Interview: St. Louis Drummer Chad Smith Ready to Reunite with Geezer Butler's GZR

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Last week, Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler announced he's ready to reconvene his band GZR. The latest lineup, he said, will "probably" feature Chad Smith -- the veteran St. Louis drummer, not the Red Hot Chili Peppers percussionist of the same name.

Smith has been all over the local scene and beyond for over twenty years, playing with heavy original bands such as Anacrusis and Lex Luthor, in addition to tribute and cover groups such as Stone in Love and Runaway. He answered some questions about the GZR band and provided a timeline of his various projects.

D.X. Ferris: How'd you get the Geezer gig? Chad Smith: Believe what you want, as far as I'm concerned, I got the gig due to an answered prayer. I remember being on my knees, asking for an opportunity to prove to myself that I wasn't just wasting my time and causing my family to needlessly suffer while I pursued a profession in music.

A short time later I received a phone call from Terry Welty of [production company] Airco, asking me if I would be interested in checking out the gig. Terry and I worked together in the early stages of Lex Luthor, which was Jerry Boschert, Mark Quinn, John Kiehne and myself. And he was working with a band managed by [Geezer's manager and wife] Gloria Butler.

Gloria was having trouble finding a replacement for Deen Castronovo when he left to join Journey. Terry put me forward. I was then asked to record performances of three [GZR] tunes: "House of Clouds," "Plastic Planet," and "Drive Boy Shooting." And later an audition was set up.

How long does the gig have you booked up? GZR hasn't performed for several years due to Geezer's Sabbath commitments, but we are writing and planning to release more material.

I still haven't been officially asked to do the GZR gig, but I did do the [1997 album] Black Science tour and the last record [2005's Ohmwork], so I think I got it! I consider myself Geezer's drummer until told otherwise. I really enjoy our friendship. He's a very intelligent person and a killer bass player.

What's the GZR setlist like? The GZR set consists of material from the [band's] three releases. Occasionally we would play [Sabbath's] "NIB" [the classic named after Butler's goatee] or "Hand of Doom." Clip of a Smith drum solo from the Journey tribute "Stone in Love," taken at Family Arena, November 25, 2007

What did you do after Anacrusis? I left Lex [Luthor] to join Anacrusis, and then London Calling. After London Calling I worked with Mike Safron's incarnation of Pavlov's Dog, then the Eddies.

You have a lot of ongoing projects. What do you do at Dale's? What are some of the other groups? I currently work in St. Louis with the Stingers and the Edicktion. I teach at Dale's Music in North County. Son of Echo is a side project involving GZR's Pedro Howse.

Stingers and Edicktion are cover bands, right? Yes. I still work with both. It's blues-based rock, St. Louis pub music. Keeps me in shape and buys some groceries. I really like to get into foreign situations where I can pick up new angles and approaches to drumming.

I've been playing with the Edicktion since last summer, with [Chuck Berry's] Greg Edick on bass, learning how to approach blues from a traditional viewpoint.

I've been with the Stingers for a couple years. It's a three-piece [that] can play at low volume, but still rock. That band really helps with dynamics.

What's the Son of Echo and Black Storm material like? Son of Echo and Black Storm are both byproducts of Pedro Howse and I working on new material together for GZR. Inevitably, some of the music isn't suited for GZR. Black Storm is evolving from the riffs suited to a classic power trio, blues based, like Hendrix and Cream. Son of Echo is an eclectic mix: big production, strings, etc. It's basically an experiment at this point.

How often do you have to explain you're not that Chad Smith? Not as often as him! Actually, not that often. It's mainly just when RHCP Chad is credited with Anacrusis or GZR. I've generally worked in heavier music, so most people would question L.A. Chad doing something like that. I know he gets asked about my stuff -- I think it's funny.

I've never met him, but I'm pretty sure he's sees the humor in it. I've had my name since birth -- I like it! I have yielded slightly by using my middle initial with Richie Callison, "Chad E. Smith." It's like the [early Spinal Tap band] New Originals, not to be confused with the Originals.

Chad Smith talks through his musical timeline: 1985-87: Heaven's Flame: This was the band that Kenn [Nardi, Anacrusis bandleader] and I were involved with in high school. The majority of our material ended up on the first two Anacrusis releases.

1987: Mary Burns, an MCA artist , a real seasoned pro who did Vegas. She really taught me what would be expected from a pro drummer.

1987-1989: Tropix, a circuit band.

1989-90: Lex Luthor. Lex was a strange band at the end of the grunge/alternative movement. We were heavy and trippy but not really metal. We played in the same circuit as Pale Divine, New World Spirits and The Newsboys.

1990-92: Anacrusis. Tracked Manic Impressions and toured to support it.

1992-93: London Calling. Tracked Blood in the Water.

1993-94: Pavlov's Dog. We recorded live at Club Imperial.

1994-97: The Eddies.

1997-present: GZR.

2004-present: Richie Callison. I tracked his last release, and we're hoping to have something new in the spring. The CD is available at Dale's.

2006-present: Stone in Love, Journey tribute.

2007-2008: Runaway, Bon Jovi tribute.

2007-present: The Stingers.

2009-present: The Edicktion.

2010: Son Of Echo.

2010: Black Storm.

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