Editor’s note: Anthony Bourdain tragically took his own life on June 8, 2018. This story was first published on mensjournal.com on November 2017, and remains here in its original form.
In another life, Anthony Bourdain could have been the frontman of a rock n’ roll outfit. He has got the aesthetics down, with his black tee shirt wardrobe, tattoos, and general zero-fucks-given attitude. The host has been very open about his love for the genre, profiling Queens Of The Stone Age on No Reservations and counting Iggy Pop as an idol-turned-friend. His association with the genre is so profound that over the course of his career he has deemed the original “rock n’ roll chef”.
Perhaps that is why when he first met Green Day drummer Tre Cool backstage before one of their gigs for the season three finale of his interview series Raw Craft, a show about craftsmanship backed by The Balvenie, the two got along like old band mates. The episode takes Bourdain inside the workshop of SJC Drums, founded by Mike and Scott Ciprari, as they build a custom snare to present to Cool, a long-time client. Men’s Journal was invited to hang out behind the scenes as the two shared travel stories, their drinks of choice, and the best way to destroy a drum kit.
How did this episode come to be?
Anthony Bourdain: I have been really lucky in the fact that I have been able to meet a lot of incredible people through this series. I get to travel around the world for my other series, but this project allows me to really dive deep on some fascinating people who are making quality products here in America, like SJC Drums.
Tre Cool: I was really excited to be able to share the story of the guys at SJC, who I have been working with for awhile. The first time that I got one of their drums, Mike just left a snare that he hoped I would play. I was blown away when I finally got to check it out. Then I got to visit the workshop, and there is something special to meeting the people behind the process and seeing that human fingerprint.
How did the design for this snare come about?
AB: The goal from the beginning was to make a really original piece for Tre. We had the thought that we could make a pretty killer snare with whiskey staves of Douglas Fir from the Balvenie distillery. The decision was to keep the wood finish but use a wood-burning tool to decorate it with art inspired by the nautical-themed tattoos on Tre’s arms.
TC: The guys always come through for me with something unique. The very first drum set that I got from them was built out of an aluminum kit made out of beer cans. I was blown away by that piece. There is a reason that I left my previous drum sponsor, and went with them. I was drawn to their ability to make really original drums, unlike anything else out there. I loved the idea of burning in my tattoos to the finish, particularly the tattoos on my arm, which are inspired by Greek Mythology. I got them because first and foremost I think they look cool.
What is your drink of choice on the road?
TC: I have changed my partying habits a little bit. I used to drink a shit ton of tequila, now I save that for special occasions only. Sometimes I will do red wine, and help wind it down. If I have to do a shot I try to do Fernet-Branca, which has changed my life. I highly recommend it to all of your readers.
AB: It really depends on where I am, but there is nothing like a good Scottish whiskey, like Balvenie of course. Either celebrating something or just in the late afternoon when I’m feeling particularly bad for myself. I drink it with a single rock.
How do you both stay in shape while on the road?
TC: Playing gigs with the amount of energy that we do has me burning a lot of calories. Really it is all about recovery at this point in my life. I have become a connoisseur of Epsom salts. I love them. I will take ten pounds, put it in a bath and soak until the water goes cold I do that about five times a week. It helped leech out the evils of the road.
AB: I try to find a jiu-jitsu mat to spar on wherever I go. Nothing gets your heart rate up like a good roll with a stranger who is better than you.
I saw you recently got a new tattoo Anthony. How was that experience?
AB: I got a traditional tebori tattoo done by Takashi Matsuba in Brooklyn who uses ink from Japan, which I had the cameras there for as well. I am going back for another session soon. I have been permanently marked by this show. I love the piece though, and I’m looking forward to doing more of it. That particular style is surprisingly not too painful.
Tre, I have seen you get injured during your sets a few times. Seems like you both are wiling to put yourselves through bodily harm for your passions.
TC: I just find that I get really caught up in the moment. It all started with me using my body as a wrecking ball and diving straight into the drums when we finished our sets. I would purposefully eat shit and take the kit down with me. My legs are all fucked up because of it. I fucked myself up.
Then you switched to just lighting them on fire?
TC: [Laughs] It’s easier on me. Once I started setting drums on fire I ended up looking forward to it. One concert I filled my ride cymbal up with fuel and lit it on fire, and threw it up in the air. It came down and hit me on the head. I almost passed out. I was gushing blood and needed stitches. I kept adding more drums to the fire. There are concerts where they send a fire truck to the venue just because we are playing there, and they figure out what’s happening.
Where’s the last place you’ve been in the world that you love?
TC: This last tour was absolutely amazing, but we had an amazing time in Chicago. There is some amazing food out there, and it felt like the whole city came out to see us at Wrigley Field. Which was a special experience on it’s own.
AB: I’m all about Italy now. I spend as much time as I can there. I go about once a month. So at this rate I am in Italy about four or five days a month. I did vacation with my girlfriend there recently. I rented a boat with my girlfriend and spent it floating around out there. Most of our meals we cooked for ourselves. There is nothing better than finding a small delicatessen and grabbing some burrata, prosciutto, and whatever else may be in season locally.
How do you decide on what restaurants to go to when you are in a city that you don’t know?
TC: I usually try to cross-reference as many travel sites as I can. I will go to Google or Lonely Planet and just stalk online reviews. Usually we don’t get too much time in any particular city, so you have to make decisions quickly.
AB: Lonely Planet is good. I remember back in 2001, I was traveling the most heavily land-mined road in the world for 200 miles. Our cars were passing by human skulls in Cambodia, and Lonely Planet had been there already and reviewed the local restaurants.
TC: How do you find places Tony?
AB: First of all never trust the hotel concierge, because they are going to play it safe with their recommendations. They don’t want to send their guests to any dirty or unsafe areas of the city, even when that is where the most authentic food might be. The best tactic is going to the most nerdy food website for whatever the region is. Log on to Chowhound or one of these sites, and post, “I just got back from Singapore and had the most authentic worldly meal at fill in the blank” and just throw in a restaurant you get randomly off of Google. It won’t take long for all these nerdy assholes to comment on your post telling you how little you know and exactly where you should actually have gone. Once you have a few of them telling you the same place that is where you need to go. Get a consensus. It is called “inspired nerd fury”. The sign of a good place to be is that it is filled with hostile cranky locals that are upset that you walked in the door. The waiter should be over 60, at least.