It took a decade, perhaps two, but The Roots’ Questlove has finally gotten around to publishing his memoirs. Personally, he’s one of the ones I always love to read about, and his influence is far greater than record sales suggested. This is going to be one to read this summer, and here he talks to Pitchfork about Prince, Al Green, and gaining his father’s acceptance
Pitchfork: You were so immersed in music from an early age, playing and touring with your parents’ bands. But at what point did you realize that you were going to make music your life?
Ahmir Thompson: I knew I was going to be a musician. I got my first real drum set at seven, a Vista Light C3 kit that John Bonham had during the Physical Graffiti tour– one of my dad’s drummers got strung out on drugs, and I inherited that set. At that age, I could play drums well enough for an adult to say, “Play my show.” I enjoyed it. I liked to travel. I had the knowledge. Technically, I was stage manager at the age of eight.
I should ask my dad: “Why did you teach me how to work the soundboard and place the mic settings and cut gels? Was it because you wanted me to take this path or was it to keep me off the streets?” I think his answer would be more the latter. But it kept me focused on their show, and I was educated. It prepared me. Across the street [gestures out window], at Radio City, when I was 12, the drummer of my father’s band got injured. And my dad was confident. He just said, “You know the show. Do it.” I became his bandleader at the age of 12.
But my dad did not know about [the Roots’ 1993 debut album] Organix. It was only midway through Do You Want More?!!!??! when I finally had to come clean and be like, “All right, I got a record deal and I’m in a group.”
Pitchfork: You were afraid to tell him?
AT: Oh, hell yeah.