When Questlove enters Rolling Stone’s interview suite to talk about inducting Hall & Oates into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Thursday night, he has other immediate concerns. “Who else has spoken?” he asks, looking at the room’s television, which is displaying Kiss‘ acceptance speeches. “What did Gene say?”
Like everyone, the Roots drummer and bandleader was expecting a different scene than the original Kiss members’ peaceful onstage reunion. He watches for a bit and takes a minute to reflect on how Kiss got there from his perspective, beginning with an impassioned speech by Tom Morello at a Hall of Fame boardroom meeting. “He sold all of us on why they deserve to be in it,” Questlove says, citing Morello’s call to arms for a changing of the guard within the Rock Hall and the fact that most Gen-X bands would cite Kiss as the reason they started their band. “I thought about it, because even with me being connected to hip-hop, my greatest story in my book Mo’ Meta Blues is how I met these guys at the age of 7. I was obsessed with them.”
How did you meet Kiss when you were 7?
I was at a hotel in Buffalo, and my mom and dad [musicians Lee and Jacqui Andrews] were on the stage doing their last set. I go on the dresser to get 50 cents to get a soda, and I go up to the soda machine. Suddenly, the doors open – beep – out walk Ace and Peter and all their guards, sans makeup and they have all their Kiss memorabilia on, but still it’s Ace and Peter. And I look I went, ‘Aaaaaaah!’ And then I ran so fast. I kept circling, screaming my ass off. And then, my dad did the most logical thing ever. He took me into the game room. Paul Stanley was playing a sit-down pinball game. Was there a group called Boston?
Did they have a big fat guy? Anyway, I was 7 years old. So it’s Boston, Kiss and Kansas. And Paul was playing pinball and said, “I heard about this guy. This guy was scared and screaming and woke up the neighbors.” And I got his autograph and I got Ace’s autograph. I didn’t get Gene’s autograph. I didn’t see Peter Criss after that. But it was the first time I saw that Almost Famous hedonistic debauchery atmosphere, all the women there. They basically took over the whole game room. And I got their autograph. That was my story all fourth grade. “I met them! I met them!” So to see them finally get this, they even affected me. So I’m so happy.
So you’re happy to have contributed to getting them in the Rock Hall.
Yeah, and that’s the first thing I asked about when they asked me to join. “Well, what if I vote for Kiss?” It was like the “funny idea.” But once Tom gave that speech, I gave up all my choices. I’ll fight for Sonic Youth next year.
Being a big Kiss fan, how do you feel about Gene Simmons’ comments about rap music in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
There’s a checks-and-balance system. The world would be so boring if everyone got along. It’s supposed to piss your parents off. Now they’re the parents. So I feel like I see the art in the Bomb Squad for Public Enemy. I see the art in 2 Chainz. And sometimes you just have to be in a certain mindstate to want to be open to new ideas. Some people in music are open; some people aren’t. But we’re not finished. It’s not like, “Let’s pack our bags and go home, guys. We’re not allowed here.” Nah. I’m here to make changes, and hopefully I can pull a Morello next year.
You mentioned Sonic Youth. Who do you want to get in?
I would like to see LL Cool J get in. After reading Rick James’ autobiography, he was probably more rock, more arrogant, more brash. . . Rick James, I feel is worthy of it. Link Wray. Once I got the list [of nominees this year], then I was like, ‘Jesus Christ.’ Even one of the guys on the committee, was like, ‘Yo, how come you’re not championing your father?’ Six is so hard to choose. If they would do 10, it would be so much easier. Because now that we’re entering the Nineties, it’s gonna get even crazier. Who knows?