Questlove Talks 'Mo Meta Blues,' Designing Custom Drumkit
Over the past few years, Questlove somehow found time in his maddeningly busy schedule of nightly performances on "Fallon," teaching a college course, and constant studio work for a couple of fitting side projects.
In 2010, he began work on his first book, a memoir entitled "Mo Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove," due June 18 via Grand Central Publishing. And this year, he designed and released his own custom Ludwig drum kit, which quickly sold out its first run and is already on its second order.
In an exclusive interview with Billboard, the renowned drummer gave the backstory on these endeavors, both closely tied to his fascinating life in music.
"I’m a guy that is constantly, constantly writing and writing and writing -- I’d be doing chapters on my own Twitter page," Questlove told Billboard about the genesis of "Mo Meta Blues." "I didn’t want it to be an autobiography and I didn’t want it to be my mixtape of music or a music guide… just a little bit of everything."
The end product was just that. It's billed as a memoir, and it indeed tells Quest's story, beginning with his childhood in West Philadelphia during the 1970s. But then there are first-hand anecdotes from around the music world (allegedly involving a rollerskating Prince), which Quest has certainly seen much of.
As for the title, Questlove explained: "I was trying to do a play on Spike Lee's 'Mo’ Better Blues,' a film of which kind of inspired the 'Things Fall Apart' album, because of the debate of the state of music and my guess of support or lack thereof for the disposable-ness of the music."
Inspiration for Questlove's new custom drum kit came from his work with the Roots on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
Drumming at a remote filming of "Fallon" at 2012's Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Questlove (then aligned with a different drum brand) was approached by a rep from Ludwig, who noticed him still using one of their snare drums. A deal was struck, which led to more ideas from Quest. Musicians passing through "Fallon" would often ask to use his drums, complaining of the lack of quality kits designed for the on-the-go style of gigging in New York: "A lot of them complain that New York really isn’t made for drummers... So I figured, well okay, I need to make a New York-friendly drum kit."
That meant crafting a set of street musician-friendly drums that could fit on the subway or in the back of a cab, and make enough noise, but come with mutes for playing alongside neighbors of a crowded city. The finished product -- Breakbeats by Questlove -- were such a success that even a child-sized model for the five and under set are being considered.
"My very first kit was a toy kit," he remembers. "A replica of Ringo’s kit and I got that in the Christmas of ’74."
Future Questloves of the world are in luck!