WICKED WISDOM with Sevendust , nonpoint and socialbum at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Monday (January 23), 7 pm, all ages. $23.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Jada Pinkett Smith loves the heavy metal.
You may find the idea of Mrs. Fresh Prince rocking out to Metallica or blasting some Sabbath ridiculous, but baby likes it loud. It gets weirder: Pinkett Smith is the vocalist for an aggressive rock band called Wicked Wisdom. And perhaps most astounding of all, they're not completely terrible.
If we've learned anything from Dogstar, the Bacon Brothers or Thirty-Odd Foot of Grunts, it's that movie stars often turn in poor performances when it comes to playing musicians, at least in real life. But Pinkett Smith doesn't sound entirely out of her element in this arena.
That could be because, like many actors faced with a challenging role, the girl went deep into her past to prep for her Oscar-worthy performance as Jada Pinkett Smith howling at the head of a chugging metal band on an Ozzfest tour.
"I always loved heavy stuff," she declares over the phone, en route to a show in San Diego. "I'm a child of the 80s and MTV, and most people forget that MTV was basically all metal for a long time. They built their empire on metal music, so those were the videos we watched when I was coming up.
"I wanted to go against what would be so obvious: me doing R&B or hiphop. With metal there's so much freedom, and I can grow musically."
Pinkett Smith claims she's been drawn to music since she was a teen in Baltimore. One of her high school friends was a guy named Tupac. But it wasn't until three years ago, after both Matrix sequels were in the can, that she finally felt ready to make a move.
After informing her agent and extremely famous husband that she was putting acting on hold, Pinkett Smith hooked up with lead guitarist Pocket Honore, songwriter Cameron Graves and Fishbone founder Philip Fisher on drums, all of whom were already writing industrial-strength riffs with double-kick drumbeats.
Except for a few West Coast dates, Wicked Wisdom stayed low on the radar. But then a Viper Room show turned into an Ozzfest invitation - direct from Sharon Osbourne, who was at the club scouting talent - and their debut turned tumultuous. Word spread that some Hollywood A-lister had snagged a coveted time slot, and Ozzfans got pissy.
Nevertheless, WW hesitantly accepted, even though Pinkett Smith was well aware that impressing angry white teenagers across the American Midwest would be miles away from a red-carpet affair.
"It was rough at first," she laughs. "I was there to learn, to just figure out what I needed to know, cuz it doesn't get any harder than that crowd. The people at Ozzfest are very, very serious about their music, and they don't have time for no bullshit. It was like, 'Jada, are you fucking with us? Because this is not the place to do it.' Once they realized I wasn't fucking with them, the shows got better. By our last show we had three pits going at one time."
Hearing Pinkett Smith excitedly talk about "pits" or how much she loved hanging with sludge-rockers Mastodon during the tour, you realize this isn't a character. She's genuinely into metal. Still, heavy music fans are going to need considerably more convincing before taking Wicked Wisdom seriously.
That's okay; she's up for the challenge.
"If people knew what I had to subject myself to last summer, they'd realize I'm serious about this," says Pinkett Smith. "It's difficult for people to reconcile the idea of the persona you know to be Jada Pinkett Smith running a metal band - it's a very difficult concept.
"Every day it's a mountain to climb, but once you see what we do, you'll know it's not just a hobby."