Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith on his “unbelievable” experience meeting “incredible musician” Charlie Watts

"Charlie Watts is watching me fucking play. Unbelievable!"

Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Chad Smith has opened up about his “unbelievable” experience meeting legendary late Rolling Stones drummer, Charlie Watts.

Speaking to NME for the latest Big Read, the Chili’s drummer also discussed his respect for the Stones’ staying power.

“They’re still going man, still wheeling around,” said Smith. “I think because they were there in the very beginning of rock and roll or modern rock and roll anyway. They’re the last of the Mohicans, they’re still going somehow.”

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Smith went on to tell NME about the time he met Watts (who died in August 2021, aged 80) while playing a show at the Rose Bowl back in 1994.

He explained how during sound-check, he noticed Watts standing to the side of his drum tech. “It was August and there he is in a full suit, standing there at 3 o’clock in the afternoon in the sun looking and watching us soundcheck,” the drummer shared. “I’m like ‘fucking Charlie Watts is watching me fucking play. Unbelievable!'”

Red Hot Chili Peppers cover interview
Red Hot Chili Peppers on the cover of NME

The RHCP drummer went on to explain what it was like to spend time with the legendary sticksman outside of performing.

“He was such a big jazz guy – he wanted to know what kit I had. He was very sweet and I got to spend a day with him,” Smith said. “We had the same drum company called DW Drums and he was out here and we toured the factory together and he was so interested in all the different plies and what kind of wood and how it was put together. He was super cool and nice to everybody and just a real gentleman.”

He also talked about how the jazz enthusiast was an avid “collector” and music fan.

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“He’d say ‘I have some watches from Gene Krupa and he says ‘I’m not gonna wear them but I look at them and it’s like, ‘hey, Gene wore those when he went out to dinner.’ He really appreciated those kinds of things. He was a real fan. When he spoke, all he wanted to talk about was jazz. I couldn’t get two words in about the Stones or anything. He just wanted to talk about everything jazz.”

Smith added: “I know some, but not to his extensive [knowledge], so I just nodded. You probably know people that go off on a tangent about something that you sort of don’t really know, you’re just kind of ‘Mmmm yes, Gerry Mulligan in 1946 oh wow really?’ But he was super sweet and nice and obviously what an incredible musician.”

Charlie Watts
The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts in 2011 CREDIT: David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns

In the exclusive interview, frontman Anthony Kiedis shared that John Frusciante rejoining the band ahead of their forthcoming album ‘Unlimited Love’, pushed them in “a positive way”.

“The biggest event, honestly, was John returning to the band,” Kiedis said. “That was the most monumental change in our lives. And God was I down for anything and everything.”

The guitarist has been in and out of the band since the late ’80s and last appeared on 2006’s seven million-selling album ‘Stadium Arcadium’. The band also opened up to NME about their founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died in 1988 at the age of 26, with Kiedis sharing that even after three decades, “the energy of Hillel Slovak has never truly faded” for the band.

The four-piece announced their 12th studio album last week, which is set to arrive on April 1 via Warner Bros. Frusciante also told NME about the band’s “loose plan” to release another new album after ‘Unlimited Love’, noting that the band “recorded almost 50 pieces of music” during sessions with producer Rick Rubin.

The band will head out on a world stadium tour later this year – find tickets here.

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