Questlove talks webseries ‘Quest for Craft,’ explains why pandemic was ‘one of the scariest times in my life’

To say Questlove is prolific would still somehow be absurdly underestimatinghis output in recent years.

The famed drummer for The Roots, né Ahmir Thompson, is by extension bandleaderon The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon five episodes a week, tours with TheRoots crew, writes books, hosts a weekly podcast (Questlove Supreme), DJshigh-level events like the Oscars, lent his voice to Pixar’s Oscar-winning_soul_ won his own Oscar for directing the documentary Summer of Soul_produces this year’s Oscar contender _Descendant is working on directing anew doc about Sly & The Family Stone, and still finds time to be the Hip HopRex Chapman onTwitter.

there’s also Quest for Craft his Balvenie-sponsored digital series in whichthe music guru sits down with fellow cultural and artistic creators likeMichael Che, Jimmy Jam, Patti Smith, Malcolm Gladwell for in-depth chats aboutwhat they do and how they do it.

“You know, it’s weird. I’ll say before, probably before 2019, I was justoverdosing on curiosity,” Thompson admits to us in a recent interviewpromoting Season 2 of Quest for Craft , which kicks off this week onYouTube. “You know, ‘I’m gonna write a book. I’m gonna do food activism. I’mgonna score this movie. I’m gonna work on this Broadway play. Yeah, I’ll DJyour party. Oh, it’s the Tonight Show? Become. I’ll develop this televisionshow.’ I was just constantly [working]and then the pandemic happened and allthat went away.

“And it’s one of the scariest times in my life because it’s like, ‘Uh, well, Ihave nothing to do. What do I do?’ And suddenly I didn’t realize how much,like for the first time in my adult life, 2020 marked the first time in myadult life since the age of 6, that I’ve not been on a stage in some sort ofperformance capacity . Like at least once every seven days, not a week isgoing by where I wasn’t [performing], be it playing drums in church or actingin a school play, or helping my dad show out, to my own shows. For the firsttime in my life, I’m like, ‘Wow, did a month go by, and I haven’t been on astage performing?'”

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It was ultimately a reset for Thompson.

“This was the first time in my adult life in which I just stopped and didnothing. And there wasn’t a price to pay for it. You know what I mean? Causeoftentimes, staff will be like, ‘All right, you gotta take three days out justto clear your mind.’ But taking three days off, you feel so guilty ’cause it’slike, ‘There’s so much work to do.’ Like everything I used to laugh about andmake fun of, I became that guy. So now it’s a weird place because of course,Summer of Soul opened up so many doors… To utilize the word ‘no I can’t’ issuch a hard thing [for me]. But, you know, now I’m, I’m, I’m in the happymedium of still cherry-picking my passions. But still taking time out forsilence and to enjoy it all.”

Quest for Craft is clearly one of those passions. Thompson speaks with> palpable excitement when previewing each of Season 2’s guests and the> episode’s themes.

There’s super-producer Mark Ronson: “It’s about basically adapting to a newenvironment. Like how do you go from being a DJ to making beats to being anengineer, to songwriting, to co-producing, to producing, to conceptualizing?”

Ballet sensation Misty Copeland: “She comes from a level of creativity whereperfection is expected as a ballerina. But for musicians like me, mistakes areeverything.”

Famed author Fran Lebowitz: “She talks about why New York City defines her.Like, in other words, if I were to put Fran Lebowitz in like Wyoming orAtlanta or anywhere else but New York City, would she be the same person?”

And Saturday Night Live mainstay Kenan Thompson: “Kenan is part of a machinethat turns out superstars… You’re supposed to do this show for three to fouryears, and then you leave and you do movies and you become a megastar. So Iactually like the fact that Keenan feels comfortable and knows that he’s bestas an ensemble comedian, which is why he’s been there for 25 years.”

Thompson laughs when told Quest for Craft reminds us of Anthony Bourdain’s> long-running foodie travel show No Reservations but for those with a taste> for artistic and cultural delicacies.

“That was my guy, man,” he says of the famed chef-turned-TV host who died bysuicide in 2018. “Some of my best musical arguments were with him. He hatedyacht rock so much. Even when he passed away, I had the last laugh ’cause Imade a playlist in his honor and it was all the music he hated.

“But no, he was, for me, one of the best examples of how to use your platform.To teach a lesson and express passion. So I guess in my mind, I’m trying torelease my inner-Bourdain.”

Quest for Craft is currently streaming.