From Movie Star to Monster. An interview with Jada Pinkett-Smith

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 @ 7:16 PM

“What is this? We got Jada out

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Jada Pinkett-Smith’s conversion from screen star to rock star was painstaking. Becoming a pop diva would have been easier if Smith’s motivation was to win an immediate audience and just “pump out the hits.” Jada has a lot to live up to in the white-male dominated world of heavy metal, but she seems to be doing this for an altogether different and perhaps benevolent reason. No one expected her to be a metal music contender fronting her band, Wicked Wisdom, but she’s talented-- and making her mark, with an element that is not often seen in this musical genre—tenacity, fortitude and most importantly…love.

KNAC.COM: Hey, Jada.

JADA: Charlie, how are ya?

KNAC.COM: So how was the transition, going from actor to singer in a metal band? Was it a hard one?

JADA: It is a hard one, you know it just took me a minute to, you know, to just get comfortable and not allow people’s pre-conceived ideas to affect what I knew to be true to me. You know what I mean? So it was getting past those barriers. And once I did that, it was just about getting to the mindset of “just forget it” I just can’t be really concerned with all of that.

KNAC.COM: “To thine own self be true”?

JADA: Exactly!

KNAC.COM: Are you concerned about the potential film roles you might be passing up?

JADA: Oh, man, let me tell you. I’m always getting passed up, or passing on film roles. I’ve gotten to a point in my career where if people want me, they work it out. I’ve been blessed in that situation. Right now, actually, I’m going to be doing a film right after this. I had to ask them to push it back a little so that they shoot me out a little later so that I could finish this tour. So, that just comes with the territory. It just comes with what you do and what you love and it is my day job, you know, it helps me pay the bills…(laughs) This is really true to my heart…this is really what I love to do.

KNAC.COM: You write the lyrics to your songs, right? They are your babies?

JADA: Yeah, all of them except for “Cruel Intention” which is one Pocket [Honore] and Cameron [Graves] wrote. “Bleed All Over Me” is about my codependency and “Something Inside of Me” is about the experience I had when I found out that the young 5 year- old, Samantha Runyon had been found murdered in the woods and how that made me feel. And “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit”, well, hell (laughs) …it’s like all the people who try to look at you and judge you for things you did so long ago, you know what I mean? It’s like “I’m not that fuckin’ person anymore” and “One” is about the idea that we have one chance, one life, one real love …some of us, two. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Recovery from codependency is happening right now. I’d imagine getting on the stage helps you with that?

JADA: Oh, yeah. Being on the stage -- I’m confronting so many things in recovery from a lot of things. Being into this music and having to confront the things that I’ve had to confront, I’ve had to dig up a lot of deep shit. My own insecurities and my self image…just everything. Being able to have the strength to break down a complete image that people have of me. Fall on my face in front of people who already see me in a certain light and then have to rebuild myself. That, to me, is like a journey that not everybody can survive. But, what happens is that you become so much more expansive. You kind of lose yourself when you stay in that comfort zone and that little box. People are always asking me “Why would you do this? Why would you do that?” My whole thing is “Why not?” (laughs) and really be able to confront those fears. Really, for the kids too. There are so many kids who are out in the audience that may not have support at home, or the idea that you can be whatever you want to be, no matter what obstacles you have. You have thse kids come to the show because they’re looking for some power. They’re looking for something that they can use to confront all the fucked up shit they have to deal with in life. I just hope that I can offer something in the sense of “Fuck it. Fuck them.” Then it is possible that you can survive, you can win, no matter what. Yeah, this is the place where I can talk about the things that are not so nice, the places where I’m not so “PC”, you know? In Hollywood, there is not such an appreciation for raw honesty. I need a place like that in my life.

KNAC.COM: Well, maybe with Wicked Wisdom, and this tour, you’ll be cast as a demon. It may bring you new roles?

JADA: (laughs) I’m going to be honest with you, the one thing that doing this music thing, kinda dangerous, as far as Hollywood is concerned, is that Hollywood has only seen me as the tough girl, you know what I mean? They’ve only seen me as the hard-core bitch. I always get offered those roles like, “Set it Off”… if there’s a chick with a gun, I get the offer, you know?


JADA: I’ve really been trying to move into a less aggressive image for Hollywood, so that the doors can open for me in Hollywood and those roles become available to me. It’s actually cool though, the role I’m about to play…it’s a nice little housewife, so we’ll see how that goes… and maybe those roles might shut on me now, but, that’s okay. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Alright, so aside from Otep, what singers were your biggest influences?

JADA: God, we had a lot of support from all the bands but I would have to say, Mat [Bruso] from Bury Your Dead, would pull me up the most, would give me pointers and kinda help me out with stuff. I remember Candace [Kucsulain] from Walls of Jericho…

KNAC.COM: Oh, she’s great!

