A San Francisco musician and a director of biodiesel nonprofit Green Depot, Smith is the inventor of the Drummstick, his not-for-sale signature percussion device. This year, he released Drummstick 2 on Edgetone Records, and played on a second newly released album called "Robert Anbian and UFQ: the Unidentified Flying Quartet." Meanwhile, Green Depot is trying to bring a biodiesel station to the Bayview.
What is a Drummstick? The Drummstick is an instrument I invented in 1995. It’s a two-by-six piece of wood that has 16 triggers on it. It works just like an electronic drum kit, like the things Mickey Hart drums on, except instead of using drumsticks, I use my fingers.
Why did you invent it? I had a friend who was with a folk duo … they had opened for Béla Fleck and the Flecktones once. The Flecktones liked them, and they couldn’t believe that Future Man [the Flecktones’ percussionist] did all these things from a drum guitar with triggers all over it. They said, "Have you ever thought about making a drum guitar?" I tried to think about what it would be like. It took on a life of its own.
How did you get involved with biodiesel? My wife went to an Earth Day sort of thing in Potrero. We had thought about buying a Prius … but I hated therear window and I hated that I was still buying gas. We started doing some research [on biodiesel] and we found out about it, and we started looking for them, and we found ou they were really hard to find. But we found one in Oakland … and we got it. For the last couple years, I’ve been running biodiesel and driving it. It’s been wonderful.
Check out more 3-minute interviews from our San Francisco newsroom.