the hustle and bustle, the tree-lined hillside neighbourhood where the drummer resides is a welcome sanctuary away from the on the road lunacy with the Chili Peppers. Whilst not massive, the house is exceedingly roomy and makes no display of its owner, with his collection of gold records stored rather than on show. Modest, eh?
“The house was built in 1970, but I change it around, redid the floors and put in French doors. It’s kind of Mediterranean/Spanish modern, but I grew up in the traditional colonial Midwestern Michigan houses. This is just a comfortable, private place. I bought it from a guy who was Time magazine’s Man Of The Year, a big AIDS researcher. I gouged him on the price! They had already bought a house in New York and were moving so they had to get rid of this quickly and it worked out perfectly.
“I wanted a swimming pool, and up in the hills could and some privacy. The pool is great for swimming…and sex. Actually I had put money down on another house. My manager said it was alright, but told me to go out with the real estate agent for just one day. I went out and saw this house fourth or fifth, and I was like, ‘this is way nicer than the other one I had! The other one was en Mulholland (a prestigious street in the Hollywood Hills); it was okay but very bachelor pad/black shiny everything.
‘I used to have two dogs here but don’t anymore, but this is my goldfish Serge. I don’t know why he’s called that. It’s a gay goldfish name. I don’t even know if it’s a boy. Fish must have penises, right? How do fish fuck? How do they make little goldfish? Serge had a friend, and Serge was the alpha fish, and well, you know…”
THE BEAT GOES 0N
“At home here I have a Fernandez guitar, a rain stick, a didgeridoo from Australia, a gong, congas and the marimba. They’re just things I have picked up in any travels. Those congas have been on a record, and the marimba was on ‘Blood Sugar Magik’ on the song ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’. I used to record and the marimbas on Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ on the song ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’. I used to have a home studio, then (former guitarist) Dave Navarro and myself, we started working on a movie soundtrack and I took all the gear to his house. It’s still there. I haven’t been able to get it back from him. We were collaborating on some projects. We did some songs for a movie called ‘Ugly Meets The People’ that you’ve probably never heard of. It came and went — straight to video! It was a friend of ours’ first film and we just helped him with the score.
“These marimbas are a present from John Frusciante in 1991 or something. I don’t know how to play them, as you can tell (he plays them). I think they’re probably Caribbean. It’s a beautiful instrument. I love the timbre of the wood. I don’t pretend to be any kind of tuned percussion player, I’m just a drummer. I just beat shit up!” ”
ORE HOT DRUMMER
“I prefer to play with other people. I mean, I have some drums in the garage, but we’ve been busy, so I play enough. I’m not a real good musician, because I don’t play by myself. As a kid I played along to Zeppelin records, and I still do that. Day before yesterday, John and I played to Van Halen II. Warner Brothers sent us all their CDs but they should drop that new singer!
“I play with other people. It’s always healthy. We all do. Friends, people I respect, there’s a few groups I play around town with. I have lots of complete drum kits, I have a drum set from
Australia that I really like, Brady drums, made of jar wood which is indigenous to Western Australia. They’re really hard, hard wood and they’re really loud. Pearl is the company I have been using for 10 years. I’m an endorsee. They would like me to always play their stuff — I don’t always in the studio, but I do live. They’re really good. They’re a big company, they take care of me and give me free shit. That’s what it’s all about: free stuff!”
DOES YOUR WIFE LIKE PHOTOGRAPHYH? “There are a lot of photos, but no, I don’t really take pictures — just pictures of girls and stuff. Naked. Me and Gene (Simmons). Polaroids. I’ve always appreciated the art of photography, but I just got into it and started collecting in the last couple of years. This is by Joel Peter Witkins. It’s called ‘Venus…Something’, which is a really great title. What I get out of it is she’s got the bird’s eggs, the kind of fucked up foetus on the cross, which is a little disturbing. I just like it I like the shaved vaginal area. I was at a gallery in Los Angeles and they represent him. I saw some of his pictures and I was like, man, that guy is fucked up! I’d heard of him but I wasn’t familiar with his work. I knew Nine Inch Nails were inspired by him for their videos and stuff. I’m not really a gallery guy but another photographer I really like is Jim Marshall and he’s represented by them as well, and he told me to go to the gallery, and Flea’s been there as well. Did we shell out some bucks!
“I’ve never met Witkin but when he comes for his next show, I’m gonna go out to dinner with him. I’m also a big fan of Edward Curtis, who documented the American Indians in the 1900s.This photogravure is a very popular style of photography/ printing. I have three pieces of his. We thought about calling the record ‘Chinese New Year and using a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that Flea has at his house, but we decided on ‘Californication’ so we went with the picture of the pool instead. And here’s a picture of me and President Clinton. We did a fundraiser for Barbara Boxer (California Senator) in Beverly Hills. He was cool, actually. It was at the beginning of the Lewinsky thing. I’m totally hanging all over him in this photo.”
TWO GRAMMIES FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
“This is my Grammy for ‘Give It Away’. The Grammies isn’t a competition, it’s just…it’s not winning…it’s, you know…I don’t know. We got ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ for this kooky funky song? It’s nice, but it’s not the greatest thing in the world. I also have drum awards but I don’t have them up. “It’s like a popularity contest. But at the Grammies we played with George Clinton, and there were like 15 people onstage jumping around, and that was cool. Still, winning was really unexpected. You win your Grammy, then you take pictures and all that shit. They have like eight or ten statues at the awards, so they’re not engraved or anything. They’re like dummies they recycle. So there’s people standing there and you’re supposed to give the Grammies to them after you finish photos. But my drum tech was there and I passed it to him, so I stole a Grammy! So I have two and I gave one to my mom. She had the blank one. I thought it was cool.”
“This is my only car. I’ve owned two Mustangs. This one I’ve had eight years; it doesn’t have to be American (made) for me, but my dad worked for Ford for 32 years and we lived in Michigan (where Ford is based), so he liked American cars. I had my last Harley stolen in front of a house. I’m positive that these Russian gangsters stole it who live in the same apartment complex as my girlfriend. It was all customised. This is a 1999 Road King with a 1340, huge 88-inch motor. This is a touring bike, the biggest one that they make. “It comes with these bags, but I took all that shit off. I’m not a helmet law advocate, though I’ve crashed a lot before! I ride this every day for the daytime motorcycle action.”