Red Hot Chili Peppers Drummer Chad Smith Launches Rhythm-Driven Art Tour in Austin

“The Art of Chad Smith” opens at the Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery

By Vanessa Blankenship
Chad Smith
Photograph by Laura Glass

Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith is starting 2020 with a cross-country tour. But this time, it’s not with his iconic rock band. He’s going solo and taking his drumming skills with him as he embarks on his first North American fine art tour called “The Art of Chad Smith.”

Smith started experimenting with visual arts after he was approached by SceneFour, a design company based in Los Angeles, to create rhythm-driven prints, a process where drummers use LED-lit drumsticks and photographers capture the performance. Technology is later used to manipulate the pictures to create unique abstracts on canvases.

“The Art of Chad Smith” premiered at the Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery in Austin on Saturday, Jan. 4, and Smith will be making two appearances at the gallery on Saturday, Jan. 11 and Sunday, Jan. 12. Pieces from the new collection will be available to purchase.

We spoke with Smith about his first art tour and how he is expanding as an artist and trying out different mediums:

Can you elaborate more on the process of making rhythm-driven prints?
Well, I can’t give away all the secret magic. But it starts with me in a pitch-black room, playing the drums with fluorescent-lighted drumsticks. I’m photographed, and it’s manipulated with shutter speed, so it really shows the fluidity and motion and emotion of me playing the instrument in this case with a lot of power and intensity. Then in post-production, it’s manipulated with this new technology that’s exciting and different. That’s what really drew me to it.

When did you realize you were passionate about visual arts? You have a very successful career as a musician, but when did you start experimenting with different art forms?
I started collecting photography in the early ’90s. A lot of black and white photography. I was really taken with that. Then I started getting into other mediums, and that’s when the people from SceneFour approached me, and they were working with other musicians as well. That was the first time that I really saw something that was different to me. It spoke to me, and I think that’s the most important thing when it comes to art.

Why did you decide to start your art tour here in Austin?
Austin is known to be a cool, artistic town. I love Austin just musically because it has such a rich history. The people there are very open-minded, and I thought it would be fun to kick it off there. I look forward to coming into town and hanging out with the people and seeing what they think.

What kind of music are you playing when you’re being photographed? Any hits from the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
When I’m playing the drums, and they are photographing me, I’m improvising. I want to be true to that spirit and not plan it out, so it’s really capturing that moment. There could be pieces that are from one of our songs for sure, but I didn’t specifically try to do that. I didn’t go in with the mindset that I’m going to play this song, and I can name this piece this song, and people will say, “Oh, that’s what it looks like when you play ‘Californication.'” I didn’t do that. I didn’t want to be that literal, and I’m not saying I won’t do that in the future, but for this, I wanted it to be free.

Do you have any tips for emerging artists?
Don’t be afraid to try something new because you never know what you’ll come up with next. Sometimes you can get stuck if you’ve been doing the same sort of thing for a while. It’s always a challenge to come up with something different. I’ll always be a student of music and this art thing is new for me, so it’s a fun avenue to go down.


Read More From the Interiors Issue | January 2019


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