Drummer Chad Smith isn't one to presume that every album the Red Hot Chili Peppers create is destined to be a hit. But during the making of the band's new double CD, Stadium Arcadium, he saw telltale signs that the group was poised for another round of major success.
"We felt really good about all of this music," Smith says, speaking in a phone interview. "We wrote so much of it, and we wanted it all to be together hence the double record. And that, to me, when things are flowing like that and everyone's getting along and everyone is happy and healthy, to me that's a sign that we're not laboring over it. It's coming real naturally and real organically, and for our band, that's when we do our best stuff."
It didn't take long for Smith to see that his instincts were right. With the hit single "Dani California" leading the way, Stadium Arcadium became the first CD in the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 23-year career to debut at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's album chart. It grabbed that spot with first-week sales of more than 400,000 copies and has since gone platinum, with more than 1 million copies sold.
Indeed, these are some of the best of days for a band that has seen its share of peaks and valleys.
Formed in 1983 by singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea (real name Michael Balzary), guitarist Hillel Slovak and drummer Jack Irons, the band was rocked in 1988 by the death of Slovak. The next year, guitarist John Frusciante filled the guitar slot, while Smith replaced the band's second drummer, Cliff Martinez.
With Frusciante bringing more of a pop sensibility to the band's hard-hitting funk rock sound, the Chili Peppers broke through in a big way with the 1991 CD, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which spawned the now-signature hits "Give it Away" and "Under the Bridge."
The band survived the absence of Frusciante from 1992 to 1999 and struck multi-platinum again with the 1999 CD Californication.
But the musicians' sometimes-volatile chemistry became strained during recording sessions for the next CD, By the Way.
In particular, Flea felt Frusciante became too possessive of the music writing process and ignored his ideas a sentiment that, as Flea revealed in a recent Rolling Stone cover story, nearly caused him to quit the band.
Smith says he was surprised by Flea's revelations. But that situation makes sense, in hindsight.
"[Frusciante] had a real preconceived notion of how he wanted the stuff he was coming up with to sound," Smith says. "He kind of had more of an idea of what he wanted prior to [the recording] and [didn't] let everyone do his own thing to it.
"I think that he knew, not at the time, but afterwards. He was like, "That's kind of a selfish way of being and I'm not using these other musicians to their fullest.'"
So a team ethic returned, and with Stadium Arcadium, the band made one of its most consistently satisfying CDs. Smith also says life outside of the band also helped improve the chemistry between the four musicians. Today, Smith is married, Flea is engaged and Kiedis and Frusciante are in long-term relationships.
"I think that we've found a balance," Smith says. "And if you're happy at home and in your home life, then that's going to carry over into your, if you want to call it your work place, or whatever it is that you do."
Red Hot Chili Peppers, with The Mars Volta
Pepsi Center, 1000 Chopper Circle, Denver
Friday, Aug. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $39.50-$59.50; visit ticketmaster.com.