The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a very productive pandemic: They’re “almost done” recording their first new album with guitarist John Frusciante since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, with longtime producer Rick Rubin on board as well, according to drummer Chad Smith.
“We’re getting along great,” says Smith, who’s one of the stars of Netflix’s new drummer-themed documentary, Count Me In. “John’s been back for a while now, so it feels completely natural. … We’re really listening to each other in a new way.” Smith was careful not to reveal details of the album’s release date, but the band does plan to have it out before they launch their U.S. stadium tour next June. (Read our full Q&A with Smith on the band’s tour, the documentary, and much more.)
Frusciante, who laced Stadium Arcadium with elaborate guitar overdubs and vocal harmonies, seems to be in a similar mode this time around. “He’s so dedicated,” says Smith. “He’s so into it. He’s working so hard. We’re all working hard, but he’s in there with all the overdubs and the magic that he brings.”
Frusciante rejoined the band in December 2019 after a decade-long absence, displacing Josh Klinghoffer, who was the guitarist in his absence. After taking two months off at the beginning of the pandemic, the Peppers formed a Covid bubble and began rehearsing with just one “tech guy” in the room. They spent months writing songs, uninterrupted, before entering the studio earlier this year. “We were gonna play some festivals that obviously got postponed,” says Smith. “So we could just plow through and write, and that’s what we did. It was kind of a blessing, because we want to come out with new music and play some new songs. It’s gonna be great when we finally go out next year and have a record to play, and a bunch of other stuff, obviously.”
The band tried not to dwell on the challenge of living up to past triumphs with Frusciante, from Blood Sugar Sex Magik to Californication. “You can’t really think about that,” says Smith. “All of our records are just real good snapshots of where we’re at that time. You can’t really go, ‘Oh, gee, I hope it’s as good as …’ Then you’re starting to have preconceived notions about what you want to write. Look, John hasn’t been in our group in 10 years. That’s a long time. So of course it’s going to sound different, but it’s gonna sound like the four of us because we do have this special chemistry together. It sounds like Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it’s different and new, and to me that’s great. … We really like it and we’re proud of it and it has to start there. If other people like it, great. If people compare it to this or [say] it doesn’t sound like that, we have no control over that. But, yeah, we’re all really happy with the record.”