Although they're only two studio albums into their career, Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats decided the time was right to unleash their first concert recording, Live Meat and Potatoes, in May on Marmaduke Records. Recorded over two nights in 2009 at the Baked Potato in North Hollywood, the all-instrumental, double-disc set captures Smith and his bandmates – guitarist Jeff Kollman, bassist Kevin Chown and keyboardist Ed Roth – in their preferred environment.
"It's really our most comfortable medium," Smith tells Rolling Stone. "The band was born out of a live setting. We're really about improvisation and taking chances. That's really where we do our best work and shine. We stretched out on the songs – they're like seven minutes long! For a band like us, it's important that we're all in the same room, feeding off each other, listening, and trying to take it different places. We try to play different every night, and we captured a pretty good performance. I think it was over two nights, but most of it's from one night. It's all live – there's no overdubs or anything."
Amidst such oddly titled songs as "Pig's Feet" and "Breadballs" is a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick," John Bonham's classic drum showcase. Smith admits to feeling some trepidation about taking on the tune. "Yeah, I did have second thoughts about that, because it's like covering the Beatles or something," he says. "How are you going to do it and make it different and make it your own? I'm not going to try and sit there and do a drum solo over 'Moby Dick.' We just do a slower, funkier version of it. It's really an homage. He's my favorite drummer."
Another tip of the hat from the Meatbats to a classic rock band: the front cover of Live Meat and Potatoes, which is a play on the cover of Kiss' 1977 album, Love Gun. "It's the same artist, Tim McFadyen, who has done the other two records. When I was growing up, I was a big Kiss fan, so he's like, 'You guys don't make enough money, you wouldn't have girls. So I'm just going to put mannequins,'" Smith says with a laugh. "And we all have our superhero costumes on."
While on the subject of Kiss, Smith was willing to clear up a rumor that he can be spotted in the audience on the back cover photo for their 1975 LP, Alive! "I was there. That was my second concert, May 16th, 1975. I was 13 years old. That was their big market, Detroit. I was sitting in the 12th row, and that was taken at about the 16th row. So I saw [photographer] Fin Costello come out and shoot those guys, and do all their posing with the poster. But I'm behind the camera, not in front of it!"
In addition to Live Meat and Potatoes, Smith's drumming will soon be heard on a flurry of Red Hot Chili Peppers' B-sides from the I'm with You sessions, to be released in pairs beginning on August 14th . "We recorded a lot more music, and we just wanted them to be heard, and to find a home for them," Smith explains. "In the past, you'd put B-sides on singles. But they can tend to get lost that way. And also, it's just not the format these days ... The sleeves of the records – there's like a puzzle, and it's all going to fit together. So these will probably stand on their own as the sort of lost-but-not-lost I'm with You record."
And lastly, expect more from Smith and the Meatbats. "I'd love to make another record with those guys. We've just all got to be in the same place at the same time. It's so fun and so different than what I normally do, from a musical standpoint. It's pretty freeing, and we just enjoy playing with each other."