Chad Smith has now walked in the footsteps of Led Zeppelin. “Holy Grail of drum sounds,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer tweeted today, along with a video that shows him and Queen drummer Roger Taylor playing in Headley Grange, a private English residence where Zeppelin made some of their most famous recordings in the early ’70s. Smith was the first person to record drums there since his favorite drummer, Led Zep’s John Bonham, 40 years ago, according to his management.
Headley Grange is where Jimmy Page came up with “Stairway to Heaven.” More significant for drummers, it’s where Bonham and engineer Andy Johns recorded “When the Levee Breaks,” creating a sound that Queen’s Taylor describes in the video as “like thunder” and “the benchmark” that “so many people strived for.” Joining Smith and Taylor in the studio for the video is drummer Andy Gangadeen, who has played with British drum-and-bass duo Chase & Status as well as on Massive Attack‘s influential 1998 album Mezzanine.
The occasion for the drummers’ Headley Grange spiritual homecoming was a five-day set of recording sessions last summer, organized by sample library Spitfire Audio. Smith, Taylor and Gangadeen were there to create a set of loops, breaks, beats and hits for other musicians to use in their tracks. They recorded using a variety of modern and vintage mics and preamps, along with a 24-track, two-inch Studer tape deck.
“To be able to just look up and see the way the stairs go, just to be in that space and play those notes and be in this same air, goosebumps, man,” Smith says in the video. “It was amazing.” When he arrived at Headley Grange, he kissed the floor of the hall.
Besides Zeppelin, other bands that recorded at this rural manor house in the ’60s and ’70s included Genesis, Bad Company and Fleetwood Mac.
The title for the clip says it’s a teaser for NAMM, which is the National Association of Music Merchants trade show, held January 22 to January 25 in Anaheim, California. Let’s hope for more glimpses of the Grail next week, then.
“I can’t really expound upon details, but we have been talking about doing something [in 2015] that will combine music and comedy — a show,” Smith recently told Rolling Stone. “It will benefit the charities that we’re into. Plus, I think I need to redeem myself from how I was robbed of the Golden Cowbell. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but he wasn’t even playing the drums, people! Shenanigans! Call the cops, I’ve been robbed! Yeah, so, it’s not over.” Guess this means they won’t invite Ferrell to the Grange?
Watch the video below, and don’t miss Luke Turner’s recent Wondering Sound interview with Jimmy Page.