Super-group Chickenfoot comes to Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids
by John Sinkevics | The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday August 09, 2009
COMSTOCK PARK — Drummer Chad Smith describes Chickenfoot in a slew of ways: It’s a super-group, a cult band, a “loose and fun” bit of musical moonlighting and a way to re-energize his work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It’s even his rock ‘n’ roll “mistress.”
Courtesy Photo | LeAnn MuellerChickenfoot
“It’s a fun project, and that’s the best reason to play music,” Smith said of the unusual collaboration between himself, singer Sammy Hagar, bassist Michael Anthony and guitarist Joe Satriani.
“It’s like dating a new girlfriend. There’s the wife I’ve been married to and then Chickenfoot is my mistress.”
Born from a rollicking jam session several years ago at Hagar’s Mexican nightclub, Chickenfoot has become 2009’s most unlikely, much-heralded super-group, blending former Van Halen bandmates (Hagar and Anthony) with the Chili Peppers’ drummer (Smith) and an instrumental guitar god (Satriani).
And as odd as this combo might sound at first blush, its members claim it’s a match made in rock ‘n’ roll heaven … with some blues thrown in for good measure.
“We all have this love for early ’70s hard blues-rock music that mostly came out of England: Cream, Humble Pie, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin,” said Smith, 47. “That’s kind of the jumping-off point. We just kind of wrote music that everyone could be themselves on and do their own thing on.”
The band plays Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park on Thursday, the first night of the West Michigan Whitecaps’ two-day “Rock the Rapids” festival. Flo-Rida and Sean Kingston perform Friday.
From the beginning, Smith said “there was great chemistry” in Chickenfoot, which first brought Satriani into the mix at an impromptu Las Vegas show one Super Bowl weekend.
“We just hit it off, and that’s when it got more serious,” said Smith, noting the band began recording tracks for its debut album last September just to have “a great time. That more than anything comes through in the music.”
But when the self-titled album came out in early June, it shot straight to No. 4 on The Billboard 200 chart.
“People that get it are really digging it, probably more than I expected,” Smith conceded. “It’s all good. We’ve embraced it. We’re playing shows now, and people are getting it. We’re kind of a cult thing.”
Of course, it helps to have “some talented guys” on board with eons of experience writing, recording and performing — each bringing a different musical background to the table.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how it sounded like a band and not just these four individuals with everybody trying to do their own thing,” he said. “It’s all very unselfish.”
Hagar, Smith said, is “the most energetic positive person, and he’s always got tons of ideas,” while Satriani is “a little more serious. He’s like the real musician in the bunch. He’s a real sweetheart.”
The album, Smith said, delivers “a big rock sound. It sounds the way it’s supposed to be. It was organic, very relaxed, no pressure. It just took on its own life.”
Smith, who’s played with Grand Rapids native Anthony Kiedis and the Red Hot Chili Peppers the past 20 years, said that band decided to take a year off after its last tour, but plans to get back together again in October to “start writing some more songs.”
“It re-energizes you, and it’s healthy to do other things and then come back,” Smith said of the Peppers’ hiatus. “It was an important time to just not be and not have Chili Peppers commitments. We wrote, recorded and toured for 10 years straight, and it was time to just live your life, be with your family and travel.”
Smith said the Chili Peppers are all doing “different things,” from Kiedis raising a young son (born in 2007) to Flea studying music theory at the University of Southern California to John Frusciante “making records all day” in his studio.
And Smith said he’s having such a blast with Chickenfoot, he’s convinced the super-group eventually will record a second album.
“When we have another window, we will,” he said. “I know we’ll make some more music because we’re already writing new songs and stuff. It’s so fun.”