JADA: I love her, I’m so glad she’s doing Ozzfest this year, She’s such a cool person and I remember Candace coming on board, she came to one of our Ozzfest shows, she spent some time with me, she was giving me the whole run down and giving me a lot of pointers you know what I’m saying? We went to go see one of her shows in San Francisco, we went to see one of her shows…and but I would say, Candace, and um, Mastodon, were very supportive of us.

KNAC.COM: Did you get a chance to talk to Angela [Gossow] from Arch Enemy?

JADA: I did talk to Angela a bit. We didn’t see her much, but I introduced myself and every time she came out we would watch them play. Angela was the quietest person on Ozzfest…but a very, very sweet girl.

KNAC.COM: You can wear two different suits; You can be quiet and reflective, like now in your tour bus, then you can go up onstage and just be a fuckin’ monster…

JADA: (laughs) Exactly. It’s so funny, because most of the bands at Ozzfest were so laid back. It’s amazing to see that transformation in all the bands …leaving backstage and going onstage. It’s two different energies. Every band that was on Ozzfest last year was just great and really wonderful to us. And I know it was probably really hard for them, because it was just like “What is this? We got Jada out here? This is bizarre.” But everybody was so cool and we had such a good time. We really did. As I Lay Dying was really supportive, too.

KNAC.COM: Good guys …

JADA: Yeah, they are sweethearts!

KNAC.COM: You’re an actor. Who gave Wicked wisdom the most love on the tour?

JADA: Oh, God, we got a lot of love from Albuquerque …Chicago …there were quiet a few cities were we got some love. I was really disappointed in the East Coast in general. It’s funny. Times have really changed. The East Coast has always been the forward thinkers, or what have you. You’d think you’d have most of the problems in the South, you know? Texas and Nashville. Tennessee was an off-the-hook show.

KNAC.COM: Really?

JADA: All of Texas! We get so much love in Texas and all the areas that you would think an all black metal band would have problems. We got all the love. Worst show ever? Camden, New Jersey. And, that happened to be the 10th Anniversary thing. Sharon [Osbourne] recorded that show to be put on the DVD and that was our absolute worst show. I mean, watching that DVD I just cringe. But that’s just part of the whole growth thing and one of our earlier shows, too. We hadn’t even got our feet wet yet. Will [Smith] is from Philly, but Philly always gives me shit, you know? (laughs) But you just do what you gotta do. I still love Philly, and I’m just gonna keep grinding it out ‘til I can get my love in Philly. But, as they say “Hardcore East Coast.” We’re definitely not hardcore, or in that realm. When we came back around it was a lot better than when we were there on Ozzfest. It takes everybody a minute to just get adjusted.

KNAC.COM: Oh, yeah. I don’t think anybody’s that well received off the bat, you know?

JADA: Right …

KNAC.COM: Especially you. (laughs)

JADA: Yeah, exactly! Especially me, but I tell you what … my Ozzfest experience was a hell of a lot better than I thought it would be. Like a hundred times better. I was expecting to get booed at every fuckin’ place I went. I wasn’t expecting to have much success on Ozzfest at all. I tell you what …I learned a lot being out there on that road. You really have to go out there and experience it for yourself. We had a lot of success on Ozzfest, made a lot of friends, made some fans out there and a lot of people appreciated us being out there, believe it or not. To me, despite what happens with the band and despite what happens with the music …having that experience and being able to go out her eand touch those folks. I just got a whole different reality on what’s happening in my country, and the possibilities that are available if you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Most of us are unwilling to do that. If we did that more often we wouldn’t have to live in these kinda preconceived ideas of who our neighbors are. You know what I’m sayin’? People that we would probably never speak to if we saw them walking down the street.

KNAC.COM: They could be the best medicine. You just gotta say hello.

JADA: Absolutely. I did that all summer and it was the most gratifying experience that I’ve had in years. In years. I would do it all over again. These little towns …like we go out every night and we do a signing for hours. The best part of my night –being able to just go out and meet people and talk. Like, that’s the best part of my night. What people have to offer …the magic in every single person that I get to meet every night. These kids that don’t want to look at you in your eyes, and I take the time to go “Hey, what’s going on with you?” It just like “Hey, I wanna look at you. I wanna talk to you. I’m interested in what’s going on with you” I don’t know ...it just feels good when I can get a smile out of those kids or they come back and go (in her best white girl…) “Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. You’re so fuckin’ cool”. You know what I mean?

KNAC.COM: (laughs)

JADA: You know what I mean? That, to me …that’s what it’s all about. It’s about that exchange. The thing about Hollywood …Hollywood does its thing. It has its own magic, but being accessible …that’s the one thing that my husband always taught me. “That’s where the art comes from, Jada”. The idea of being a star and not being accessible—that’s the one thing –Will has always been accessible.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, maybe to a fault …

JADA: Yeah! Exactly. That’s definitely rolled off onto me and I get so much pleasure out of it. I really do.

To learn more about Wicked Wisdom, their new album and to watch video's of their music, go to www.wickedwisdom.net

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