Chad Smith Says Charlie Watts Copied Levon Helm’s Drumming Technique

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Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith recently joined Broken Record Podcast and spoke to Rick Rubin about Levon Helm’s drumming techniques that Charlie Watts copied.

Levon Helm was a multi-instrumentalist and a musician who achieved fame as a member of The Band and The Hawks. Helm became known for his soulful voice and creative and distinctive drumming style throughout his career.

In a recent interview on Broken Record Podcast, RHCP’s Chad Smith and producer Rick Rubin discussed Levon Helm’s drum-playing. According to Smith, Helm played drums open-handed and naturally despite being right-handed.

Moreover, Helm also switched from the traditional grip to the matched grip and adopted a somewhat simplified technique. In the interview, Chad Smith claimed that Charlie Watts also watched Helm perform back when Helm and the Hawks were playing with Bob Dylan.

Smith then remembered when Helm went playing acoustic and going electric, thus shocking the audience by shifting between different techniques. Following that, he said Watts probably saw this performance at that time. Then, Rick Rubin and Smith concluded that Watts learned this technique from Helm.

During the conversation, Chad Smith said the following about Levon Helm’s drumming:

“Well, I asked Charlie once about that, and I thought he was doing it from the beginning, but he wasn’t. He told me that he saw Levon when the band was playing with Bob Dylan. Where there the Hawks back then?”

Rick Rubin then said:

“Yeah, but they were the Hawks. When they started playing with Dylan, they became The Band.”

Smith continued:

“But they did a tour with him in England. I think it’s the famous one when he came out and did acoustic, and he did electric, and people were booing and freaking out. And I think Charlie said that he saw that, and Levon was doing that. He was getting out of the way. And he went, ‘Oh…'”

Rubin added:

“So, Charlie got it from Levon. That’s an incredible bit of trivia.”

Smith said:

“That’s what he told me, but he was kind of fuzzy about it. He said, ‘I saw him do it.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’ll try that. It just got a bigger, stronger backbeat.'”

You can listen to the full interview below.