Red Hot Chili Peppers member Chad Smith is bonafide drumming royalty and regularly features on fellow percussionists lists of this nature. Here though, the shoe is on the other foot.
Smith is the glue that ties Red Hot Chili Peppers together and keeps their effervescent sound flowing. Although he has not been in the group since their incarnation, it would be perverse to picture Anthony Kiedis, Flea, and John Frusciante stepping foot on stage with anybody else but the trusty Smith backing them.
Outside of the Chili’s, Smith played on The Chicks’ five-time Grammy-winning album, Taking The Long Way. He’s one of the most in-demand drummers within the industry, and everyone from Johnny Cash to Lana Del Rey have managed to persuade Smith to join them in the studio to add his commanding touch into their work.
When it comes to understanding a thing or two about what makes a world class drummer, few have more knowledge on the topic than the mercurial Smith. He is a student of the game who learned from the best and brought this experience into his artistry – a factor that has helped elevate him into being one of the finest living drummers.
Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2014, Smith finally lifted the lid on his favourite drummers of all time, and surprisingly, it’s an English heavy list with only one American compatriot making his list. “I have to put John Bonham and Keith Moon up there,” Smith revealed. “When I was growing up, the music that I listened to was from the late Sixties, early Seventies. English rock drummers are very influential to me, like Bill Ward from Black Sabbath.”
Adding: “I would say I wasn’t really listening to Buddy Rich at the time, but he’s probably the greatest technical drummer. Then I would say Mitch Mitchell, Ian Paice, Ginger Baker, Roger Taylor, Nicky Topper – all those guys. It’s hard to leave out Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr, you know. I like American drummers, too, but those English guys really had it going.”
Even though Smith can admit that Buddy Rich was a greater drummer on a technical level than Bonham, there’s something intangible about the latter that makes him his favourite of all time. “John Bonham influenced me at a very early age,” Smith later wrote in Louder Sound. “I was maybe 10 years old at the time. I was just learning to play drums. To me, that music from the late ’60s, early ’70s, that hard rock blues music, was very influential.”
He continued: “It was the sheer power of Bonzo that appealed to me. And his sound! I’d never heard drums with that sound; Page’s production was important of course. Bono had depth and air, and he played so musically. The way he played around those Page riffs with such power, musicality and finesse was very impressive.”
There simply has never been another drummer quite like John Bonham. He was a one-off, an enigma, and the envy of everybody else who has ever picked up a pair of sticks in their life.
Chad Smith’s 10 favourite drummers:
- John Bonham
- Keith Moon
- Buddy Rich
- Mitch Mitchell
- Ian Paice
- Ginger Baker
- Roger Taylor
- Nicky Topper
- Charlie Watts
- Ringo Starr